So, if you were ET, how would you phone home? Or if you were me, in Europe, how would you phone home? I generally don’t call much, but I do like to check in from time to time.
In 2006 when I went to Scandinavia and Russia I decided to buy an international cell phone. I had looked at several different options: renting or buying an international phone. I decided to go with a company called Mobal. With Mobal you purchase a used phone with a sim card from the UK and pay for calls based on your usage. The phone I bought was $50 and calls are as cheap as $1.25 per minutes, though the cost in most countries is $2.00 per minute. In Russia it is actually $8.00 per minute, I didn’t use it there. The per minute charges are kinda high, but I was only planning to use the phone to check in with my parents or if there was an emergency. For the 33 days I was away I only spent around $20.00, plus I had the peace of mind of having the phone if I needed it. I was also able to use the phone in Egypt and can use it on other future trips.
I’ve been happy with the international phone but I switched my regular cell phone service to ATT mostly since it didn’t work in my new apt, but as a nice bonus ATT uses the GSM network. Since I’m now starting to plan my first trip overseas since switching to ATT I wanted to find out what options I have now, other then my old international phone. I explored a bit and have 2 options:
1. If I am able to get my phone unlocked by ATT I could buy a local sim card to use. I figured that ATT would make me fulfill my 2 year contract before I could do that, but I was wrong. I gave ATT a call and found out that a phone can be unlocked after 3 months of service provided you meet some other qualifications – like you pay your bill on time, I should be eligible. And I have a Blackberry, which is a quad band phone, which I would need for my phone to actually work in Europe. From what I’ve read on the internet the best thing to do is to buy a pre-paid sim card when in Europe, they can start as low as 5 pounds in Scotland. The one downside to this is that some of the services on my phone probably wont work and having to wait until I purchase the sim card to get the new phone number.
2. Just use my cell phone as it is and pay per call. For this I looked at the per minute cost: From Scotland, Italy, Hungry, Austria and Germany it’s $1.29 a minute. From Slovakia $1.99 a minute and from the Czech Republic and Poland it’s $2.29 a minute. Outgoing text messages are 50 cents each and data usage is .02 cents per kb and pay per use. Aside from the higher costs of this the other downside is that it’s unlikely that I would be able to make calls within the country, only to the US. The good thing about this is though is that my family would be able to call me without having to figure out a different international phone number, I just have to pray that other people don’t call me and run up my bill.
My plan at the moment – If I go with a multi-country tour I will probably just use my phone as it is. That will save me the trouble of having to switch sim cards in different countries, and I would anticipate that I wouldn’t need my phone that much anyway. I would still get my phone unlocked so that I have the option of getting a local sim card if the need arises. If I decided to go to just Scotland (or Paris) for a week then I would get a local sim card. If I do this then I will be doing my own planning and on top of only needing to get 1 sim card I will be able to call hotels or hostels or set up plans while in Scotland.