If you travel a lot for business or personal reasons, you may have thought about getting international phone plans to help you stay connected while abroad. Traveling internationally without having a secure connection to your friends and family or business partners back home can be a scary experience, and it’s important to be able to access data when you need it. If you’re heading abroad soon or are planning trips for the future and aren’t sure what you can do to prepare, here are a few important things you need to know about how international calling works.
1. Consider getting an international plan
If your phone plan is based in the United States, it may come as a surprise to learn that many plans only cover domestic calling. While some other countries’ phones automatically work internationally, American phones usually require separate plans in order to function abroad. In many cases, you could use your phone abroad with getting a special plan for it, but you will likely get hit with excessive roaming fees for making international calls and using data. If your current plan does not allow for international calling, you may want to consider how much phone service cost when purchasing an international plan tailored to your situation. This is especially useful if you plan to travel for a long period of time and will need constant access to calling without having to pay a high bill every time you dial an international number.
2. You may be able to rent a phone
If you’re just traveling for a short period of time, you may be able to rent a phone equipped for international calls from within your host country or even purchase a cheap phone that comes with an international SIM card. However, you should be aware that this solution works best in the short term. If your trip gets unexpectedly extended or if your prepaid card runs out, you may have to pay additional expenses to get a plan that you could have started out with in the first place.
3. Get the right kind of adapter
If you’re going to be using your phone overseas, it goes without saying that you’ll need to charge it at some point, too. Since different countries have different types of outlets and voltage requirements, this likely means you’ll need to purchase an adapter in order to avoid blowing a fuse and destroying your phone when you try to charge it. If you’re travelling to several locations, you can get a universal adapter.
4. European phone numbers look different
Depending on where your travels are taking you, the phone numbers themselves could look very different than what you’re used to. For European phone numbers, for example, expect to see a few different component parts as you start to dial. First, you’ll need to dial the international access code, which is either 011 if you’re calling from the US or Canada or 00 if you’re calling from another European country. Next, you should know that every country in Europe has its own dialing code, which indicates the country you’re calling and gives you access. After the country code, you may need to enter the relevant city or area code, if the place you’re calling has one. Finally, you can enter the rest of the phone number. Another thing to look out for is that European phone numbers are often written in pairs rather than groups of three and four, as is often the case in the US. For instance, a European phone number could appear as 12 34 56 78, rather than (123) 4567.
5. Understand the time differences
If you’re calling someone in a different time zone, be sure you understand what the time difference is to avoid calling them at an off hour. If you’re in the Eastern time zone in the United States and want to call someone in Germany, for example, take note of the fact that Germany is six hours ahead. If you call someone in Germany at 7:00 pm Eastern time, you would be waking them up at 1:00 in the morning, potentially causing frustration and damaging your reputation, especially if the person you’re calling is a business partner.
6. Turn on airplane mode
In order to avoid your phone using data without you realizing it, one option is to put your phone in airplane mode when you’re not actively using it. This can help you potentially avoid pricey roaming fees, although you may risk missing important calls.
7. Try using apps
Finally, even though it’s a good idea to get a dedicated international phone plan before traveling, you may want to install a few apps just to have as backup. In many places around the world, WhatsApp is becoming increasingly popular both for instant messaging and for calling. Skype is another option that can allow you to make video calls and even multi-person conferencing. Keep in mind, however, that using apps while roaming will take up a lot of data, and may come with additional fees on top of data charges. Make sure you’re connected to wifi whenever using these apps to avoid paying an exorbitant data bill.
Going abroad, whether for a business trip or for personal travel, can be an exciting experience, but getting digitally stranded with no secure way to call friends, family and partners can be frustrating at best and intimidating at worst. Thankfully, being prepared with a few essential facts about international calling can help you navigate your travels smoothly. Keep these tips in mind and you’ll be well prepared to find the right international phone plan that fits your budget and situation.