Are You Right For An International SIM Card?
A lot has been written about what an international SIM card can do for you – What are the rates? Which country phone numbers do they have? How do you dial? – but what about you? Are you the right kind of person for an international SIM card?
"If your plane just landed and 5 seconds later you need to be screaming at your vice president you might not be right for an international SIM!"
Having been in the international cell phone business for seven years we've talked to thousands of travelers on the phone, both before and after their trips, and we can say with certainty that personality and expectations are important for successfully using a cell phone use abroad.
Six Steps To Cell Phone Success
In this article we help you prepare for what to expect when it comes to using a cell abroad by listing the six factors, procedures and zen mind tricks that get you through your international cell phone experience. And these don't just apply to an international SIM card, these tips are useful for rental phones and international roaming with T-Mobile and AT&T as well.
A well-worn piece of travel advice applies to international cell phones as well, "You're not in the US anymore."
In the Good Old USA things pretty much work as expected. If we get frustrated by small imperfections at home it's because most of the time here things go smoothly.
With travel, stuff comes up that can make us frustrated and irritated. Not because other countries are sloppy (although they can have a different pace and processes) but more likely because we are out of our environment and jet-lagged and the barrage of new information overloading our senses can knock even the best of us off our game.
During these times (and especially for some people more than others) this can be a challenging time to be fiddling with a cell phone.
International SIM Cards Versus Country-Specific SIM Cards
Before we get to how much fiddling will be required, what kind of fiddling and the best way to fiddle, let's see the challenge of international roaming from the international SIM card's point of view.
International SIM cards are intended to work on several carrier networks in more than 100 countries. We think given that tall order they do a pretty good job.
A SIM card from the local overseas carrier (an Orange UK SIM used in the UK, for example) has an easier time of it because it's made by the carrier for use on its own home network. By contrast the international SIM is expected to work on Orange in the UK and Vodafone and O2… And then it has to perform on all the major carriers in 100+ other countries as well. Considering what it is expected to do, most of the time these international SIMs do a great job.
What To Expect Using An International SIM Card Abroad
It Might Not Work On The First Try
Most of the time your international phone and SIM will work right away. However other times it might take a minute or three to find a local network. If you (or your boss) are the type of person to blow a gasket because your plane just hit the tarmac and 5 seconds later you're not screaming at your vice president then you might not be the right person for an international SIM card.
It Is Rarely A Complete Malfunction
Sometimes people assume the worst or give up too easily when the phone doesn't work right away and they get frustrated, mad, sad or disgusted. That's too bad because most of the time it's something simple. Defective phones and SIMs are very (very) rare.
And if you just put the phone away and decide to pursue a refund when you get a home, beware. Many contracts state your obligation to notify the company to give them a chance to help you. We've seen Amex reject chargebacks if this provision is written into the contract so please consider giving the SIM and its service provider the chance to get your phone working.
You Might Have To Switch Networks In The Menu
Sometimes the first network the SIM finds is not the best one for roaming. The symptoms can be that one party can't hear the other, or calls just fail. It's easy to go into the Settings area in the phone's menu and find the Search Networks option to select a different local carrier.
You Might Have to Read The Directions
It's always a last resort, we know. But chances are there is a Troubleshooting list that can quickly help you out. And if you absolutely must, read the booklet. You might find information in there about the phone and SIM that let you get much more use from it during your trip.
You Might Have To Open The Back Of The Phone
Take out the battery and make sure the SIM is inserted correctly (or that it's in there at all. Acutally you might want to do that step before you go). Be sure the contacts in the phone are touching the circuitry on the SIM card. Phone reps can't do this for you, but it can be a fast easy fix to a non-functioning phone. Symptom of SIM connection problems is when phone says, "Insert SIM".
You Might Have To Call Customer Service
And you might have to wait until they open in their time zone. And they might not speak perfect English. Try to relax if there's a delay, put the phone away and enjoy your trip until their office opens. Why don't they have 24-hour customer service for travelers? Some do. If yours doesn't it's because you went with the cheaper option. That's the trade off.
When it's time to call be nice to the person on the other end who is trying to do a good job helping people. Trust me, we was them. We are nice people who enjoy helping willing travelers get their phones working.
Relax, It's All In Your Mind
Travel is travel, people are people and technology is technology. Stuff happens. Deep philosophical insights, right? The point is, with the right mindset everything can be worked out. As they say in India, "Everything will be alright in the end. If it is not alright, it is not the end!"
Visit our International SIM Card page to compare three different international SIM providers, prices and rates.
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