Who can use their phone abroad?
Technically, anyone. For instance, I’m on Verizon, and they have global plans. I wouldn’t suggest using it though! $25/100 MB? That’s less than 1/10 of a GB. Adding text and talk is going to drive that price up, heavily.
Instead, I would suggest getting a new SIM card and using a Pay-As-You-Go plan while abroad.
So who can get a new SIM?
Any phone service that operates on a GSM network (such as AT&T) will have phones with SIM devices. All devices with LTE have a SIM card. (Beware: some of these – such as on Sprint – are built-in, and cannot be replaced.) All iPhones 4S and above have a SIM card. You’ll need to check your phone and be sure that you can replace your SIM card.
What are the restrictions?
Not all phones are unlocked and able to be used on a different network. The best idea is to contact your service provider and ask if your phone is unlocked.
For instance, Verizon unlocks all iPhone 5’s automatically. No action necessary. AT&T on the other hand has to do it for you, and your account has to pass certain inspections. An iPhone purchased directly from Apple will be unlocked.
What size SIM do I need?
It depends on your phone, and is another good question to ask your service provider or check from the phone manufacturer. An iPhone 5 uses a nano SIM, while most other phones use a Standard or Micro one.
If you plan on picking up a SIM card when you’re already abroad, you can just take your phone to the store and the representative will find out what size you need, as well as replace your card for you.
How do I suspend my current service?
I’m not on AT&T, so no specifics there, but you can ask Verizon to suspend your service temporarily. They’ll only do it in 90 day segments, so you’ll need another Account Owner or Manager who can call for you and keep it suspended if you’ll be gone for longer than that. (Just have them call the day before you return to get it turned back on. Any calls or texts that are sent in the interim will not be received.)
When you suspend your account, you don’t need to pay for any of your bills as everything will be turned off temporarily. Your contract will be extended for as long as your service is suspended but, to my knowledge, does not affect your upgrade schedule – so you can still get a new phone as soon as usual! ;)
What international service should I choose?
It depends on what you think you’ll need abroad… You can do a google search and come up with many of the top providers, then browse their plans. For London, I compared a few and settled on Three. They had an unlimited data plan that included some minutes and texts, all for a good price: £15/mo.
How do I make payments each month?
For Three, you can set up an online account – but I think I needed a UK card to verify my identity, so I just went to any Waitrose and bought a £15 credit to top up. Then I call Three, use the code I have to add the £15 to my credit, and stay on the line to use that credit to buy the “Add-On” I need.
Where else can it be used?
Depending on your service, you may be able to use your phone in other countries, when you’re traveling! Three has a number of countries that will use your regular plan – no extra fees needed. Beyond that, there are countries with lowered rates for service. I added extra money to my account and turned my phone off airplane mode if I really needed to check on anything. The service wasn’t great, but when I really needed to make a call in Paris because I couldn’t find my friend, it was a life saver for us both.
Can I contact people back home?
I’m not sure what the fees are to call or text back home. You’d need some extra funds, it isn’t included in the unlimited £15 plan. I didn’t need that at all though. I used FaceTime, iMessaging, and FB messages to chat. There are other wifi-based messaging apps you could use, too.
I have more questions!
If there’s anything else you want to know, please ask! This is probably the most popular topic I’ve gotten questions about.