Staying connected while out of country is an expensive hassle. The easiest way is to stick with your own smartphone, but you will need a world phone that supports overseas carriers. The iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, Samsung Galaxy S4, Galaxy Note II, HTC One, and new BB10 handsets, the Q10 and Z10, are all world phones.
You’ll also need to sign up for an international data package, which will cost extra on top of any international texting and voice options.
Prices can vary by region, but generally, AT&T charges $30 a month for a paltry 120MB of data, and up to $120 a month for 800MB, with a one month minimum for the service (meaning you can turn it on before you leave and off when you get back). Verizon charges $25 per 100MB of data, T-Mobile charges $15 per MB while roaming in most countries, and Sprint charges $40 for 40MB and $80 for 85MB.
In short it’s expensive, especially with the added international text and talk fees, and not worth the time and effort saved. There is a less expensive alternative in the form of a personal MiFi rental. Two options to consider are Tep Wireless and X Com. Tep offers a pocket-sized 3G MiFi and various plans, depending on the length of stay and location. For example, a seven-day trip Europe runs $58.50 for 150MB per day ($8.36 daily rate) or $96.93 for unlimited internet. The longer the stay, the lower the daily rate.
XCom offers a similar service, with a variety of MiFi devices that can connect up to five devices, and a standard flat rate. For Europe, it’s about $15 a day for unlimited data in a single country, with various plans for multiple-country trips. There are additional fees with both, including late fees, shipping, and insurance costs.
Experienced overseas travelers know that there is an even less expensive way to stay connected overseas, and that’s through SIM card swapping. It can be a hassle, and requires compatible devices, but it can save you big money. For example, for just £10 (about $15), Vodafone UK offers a SIM with 500MB of data for 30 days to those visiting England. The Pay as You Go SIM with Data Wiki is an invaluable resource to those going this route.
Of course, the absolute cheapest way to stay connected overseas is the same as it is in the States. Find yourself a cozy café with free Wi-Fi and try to remember that sometimes it’s good to unplug and get away.
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