So, you’ve decided that you want to travel internationally? You’ve also decided that you want to have cell coverage when travelling internationally? Great! I’ve compiled a few tips that I’ve come across while getting my phone ready for the trip:
Ensure that your phone will work in the country that you will be visiting. – This (usually) means that you have a phone that is GSM ready. If you are unsure about which networks are available, here are lists of CDMA and GSM networks. The rest of this article will deal with GSM devices only.
Make sure that the SIM slot can be unlocked. - This can be a big show-stopper for US travelers trying to use their cards overseas, especially for iPhone users. Carriers generally restrict the use of foreign SIMs in iPhones, so you must contact the carriers directly to unlock the SIM slot. If your phone will not work, you may want to research prepaid phones instead of a SIM card.
Do not use SIM cards provided by your carrier for international roaming. – Carrier plans are overpriced, and aren’t really feasible for data usage. Always look for a cheap SIM card either in-country or online before travelling.
Foreign mobile providers will probably not accept your credit card for topping up. – After receiving my T-Mobile UK SIM card, I tried to top it up (add funds) online. I found out that most mobile providers will not accept foreign credit cards, and I had to wait until I arrived in the UK to load up the account. (This is to prevent fraud, and is done by many carriers in multiple countries.) Thankfully, I was able to find a location at Heathrow to top up my card quickly and easily. If you like to prepare for a trip like I do, look for a card that is already pre-loaded with funds. If you don’t mind waiting until you arrive in-country, you will probably find vending machines and vendors selling a wide variety of prepaid SIM cards.
Review prepaid plans carefully. – Decide what your needs are before traveling. If you are a heavy data user, look for plans that include a generous amount of data. If you are a heavy texter, look for those plans. Keep in mind that international text rates are usually higher than in-country text rates. If you are visiting multiple countries, you may want to look for a SIM provider that works in all of the countries that you are traveling to.