The Boston Globe recently had and article about traveling abroad, specifically if you are on a US carrier. From the article:
Before I left home, Verizon told me that calls would cost $1.99 a minute in Thailand and $2.89 a minute in Cambodia.
No, thanks. I’ll just text people instead. To avoid text charges, I signed up for three free services: WhatsApp, Line, and Viber. The catch is that you can text only with people who use the same service, so your contacts will also have to join.
Where international use can get expensive is in data charges.
Verizon was charging $20.48 per megabyte in either country. Just opening the Facebook app uses more than half a megabyte. Five minutes of scrolling through friends’ posts can eat up more than 10 megabytes, or more than $200. That’s before sharing a single photo. Bills can reach thousands of dollars in no time.
The author suggests keeping an eye on data charges in your smart phone or sing an app called Onavo Count. Since the USA is still the home of carrier locked phones, the author does not hit upon the fact that a local SIM can be purchased until the end of the article.
It will probably be cheaper if you buy a phone package at your destination. Local carriers typically have shops at airports. In Thailand, the True mobile company offered 3 gigabytes for less than $35. Had I used Verizon’s plan, I probably would have needed a second or third block of data for $25 each. True gave me much more for much less. One drawback is I must use a temporary phone number, not my regular one back home.
If you go this route, turn off data roaming on your phone before you leave so you’re not inadvertently charged. Leave the phone on airplane mode until the local plan is set up. If you forget, some carriers will warn you by text, but sometimes after you’ve started accruing charges.
The catch – You need an unlocked phone to use another carrier’s SIM card.
While obvious to most, not everyone realizes you can get a cheap data package once you arrive in Thailand. But of course to take advantage you either need your phone unlocked or travel with a pocket wifi device.
Our advice if you’re coming with a country with locked phones.
- Get your phone unlocked, then buy a local Thai SIM. You now have data and voice everywhere.
- Buy and unlocked pocket mifi device. You now have data everywhere.
As for getting a SIM, you can easily do that on arrival, or get one before you come on Amazon with 1 day shipping.