If you are a Verizon cell phone user here in the United States and you want to know how to get service while traveling overseas, Cellular Abroad has compiled some useful information for you:
International cellular service has always been available from Verizon, but, until the last couple of years, the vast majority of their cell phones were only CDMA and therefore Verizon’s international cell phone plans only covered the 40 or so countries that also has CDMA coverage . Almost all of Verizon’s newer phones, especially the more expensive cell phones like the iPhone 5 and the iPhone 6 and the Samsung Galaxy are hybrid phones with the CDMA as well as the GSMS bands and will work worldwide. Still, the standard rate for most popular European travel destinations such as Italy, France and almost every other country in the EU starts at $1.29 per minute to make and receive calls and $25 per 100mb to use data. Unless you can live with the idea of putting your phone away and using it strictly for emergencies (and most people underestimate their cell phone usage to begin with), these rates will put many a pocket book to the test. Nowadays, apps such as Google Maps, Yelp, Skype and others, cell phones have become an extremely useful travel tool for overseas travelers. Think about it - using a cell phones’s GPS, you will always be able to find your way to the Trevi Fountain and, using Google Translate or similar apps, you will always be able to communicate with the locals. Want to know the history of the piazza or plaza you are standing in? Just Google it. Want to see if that restaurant you are about to stroll into is any good? Just use Yelp or Zagat. Don’t want to stand in line to buy a ticket? Buy it online! So, while a cell phone can be your best friend during your trip, your usual American (or Canadian) carrier can easily become your enemy when you get your bill a month after your come back from your trip. So, can one have their Sachertorte and eat it too? Yes, but Verizon is not going to be the first in line to tell you. Lucky for you, we are Cellular Abroad not Verizon.
Verizon will not readily tell you this but, they are not the only cellular provide offering international cell phone service. There are several other options available for you to use when traveling abroad. First, will you be traveling to one country or several countries? If you are traveling to one country, you should consider purchasing a SIM card (or renting or even buying a phone if your trip is more than a couple of weeks) for that country. While you can usually get a SIM card when you arrive, Cellular Abroad has figured out which is the best SIM card for travelers and offers them for sale before you leave on your trip. The advantages of getting a SIM card before you leave for your trip are many including, having the phone number to give out before you leave, having a functional phone as soon as you land and not having to explain in another language what you want. In addition, Cellular Abroad will give you a US number together with the French, German, etc. number. Having said that, not all of Verizon’s phones will allow you to swap out the SIM card. If you are still under contract, chances are they will not unlock the phone so that you can use other SIM cards. The good news is that some of the newer phones, including the iPhone 5 and the iPhone 6 come unlocked and all you have to do is put an international nano SIM card in and you are up and running. A local SIM card will have rates that are a tiny fraction of what you would be paying Verizon for their roaming service (just why would anyone do that by the way?). Here is an example, Verizon charges $25 for 100mb of data. 100mb allows you to do very little. For the same price, you can get a couple of GB (about 20 times more) in most countries. Cellular Abroad offers local SIM cards for many popular destinations. How about if you are traveling to several countries?
If you are traveling to 2 or more countries, typically, it does not make sense to buy a different SIM card for each country. Cellular Abroad offers an international SIM card that works similarly to how Verizon’s international cell phone service works - only at substantially better rates. The National Geographic SIM card is a prepaid solution for travelers who are going to several different countries. In many places, including all of Europe, incoming calls are free. With a different SIM card, whether it is a local SIM card for one country or an international SIM card that works in multiple countries, you will get a different phone number. A local SIM card has a local phone number. You can also get a US phone number so that people back home don’t have to make an international call in order to reach you. You also have the option to forward your current number to the new one. Business travelers tend to do this while tourists tend not to want to be “bothered” by anyone and everyone back home and usually just give a few key contacts the new phone number.
Will my Verizon phone work overseas?
Most of Verizon’s cell phones, especially the more expensive ones, use GSM, the same standard that most countries overseas use. However, Verizon tends to “lock” many of their cell phones. This means that they do not let you put in a different SIM card than Verizon’s. However, the good news is that many of their cell phones are unlockeable, i.e., Verizon will give you the unlock code if you ask them. The other good news is that Verizon now does not lock their iPhone 5 or their iPhone 6.
How do I know if my Verizon cell phone is unlocked?
You cannot tell if your cell phone is unlocked just by looking at it. Besides the iPhone 5 and the iPhone 6, Verizon sells their phones locked. The only way to know if your phone is unlocked, besides these two models, is to put a different SIM card in the phone than the current iPhone SIM. You can put in a Tmobile SIM card or an AT&T SIM card. If you don’t have access to one, you can purchase a prepaid SIM card at any AT&T or T-mobile store.
Do I automatically have international cell phone service with Verizon?
Yes, intenational phone service is automatically enabled with Verizon. In addition, Verizon offers international wireless plans for travelers traveling abroad that will reduce the rates significantly. Verizon offers a couple of different international cell phone plans depending on how much you need and depending on if you need to make calls or use data or both.Still, the rates are high and using an alternative solution, such as getting an alternative SIM card is the way to save money on calls and data.
Does Verizon offer prepaid international service?
While Verizon does have international service, their prepaid (pay as you go) plans currently do now allow you to roam internationally.
How is the international coverage through Verizon?
Coverage is rarely an issue when traveling overseas unless you are going to very rural areas. In most countries, Verizon’s service will roam on several different networks, choosing the network with the strongest service. You can also look at coverage maps. Verizon offers several coverage maps on their website. However, the only way to know 100 percent if there will be service at the Italian villa you rented in the Tuscan countryside is to speak to the owners or representatives of the property. There may be coverage in the surrounding areas or their may appear to be service on a map but, just like there are dead zones with every carrier in the US in a place like New York city, this is also the case internationally.
What is the best way to save money when I use my Verizon phone overseas?
You will save the most money by not using your phone. However, since cell phones are fantastic tools for travelers while traveling abroad, this is the time when you may really need to use your phone for more than just small talk. For example, if you see a two hour line a the cab stand at Heathrow, you may want to Uber your way into town. Or, if you are trying to find out just exactly how exotic that dish is that they are serving you in Shanghai but nobody knows the English translation, that Google Translate is your best friend. So, while not using your phone is a great way to save money, it is almost like saying that not eating is a great way to save money on food. There are some tips that you can use that are helpful that still let you use your phone including, turn off data roaming until you need it. Don’t use Verizon’s international roaming plan. Instead, get an international SIM card from Cellular Abroad and lastly, use free wifi when available (unless you are doing bank transactions)