I detail how to travel with your iPhone and avoid excessive charges from your wireless company in my book, The Cheapskate’s Guide to Traveling With Your iPhone. If you have read my previous article, “Adventures in SIM Unlocking an AT&T iPhone,” you know that I had quite a time getting my family’s iPhones SIM unlocked in time to travel to Costa Rica. I needed to do this so we could use foreign cellular service while traveling in Costa Rica in order to not get nailed by our wireless carrier’s exorbitant international roaming fees or paying their only slightly less exorbitant international package rates. Anyway, the good news is that I was able to successfully unlock all our iPhones, both with and without AT&T’s cooperation. However, before we traveled, I wanted to be 100% sure that my family’s iPhones were in fact unlocked and properly functioning on another carrier’s network. This turned out to be an adventure of its own!
The web is filled with instructions on how to activate your newly unlocked iPhone to verify its unlocked status. Unfortunately, most methods say that you must backup your iPhone using iTunes on a computer and then restore it to get the unlocking activated. That process, frankly, is a pain. As it turns out, most of the information on that process is mostly outdated anyway. Fortunately Apple states in a support article that all you need to do is insert the SIM card of another wireless carrier in your iPhone to activate the unlocked status. However, this method is not well-documented. Apple’s instructions only shows two steps! I found virtually no corroborating documentation elsewhere. So as I was doing my own testing, I took careful notes of the process so I could detail it here. I also created a video of the process, which you will find at the end of this article.
Activating Your Unlocked iPhone in More Than Two Simple Steps
As Apple’s article states, to activate an unlocked iPhone you simply need to swap out the SIM card in your iPhone with the SIM card of another wireless carrier and then complete the setup process. Sounds simple enough, but there are many details in that process that I think people should be aware of.
The first thing to understand is there are different sizes of SIM cards. Most likely, if you have a recent iPhone (iPhone 5 and newer) you will need a “nano-SIM,” which is the smallest SIM currently available. If you have an iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S, then you will need a “micro-SIM,” which is slightly bigger than a nano-SIM. Older iPhones use the largest common size, simply called a SIM card. There are adapters that can make smaller SIM cards fit larger slots if needed. Be sure you know what kind of SIM you need so you can match it up correctly.
Beyond understanding what a SIM card is, the first question most people will have is how exactly do you get your hands on the SIM card of another wireless carrier? Your first option is borrowing the SIM card from someone who has a different wireless company. For the purposes of verifying or activating an unlocked iPhone, this should not affect the SIM card or your friend’s service. The process should only take a couple of minutes (per phone) so they should barely miss it. Offer your friend a Margarita or something for their trouble. Your friend does not need to have an iPhone, only a phone with the same size (or smaller if you have an adapter) SIM card.
If borrowing the SIM card from a friend is not a simple option (or if you’re like me and you want to have a SIM card around for your own uses), you can purchase a SIM card. If you go to an electronics store like Best Buy, you will find a multitude of SIM cards from various companies offering pre-paid wireless service. You just need to make sure you are purchasing a SIM card from a carrier different than the one you currently use. Since my carrier is AT&T, I purchased a pre-paid SIM from T-Mobile, since I knew for certain that T-Mobile was a completely different carrier. Many of the pre-paid cellular companies actually use the network of one or more of the major carriers: AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, or T-Mobile. Companies that use the network of other carriers are known as Mobile Virtual Network Operators or MVNOs. In theory, even an MVNO SIM should work to activate an unlocked iPhone, since it is technically from a different service provider. However, I wanted to be 100% sure that my iPhones were unlocked and working on another carrier’s network, so I went ahead with the T-Mobile option.
When you purchase a pre-paid SIM, try to find the cheapest option available. You can buy pre-paid SIM cards with or without various service packages already included in the price. You do not need a service package to verify that your iPhone is unlocked, so don’t waste your money on the more expensive SIM cards. The T-Mobile pre-paid SIM I purchased had no service plan included and is normally priced at $15. That is a cheap enough price in itself, but the knowledgable person I was talking to at Best Buy took $5 off the price for me so I ended up paying only $10. Looking around later, the same SIM card went on sale for $5, so I would expect that you should be able to find a SIM card for around the same price if you shop around a little bit.
Again, make sure you are buying a SIM card that will fit your iPhone, which for most of us will likely be the smallest nano-SIM variety. With adapters, it is easy to upsize a SIM card to fit in a larger slot and many pre-paid SIMs come with adapters. It is also possible to cut down a larger SIM card to fit a smaller slot, but unless you have a special cutting tool, I don’t think it is worth the effort. Realistically, you should not have trouble finding the right size SIM for your iPhone. If you do, you probably are not shopping in the right place!
Once you have a correctly-sized SIM card from another wireless carrier, you are almost ready to begin. There are a few things you will need to have prepared to complete the process. The first is to make sure your iPhone is connected to Wi-Fi, as the iPhone must communicate with Apple to complete the activation process. Once you pull out your current SIM card, your iPhone will not have Internet access over the cellular network, so it must have Wi-Fi access. Technically, you will get the option to connect to Wi-Fi during the activation process, but it is easier if it is already connected to a Wi-Fi network. This is one of the main reasons I recommend testing your unlocked status before you travel to a foreign country. You may or may not have Wi-Fi when you are purchasing a SIM card where you are traveling, so you might as well do it well ahead of time at home where you know you have Wi-Fi.
Second, make sure you know which Apple ID is linked to the iPhone and the password for that Apple ID. If you are not sure of the Apple ID, go into the Settings App in your iPhone then scroll down and tap on iCloud to verify the account information. If you are not sure of the password, tap on the account name and you will be asked to enter your password. Verify the password and if you can not remember the password, you will have the option to reset it. Make sure you know your Apple ID and password before moving forward.
Finally, you will also need a SIM extraction tool or a straightened out paper clip in order to eject the SIM card from your iPhone. SIM extraction tools used to come in the boxes of iPhones, so you may actually have one if you can find your old box. However, I believe they are no longer included with newer iPhones, so a straightened out paper clip works just as well. If you really want, you can also buy SIM extraction tools very inexpensively from places like Amazon. Either way, just have some way of ejecting your SIM card handy before beginning or you will not be able to proceed.
SIM Swapping 101
It is best to do this process over the middle of a clutter-free table. The SIM card and SIM card holder are tiny and it is easy to drop these things and lose them! If you do drop them, at least if you are over a table they won’t bounce around on the floor.
If you have a case on your iPhone you will need to remove it. Find the SIM slot on your iPhone and use the extraction tool or paper clip to eject the SIM card holder. The holder should only eject a little bit, just enough so that you can pull the holder out the rest of the way with your fingers. Your iPhone will state that there is “No SIM Card Installed.” Obviously, that should be expected and you can ignore that message for the time being.
Carefully remove the SIM card holder from the iPhone, noting the placement and orientation of the SIM card in the holder. Pop out your old SIM card from the holder and carefully put it aside. Insert the new SIM card into the holder correctly aligning it as the previous SIM card was (it should only fit one way, but again, these things are tiny and at first it can be a little confusing). Insert the SIM card holder back into your iPhone.
After a few seconds you may or may not notice that the iPhone does a soft reset indicated by the white Apple logo showing up on your screen. If you do not see anything on your screen after several seconds, you can try pushing the home or power button to wake up your iPhone. Whatever the process (and this may change slightly depending on iOS updates) you should eventually see “Activation Required”. Slide the message away to enter into your iPhone main interface and you may see (again depending on iOS version or particular process of your iPhone) either an “Update Completed” screen, a “Choose a Wi-Fi Network” screen (even if you are already connected to Wi-Fi), a screen that says “It may take a few minutes to activate your iPhone,” or an “Activate iPhone” screen. Below are some screenshots to help you along.
If you see any screen besides the “Activate iPhone” screen, follow whatever instructions are shown to proceed. If you see the “Choose a Wi-Fi Network” screen, make sure your current Wi-Fi network is selected and tap Next, or if for some reason you weren’t already connected to Wi-Fi, do so now and tap Next. If you have followed the process correctly, you should end up at the “Activate iPhone” screen. Note that if at any point you see a message that says “Could Not Activate iPhone,” do not panic. The message likely states that the activation server is temporarily unavailable. Just wait a few seconds and tap Try Again.
Once you are at the “Activate iPhone” screen, enter in your Apple ID and password (you did verify these already, right?) and tap Next. If you entered in the correct Apple ID and password, after a few seconds your iPhone should enter its normal home screen with all your App icons. The only difference you should notice is that instead of your normal wireless carrier showing in the upper left corner of your screen, you should see the name of the company of the SIM card you just inserted. If you don’t see it right away, just wait a few more seconds. Once you see the name of the other company, you are done. Your iPhone is unlocked and connected to another carrier’s network.
Note that you will not necessarily be able to make a phone call or get on the Internet through the carrier’s network at this time. That is fine because if you purchased a cheap pre-paid SIM card, you have not paid for a service plan. You do not need to make a phone call or get on the Internet to verify that your iPhone is unlocked. Just viewing the name of the other carrier in the upper left corner is enough for now.
At this point you can eject the new SIM card and put your original SIM card back in your iPhone. You will not need to go through any special process. Once your original SIM card is back in your iPhone, after several seconds you should notice that your original carrier shows up once again in the upper left corner of your iPhone screen. That’s it. You should be able to use your iPhone again normally. If you borrowed the SIM card of a friend, they should be able to put their SIM card back in their phone and return to normal as well.
A Movie is Worth a Million Words
All that being said, it is often easier to see this process in action than it is to read about it. So I created a video showing the steps of activating an unlocked iPhone. Enjoy!
My iPhone is Unlocked. Now What?
Now that you’ve activated your iPhone’s unlocked status, the next time you insert a SIM of another wireless carrier into your iPhone, you will not need to go through any special process. Usually you will simply wait several seconds for the name of the new wireless carrier to show up in the upper left corner of your iPhone screen. In some cases, if the “Searching …” indicator does not go away after a minute, you may need to power off your iPhone and turn it back on in order for it to recognize the new SIM card. Regardless, once your iPhone is unlocked and has gone through the activation process one time, it will stay unlocked forever and should never need to go through that process again. You will be free to use the SIM card of any company you please, which can be great when you are traveling in foreign countries.
Note that if you purchase a new iPhone, unless you are specifically purchasing an unlocked model, you will need to have that particular phone unlocked if you wish to use foreign SIM cards while traveling. Unlocking is specific to a particular phone, not to you or your account.
For more information on saving money while traveling with your iPhone, please check out my book, The Cheapskate’s Guide to Traveling With Your iPhone. Also, feel free to comment below with any questions you may have.
As I wrote in my book, The Cheapskate’s Guide to Traveling With Your iPhone, there are many ways to avoid the tremendously high international roaming fees that wireless carriers will charge you if you try to use your iPhone in another country. When taking a trip where one will be traveling around a country, as opposed to vacationing primarily at one resort or hotel, a great strategy is to purchase a pre-paid service from a wireless company in the country you will be visiting. It is usually significantly cheaper to buy a pre-paid service in-country than to use a United States carrier’s international plans – and definitely much cheaper than getting nailed with international roaming fees!
In preparation for an recent week-long trip to Costa Rica, I decided that I needed to purchase pre-paid wireless service for my family’s iPhones while we were in that country. I was going to visit my mom rather than staying at a single resort and she was going to take us all around the country. I wanted to ensure that my family and I had Internet access while on the road in between destinations. Each road trip was going to be at least a couple of hours, with some approaching 4 hours. With my work as a technology consultant, my wife’s work managing social media for her clients, and my two daughters’ appetite for Internet content, this decision was not hard to make!
In order to use a pre-paid service in a foreign country, one must purchase a SIM card from that foreign carrier and swap it into their iPhone. However, in most cases, phones are “locked” to the carrier they were purchased from and will not work with SIMs from other companies. In order to use a SIM card of a carrier other than the original, one must have their phone “unlocked.” In the time since I published my book, the rules regarding SIM unlocking have generally changed for the better. A law passed in 2014 requires that carriers must unlock phones for owners who have honored their service contract or otherwise paid off the phone. Above and beyond the stipulations of the new law, most carriers informally allow SIM unlocking for subscribers who are traveling internationally.
Unfortunately, AT&T is one of the stingiest carriers when it comes to SIM unlocking phones that are still under contract. It was true when I wrote my book a couple of years ago. It was true last year when a popular article was published by a (now former) customer railing against AT&T because they wouldn’t unlock his phone for international travel. And as I found out, it was still true as I was getting ready to travel to Costa Rica.
The Adventure Begins
Of the four members of my family, my wife and I have iPhone 6’s and my two daughters have our old iPhone 5S’s. To their credit, AT&T has a simple-to-use web site where you can request to have your phone unlocked. It is very easy to fill out the form and while they say it could take up to two days to complete the request, I found the requests to be completed in minutes. Based on my research of AT&T’s policies, which state that in order for phones to be unlocked they must be out of contract or paid off completely, I did not think that any of my family’s iPhones would be unlocked with this automated system. Since none of my family’s phones were technically paid off or out of contract, I fully expected that I would need to call AT&T and ask for an exception to be given. However, I had read that AT&T would offer exceptions in special circumstances (such as writing a scathing article about AT&T’s stingy SIM unlock policies) so my plan was to give the automated system a try first, then follow up with a call to AT&T. I started with my two daughters’ iPhone 5S’s and to my pleasant surprise, AT&T’s automated system quickly granted the unlock requests. So far so good! I now had hope that maybe AT&T’s policies had relaxed since that article drummed up a lot of bad publicity last year and it would be simple to unlock my and my wife’s iPhone 6’s.
Unfortunately, the automated system did not unlock our iPhones giving the reason that “You have not completed all the payments for your device according to your AT&T Next service agreement.” Well, that was what I expected in the first place, but I was still disappointed since my daughters’ iPhone were unlocked so easily. Perhaps it was the fact that my daughters’ phones were nearly 20 months into their contract so AT&T rules are less stringent in those cases. Regardless, I decided to call AT&T but at the time it was too late in the evening to get a representative on the phone. So not having my curiosity satisfied, I did some more research to see what new information I could find out.
One promising lead I discovered was the fact that certain people were claiming that AT&T’s automated system could be “tricked” into giving out SIM unlocks for iPhones still under contract or under the Next agreement if multiple repeated requests were made. Some people said they were given unlocks the first time, while others said that they attempted three or four times before their request was granted. Given that I had nothing to lose by trying, I went ahead and made several more requests on AT&T’s automated systems. Once again to AT&T’s credit, their automated system was quick in completing the requests, but unfortunately they denied my requests three more times each for my and my wife’s iPhones. So I planned on trying the requests one more time the next morning before calling AT&T.
Time To Grovel
As I figured, the automated requests were denied again the next morning, so I called AT&T customer support. As luck would have it, I was connected to Mike Shields, the most knowledgeable AT&T representative I have ever talked to. Big kudos to him for being very friendly and understanding exactly what I was trying to do and why. Apparently, he had been working as a customer support rep for three years and had worked with SIM unlocking many times. Given my explanation, he said that he would put in a support request for SIM unlocking exemptions because he felt my case merited it. He felt confident that the requests would be granted given my circumstances and his credibility with AT&T’s higher level support. He informed me that the requests may take up to two days to be completed which I expected given the automated system said this as well. So it seemed that things would turn out well, since as a longtime AT&T customer, I simply wanted to use my iPhone overseas, not screw over the company. The good news was that the requests were completed later that day, which I certainly appreciate AT&T for completing the requests so quickly. The bad news was that for everything Mike Shields tried to do to take care of my request, my unlock exceptions were denied.
In the meantime, I had tweeted that Mike Shields was the best AT&T rep I had ever spoken to. AT&T’s Twitter account called @ATTCares responded to this tweet thanking me for the shout out. When my SIM unlock requests were denied, I responded to @ATTCares letting them know. They responded with the standard policy line that the phones must be out of contract or paid off and asked if had I looked into their international plans. I let them know that I understood the policy and asked if an exception could be made for international travel. I gave them time to respond, but by the next day they had not replied so I decided to move forward with alternate plans.
On a side note, AT&T’s international plans just plain suck. They start at $30 for only 120MB of data per phone! The pre-paid plan I was intending to buy in Costa Rica was less than $20 for 2 GB of data. I later found a plan that was less than $5 for 600 MB of data. I’m not sure how AT&T thinks their international plans save anybody money in this day and age, but I guess they’re banking on their customers not being able to figure out otherwise.
A Walk on the Wild Side
Rudimentary research on SIM unlocking brings up a wealth of web sites offering the service of unlocking your phone, even if it is still under contract. Certainly I was wary of the companies offering this service, because unlocking a phone outside of the carrier’s policy seems shady to say the least. But at this point I was starting to run out of time and I wasn’t willing to wait on AT&T any longer. Plus my wife would have been very unhappy if her iPhone didn’t have Internet access in Costa Rica and I make it a point to never make my wife unhappy! So I did a lot of research and settled on trying the services of a few different unlocking companies, which I will detail at the end of the article. As I found out, I was merely beginning my SIM unlocking adventure. To make a long story short, let me sum up what I discovered over the course of a few days.
The first thing to understand is there is only one true way to unlock an iPhone (the same is usually true with other phones as well). Some companies offer dubious software unlocks that require jailbreaking your iPhone or a hacked SIM card that promises it will work with locked phones. These unlocking methods are often fraught with peril and may not work permanently. I recommend you avoid these types of unlocking methods. The only way to ensure that your phone is truly and officially unlocked is through what is called an IMEI unlock. The IMEI is a code that is unique to every cell phone made in recent years, which ensures that carriers can identify a particular phone on their network. Most manufacturers keep a database of the IMEI numbers for the phones they build and which phones are locked to a particular wireless carrier or are unlocked for use with any compatible carrier.
There are a range of prices when it comes to SIM unlocking services, even from the same provider. Often providers will offer a higher priced “premium” service that usually has a 100% guarantee of your phone being SIM unlocked. Many offer varied “express” services that promise shorter completion times, along with even higher prices. Finally, lower cost services exist for “clean” IMEI numbers. Many of the premium services I found were around $40 or more in price so in order to try to save money, I opted for some of the lower-priced services at first. Not knowing for sure what a “clean” IMEI was, I thought at the time it meant that a clean phone was not blacklisted due to theft or non-payment. Since my account was in paid in full and otherwise was in good standing (I have been an AT&T customer since 2009 and never to my knowledge have missed or been late in payments) I figured I had a clean IMEI. However, after testing several services for clean IMEIs, none had worked for me. Doing further research I discovered that a “clean” IMEI means that the phone is not under contract or otherwise ineligible by the carrier for an unlock. Since AT&T considered my iPhone not eligible for unlocking because it was still under the Next agreement, then I realized unlocking my iPhone was not going to work with the cheaper services for clean IMEI. The good news was that all the providers I tried offered money-back guarantees if they could not unlock your phone and each had honored them. So I wasn’t out any money for each attempt I made, but I was getting closer to running out of time. So I finally decided to bite the bullet and try a “premium” unlocking service that offered a 100% guarantee of unlocking my iPhone. As I mentioned, most of the services I found were around $40 for this service (some a lot higher) but after much research, I found a seemingly reputable service that offered a premium service for $25 with a 1-2 day turnaround time.
After my previous several failed attempts with other providers, I was getting nervous that I would not be able to get my and my wife’s iPhones unlocked in time for our trip. But I had not yet tried a “premium” service with a 100% guarantee of unlocking so I was hopeful this attempt would do the trick. To my great relief, 27 hours after I purchased this particular service I received a message from the company stating that the unlock was successful. I was a little giddy at having worked around AT&T’s roadblocks. However, as with anything technology related, I wasn’t going to be certain that my iPhone was truly unlocked until I had a chance to test it. That being said, I went ahead and placed another order with the same company to unlock my wife’s iPhone as well. In this case, however, my request extended out over a weekend and the company said it would not process on weekends. So I expected that the unlock would not happen for a few days, which would only leave me a day or two to spare before my family left for our trip! I placed my order on a Friday, and by Saturday the unlock had not happened, so I resigned myself to waiting until Monday. I was hopeful that the unlock would be completed by Monday and not extend out until Tuesday. However, to my surprise, I received a message Sunday morning that the unlock was completed! I guess they do work weekends! All my iPhones were unlocked with 3 days to spare. Whew!
To wrap up my story, I am happy to report that all four of my family’s iPhones were in fact unlocked and worked well with foreign SIM cards while in Costa Rica. I will detail the process of testing our iPhones to verify they were unlocked in an upcoming article as well as a third article describing the process of purchasing and setting up a SIM card from the Kölbi pre-paid service in Costa Rica.
Putting it All Together
To sum up, if you are an AT&T subscriber and you want to unlock your iPhone for international travel, here are the steps you should take:
- First, give yourself ample time to get an unlock completed. I would suggest a minimum of two weeks. I only gave myself a week-and-a-half and just barely made it.
- Attempt to use AT&T’s automated unlocking system first. If your phone is out-of-contract AT&T’s policy says they will unlock it. I would not expect that you should have any trouble in that case. But even if your phone isn’t out of contract, based on my experience it seems that the closer you are to completing the phone’s contract the better your odds are for having it automatically unlocked. Based on others’ experience, it seems that you might even have a chance to get the automated system to get an unlock granted if you are persistent and make repeated attempts. It can’t hurt, so give it a go and let me know in the comments of this article if you are successful with AT&T’s automated system.
- If you can not get an automated unlock request granted, you should next give AT&T customer service a call to ask for an exception to be made to their SIM unlock policy. The longer you’ve been with AT&T, the better your odds are. Also, make sure you’ve been a good customer and paid all your bills on time. If you aren’t current on your bills and/or have a history of late payments, your chances of getting an exception made are significantly lower. Be pleasant and polite when talking to the AT&T customer service rep. If your phone isn’t eligible for unlocking under AT&T’s policy, understand that the rep you are talking to will almost certainly not be able to grant your unlock request. Your goal is to get the rep to submit a case for an exception to be made. Explain that you are planning to travel to a foreign country and want to buy a pre-paid SIM in that country. Be genuine because if the rep thinks you are trying to scam them, you will likely not get them to submit a case on your behalf. Based on my experience at the time of writing this article in May 2015, calling AT&T to request an exception didn’t work. However, I have a feeling their policies will begin to relax in the future so it is probably worth giving this option a try anyway. Again, let me know in the comments if you have success with this method.
- If AT&T will not unlock your phone, your last option is to seek out the services of a third-party SIM unlocking company. Do your homework and seek out a company that has a good reputation, reasonable prices, and a money-back guarantee. If you have been unsuccessful in getting AT&T to grant you an unlock, then don’t waste your time with the lower cost options you will find. Those services (for “clean” IMEI numbers) are only able to unlock phones that are already eligible for unlocking from the carrier. If that is the case then you would have already been able to get a free unlock directly from AT&T. Make sure you use a “premium” service or one that offers a 100% guarantee for getting your phone unlocked. At the time of this writing, premium services like these are usually in the $40 range, but I found prices as high as $70 or $80. I found and used a service for $25. Some claim to offer “express” turnaround times, but if you shop around, you should find reasonably priced premium options that can complete your unlock in just a few days. If you have given yourself plenty of time, then you should not need to pay extra for a quicker turnaround. If you end up using a third-party SIM unlocking service, please let me know which company you used, how much you paid, and if you had success or any problems.
My Experiences with SIM Unlock Companies
In my little adventure, here are the first three companies that I used.
With the above companies, I attempted using their “clean” IMEI services with no success. But as I later found out, I didn’t technically have a clean IMEI so this was not the fault of these companies. They all honored their money-back guarantees, so that makes me feel these companies are reputable. However, caveat emptor.
SwiftUnlocks was the company I used to successfully unlock my and my wife’s iPhone 6’s still under the Next agreement. The primary reason I chose this company was they offered a 100% guaranteed “premium” service with a 1-2 day turnaround for only $25. As I mentioned, the first unlock only took 27 hours, and the second unlock, even over a weekend, was completed in less than 48. To be sure, this was my own experience with this company and it does not necessarily mean I endorse them. All I can report is in this instance they took care of my unlocking needs quickly and inexpensively. Your milage may vary.
A Final Thought
Once you have received word that your iPhone has been unlocked, I strongly suggest testing it before you travel. Look for my next article, which explains how to test and verify that your iPhone is actually unlocked.
Last year I was interviewed on a radio program, Femme Finance with Debbie Whitlock on 1150 KKNW in Seattle. Forgive me for taking so long to post the radio interview, but with spring break season upon us, I figured this would be a good time to share. I give a few good tips in this interview and it might answer several questions you have about The Cheapskate’s Guide to Traveling With Your iPhone. Let me know what you think!
I ran across an article on Mashable titled “14 Signs You Spend Too Much Time on the Internet“. Check out step 11. I cover researching Wi-Fi before traveling in chapter 3 of The Cheapskate’s Guide to Traveling With Your iPhone. I don’t think researching Wi-Fi for a trip means I spend too much time on the Internet. Who’s with me?
But seriously, researching Wi-Fi is critical if you want to save a ton of money when you travel. So don’t listen to the naysayers – make sure to read Chapter 3 of my book and make Wi-Fi research an important factor in your travel plans.
I’ve been asked by many people if they should read The Cheapskate’s Guide to Traveling With Your iPhone if they are taking a trip within the United States. While I certainly encourage reading my book at any time, let me clarify a couple of related topics.
Hawaii is a part of the United States. So are Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.
Yes, they may seem like foreign destinations, but Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands are all considered domestic call areas for AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile. This is because these locations are part of the United States and our domestic wireless carriers operate there as well. Therefore there are no international roaming charges to worry about. So you don’t need to be concerned about getting socked with excessive charges and you can use your iPhone or other cellular phones normally. However, you should still try to make use of Wi-Fi whenever possible to keep your cellular data usage to a minimum, just in case you might go over on your data limits.
Cruise ships are NOT part of the United States, even if you are only a few miles offshore.
Maybe you’re taking a cruise around the Caribbean and it may seem like you aren’t that far away, but cruise ships are considered international calls and will incur the corresponding huge roaming fees if you don’t follow the advice in my book. Unfortunately, I’ve heard that Wi-Fi on many ships is still pretty expensive, but likely will still be less than international roaming fees. Check with your cruise line before embarking, or better yet before you book that cruise.
Bottom line, if in doubt always verify any questions you may have with your wireless carrier and use Wi-Fi whenever possible.
I personally have heard many stories of people taking their iPhone, iPad, or other smartphone or tablet on trips abroad to come home to find huge wireless bills waiting for them. The latest story I heard was from a friend of my wife’s who spent over $500 on her wireless bill from her last trip to Jamaica! Yes, she is now a proud owner of The Cheapskate’s Guide to Traveling With Your iPhone and will be saving big money on her upcoming trip.
But I’d like to hear from all of you. Simply comment below to share your horror story of a trip where you took your mobile device and got nailed by international roaming charges. Let us know where you traveled, who your wireless carrier was, what type of device you took along, and what your total bill came to be.
My book is complete and has been sent off to distribution for eBook conversion and proofing. The process should take a couple of weeks at the earliest, but perhaps a few more before it is finally available for sale at all major eBook stores.
If you will be traveling soon and/or would be willing to review my book, please contact me and I can get you an advance copy. Thanks for your support!
This is a picture of the text message I received from my wireless carrier upon landing in Mexico during our most recent trip. Look, it’s only $19.97 per megabyte! Or you could read The Cheapskate’s Guide to Traveling With Your iPhone and spend nothing on international roaming charges. It’s up to you!
Happy Mother’s Day to all the momma bears out there!
Just as I’m putting the final touches on my book, The Cheapskate’s Guide to Traveling With Your iPhone, I find an article on Mashable titled Vacationing Americans Prefer Giving Up Booze Over Mobile Devices. As much as some people try to make fun of people taking their technology devices on vacation, including their iPhones, the reality is that we are a connected society. We are social creatures, and our mobile devices enable us to keep in touch with our extended social networks.
People love to share their vacation photos and stories when they get back. Doesn’t it make sense to share these things while on vacation instead of afterwards? It’s simply an evolution of communication in The New World of Technology. Hopefully my book will help people save a lot of money when they travel, because it should be obvious by now that they aren’t leaving their technology at home.