In a recent article on CIO (a magazine aimed at business professionals), a recent article discussed the topic of using your mobile phone abroad and ways to keep expenses down while communicating whilst ‘on the road’. The problem lies in that most Americans don’t have a clue on how to communicate while abroad without breaking the bank.
The article talks about ways to help save money, but the author completely misses the point on multiple levels. This author’s error is one I see time and again when mainstream press types try to define, describe and prescribe a solution to a technical problem they have no clue about. This is why I’m glad online media (such as this blog) exist, because it gives more technically minded authors (like me) an outlet to set the record straight.
However, my advice to the author of the CIO article and other mainstream press: if you want to find a subject matter expert, do your research. Simply Google around to find folks who live and breath this stuff every day. In my case, my phone number is on the Contact Me page which is at the top of every page on my website.
Back to the topic of talking on your mobile phone while abroad. You need a few things to make your calling cheap and relatively easy.
- First, you need an unlocked GSM phone. GSM is the network used throughout the world. If you have a mobile device in the United States from T-Mobile or AT&T, you already have a GSM phone. Otherwise, you can find a simple Nokia device for less than $100 either on Amazon (recommended) or on Craigslist. Also – ask around within your friend and family, they might have an old phone sitting around they’re not using
Then, you have three options:
- Call your carrier here in the US and add a foreign calling option. It will likely cost around $5 or $10 a month and will let you call while abroad for around 99 cents a minute. This is the most expensive option in most cases but is the easiest.
- Buy a SIM before you leave. The best option here is a company I’ve discussed before called Truphone. This innovative company has a new product called Truphone Local Anywhere which is simply a SIM you buy before you leave. If you’re going to Europe – this is a great option because you can attain the cheap EU roaming rates and save massive amounts of money over working with AT&T and/or T-Mobile if you are from the United States. Truphone is a very nice option that is simple to conduct before you leave and use along the way.
- Get a SIM when you arrive. I went to Barcelona and London in recent months and I simply did some research ahead of time to find out who the best carrier was in each location. Otherwise, you can buy a Vodafone SIM in Europe that will give you cheaper calling no matter where you go within Europe.
As you can see, roaming in foreign countries can be easy and cheap at the same time. Before you get stuck with a $1,000+ phone bill, do some research before you go (this is also directed at mainstream press types) 🙂
If you need a pointer or two, please feel free to drop me a line.
[Photo credit: Flickr User Batikart]