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Can I Buy SIM Cards Overseas When I Get There?

09 Dec Can I Buy SIM Cards Overseas When I Get There?

3 color copies of your passport photo, 2-3 copies of your passport page, your home address and tel. numbers, you family’s first and last names and your place of work. In addition come of them require information you likely don’t even have on hand.

Also, you’ll have to take a taxi ride to a specialized shop and then a taxi back to your hotel. Often it can take 1-2-3-4 hours to complete the purchase depending on how busy the shop it, how expert the salesman is and how their computers are feeling that day.

Often once you arrive you have left out some form or piece of information and you’ll have to run around and get it and come back.

On the whole buying your SIM CARD in the USA from a reliable company such as means getting your card in the states without any hassle of registration at all. They can even give you your overseas phone number when you place the order. They also ship worldwide in case you need it and/or an unlocked cell phone shipped to where you are. To most popular destinations that means 1-2 day service.

If you’re a frequent overseas business traveler, you’ve likely encountered the frustrations of using a cell phone abroad.

Here is some advice…

Buy Local (Foreign) SIMs in the US or Use an International SIM

The way to save on international cell phone us is to buy a pre-paid SIM card from a phone company in the country you will be visiting. These SIMs can be purchased in the US and local SIMs can sometimes be purchased overseas. Be aware though, that if you buy SIMs overseas there might be residency requirements, you will not get your phone number until you arrive and the instructions will be in the local language. It may actually cost less to buy a sim card in the USA because of needing to go to a special shop but considering you get the number in advance (usually) and the instructions in English, it’s worth it.

Before departure, he said, find out whether your phone will work at your destination, and if so, whether you can activate the international roaming access function that would allow you to receive and make calls. However this mean very costly roaming fees and your incoming calls can be costly and always your outgoing calls are expensive.

If the phone is not compatible with local technology, you’ll have to consider renting, buying or borrowing a local cell phone or getting one in advance from a company like in California. They have Factory Unlocked GSM cell phones both to buy International Cell Phones and to rent Cell Phone Rental They ship worldwide and have cellular service for more than 170 countries (there are only 193 countries on earth!).

If your phone is compatible, you’ll need to decide whether you want to get your phone unlocked so that it can accept a local SIM card — the ID chip that carries your local phone number. For it to be compatible it must be GSM standard and be of the correct NETWORK BAND for the country you are going to. There are 4 bands, 850/900/1800/1900Mhz.

The advantage behind the LOCAL PHONE NUMBER option? With a local phone number you can receive local calls and avoid the $1-$2 per minute international roaming charges you’d otherwise incur with a U.S.-based SIM card.

Unlike U.S.-based service, where you pay for both making and receiving calls, in Europe (and most foreign countries) only the calling party pays, However, once you leave the country of the local SIM card, the calls you receive from there will rack up international roaming charges.

There are 2 ways to skirt that problem:

#1 is to buy country specific SIM cards for every country you visit, provided that your phone is compatible. Once again If you try to buy them overseas it can be either impossible or very frustrating and expensive or impossible.

The hassle with that option: You have to inform your contacts of your new cell phone number each time since you won’t have your foreign cell phone numbers until you buy them.

Getting them from first means you can have your numbers even at the time you place the order. Just call them direct for more info. 800-815-9380 or from outside the USA 925-686-9945 or email:

#2 is to buy a single sim card good for more than one country. That way you give out a single cell phone number but good for between 110 and 160 countries depending on which international sim card you buy. You can see them here:

At least with one of those two your incoming calls while in western Europe will still be free to you, night and day, from every country and phone on earth. Calling the states from all western European countries is a flat rate of US$0.97 per minute, always. Compare that to using the, for example, German country specific sim card at $2.50 per minute and you’ll see that sometimes its cheaper to get one of the international sim cards.

Because companies generally foot the bill for business travelers, they may choose to forego the local SIM card option in favor of renting phones or using their own phones and swallowing the international roaming charges.

Americans are at a disadvantage when it comes to cell phones overseas, because most of the world uses a GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) standard. While T-Mobile and Cingular use that standard, Verizon and Sprint operate on the CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) standard, which is popular in North America but not supported everywhere else. But most carriers lock their GSM phones to their service so they can’t be used with other providers and you must also be aware that most American GSM phones don’t have the needed foreign networks in them so they won’t work overseas anyway.

If you go to the U.K. or Germany or most everywhere in the world, your Sprint or Verizon will not work at all.

Consider the battle between GSM and CDMA. The GSM standard outsells the other flavor, the flavor used by Verizon and Sprint, by 4 to 1.

The Japanese anomaly

Travelers heading to Japan face a whole different ballgame.

When you go there, your GSM phone won’t work. You have to have a 3G (third generation) phone, which you can get in from 3G refers to the technology that gives cell phone users the “broadband experience” of a laptop with its high speed and data capacity.

While such phones are just starting to come out in the United States, they don’t operate on the same frequencies as they do in Japan or Europe. A 3G phone purchased in the United States and taken to Europe would roll onto the networks there fine — but would operate as a 2G or “second generation” phone there, with limited data capacity.

Travelers from Japan or Europe to the United States will find that their 3G phones will roam on Cingular or T-Mobile 2G networks but without the 3G roaming experience they are used to.

Here are some fantastic looking new 3G cell phones:

Roaming worldwide

Either of the international sim cards linked about work in most of the world’s countries.

How Pre-Paid SIMs Work

This is the easiest part. Pre-paid SIMs start with a monetary balance on the account. As you make calls, the charges are deducted from the credit available based on the per-minute rates. Rates will vary depending on the carrier’s policies, whether local, to a local cell phone, or international. The rates are included with the SIM card packaging. In almost all European and Western countries, incoming calls are free.

When your call credit gets low, you drop by any convenience store or newspaper stand and buy a little scratch off voucher from the same company as the SIM in your phone. Enter the secret code from the voucher into the phone’s automated top-up system, and the voucher’s credit is added to your account. It’s a free call to check your balance and to add more credit. It’s like getting gas in your car and something millions of people around then world do everyday. If you don’t want to stop frequently, buy a large denomination card, such as a 50-Euro.

Multi-Country Trips

For trips to more than one country, it is easier to use an international pre-paid SIM card that works in many countries. Planet Omni has an International sim card that gives you free incoming calls all over Europe and it is less than $1.00 a minute for outgoing calls to Europe or the US (when used in Europe). It works in a total of 110+ countries.

The pre-paid international SIM a great product for travel to more than one country. It keeps you from having to buy multiple SIMs and changing phone numbers and rates in each country. It provides seamless roaming from door to door.

By John Dulaney

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