If you’re thinking of traveling internationally, more than likely you’re also thinking of taking/using your cell phone as well. International phone usage has its bliss. Imagine retaining your phone and using it as you usually do at home. It is possible, but it comes with challenges that, if not correctly considered, can cost you more in phone bills.
You are automatically exposed to roaming charges if you choose to retain your sim card on your foreign trip. For example, UK citizens will have to pay extra roaming charges after Brexit when traveling to European Union (EU) countries. But as an EU citizen, you can enjoy free roaming charges when traveling within EU countries.
You may even pay more if you travel from Africa and other regions. But, there are various ways you can use your phone internationally and affordably. You can leverage these cheap options to reduce travel costs by using international calling apps and local SIM cards.
We’ve covered some simple instructions for using a phone internationally to help you navigate the crazy space of international phone usage.
- Use International Calling Apps for Cheap Calls
International calling apps are some of the cheapest ways to stay in contact when traveling abroad. Most international calling apps leverage voice over internet protocol (VoIP) technology to help you communicate with loved ones and business associates. That allows you to make audio and video calls.
But some apps, like Talk360, take VoIP to the next level to offer an exceptional, versatile international calling experience at cheaper rates. They leverage VoIP and connect to the international public switch telephone networks (PSTN). That enables them to call even remote places with no internet access.
So, international calling apps can come in handy if you have friends, family, or business associates in Africa’s emerging economies like Kenya. You can call Kenya and the rest of the African countries hassle-free without worrying if your associates or loved ones have stable internet connections or not.
So, you can even call mobile phones and landlines back in Africa, track your businesses, and remain in contact with your loved ones.
- Get Your Destination’s Local Sim Card
Another budget-conscious way of using your phone internationally is by using a local sim card. It gives you access to the best local rates without needing to pay expensive roaming charges.
There are specific places you can buy your local destination’s SIM card. You can get official provider shops for your card in most international airports. Alternatively, you can buy them at local shops or even vending machines. However, to avoid scams, you should stick to the network provider’s company’s official retail shops.
Note that you may need to present documentation depending on your destination to get the local SIM card. Some of them may include:
- Valid passport
- Local Address
- Passport photos
You may also need to unlock your phone if it is tied to a specific carrier in your home country. If you don’t know whether your phone is unlocked, go to your service provider for verification and help.
Note that some countries do not allow foreigners to buy local SIM cards. And if they do, it may be challenging to access one under some conditions. As such, you should understand the requirements for getting a local SIM card beforehand for proper planning.
Alternatively, you can opt for international SIM cards like Telestial or WorldSIM. However, the SIM card prices vary depending on the country and usage (texts, calls, or data). So, they get you the convenience you need at expensive rates.
- Check Your Phone’s Compatibility
There are places you do not need to worry about your phone’s compatibility. For example, if you are within the EU, you can use the same phone and SIM card across all the nations in the EU bloc.
Let’s assume your provider is Orange; you can use the SIM card across EU countries. That makes it easier to operate in blocs like the EU. However, other regions may have fragmented policies towards roaming charges, making the single EU SIM card approach impossible.
Apart from the challenges of local SIM cards, phone compatibility can also come in terms of the providers’ frequencies. There are two frequency systems for phone operators – CDMA and GSM. For example, major US carriers like Verizon and Sprint use CDMA, so only a CDMA phone will work on their network.
Countries like Japan, Russia, and South Korea also use the CDMA system. However, the most dominant frequency system is the GSM. So, if you’re from a GSM system and your destination is CDMA, you’ll have to get another compatible phone.
You can use this tool to check if the system being used at your destination is compatible with your phone.
- Inspect the Destination’s Provider Coverage
Depending on the places you will be exploring during your travels, some may be well out of coverage. So, you may not use your phone in such scenarios. Knowing any spots or regions that are not covered by the network carrier you will be using is critical. Such knowledge may come in handy to prepare for emergencies.
The Open Signal coverage maps can verify your destination’s carrier coverage. Alternatively, you can check out coverage maps on the carriers’ websites.
- Add Useful Emergency Contacts
We do not wish for accidents, but we must be prepared for them, especially when traveling abroad. You do not want to end up sick or in a critical condition with no one to call for help. So, ensure you have relevant emergency contact information for your destination host.
It may also help you to verify if your travel insurance covers you at the host destination. It will make it easier to liaise and plan during emergencies.
- Install Private Messaging Apps
You should not forget to install private messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, Signal, or WhatsApp. It will help you save on communication costs, especially if you can access wifi hotspots in your travel destinations.
Travel costs can quickly go overboard if you do not plan your phone usage internationally. Traveling abroad may come with roaming charges that can easily stretch your bills.
Also, international phone carriers are not wholesomely interoperable. You may need to check if your phone is compatible with your host destination carriers for smooth phone usage. You can opt for international calling apps or local SIM cards to reduce your phone bills.