A Look at What Major US Carriers Offer for International Cellular Services

Whether you travel for pleasure or for business, responsibilities at home don’t disappear when you leave. There are sometimes business issues that still need attention, loved ones who wait for your call, and other incidental items that need to be addressed while you are gone. Having a cell phone along can certainly make the process of staying connected far easier.Before taking off however, there is planning to do. You will need to determine how those calls or text messages will be made as your current cell phone and service may very well not work from your destination. There are a number of options but obviously a good place to start is with your current cellular provider.Verizon Wireless for instance, in partnership with Vodafone, offers a Global Rental Kit for those who travel infrequently. With this program, users simply need to contact Verizon and pay a $50 deposit and a Global Rental Kit will be sent to their door. The service includes an appropriate cell phone and not only voice calling, but also voicemail and the ability to text message in most countries. The program is available for travel to over 185 destinations but clearly, travelers should consult the Verizon site to assure their travel location is included. The primary cost, as with all of the options, will be for the calls and messages themselves.The per call charge varies based upon the destination but generally is between $1.29 and $2.99/minute with text message charges averaging $.65 per message. All charges show up on your next credit card statement.For more frequent travel, it makes sense to purchase a “global phone” or “GSM international cell phone” and then call Verizon to enable international roaming. However, it is important to understand that the international roaming charges are generally around $1.29/minute for most destinations and $2.49 for cruise lines. Again, it is important to check the Verizon site to assure your destination is included in the service.AT&T offers a number of packages for international travel needs. AT&T World Traveler is $5.99 per month and offers a connection in 195 countries. The International Roaming rates are “discounted” and vary upon your destination, but range from $.99 to $4.99 per minute. Clearly, travelers would need to check the AT& T site to identify their frequent destinations to determine what charges would apply.AT&T Canada is $3.99 per month and gives those who travel to that country discounted roaming rates for calls. Calls placed from inside Canada to the US are $.59/minute while calls back to the US are $.19/minute. The AT&T Mexico Plan works similarly but is $4.99 per month and charges $59 cents while roaming in Mexico, $.09 when calling from the US, and $.25/minute when calling from the US to a wireless device in Mexico. As always travelers must assure that the cell phone they use will function properly at their destination.T-Mobile offers WorldClass Service which covers travel to 192 countries. Travelers merely need to go to their My T-Mobile account online and sign up for the service at no charge. However, it is important to assure your existing phone will function at your destination; again this can be checked online. All T-Mobile phones will work in Mexico and Canada but none of them will operate in Japan. In instances where a traveler’s phone is not compatible, it is possible to rent an appropriate phone for $8 per day or $99 per month which also provides voicemail. The International Roaming rates charged vary of course by location. For example, current charges are $.99/minute in France and Germany, $1.99/minute in Romania and Japan, $.49/minute in Canada, $1.49 in Jamaica and Mexico, $2.99 in China and the Philippines, and $4.99 in Kenya and Russia.Certainly, traveling with a cell phone is not inexpensive. However, the convenience that it offers is not insignificant either. For infrequent travelers, renting is a good option, for those with a more regular travel schedule having the right phone and the right plan is key.