Staying connected while traveling abroad this summer is easier than ever. On a recent trip abroad, I was actually very surprised at just how easy it was to stay connected. While on a flight to Johannesburg, our plane was diverted to Maputo, Mozambique due to severe rain at Johannesburg Airport. Within 5 minutes of parking on the tarmac at Maputo Airport, I was able to send out a tweet with a twitpic to the entire world (…or to whomever cared, anyway).
However, it’s very easy to get caught off guard with the high costs involved in staying connected while traveling abroad if you don’t plan ahead. Before you travel, you should make sure your device is setup properly and that you are aware of all costs involved.
I used a Blackberry 8320 with T-Mobile service which allowed me to connect from various locations around the world. If you plan to stay connected with a Blackberry with T-Mobile service, I recommend you:
1.) Add WorldClass International Roaming to your account before you travel (activation is free).
2.) Make sure your device supports the frequencies used in your destinations.
3.) Review the rates in your destination.
4.) Add unlimited International Email for $19.99 per month.
1.) Log in to your “My T-Mobile” account and simply select “add services” and click “World Class International Roaming.”
2.) On the T-Mobile website, you can see that the Blackberry 8320 supports the frequency bands: 850 MHz; 900 MHz; 1800 MHz; and 1900 MHz. Then, on the International Roaming page, you can select your desired country on the drop down menu to confirm the frequency used. Using South Africa as an example, 900 MHz frequency is used, so you can see that you’re all set.
3.) The same International Roaming page you used to check the frequency will show you the rates for your destination. Again, I’ll use South Africa as an example. The calling rate per minute in South Africa is $1.49 which is very expensive. However, the international roaming rates for text, picture, video, and instant messaging are only $0.35 per message sent and $0.20 per message received. The bonus is that if you have a messaging bundle or plan, the international messages you receive will be pulled from your bundle. However, the international messages you send while roaming are not covered by your bundle and will be charged separately.
4.) Again, log in to your “My T-Mobile” account and simply select “add services” and click “Unlimited International Email.”
WARNING: Accessing data through your web browser, via T-Mobile, while roaming internationally will incur VERY HIGH charges. T-Mobile charges $15 per MB in all countries except Canada ($10 per MB) which can really add up. Let’s say a typical web page is approximately 50KB. That means that for every 20 pages of data, your pull down is going to cost you $15. I have heard story after story of how people have traveled abroad and surfed just as they would at home, perhaps even more as they search for travel info, and end up ringing up bills well over $1,000. Coming home to a bill that size is a total downer.
BE CAREFUL: Turn off or switch any applications that automatically pull in data to manual instead of having the data pushed to your phone automatically.
If you have an iPhone, the AT&T data plan is MUCH better for data. Their plan costs an additional $59.99 a month on top of your domestic voice and data iPhone plan and offers users 50MB of data per month. If you go over the limit while within a list of approved countries, you’re charged $.005/KB per additional kilobyte which is roughly $5 per MB. If you wander outside of that list of approved countries, the cost is $.010 per KB.
For a list of iPhone travel tips click here.