Cellphones play an integral role in our daily lives. We use phones to communicate, connect with far away loved ones, send emails, capture memories… the list goes on and on. While traveling, as obvious as it may sound, a phone is one of the most useful tools you can have. Modern cellphones provide access to maps, recommendations for new activities or sightseeing, and a means to instantly translate foreign languages. However, if you have a bad international plan with your phone provider, this device can quickly become more of a hindrance than a help.
As a frequent traveler, I am well acquainted with the steep roaming and data overage charges that accompany terrible international phone plans. I can attest to paying hundreds of extra dollars on monthly phone bills after using up data trying to find schedules for public transit, looking up directions to unfamiliar places, and countless occasions of ordering Ubers when I was too tired to walk after a long day of exploring a new city.
There is good news though. Cell phone providers are striving to find better international solutions for their customers. I’ve done some research on the competition for you to take a look at.
T-Mobile– At no extra cost to your normal plan, you can get unlimited texting and data in over 140 countries, for an unlimited amount of time. The catch? There are charges for calling and the data is only at a 2G speed, but you can pay a bit more to get 4G LTE.
Verizon– There are 3 options here covering over 200 countries. 1. Travel Pass: pay a $5-$10 flat rate, and use your normal plan abroad. 2. Purchase a one-month international plan with set data, text, and calling allowances. 3. A month to month plan where you easily pick and choose the times you’ll need international coverage. Verizon’s website does not offer many data specifics.
Sprint– The Global Roaming plan allows free data and texting on LTE enabled smartphones and calls for 20 cents a minute. If you’re not happy with 2G speeds in the 180 countries covered, you can purchase higher LTE speeds for $2-$10 a day and $10-$50 dollars a week.
AT&T– If you only need coverage for a few days, you can take your normal plan overseas to over 100 countries, for a daily charge of $10, or pay a one-time $60 fee for the same access across an entire month.
The Verdict: After researching and shopping around for a long time, I switched from Verizon to T-Mobile over 3 years ago, specifically, because of the huge difference in their international plans. I could not be happier. Verizon’s plan did not offer enough data to function while abroad. I struggled more than I needed to with their plan. I was hesitant to use my phone, even during desperate times when lost, because it felt like I got charged for data overages every time I turned on my phone. Verizon was unhelpful as a provider before, during, and after my trip and their international solutions have not changed much over the years.
T-Mobile’s plan doesn’t offer free calling, but if you have internet, there are apps to supplement this. The data speeds are slow on this plan, but this is not any different from the others. T-Mobile has been no fuss since I’ve had it and I have never had a fear of expensive data overages, at home or in foreign countries. Some other plans cover more countries, but T-Mobile still covers a majority of these. The chances you need phone coverage for every one of those 200 countries offered by Verizon is slim to none, and if all else fails, you can look into local phone options while abroad. No other plan offers unlimited data for no extra charges. No other international plan compares to T-Mobile.
No matter which phone plan you have and no matter where you’re at in the world, make sure you check out RoomShare.