June 29, 2013 8:56 PM
Save on Mobile Service Abroad
International plans and Wi-Fi help travelers avoid hefty roaming charges.
By DANIEL LIPPMAN
The price of staying in touch while traveling abroad can quickly add up. But there are ways to minimize your international cellphone expenses.
If you plan to take along your existing phone, call your wireless carrier ahead of time to find out what it charges for calls and data use for the country or countries you’ll be visiting.
For example, a Verizon Wireless customer going to Italy would pay $25 per 100 megabytes of international data used, according to Brenda Raney, spokeswoman for Verizon Wireless. (100 megabytes will allow you to download or upload roughly 33 high-resolution photos.) Without an international plan, the person would end up paying $20.48 per one megabyte of data.
AT&T charges $30 for the first 120 megabytes of data in a global plan and it sends customers a text alert when their international roaming usage has hit $100. T-Mobile offers a feature called “WiFi Calling” on most of its phones, where you can make and receive calls abroad over Wi-Fi for no additional cost.
If you’re traveling to Mexico or Canada, rates are often cheaper for those countries so check plan specifics with your wireless provider.
If you end up using more data or minutes than expected, call your provider and ask it to retroactively add an international plan that will cut down your bill. Some carriers will do this.
If you want to just access apps or email on your smartphone, you can turn off the phone’s international data roaming and find a Wi-Fi hot spot.
Also, depending on the type of phone, some providers will unlock your phone, allowing you to use a SIM card from another country.
Another option is to bring or buy an inexpensive cellphone on your trip, purchase a SIM card and buy minutes to add to the phone.
Write to Daniel Lippman at email@example.com