Using Your Phone Overseas

Last updated on December 2nd, 2015 at 03:27 am

Using your phone in Outside of the US:

1)  For years, the first requirement for using a cell phone overseas was to have a phone that uses GSM (Global System Mobile) technology. Most phones used in the US use CDMA technology, not GSM technology. T-Mobile and some AT&T phones utilize GSM technology. Some of these phones could be used overseas if they were unlocked and if you have a country specific SIM card. Many of the newer smart phones from GSM providers as well as CDMA providers such as Sprint and Verizon are now capable of connectivity overseas. Always check with your carrier before you leave home.

2) If you have an older GSM phone, you need the “unlock codes” to unlock your phone and use it overseas. For $5, you can get the codes from

3) Also for the older phones, you will need a country-specific SIM card to buy pre-paid minutes for the country in which you are traveling. You can buy pre-paid minutes from The company will send you a SIM card that you use to replace the current SIM inside your phone.

4) The newer smart phones, such as the Samsung Galaxy, support both types of technology. For example, if you are a Sprint or Verizon user, your US phone is set up to use CDMA technology. To use this type of phone overseas, just contact your carrier before you start your trip to set it up for overseas services. We did that and it worked great on our last trip to Cabo San Lucas as well as to Cancun. We also used it in Africa and Europe. Keep in mind that you will pay about $1.50 to $2 per minute for calls. Also, don’t forget that if you don’t advise your friends that you are out of the country, they may call you and your caller ID may not function the same as it does at home and you may end up taking several calls from friends or business contacts that will cost you extra dollars.

5) Another option is to purchase an overseas phone and just use it for your overseas travel. We did this several years ago for our first trip to europe. We purchased them from Mobal communications. No messing with SIM cards or unlocking phones. We gave our numbers to only those whom we wanted to talk with. We could give the numbers to our hotels so that we had a local number. Our phones worked all over europe. The cost was about $2 per minute. You can buy really cheap phones or low priced smart phones with a small screen. If you plan to text a lot, get the smart phone, not the old style phone that requires you to punch the number pad several times to get the right letter. It is a pain in the you-know-what.

You will want to install all of your travel apps on the smart phone so you will have those tools with you while you travel, but remember that some apps use data, such as navigation apps, and they will increase your data costs overseas.

More about travel apps on another page.

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