Top 3 Things to look for in an International Cell Phone

Take just a passing glance at travel blogs and forums and it’s quite clear that there is a lot of customer confusion about the term “International Cell Phones”. I’ve seen many people question whether such a product exists and others even declare outright that they do not.

Clearly, international cell phones do exist and they are there to help travelers that visit more than one destination either in a single trip or through the course of a year; travelers that want a low cost way of keeping in touch when abroad.

However, there are 3 distinct types of phones which could all technically be described as an “international cell phone” and each is significantly different. Forewarned is forearmed so below we will look at all 3 types of phone and how they might be right for you so you can make the best choice when you travel abroad.

Option 1: A cell phone that roams when abroad

Many cell phones will roam. By “roam”, we mean that when you go abroad your phone will pick up a foreign network and allow you to make calls and/or use data (the internet). These calls are often charged at a significant premium and data even more so. Such a device really shouldn’t be described as an “international cell phone”. Yes, it will work internationally but it is not optimized for doing so and could easily cost you a small fortune. Please note, that roaming on a foreign network has nothing to do with unlocking a phone. A phone that is locked to, say, Verizon simply means that only a Verizon SIM will work in the phone. That Verizon SIM may, or may not, then allow you to roam into somewhere like Canada, Europe or Japan and make calls.

Option 2: A cell phone from one country which works in surrounding countries

If you were traveling to Europe you may find that a cell phone with a UK SIM inside will give you excellent rates whilst in the UK and will give OK rates when in other western European countries like France, Italy and Spain. This is a little like option 1 but instead of having a regular US SIM card inside the phone, you have a UK SIM.

Typically this solution is great if you’re staying predominantly in one country but perhaps briefly visiting others. Your phone would have a UK number and people would dial a +44 number to reach you. The UK SIM effectively roams when in other European Countries so you do still need to watch out for higher call costs especially in more unusual countries (e.g.  say you used a UK SIM whilst in the US). Also check the rates to call internationally back to the US. If the product is aimed at, say, the Australian market then the calls back to Australia may be at a great rate but calls back to the US may be very expensive.

Option 3: A cell phone with a dedicated roaming SIM

A number of networks produce SIMs connected to specific international roaming plans. These tariffs are designed for travelers intending to visit multiple countries and can rightfully be called “international cell phones”. Sometimes they may be worldwide, sometimes they might be targeted at a region; Europe or South America for example. The UK networks produce some very competitive SIMs for travel around Europe and the Mexican networks produce similar products for the South American countries.

What you tend to find with these products is that while the rates aren’t as competitive as buying a local SIM in each country, they are much lower on every type of call than using your local SIM roaming (option 1). So if you are traveling to a number of countries, a solution like this is a good alternative to finding local SIMs in each country. It will also usually work out cheaper than taking a SIM for one country and then roaming in the others (e.g. when compared to Option 2: a UK SIM roaming in France).

An international cell phone like this will typically have just one phone number – so it might be a +44 number if the SIM is from a UK network or perhaps a +52 number if from a Mexican network. One must also be vigilant to check the international rates once more. Ensure that calls and SMS back to the US aren’t prohibitively high.

Finally a word on pre-pay

You may see the term “pre-pay” or “pre-paid” when looking for solutions. Essentially this just means that you must first load up an amount of credit on your cell phone before it can be used. You can then make calls until that credit runs out. The plus points are that it helps control spend – the phone just stops working when you run out of credit. The negatives are that… the phone just stops working when you run out of credit, and you have the inconvenience of constantly having to recharge it which can be both annoying and time-consuming. The alternative is a “post-paid” solution whereby you settle your bill later and just pay for what you use.



All you need to know about renting a travel phone

Once you’ve rented, you’ll never go back.

Below we have some of our customer’s most commonly asked questions about reducing cell phone costs when traveling abroad. If you’re not sure about renting or if you don’t know why you should rent then take a look at our answers below.

I just want to make calls back home cheaply. What do I need?

If you’re not interested in having all the bells and whistles of internet access when you travel and you just want to take a phone so you can make calls to the office or home that are nice and cheap then why not rent one?

We can offer you a SIM card rental for your own phone with free incoming calls or if you’d rather take the whole package that simply works when you get there then for little extra, we’ll give you a phone guaranteed to work where you’re traveling to. We also offer a call forwarding service that route calls to your own cell number through to your rental so you never miss a call.

Do you have internet products I can use abroad?

If you take your own phone with you on business or on holiday, unless you have deep pockets you will be turning data roaming off and disabling all of your smartphone/tablet/iPad features. If you are traveling and roaming with your own devices, this is the smart thing to do because it can be painfully expensive.

If you want to keep all of those online features such as Facebook, internet access and other apps, then you can take one of our MiFi devices either for Europe or for your individual destination. With a Mifi you can connect all of your WiFi devices (up to five at once!) to one fast, mobile internet connection.

I really want to take my iPhone. Can you help?

We have an increasing number of iPhone SIM cards available for key European destinations. All come with a generous data allowance and great call rates (free for incoming calls). As with our SIM and cell phone rentals, we offer the option to route all calls to your own cell number through to your rental so you never miss a call.

How long can I rent for?

The short answer is for as long as you like. Many of our products including our SIM card rentals, cell phone rentals and most of our MiFi devices you can rent on a daily basis and tailor to your trip length. Some of our other products are monthly or weekly rentals because we can offer better value for money this way on data allowances for example.

What happens when I rent? What do I have to do?

Our rental process is designed to be as easy for you as possible. Place your order online and your equipment will be delivered to your door, tested and ready to use. You equipment will arrive with simple instructions and we will always be available on the other end of the phone with 24 hour global support if you need it. When you return home, simply put your equipment in the prepaid return envelope and post it back to us. That’s it, you’re done and you’ve saved lots of money.