How to Avoid Cell Phone Roaming Charges while Traveling Internationally

It is a common scenario: you are going abroad for school, for work, or for fun, and you want to bring your own cell phone with you. You contact your provider thinking they will offer you some sort of amazing international plan, with lower rates. While you will get lower rates, you may be surprised that they are not as low as they could be. You would save more money by using an international calling card while abroad and just avoiding the international plan altogether.

There are two things that kill you when making international calls, and you are traveling outside of your own local calling.
International rates
Extremely high rates that your cell phone provider will charge you for calling TO a number outside of your local area
Roaming Fees
Fees that your cell phone provider will charge you for calling FROM outside of your local area.

In essence, they hit you with a double whammy. You are charged both for calling TO and FROM your new international location. Say you are in France, and you use your American cell phone to call the house next door. It doesn’t matter that you are technically calling a “local” number relative to your current physical location. The call will still be routed through satellite to the United States, where your provider is located, and routed BACK to the house in France. Hence, you are calling internationally, from the eyes of the provider. Also, you are physically located outside of your local zone, and therefore you will be charged a roaming fee for that extra step, just mentioned, of routing the call back to the United States first.

Here is how you can avoid BOTH these things.

1. Go with a provider whose phones have SIM cards, such as ATT&T and T-Mobile. Verizon doesn’t use SIM cards. The SIM card tells your provide where the cell phone is located. They will know if you are outside of your zone.
2. Before you arrive at your international destination, you should unlock your phone, which will allow it to accept a foreign SIM card.
3. Then, switch the SIM card for one from the new country. This way, you will avoid paying roaming charges to your cell phone provider.
4. Go online to and search for the right phone card.
a. Enter the country you are calling FROM and the country you are calling TO, and you will be given a list of cards and their rates. Calling a LOCAL NUMBER is always cheaper, so using calling cards will help you avoid international fees.
b. If you will be making calls to multiple countries from your new international destination, then you will need to purchase multiple cards in order to take advantage of the best rates. So only fill the card the amount you need for the call. Then fill another card in order to take advantage of the proper rates for the second call in the second country.

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