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View Full Version : Chris has a good article about avoiding high cell phone bills while traveling


Ned
08-04-2009, 11:56 AM
Chris has a good article about avoiding high cell phone bills (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32268380/ns/travel-tips/) while traveling.

In brief his suggestions are:


Buy another phone
Get a plan
Go VOIP
Swap cards
Leave your phone home

His suggestion for purchasing another phone phone which is "unlocked" so you can put in a local GSM SIM isn't a bad one, but I've found that can be expensive, unless you're traveling Internationally often. If you're just an occasional, leisure traveler overseas for only a couple weeks or so, you probably would be better off renting a local phone. There are plenty of companies which have rentals to almost anywhere available. The problem here is if you're visiting a number of countries this won't necessarily work as you might need a variety of SIMS or phones to really keep costs down.

His suggestion for getting a plan is a good one, especially if you need to stay in communication with home. An ATT plan costs only about $6/month (you can have this plan for a month at a time) and gets you a 10%-15% discount on average. I found the plan is a real savings.

Going VOIP using a program like Skype is a great idea. I keep in touch with my business partner when either of us are traveling via our laptops and Skype. We even use video calling this way and see each other when we talk. It's free, Skype to Skype. (Skype is involved in a major lawsuit which might eventually shut down the service, but for now it's great.) Currently you can use Skype on your cell phone when you're connected through WiFi. We'll see how long that is permitted. I'm not sure if Skype will work though 3G, but I'll know soon (I doubt it, but maybe someone else here knows.).

Chris' idea to swap cards (SIM) cards is good, except that you need an unlocked phone to make that work. If you have a phone under contract, it's normally a violation of the rules to unlock it. We do this with Mrs. N.'s phone which is no longer under contract. It's unlocked and it's our local phone when we travel internationally. I have a phone plan on mine and we use it for calls to and from the US.

Personally leaving my phone at home isn't an option. It's the number my family (93 old father) and clients have. While it's true leaving your phone home ensures you'll have no extra charges, but taking it with you and turning it off except in case of an emergency accomplishes the same thing. Don't forget to tell your family and friends not to call you except in case of an emergency.

I think Chris could have added a couple more items.


Get an international data plan - If you have a Blackberry, iPhone or other PDA you're taking, you better turn off your data connection and email unless you get an international data plan, or you'll be broke by the end of the trip. I've heard of data charges merely for pulling in email daily a few times per hour automatically reaching $10,000 for one unlucky ATT soul. International data plans can be purchased for just a month at a time and then cancelled. One of the benefits of an iPhone, for example, while traveling is its built in GPS, and other Internet functions, so I use an international data plan.
Use your cell phone's WiFi capability - My iPhone can get on the Internet either via 3G or WiFi. I have it set to pick up WiFi whenever possible to minimize my use of 3G while traveling, and therefore stay within my international data plan's throughput limit.

tdew
08-04-2009, 12:17 PM
When it's time to upgrade your phone under your present contract, you can ask for the unlock code. AT&T has provided it for me, and I've then used the phone with a purchased sim card overseas. I keep that phone with my travel stuff.

Kairho
08-04-2009, 05:37 PM
How about the obvious: skip making voice calls altogether! Use text messaging and tell your callers you only want to be bothered in an emergency.

tdew
08-04-2009, 05:55 PM
The one I used, was because I was going to need to make a lot of local calls, as parts of our group were staying in different places. It made more sense to have the unlocked phones and a local card.

We don't make International calls unless it's really an emergency.
I've already told everyone, unless it's something that I can fix by coming home early, don't tell me until I get home.

Ned
08-04-2009, 07:16 PM
Every international text message is charged for individually. Also text messaging and emailing doesn't work for every situation. Moreover, if you want directions from your hotel, a call is better.

How about the obvious: skip making voice calls altogether! Use text messaging and tell your callers you only want to be bothered in an emergency.

Kairho
08-04-2009, 07:26 PM
Every international text message is charged for individually. Also text messaging and emailing doesn't work for every situation. Moreover, if you want directions from your hotel, a call is better.
I should have clarified ... for international calling such as back home to find out how the dog is doing. And text messages are a buck or less ... a lot cheaper than a minimum phone call.

For directions from your hotel, ask at Reception to avoid phone costs.

Ned
08-04-2009, 09:30 PM
I pay an average of $0.99/minute when calling the US from Western Europe.

I agree that a text message can be cheaper (a quick 160 character message). Other than client calls, while traveling in Europe, if I talk to family or a few friends, it's by Skype, which is cheaper yet (free).

The problem with text messaging is that its like Tweets, but 20 characters longer...there's a limit.

Frankly, for longer messages which aren't particularly urgent, I email. I'm already paying for data, so I might as well use it.

I should have clarified ... for international calling such as back home to find out how the dog is doing. And text messages are a buck or less ... a lot cheaper than a minimum phone call.

For directions from your hotel, ask at Reception to avoid phone costs.

Loonbeam
08-05-2009, 08:42 AM
One bit of advice that often seems neglected... If you know you are going to travel, call your provider to make sure you have the most accurate current pricing so you can make an informed decision...

Arizona Road Warrior
08-26-2009, 09:34 AM
When I signed up for my cell phone service from AT&T back in 2001, I was told that my service plan was nationwide\50 states. There was a map on the wall showing coverage. At renewals, I have been told that my plan was nationwide\50 states. In the past when we have traveled to Europe and Asia, I have called AT&T to see what are my options and etc.

When traveling internationally, my travel agent inform me about cell phone costs and suggest to buy a cell phone or service for our trip. The tours that we have taken, the tour operators mentioned the cost of using your US based cell phone in Europe, Asia and etc. and they had offers for cell phones.

Therefore, I can't understand individuals that go to a foreign country and use their US based cell phone and US based cell phone service plan and is surprised when they receive a large cell phone bill.

I have two cell phones...one business and one personal. I go to Canada for business on a regular basis. When I go to Canada, I turn off my personal cell phone because of the roaming charges. For a three-day business trip, it typically add $ 50 to $ 100 to my business cell phone bill. I have been thinking about getting a Canadian cell phone.

There is an issue when you are close to borders between US and Canada. I have driven up to British Columbia from the state of Washington and it is common to pick up Rogers Wireless service when you are close to the border (i.e. 10 miles).

When we traveled internationally, we carry our personal cell phones with us but we don't use them unless it is an emergency. We will buy a calling card and make land-line phone calls. We inform our families with the telephone numbers of the hotels where we are staying at if they need to get a hold of us. We tell our families to send us an e-mail and we will call them back.

I think that the article listed some good options for individuals that need to use their cell phone when traveling internationally for business or pleasure.

Annette
09-12-2009, 04:34 PM
Interesting article in today's Winnipeg Free Press:

http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/cellphone-shocker-a-familys-nightmare-59119377.html

Cellphone shocker a family's nightmare
Roaming charges on trip mean bill for $17,913

I'm always a) shocked that the charges can get so high and b) amazed that people don't look these things up before they leave the country. But then again there are people that travel assuming they can use their native currency whereve they go so...

AaronK
09-12-2009, 05:08 PM
When I had to go to Toronto on business, I checked how much it would cost to use my cell phone across the border.

My cell stayed shut off the entire trip.

roteague
09-13-2009, 12:54 AM
When I travel overseas, I don't take a cell phone with me. Saves a lot of hassle, and helps me stay focused on why I'm where I'm at. I don't feel the need to always be in touch.

Ned
09-13-2009, 06:50 AM
I certainly understand that sentiment, however, it is possible to control one's overseas phone bill, for those of us who need to have clients and family have a way to quickly and easily contact you.

I have an international phone plan which keeps things within reason for voice calls, and an international data plan which does the same for email.

Also with regard to voice I use Skype with my computer and/or cell phone to keep in contact with my 93 year old father, who calls regularly when Mrs. N. and I are traveling. Fortunately, he's a chemical engineer so picking up computer use at an advanced age was not difficult for him.

With regard to data on my cell phone, I use WIFI as much as possible with my cell phone while traveling, and keep the 3G off, except when essential. While in the US, I pull in my phone's email via "push," but overseas, just a couple of times per day, except when I'm connected via WIFI.

So, you can control things. My clients also know when I'm out of the country, and are careful to call only when they have a real emergency. Maintenance matters wait, as do things which have a work around.

When I travel overseas, I don't take a cell phone with me. Saves a lot of hassle, and helps me stay focused on why I'm where I'm at. I don't feel the need to always be in touch.

tdew
09-13-2009, 10:02 AM
When I had to go to Toronto on business, I checked how much it would cost to use my cell phone across the border.

My cell stayed shut off the entire trip.

That just makes sense. I check too, if I'm going to be in a different country. I tend to agree with most of the comments that follow the original article that Annette posted, but $17,000 is just a ridiculous amount of money for any company to charge for telephone use.

Annette
09-13-2009, 10:24 AM
But keep in mind that's a family plan, with 3 teenagers on it in Trinidad text messaging and surfing on iphones for 2 weeks (plus his 2 week trip to NY before that). And I notice they removed the photo from the article, but it showed his cell phone bill showing that the previous month was something like $9k of which they'd paid off $450, so the almost $18,000 would actually be for 2 months and would likely have included interest charges.

But still, you're looking at 3 teenagers and 4 weeks of out of country roaming charges for what sounds like a lot of usage from the 2 girls.

Ned
09-13-2009, 09:02 PM
I think you're exactly right Annette. My younger son is no teenager anymore, but he's on our family plan. I'm a heavy data user on my iPhone, using more than 94MB of data in the last month, but compared to him, I use little. Last month he used 210MB. He's truly a heavy user.

Internationally, at $0.0195/KB, (no international data plan) my usage would come to $1,833. My son's would be $4,095. Put three teenagers on the phone with data and text messaging (texting is not included in data plan), without an international data plan and I think he got away lightly at $18,000.

If I'm away for a couple of weeks overseas, I get an international data plan for a month, which gives me 50MB of international data and costs me $60. That's a far cry from the $916.50 it would otherwise cost me.

But keep in mind that's a family plan, with 3 teenagers on it in Trinidad text messaging and surfing on iphones for 2 weeks (plus his 2 week trip to NY before that). And I notice they removed the photo from the article, but it showed his cell phone bill showing that the previous month was something like $9k of which they'd paid off $450, so the almost $18,000 would actually be for 2 months and would likely have included interest charges.

But still, you're looking at 3 teenagers and 4 weeks of out of country roaming charges for what sounds like a lot of usage from the 2 girls.