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Re: out of country trip--what do I need to know?
Originally Posted by jrwatson
Merely connecting to the foreign network does not result in charges. I always turn my phone on when I get there as most places just have networks that automatically update me on local time. (Some countries don't update on time automatically.) And just in case, I may need to get an occasional call or text.
As long as you
--(a) turn off cellular data services, thus downloading and updating on wi-fi ONLY; and
--(b) don't make or receive calls over the cellular network (Skype, wi-fi, may be a different issue--check with your carrier; for me wi-fi calling is included in my plan), you won't be charged anything.
One minor exception--text messaging. However, charges for text messages aren't much. If you're not a teenager sending a blizzard of them, you'll come up with a $10 bill when you get home for excess roaming messaging charges. T-Mobile charges me $0.50 excess for each roaming text. I don't worry about that. Especially if I'm using it as a substitute for calls, it saves me money. As always, you should ask your carrier---I don't use Verizon. Plus, there are plans which may have unlimited usage if you need it.
--->You CAN leave the cell phone off as a phone, too, in order to disable even incoming calls and texts. SO at that point,you have data services turned off; the cell voice services also off; texts off. There's nothing left.
Huge, huge benefit of these phones for tourists: GPS by its nature is free, not data based, everywhere I've been. (That's hugely helpful trying to drive OR walk in a foreign city---it is really great pulling up Google maps and following the directions as you stumble trying to find something. The GPS and Maps is free and not data based, but some of the other useful overlays, use from your hotel before you leave on wi-fi. For instance, you can pull up maps and ask it for the correct bus routes! That's really amazing. It tells you where to get on, where it goes, when it departs. But pulling up bus schedules and the like-- that's a data issue. Just tracking yourself on the map, checking on cab drivers while sitting in the cab, getting navigation while you drive or walk, etc---that's pure GPS and works fine with data turned off. As long as you have cell data turned OFF you can't make a mistake. If it is purely GPS, as you'd get on a Tom-Tom or the like, it will work with data OFF and not result in charges. If it's not just GPS, and you have data OFF, the information overlays, like bus routes and train schedules, simply won't work.
As for pre-paid, second phones and the like--depends on what you need.
I know some friends who swear by the pre-paid solution or a second phone. When I've gone for business, I've considered it, but resisted because it's a bit annoying. I just don't want to be bothered and I don't have a burning need for lots of calls. Your mileage may differ depending on how much you use it or how long you're gone. If I come up with $40 in call charges, I can live with that. But some trips I come home with less than $10 in call charges. I find text messaging generally works (there are some oddities in some places, some networks that won't connect), plus I will still get my emails when I'm on wi-fi and I make sure my counterparts know that I really don't want to be deluged with phone calls unless it's really important. I can live with the occasional call charge if it's actually important. I like the convenience of having my own phone with its own setup. For the type of usage I envision--the prepaid data plan might be about as much as the charges I get without it, granting that I'd have more flexibility.
On vacation it is even easier. I really DON'T need lots of phone calls on vacation. It is just for emergencies.
Bottom line: make SURE data services are off. If you do that, you can't make a mistake or get killed.
The stories about huge bills racked up on the absurd charges make it imperative to have data OFF. Just make sure of that. E.g.,
The rest is visible and optional and easily regulated depending on how you want to use the cell phone voice and text.