1. MAKE SURE YOUR PHONE WILL WORK INTERNATIONALLY.
Just like radios (AM, FM, shortband, wideband), some phones can pick up multiple bands of frequencies. But unless you have a “quad band” phone (which will work in any country that has cell service), you should take the time to make sure your phone is compatible with the networks/countries you’ll be traveling through.
2. KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN INTERNATIONAL LONG DISTANCE AND ROAMING.
It’s easy to confuse the rates and services offered for calling from the US to other countries (international long distance) with those for making calls when traveling abroad(international roaming). Identify both with your carrier. For example, AT&T calls their long distance plan World Connect and their roaming service World Traveler. Knowing that difference means you won’t be making decisions based on the wrong rates.
3. GET A PLAN.
To add international calling as a feature to your account, your carrier may need to approve you. (Typically they look at your history with them, but may also check your credit.) You may get better rates by adding an international package to your monthly service.
4. TREAT CANADA AND MEXICO DIFFERENTLY.
Although in Canada and Mexico you can dial 10-digit local numbers just like you would in the US, some special conditions apply. If you do it right, you should expect to pay less than a buck per minute. Some carriers offer plans that make sense if you call to/from Canada and Mexico on a regular basis. But watch out for calling from those countries back to the United States. For instance, some plans it’s a relatively reasonable 59 cents/minute for most calls in Canada, but then another 20 cents/minute surcharge to call back to the US. So read all the fine print when making changes to your calling plan.
5. TURN OFF DATA ROAMING.
In an effort to make voice calls when traveling overseas, you might be inadvertently using (and therefore getting charged astronomically). Turn off the potential troublemakers: email and other automatically updating data services.
6. BEWARE OF VOICEMAIL.
If your phone is on and you let an incoming call go to voicemail, you could wind up getting charged three times-once for international roaming to get the call to your device, once by the foreign carrier to send the call back to your domestic voicemail system, and once for you to actually retrieve the message. Keep your phone off unless you’re expecting an important incoming call or making an outgoing call. If you have to call in for messages, do so just once or twice a day (at your international roaming flat rate). Look into the possibility of having your voicemail forwarded if your carrier allows voicemail forwarding.
7. BE SURE YOUR PHONE’S FREQUENCY BAND IS SET TO AUTOMATIC.
If your phone’s band is set to a US frequency, you won’t get a signal or be able to make a call. Under Settings, look for an option like “wireless and networks” and select that. Then make sure it’s set to automatically find a network when it’s roaming.
8. HOLD DOWN 0 FOR +.
On many phones, you can enter the + sign just by holding down the 0 key for a second or so. Then you just need to enter the country code, city code, and local number. Of course, before you do all that, you should check with your wireless phone carrier for proper dialing instructions within and to outside the countries you’ll be in.
10. GET HELP.
Dedicated help lines for answering questions about international services:
- AT&T Wireless: 800-331-0500
- Sprint: 888-226-7212
- T-Mobile: 877-453-1304
- Verizon Wireless: 800-711-8300