How to stay connected on your phone while traveling abroad


Ever felt the sting of international roaming charges? Bonita from Hampstead, North Carolina, surely did, which is why she reached out to us. She was all set to embark on a UK adventure but was hit with the realization of facing hefty international fees. 

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Here’s how she needs our help:

“I am going to the UK next month and to Spain later on in the year. I have an AT&T iPhone. Their international charge for even 1 text message is $10 per day, a maximum of $50 per month. Would it be better to get a SIM card in Europe and change it out or even an entirely new inexpensive phone? The messages are mostly from pet sitters who send pics to reassure me that the animals are all safe. The rest are usually junk calls. Suggestions welcome. Thank you.” Bonita, Hampstead, North Carolina

To address Bonita’s concerns and help her navigate the maze of international roaming charges, there are several solutions worth considering that can save her from the exorbitant fees while staying connected during her UK and Spain travels.

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Choosing between a SIM card or an international phone plan 

If you plan on using your phone frequently while traveling abroad, getting a SIM card could be worth considering. However, the first thing you need to do before anything else is to check in with your phone provider and see if they can offer you an international phone plan for your trip.

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A look at international phone plans 

AT&T

In Bonita’s situation, she has an iPhone under an AT&T phone plan. If Bonita wanted to keep her current phone and phone number with her, AT&T offers an International Day Pass plan for iPhone and Android phone use throughout Europe. As she mentioned, the plan costs $10 per day for up to 10 days, but what she didn’t mention is that after 10 days, each additional day is free, so long as she is within one billing cycle. The pass resets during a new billing cycle, and texting is unlimited with this package.

Click here to find out more about AT&T’s international day pass. 

Verizon

For Verizon customers, the carrier offers a travel pass as well. You can get unlimited talk, text, and data in over 210 countries and destinations. It typically costs $10/line per day or $5/line if you’re only going to Canada or Mexico. Roaming is also included in Canada and Mexico with Unlimited Plus, Unlimited Welcome, and other Unlimited plans.

Click here for more information about Verizon’s travel pass.

T-Mobile

T-Mobile offers international plans that allow you to use your phone while traveling abroad without incurring roaming fees. Their plans include unlimited texting and data at 2G speeds in over 210 countries and destinations, with the option to purchase high-speed data, passes for faster internet access. Calls are charged at a rate of $0.25 per minute in most countries.

Click here for more information about T-Mobile’s international plans. 

Woman walking with her phone and luggage.

When traveling abroad, you can opt for an international plan or another SIM card. (CyberGuy.com)

International plans vs. local SIM cards: which is the best option for traveling abroad? 

Whether it is more affordable to opt for an international plan or to get a SIM card while traveling abroad depends on various factors, including your specific needs, the duration of your travel, and where you’re traveling to.

Some of you may find that an international plan is more convenient and cost-effective, while others may prefer the flexibility and potential cost savings of purchasing a local SIM card. It is important to check with your carrier to understand the terms and conditions of your international plan, including voice and data limits, to avoid incurring unexpected charges. Ultimately, the best option will vary depending on your individual circumstances.

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What are the pros and cons of having a SIM card?

If your phone carrier does not offer an international plan that meets your needs while traveling, you may want to consider purchasing a local SIM card for your phone.

Photo of a person holding up a SIM card.

With a SIM card, you can use your same number, but you may still receive activation fees and roaming charges. (CyberGuy.com)

A SIM card is a tiny chip that can connect your phone to your cellular network while you’re abroad and allow you to make calls, send text messages, and use data services. They come in a variety of different sizes, and you can get one that works in multiple different countries in case you plan on going to multiple places. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of having a SIM card.

Pros of using a SIM card

  • You can keep your primary phone and number
  • It is often a relatively inexpensive option
  • If you are traveling to multiple countries, you can easily switch SIM cards to take advantage of local rates and avoid expensive international roaming charges

Cons of using a SIM card

  • You may need to pay activation fees and roaming charges
  • You may not be able to find a SIM card that works in all of the countries you will be visiting

For my picks for best SIM cards, head over to Cyberguy.com/SIMCards

Also, before you pack your bags and jet off, be sure to check out the best travel gear of 2023 at Cyberguy.com/TravelGear

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Kurt’s key takeaways

In a world where staying connected is crucial, the struggle against international roaming charges is a battle many of us face when traveling abroad. 

Bonita’s dilemma resonates with globetrotters everywhere, highlighting the frustrating prospect of paying exorbitant fees just to keep in touch. 

Whether you opt for the convenience of an international plan, the flexibility of a local SIM card, or the simplicity of a budget phone, the key is finding the right balance between staying connected and saving those hard-earned dollars.

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What stresses you out the most when it comes to traveling abroad with your phone? Let us know by writing us at Cyberguy.com/Contact

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