Trip Coach: October 10, 2006
Ken Grunski, CEO of Telestial, answered your questions about using cellphones overseas
Ken Grunski: Hello...I'm Ken Grunski from Telestial.com. I'm ready to answer your international cell phone/travel questions. I use the hunt/peck method which while I have perfected, still leaves me at a typing disadvantage but will answer as many questions as fingers will allow.
Milwaukee, WI: Do you know of a cellphone I can use internationally that has no monthly fees?
Ken Grunski: Almost all of the international plans are prepaid and consequently do not carry a monthly fee/contract however you wil have a foreign number...if you go with a GSM carrier in the states (prepaid or postpaid with Tmobile, cingular, SIMple Call) then you can use the same phone and simply swap out the SIM card (a chip in the back of the phone tht determines your phone number and service). Just make sure your phone is SIM unlocked if you got it from a carrier. Many websites will unlock a carriers phone (thetravelinsider.info is one reliable site) for about $30. I am currently unaware of any prepaid US providers/plans that roam overseas.
Pensacola, FL: Can I go into a well known department store and purchase a cheap cell phone (i.e., walk into a Target/Walmart store and purchase a $50 cell phone for Virgin) and then 'start up' the phone with the minutes that come with the purchase of the phone? I understand that I can just throw the phone away at the airport on my way home from vacation. For fifty bucks the convinience is all I am after.
Ken Grunski: Yes, though maybe not Target and Walmart but definitely their international equivalents and not always for $50. Other factors to consider are that if you are in France or Germany nothing will be in English and so for an in-country purchase of your service/handset you can count on a little frustration: finding the time to go to a store that sells the phone/service, then once you get there you might have 3 or 4 options (carriers) to chose from...which one has the cheapest rates to the US? When does my airtime expire? How much airtime is included with the puchase? Voicemail? How can I program voicemail if the instructions are in Spanish?. The convenience of this scenario may depends upon time (I never have enough of this - ask my family) and your language skills.
Flower Mound, TX: Can prepaid cell phones be used overseas (like Virgin mobile)? If so, do all brands work?
Ken Grunski: Typically no and here's why:
1) You have to be the right technology...GSM. Virgin is a sprint reseller which makes the CDMA, Boost uses Nextel which is I-den but there is T-Mobile as an example that is GSM.
2) Does your phone have the right frequencies....In the US we use the 1900 primarily and some areas have the 850 freq. Overseas they use the 900/1800 frqs.. So you could bring a GSM phone to Europe and you would never get a signal. Typically with prepaid kits you get a North American band version (1900 only or 850/1900) which I cheaper then the tri/quad band phones.
3) Carriers currently reserve roaming for their post-paid service as an incentive I suppose to sign contract though I believe Verizon prepaid will roam in Canada.
4) Is the phone 'SIM-locked'....Notice the prepaid kits (phones w/service) are super-cheap. Even when you sign a contract you can get a $300 phone for $100 or free. This because your phone is being subsidized by the carrier and consequently they 'lock' your phone. It is a software lock which prevents you from using another carriers service.
Your scenario might be purchasing a triband SIM unlocked phone ($99) and you can go with a US prepaid service from a GSM carrier like T-Mobile. They will give you a SIM card to snap into the back of your phone. When you travel overseas just get a nother prepaid SIM card for that country and you are 'cooking with gas'.
Tabernacle, NJ: Our son plans to spend next semester abroad in Ireland (University in Galway). We currently use Verizon Wireless in the US...what is our best bet to stay in some phone contact since he will be there January thru June, and does plan to do some traveling throughout Europe during that time. I am wondering if he should purchase a prepaid phone once there, but would welcome your suggestions! Thanks
Ken Grunski: Ok, your standard Verizon phone is a paperweight overseas but they will rent you a phone for $3+/day and about $1.50/min in Ireland.
You can buy a phone in Ireland with service for about $99 but the phone will be 'locked' and typically of no use outside of Ireland. Still this is certainly an option. However for a little more money - about $130, you should consider buying an international cell phone here in the U.S. and getting set-up before you leave. There are two big advantages to doing this:
-- You will know your son's phone number before he even leaves (and he can walk and talk straight off the plane)
-- Your son won't have to spend his first few jet-lagged days shopping for a cell phone
Best of all you can also use the phone at other international destinations (including the US -- through Cingular or T-Mobile or SIMpleCall) by simply purchasing another service pack (SIM card).
Other advantages are that there are several prepaid roaming options for your sons weekend trips and summer holiday where he may be in a new country every week. WHen your son leves Ireland he will take out the Ireland SIM card from his phone (and give it away if he can) and then he will insert the the explorer prepaid SIM card which works throughout Europe and will give him unlimeted free incoming calls (just like he had in Ireland with the local SIM in Ireland) while he travels. I would not use this card in Ireland because he is there for 6-months and will want a local phone number for his new frineds to reach him on.
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