If you are traveling overseas (excluding Japan, South Korea and possibly a few other places…), this Acronym Update is for you.
Chances are that you use a cell phone and you’ll want to make some calls during your trip. Although wireless providers like Verizon Wireless and Sprint using CDMA technology generally have better coverage and sound quality here in the USA, GSM is the more common cellular technology around the globe. AT&T and T-Mobile use GSM in the USA, but it isnt really a cost conscious move to use your account with those companies and roam in another countries. Considering the United Kingdom an example, it would cost you 99 cents per minute to roam with your Verizon (special phone required), AT&T or T-Mobile phone in London. That is really a heavy burden to bear.
FYI, you may be able to use your AT&T or T-Mobile phone in England if it is Quad-Band. A Quad-Band GSM phone can be used on the 850, 900, 1800 and 1900 mhz frequencies worldwide. 850 and 1900 mhz are used in North America and 900 and 1800 are used just about everywhere else. However, you would need to ask AT&T or T-Mobile for a code to unlock your phone.
If you are a new customer of theirs (less than 3 months) or they are otherwise unable to help you, you will need to buy an unlocked GSM quad-band cell phone. A used phone would be perfect for most needs. Ebay would be as good of a place as any to shop. Any unlocked GSM, quad band phone will do. Some models you may want to consider are the Motorola V188, Motorola V557, or Motorola Razr GSM. You should be able to purchase all of these phones for less than $100 and as low as $30 for the V188.
Whether you travel with an existiing unlocked GSM phone or purchase one just for your trip, you will need to buy a pre-paid SIM card when you get off the plane. Kiosks and small stores selling pre-paid cell phone services can be found EVERYWHERE in most Asian and European cities. You will stick the small SIM card in the phone under the battery. FYI, if you are using your AT&T or T-Mobile SIM, you will have to remove your existing SIM. Don’t lose it!!! From that same vendor that sold you the SIM, you should also buy a phone card that will add airtime to your pre-paid account. Typical calling with your prepaid service are about 20 to 40 cents per minute. TXT messaing is also very affordable and generally cheaper than calling back to the States.