Best Mobile Phone Service for Travelers | Tips on Staying Connected While Abroad

Best Mobile Phone Service for Travelers | Tips on Staying Connected While Abroad


Hi there, it’s Ernest from Trip Astute. In
this video, we’re exploring mobile phone services for travelers, as well as some
tips to help you get connected when visiting abroad. (light chiming music) A few years ago, I flew
to Paris to visit a friend of mine from graduate school. She had sent me
directions on how to get to her apartment from the airport. At the time, I
had an iPhone 4 with Verizon service, and I figured that if I needed data, or to
make an emergency phone call, I could just roam for a minute or two and be ok.
I ended up getting to the front of her apartment in Paris, but when I tried to
load the email to get the instructions to get in, it wouldn’t come up. The phone
wanted me to have a data connection. I first searched for a Wi-Fi signal and I
couldn’t find any open signals on the street. I then tried to make a phone call,
but at the time I didn’t realize that my Verizon iPhone had a CDMA radio, which
meant that it couldn’t connect to the towers in Europe because they used GSM.
To make a long story short, I eventually found a fellow American who let me use
his phone to call my friend. But I wasted like an hour and a half trying to find a
Wi-Fi signal, and also messing with my phone settings. So today, I want to talk
about mobile phone service when traveling. I think that being connected
while traveling is a huge benefit. Being able to pull directions, perform currency
conversions, or check your flight status can save a lot of time. Even just having
a phone to contact hotels, restaurants, or drivers, is extremely helpful. All of the
mobile phone companies in the US provide some kind of international plan
or feature. However, most are pretty pricey. For those of you who travel quite
a bit, I think that two services really stand out though, and that’s T-Mobile and
Google’s Project Fi. While T-Mobile doesn’t quite have the footprint in the
US as does AT&T and Verizon, they definitely make it up in their
international roaming feature. Customers enrolled in their T-Mobile One or Simple
Choice North America plan have free texting and unlimited data in
over 140 countries. Using T-Mobile’s website, you can search to see which
countries are on the list. If the country that you’re visiting is on the list,
you’ll get free text messaging and data, but phone calls will still be 20 cents a
minute for both incoming and outgoing calls. Keep in mind too that while the
data is unlimited, it is capped at 2g speeds. You can pay
for faster speeds, but I honestly feel like 2g is sufficient for light usage,
especially when you’re traveling. Countries that are not included in the
list are much more expensive, and I don’t recommend that you roam when traveling
in these countries. I noticed this when I traveled to Vietnam. The country is not
on the list, so rates are extremely high. So I ended
up placing my phone in airplane mode while I was there.
Lastly, if you’re traveling to Canada or Mexico with T-Mobile, then your plan
basically carries over to those countries, so you should be able to have
fast data speeds and be able to talk on the phone without any additional charges.
The only major drawback to T-Mobile is the coverage within the US. Since I
live in a major city, I feel that the coverage is sufficient. But I definitely
had better domestic coverage with Verizon and AT&T, especially when I was
outside the city. Google’s Project Fi is another great
service for travelers. Project Fi allows you to connect to three different wireless phone carriers for service at a flat $20 per
month for voice service, and $10 per gigabyte for data, which means that you
only pay every time you use up your gigabyte of data. Your service travels
with you to over 135 countries, and in those countries, you’ll still be getting
high-speed data. The only major drawback is that you’re restricted to specific
Android phones. While the phones include the new Google Pixel, which is an awesome
phone, you will not be able to use other phones like Apple iPhones. Both T-Mobile
and Project Fi offer plans without contract. The only catch is that if you
cancel your service, you’ll have to pay the remaining value of your phone. In
addition to our two favorite services, here are some tips to keep in mind if
you’re looking to use your phone internationally. Number one: Buy prepaid
SIM cards. If you don’t travel very often and aren’t looking to switch carriers,
then you might want to consider getting prepaid SIM cards when traveling.
This can be easy or complicated, depending on the country that you’re
visiting. For example, getting one in Costa Rica was super easy. But when I tried to
get one in Germany, it was really difficult.
Some countries have regulations to keep track of phone numbers to make sure
they’re not used for illegal purposes, so you may want to do a search online
before your trip if you’re planning to buy a SIM card. Number two: Wi-Fi calls. A
lot of phones and carriers now offer Wi-Fi calling, which allows you to make
and receive phone calls over a Wi-Fi network. In most cases, calls received
over Wi-Fi are free even if you’re traveling overseas, and calls made to
US numbers while on Wi-Fi are also free. If all you need is to call back home,
then Wi-Fi calling might be worth considering. Number three: Make sure your
phone is unlocked and supports GSM. If you’re planning to use a SIM card, then
you’ll need to have an unlocked GSM phone. In the US, your phone is
generally locked until you pay the full value of your phone. Most carriers will
unlock the phone once you’ve made all payments. Another option would be to pay
for your phone upfront, which should lower your monthly bill. Also, you’ll need to
make sure that your phone supports GSM networks in the US. T-mobile and AT&T are
the largest GSM carriers. There are other smaller carriers as well, but those are
the primary ones. Verizon and Sprint support CDMA, which is strong in the US, but not
common outside of North America. While all the carriers are moving toward the
long-term evolution, or the LTE standard for both voice and data, you’re still
better off going with a GSM based phone to be safe. Lastly, some phones are
marketed as “world phones” and have both CDMA and GSM radios installed. These
should work with prepaid SIM cards as well, as long as the phone is unlocked.
Number four: Rent a mobile hotspot. While it isn’t the cheapest or most convenient
option, it’s possible to rent a mobile hotspot that you can carry in your
pocket or day pack. I did this when I went to London a few years ago, and it
worked well. The only drawbacks are that it’s one more thing that you have to
carry and charge. And since my phone treated it like a normal Wi-Fi signal, it
seems to consume data much more quickly than when it was on the normal cellular
signal. If you do end up renting a mobile hotspot, you may want to modify your
phone settings so it isn’t backing up photos and videos.
while on the hotspot. And that’s our rundown of mobile phone services for
travelers. What services do you use when traveling internationally with your
mobile phone? Share your experiences below in the comments section. If you
enjoyed this video or found it useful, please hit the “like” button and consider
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articles, updates, and contests. Until next time,
travel safe and travel smart.

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