When in roam: What to look for in a roaming plan

A small minority of jet-setters can afford global cell phone plans that let them call from where-ever they are. For the rest of us, there are roaming plans and packages that you get from your mobile provider for whichever country you are visiting.

Roaming packages are not the only way to go, and are not available from all phone service providers. You can also purchase an international SIM card or phone, buy local SIM cards in the countries you are visiting, or use Wi-Fi to access your data.

If you prefer the convenience of roaming with your existing phone number, look for the following features when choosing a roaming package:


Depending on your carrier, you may be able to bundle your data, voice and text services. Make sure all of the services that you want are covered in your plan before you go, and if they are not available consider purchasing a local SIM card.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions when buying a plan. For example, GPS may work globally, but you may need a data connection to download the maps on which the GPS blue dot travels, or you may be able to download these before you go. Try to be as realistic as possible about what services you may need.

Right sizing

A plan that offers “right sizing” automatically upgrades you to the next level plan if you exceed your limit.

Depending on where you live and who your provider is, right sizing can mean the difference between paying an extra twenty bucks or thousands of dollars.

Always ask about right sizing before purchasing a country-specific roaming plan and know beforehand what kind of penalties you will suffer if you exceed your limits.

Tip: Don’t know how much data you’ll need while you’re away? Try this roaming calculator.

Price per minute / SMS / kilobyte

Many providers are no longer offering roaming packages, but instead provide rates per minute for phone calls, rates per text message (SMS), and rates per kilobyte for data service, including MMS.

Some multi-national service providers can offer special rates to countries where they have local service providers. Check with your local service provider to see their international rates.

Photo credit: thelastminute

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