Mobile phone use outside the US

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Sep 18, 2014
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#1
Husband & I are leaving for Florida in a few days to board 2 cruises -- one to MX, the other to the Bahamas. We have 4 days in FL between the 1st and 2nd cruise.

I inquired with our cell provider (Consumer Cellular) about what it would take to make our service with them operational in those countries. Their reply was a $50 deposit (retainer) for international roaming; obtain a T-Mobile SIM card for each phone (which would have to be activated before we left the US), and then charges of .30/min for talk, .10/text, and .25/MB for data.

Now I am wondering if we would be better off (and possibly cheaper?) to just go to a Wal-Mart, Walgreens, etc. or some other place that sells pre-paid mobile phones, and just pick up a couple of those for the times we're outside the US. The cruises are 5 days each, and we'd only have the phones turned on when we are off the ship/in port, knowing how expensive on-board roaming charges are.

If we do this, should we do it when we get to Florida and before we board the first cruise, or when we get to the first port of call? I know from some of the posts I've seen here that people often pick up a pre-paid phone to use when traveling in Europe and other places. But do they buy it when they get there, and what do they do with it afterwards? Do they have to port their existing cell # temporarily, or ?

Any and all guidance would be most appreciated.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
15,624
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www.promalvacations.com
#2
Regardless of whether you buy a pre paid phone you still need international calling, and it’s much more expensive on a pre paid phone. The SIM card is the cheapest and easiest way to go.

I have AT and T and using my phone internationally is $10 a day if I use any data outside of a wi fi network.

Can you add Skype or WhatsApp to your cell phone you have? As long as you have internet access you can make calls.
 
Likes: divinemsmstl
Sep 18, 2014
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#3
Regardless of whether you buy a pre paid phone you still need international calling, and it’s much more expensive on a pre paid phone. The SIM card is the cheapest and easiest way to go.

I have AT and T and using my phone internationally is $10 a day if I use any data outside of a wi fi network.

Can you add Skype or WhatsApp to your cell phone you have? As long as you have internet access you can make calls.
We both have iPhones, so that's doable. Hadn't considered it … thanks.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
15,624
14,189
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
#5
We also tell people to message us and not call as it is much less expensive. In all my travels around the world, I have never had to make an international call while traveling as I am able to use wi-fi for most things.
 
Mar 8, 2018
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#6
Another though is to download WhatsApp. This will allow you to make calls and receive messages to other users for free when connected to Wi-fi. You can also download Skype as a backup to make cheap calls to all phones when on Wifi. Just remember to turn off cellular data on your phone, that way you wont incur any roaming charges.
 
Jun 30, 2017
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Maui Hawaii
#7
Husband & I are leaving for Florida in a few days to board 2 cruises -- one to MX, the other to the Bahamas. We have 4 days in FL between the 1st and 2nd cruise.

I inquired with our cell provider (Consumer Cellular) about what it would take to make our service with them operational in those countries. Their reply was a $50 deposit (retainer) for international roaming; obtain a T-Mobile SIM card for each phone (which would have to be activated before we left the US), and then charges of .30/min for talk, .10/text, and .25/MB for data.

Now I am wondering if we would be better off (and possibly cheaper?) to just go to a Wal-Mart, Walgreens, etc. or some other place that sells pre-paid mobile phones, and just pick up a couple of those for the times we're outside the US. The cruises are 5 days each, and we'd only have the phones turned on when we are off the ship/in port, knowing how expensive on-board roaming charges are.

If we do this, should we do it when we get to Florida and before we board the first cruise, or when we get to the first port of call? I know from some of the posts I've seen here that people often pick up a pre-paid phone to use when traveling in Europe and other places. But do they buy it when they get there, and what do they do with it afterwards? Do they have to port their existing cell # temporarily, or ?

Any and all guidance would be most appreciated.
T-mobile does not charge for international roaming in 210 countries.

Prepaid phones generally DO NOT WORK outside the US so be sure to research this before any purchase. Plus you would still be charged usage fees if they do work outside the US.

As others have suggested FB Messenger or Whatsapp via wi-fi will work for anything you need where you have wi-0fi access. You can also use Skype.

You probably do not need to have a phone to receive calls for such short periods of time Just let family/friends know to contact you by email or other means.
 
Sep 18, 2014
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#8
T-mobile does not charge for international roaming in 210 countries.

Prepaid phones generally DO NOT WORK outside the US so be sure to research this before any purchase. Plus you would still be charged usage fees if they do work outside the US.

As others have suggested FB Messenger or Whatsapp via wi-fi will work for anything you need where you have wi-0fi access. You can also use Skype.

You probably do not need to have a phone to receive calls for such short periods of time Just let family/friends know to contact you by email or other means.
I have taken Neil's advice and have installed Skype on my iPhone (which also puts it on my iPad). Thanks to all for the suggestions.

The main reason I was concerned about getting messages outside of US is because hubby is rather antsy about the stock market right now, and wants to be able to communicate w/ financial advisor if things go seriously south while we're gone. We will have his e-mail address in both phones before we leave.

I'm probably overthinking this, because this is the first time we'll be this far from US services. (We've been to Canada a few times, but it was a while back and mostly before either of us had cell phones. He resisted getting his own phone until about 10 years ago, when his mom's health began to fail.)
 
Likes: Neil Maley
Mar 29, 2016
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#9
Another option is to check out Google Fi. It is a non-contract mobile phone and data service that arguably has the most reasonably priced, consumer friendly international service. There is no additional charge for international data use. Phone calls are free if made while on Wifi and 20 cents per minute if on cell. They have recently changed to support iPhone use as well. I have used it internationally many, many times and had good service and never a surprise bill when I get back.
 
Likes: divinemsmstl
Apr 1, 2018
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#10
I am out of the US 5 months each year, most in Europe. I have T-Mobile service it is really great - free text and data abroad, and .30/minute calls. But I use WhatsApp to make calls when I have WiFi coverage.

Note that this could all change when T-Mobile merges with Sprint.
 
Likes: Neil Maley
Mar 17, 2015
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#11
Sprint also has free 2g data, free texts, and .20 cent calls in over 210 countries. Just got back from Europe and used phone daily for texts, insta, etc. my sister did pay the additional $5 per day for faster data for a few days, but still much cheaper than an outright $10 a day for what Sprint and T Mobile provide for free. We needed this for the cab app in Budapest, otherwise the 2g data worked well for google maps for walking directions.
 
Likes: Yul Ullu
Nov 11, 2018
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#13
I can attest to the comment about using T-Mobile. Tiring of Verizon and their costly roaming charges, we switched to T-Mobile at the suggestion of a friend who travels often. Being over 55, we signed up for their $60 per month, two line, all taxes included plan (now $70 I believe) which includes international roaming, texting and calls for no additional charge. Since signing on with them, we've been able use our iPhones throughout Europe and Russia (where cell towers are present) without any problems. As we moved from one country to another, we received messages, "Welcome to France, Welcome to Germany, Welcome to Switzerland", etc. The only problem I had was connecting in Berlin. I was advised to reboot the phone then it connected immediately. WiFi worked well, too. Great program!:)
 
Nov 11, 2018
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#14
I goofed. There is a 20 cents per minute charge for phone calls overseas. Last December when flights at Schipol airport were cancelled, I was on the phone with British Airways for 2 hours trying to rebook our cancelled flight. The $24 charge was well worth the cost and far cheaper than other programs.
 
Apr 10, 2017
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#15
I can attest to the comment about using T-Mobile. Tiring of Verizon and their costly roaming charges, we switched to T-Mobile at the suggestion of a friend who travels often. Being over 55, we signed up for their $60 per month, two line, all taxes included plan (now $70 I believe) which includes international roaming, texting and calls for no additional charge. Since signing on with them, we've been able use our iPhones throughout Europe and Russia (where cell towers are present) without any problems. As we moved from one country to another, we received messages, "Welcome to France, Welcome to Germany, Welcome to Switzerland", etc. The only problem I had was connecting in Berlin. I was advised to reboot the phone then it connected immediately. WiFi worked well, too. Great program!:)
I couldn't agree. I switched from AT&T to T-Mobile 2 years ago and it was a great decision. They had a promotion a couple of months after we switched where we could another line for free. We get 3 lines with unlimited everything for $100. My husband and I have been to at least 15 other countries since then and have never paid anything extra for data roaming or texting. I did make a couple of phone calls in Prague last year but it only added a few dollars to that month's bill. I've been very happy with it.
 
Jun 12, 2017
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#17
T-mobile does not charge for international roaming in 210 countries.

Prepaid phones generally DO NOT WORK outside the US so be sure to research this before any purchase. Plus you would still be charged usage fees if they do work outside the US.

As others have suggested FB Messenger or Whatsapp via wi-fi will work for anything you need where you have wi-0fi access. You can also use Skype.

You probably do not need to have a phone to receive calls for such short periods of time Just let family/friends know to contact you by email or other means.
Hello,
I am almost in the same situation as divinemsmstl. We will be traveling in Netherlands post-cruise. Was thinking of getting a prepaid phone with phone card(a suggestion) as we do not own a smartphone and want to have something in emergencies aboard. But weihlac indicated that won't work? We have an old dinosaur flip phone which is all have needed @ home. I reviewed older forum questions abt this and wonder if the advocates still recommended : Mobal international (phone purchase for international use); Rentcell.com. (although rental would have to cover 2 weeks + due to cruise) Also some one mentioned to me that if I buy a used unlocked phone that it may not work with the sim cards available over seas due to age of the phone??? Thanks for any suggestions and clarifications
 
Jun 30, 2017
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Maui Hawaii
#18
Hello,
I am almost in the same situation as divinemsmstl. We will be traveling in Netherlands post-cruise. Was thinking of getting a prepaid phone with phone card(a suggestion) as we do not own a smartphone and want to have something in emergencies aboard. But weihlac indicated that won't work? We have an old dinosaur flip phone which is all have needed @ home. I reviewed older forum questions abt this and wonder if the advocates still recommended : Mobal international (phone purchase for international use); Rentcell.com. (although rental would have to cover 2 weeks + due to cruise) Also some one mentioned to me that if I buy a used unlocked phone that it may not work with the sim cards available over seas due to age of the phone??? Thanks for any suggestions and clarifications
Your current flip phone can be unlocked. Go to your cell carrier's web page and search "unlock". It is easy to do. You probably do not need to buy another phone.

Then you can get a SIM card either in the US for use in Europe, or get one at the airport when you arrive. Getting a SIM card for use in Europe is readily available through Amazon and other sources. Make sure you get a SIM for voice and text, as many provide data only. We have done this with older flip phones and newer smartphones in Europe and New Zealand without problems.

T-Mobile sells SIM cards for use in the US and Europe for $20-30 dollars for 1-2 weeks of use. You just activate it before you leave. If you are near a T-Moblie store stop in and talk to them. T-Mobile currently has the best deals for use in Europe. If you plan to travel even once a year you may wish to switch carriers. If you are over 55 they have a great deal for 2 lines for $70.

You may also want to consider getting a smartphone for wi-fi access while traveling. Although the carriers push the $700-$1000 phones you can get a perfectly good new smartphone for under $200.

Be aware that if you use your phone (any phone) onboard an ocean cruise ship you will be charged astronomical rates as these are satellite calls. On a river cruise ship you usually will be using land-based cell towers and will not incur any additional charges.
 

johnbaker

Verified Member
Oct 2, 2014
933
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#19
One point since you have iPhones, make sure you goin and turn off your data roaming. Some iPhone apps are real data hogs and constantly check for updates.... each one involving send or recieving data.

Made the mistake not to turn it off on one trip a few years ago. Next thing you know... my cell phone bill is over $1000.
 
Jun 30, 2017
1,084
985
113
Maui Hawaii
#20
One point since you have iPhones, make sure you goin and turn off your data roaming. Some iPhone apps are real data hogs and constantly check for updates.... each one involving send or recieving data.

Made the mistake not to turn it off on one trip a few years ago. Next thing you know... my cell phone bill is over $1000.
When in Europe or any foreign country put your phone in airplane mode only, and activate only the wi-fi. If you leave the data on your apps will use data in the background and you end up with $100-1000s of charges. You can also use wi-fi calling, as well as Whatsapp, Skype and Messenger. Keep the voice, text, data off.
 
Likes: Neil Maley