Content starts here

International travel with your cell phone

What do you do when you travel internationally with a cell phone? Besides taking those awesome videos and pictures, you want to be able to communicate with your family and friends back home, locally at your destination and any other places.There are couple options provided by your domestic cell providers like pay per use international roaming and international day pass plan. The first one could send you to the poor house. The second one is like $10 per day for "all you can eat" data, calls and texts to the day pass countries and US. That is fair amount of money for a lot of usage you don't need.
When I go overseas, I would like to almost completely divorce from my domestic cell service supplier. Before I depart from the last domestic airport or port, I would turn on the airplane mode and turn off international data roaming. There is a free service provided by Google called Google Voice. With Google Voice, you get a free US phone number. You can direct incoming calls to a US number (mobile for this discussion). By installing the Google Voice app (Android or iPhone), you can make calls and send texts to US and Canada free. Google voice is "powered" by wifi or mobile data.
We can get free wifi from hotels, restaurants, airports etc, and fee wifi from cruise ships. Remember I said almost completely divorce from my domestic cell provider. I still need it to make and receive my free calls and text back to US with "wifi calling". When you have wifi service, just turn on wifi and wifi calling and get your free calls and texts service to US. For those of you don't have wifi calling, just use Google Voice.
If you need to access internet at every moment, you have to pay to get mobile service (you phone must be unlocked):
1) You can buy a local sim card that you can make local calls and certain amount of data for a set duration.
2) Purchase a data only eSIM if you phone has that option. eSim has the advantage that you can prearrange everything before your trip. You can start using it once you arrive your destination. Please note this option does not provide you with a phone number for calls and texts.
If you need to make long distance calls or local call when you don't have a phone number (eSIM), you can use the long distance option of Google Voice. Google Voice long distance calls are based from US. The charges are very reasonable. For example, France landline, Germany for $0.01/minute, France mobile, Hong Kong for 0.03/minute. You do need to have a minimum deposit of $10 before you can make long distance calls.

Last but not least, there are Signal, Whatsapp and the like that you can message and talk between subscribers when there is wifi or mobile data.
There you have it. Happy international traveling!


How to get your 2FA (Two-Factor Authentication) text while traveling overseas?

1) You have international roaming (expensive)

2) You have Wifi and enable Wifi calling

3) Use your Google Voice text messaging when you have Wifi or mobile data. Whoever might want to authenticate you must know your Google Voice number is an option.

0 Kudos

Don't want to miss your calls while you are touring the world? Here how to do that. Have your phone calls forward to your Google Voice. If your phone is active with wifi or mobile data at that time, it will ring and you can pick up the call. If not, the caller can leave you a voice mail. You can even have the voice mail forward to the email associated with your Google Voice. Again, it is free.

0 Kudos

Last time I actually traveled you couldn't cross state lines without roaming charges, my Girlfriend at the time had the cell phone, not me.  


On recent trips to Canada for business, I had to shut the phone off as it will cook the battery just looking for a tower it can connect to. 


Reading your post, I can tell technology has way surpassed me & I work in engineering. 🙂

0 Kudos

Correction and clarification to my original post:

1) Do not turn off airplane mode during the entire trip (unless you want to connect and likely get charge by your domestic cell provider).

2) You need your physical sim card in place to make wifi calling. If you removed the domestic sim to install a local sim, wifi calling will not be available.

3) If you want to take advantage of Google Voice, get the service before the trip and get to know how to use it. It is a very useful app even when you are not traveling.

Showing results for 
Show  only  | Search instead for 
Did you mean: 
Need to Know

Cyber Week Sale! Join or renew for just $9 per year - $45 billed at the time of a purchase with a 5-year membership.
Join or renew
and get a FREE gift!

AARP Membership Cyber Week Sale

More From AARP