Phone Service Abroad

Phone Service Abroad

Almost everyone owns a smart cellphone these days. They are not only in contact, but also working as your compass, research devices, and camera. Unfortunately, they don’t run on magic and need phone services to utilize most of the functions. You should have a properly working phone abroad to call and text, and have cellular data just for safety. Here is some phone services you can consider when traveling and their pros and cons.

International Plan

This would be the most popular choices for many Americans abroad.


  • It is simple and easy because you can stay with your domestic carrier and use the customer service they offer with a little modification.
  • If you have an update/phone contract with your carrier such as buying your phone with a term to use their services for the next two years, you should stick with the domestic carrier because more likely they will charge you for the monthly fee even if you are not using it.
  • If you are planning to travel to many countries a lot, most international plans give you the option to stay with the same plan oversea or at least on the same continent


  • Most international plans are much more expensive than a domestic plan and not all domestic carriers work well abroad. One of the roommates in Prague actually was very clever to renegotiate the terms and plans with T-mobile and she has to pay for only $40/month for unlimited data which is very cheap for an international phone plan.
  • Not all carriers have service overseas, so you want to research carefully, plus contact your carrier to make sure your plan is working where you want it

Host Country Phone Plans

This was the option I chose when I was studying in Europe. I did not have any contract on my phone, so I just called AT&T to put my phone number on vacation mode, and I did not have to pay for my domestic carrier during that time. My carrier of choice in Europe was Vodafone, one of the most popular carriers in Europe, after researching for days. They offered a very good deal for students (~$12/month for almost unlimited international call (including to the U.S.), texting, and more than 2 Gb of cellular data). This plan also includes the service in other European countries with some extra charges. You can find more information about Vodafone on their websites of your destination countries. However, I would recommend looking up by yourself and make sure you know all of your options depending on the country. For instance, my friend who studied in Denmark at the time got a student plan from the host countries’ carrier for $10-$15/month for all unlimited without any extra charges for travel throughout Europe. I did enjoy my service abroad, but there are also inconvenience that you should know.

Pros: Value

  • Customer Service is available on site and across in Europe
  • More affordable compared to international phone plans
  • Reliable service


  • You will have to go out there and look for a new carrier and if you have not done this before, it could be nerve-breaking to some people
  • Researching time and asking questions
  • Could have to deal with a different language

I did not have much problem with my plan abroad, but I did get some charges that were caused by a misunderstanding. They said that I was allowed to make calls in other EU countries as if it was for inside Czech if I paid $2. However, I got charge for calling to the U.S. when I was in Italy because it was considered extra charges and not included in Italy’s service. Well, I called them right after I got the bill and explained my position. They kindly took the charge off and apologized for the misunderstanding. I have a wonderful customer service experience with Vodafone overall.

Other Options

One of my friends mentioned Google Project fi, they are said to be an affordable phone plan for domestic and international. You essentially pay for only one phone plan (unlimited minutes + text + data is based on usage) everywhere. However, you will have to get certain types of phones that are supported by this project.

Some other people may use a cheap phone with only basic phone call and text functions. You could use the smartphone only with Wifi. However, I rather have my phone data on the back-end instead of not having the options when I need it.

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