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)
Is there any way I can use my Verizon iPhone for free overseas?
As a matter of fact, you can use your iPhone for free to text, watch videos, log on to face book, email and even to call. The great thing about iPhones is that you can log into your account on any Apple device with wifi (like the iPhone, iPad) and access all your contacts. There are several great apps that allow you to message someone else, anywhere on the planet. If the other person you are messaging has iMessage, then you can use iMessage to contact them. However, not everyone does. There is another app that is extremely popular overseas and is quickly gaining popularity in the US called Whatsapp. Whatsapp let's you text anyone who has downloaded this app for free. Our recommendation is that you before you leave, have your friends and family download this app so that you can communicate. This is sort of like Skype, another great app, except just for texting (although they are now adding a calling functionality). Now, here is the disclamer about the "free" part. Yes, these apps are free to use but the one condition is that you have access to data. You will need a data connection. There are essentially two types of data, free data and not free data. Free data is usually just wifi - the kind that most of us are acquainted with at Starbucks. Everyone likes free but, while we may all have our favorite Starbucks down the street in the US, chances are, if you are traveling internationally to a new town, you probably won't be able to find one right off the bat. In this case, the paid type of data (3G) that uses cellular towers is much more convenient, convenient, but not free. The most cost effective solution is to use a local Sim card. As long as your phone is unlocked and has the international GSM bands (most of Verizon's newer phones like the latest iPhones and Samsung phones do have the bands and the iPhone 5 and 6 come unlocked), you can use a local SIM card. Either buy one locally or, to save time and to make sure you are getting what you need, buy one from Cellular Abroad before you depart.
What is Verizon's cell phone unlocking policy?
Let's face it, Verizon doesn't want you to have an unlocked phone any more than Domino's wants to give you free pizza. And while Verizon has extremely powerful lobbyists, consumers have long been very clear about the fact that they want to use their phones with whatever carrier they choose. On February 11, 2014, Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile others sat down with the CTIA carrier's trade association and came to an agreement to unlock phones for customers and to have one consistent policy among all carriers. The operators had until February 11, 2015 to fully implement the new policies. So what does this mean for Verizon customers? In brief, if you bought a phone from Verizon and you did not pay the full amount for the phone, they do not have to unlock it for you until you have fulfilled the terms of the contract. For example, if that $500 phone from Verizon only cost $100 but they but you in a 2 year contract, you will have to either wait out the contract or pay the rest of the price of the installment plan for the phone. The exception to this rule is the iPhone 5 and the iPhone 6. Both of these phones already come unlocked by the carrier. There is speculation on why they do that. Could it be due to pressure from the FCC? Or maybe because they want to have an edge over some of the other carriers selling locked iPhones? Whatever the case may be, this is a huge bonus for Verizon customers who travel internationally and don't want to pay Verizon's high roaming rates for data and voice bundles.
How many countries does Verizon offer service for?
If you have an older, CDMA only phone, there are just a handful of countries that support this (arguably inferior) technology. However, most Verizon handsets, like the iPhone 5 and 6 as well as Android phones, are hybrid phones and will work virtually anywhere on the planet. The exception to this rule is in Cuba - at least while roaming with Verizon. If you want to use your phone in Cuba, you will need to put a different SIM card in your Verizon phone. The National Geographic Travel SIM is a good example of a SIM card that works in Cuba and almost anywhere else in the world for that matter.
Breakdown of Verizon's international services and features.
Verizon offers 4 different options for international travelers, texting, calling, data and plans for cruise ships. If you need to make and receive phone calls, for $5 a month, Verizon will discount your call rates by 20%. If you text, they will charge you 50 cents to make an outgoing text and 5 cents to receive one. If you need data, and many travelers can't live without it, their plan costs $25 for each 100 mb. If you are planning to go on a cruise, Verizon's rates are a fixed $2.49 per minute, in and out and data and texts rates are the same as their international rates. These rates do not include taxes so you need to add about 15% to the entire cost. If you plan on using your phone minimally, although Verizon's roaming rates are high, the ease of use may outweigh this factor. If you plan on using the phone carefree and not having to worry about not being able to log on or call when you want, then it makes sense to get a local SIM card if you are traveling to one country or an international SIM card with better rates than Verizon's if you are traveling to several countries.
Is my Verizon phone CDMA or GSM?
Verizon uses the CDMA network here in the United States where almost every other country in the world uses GSM. While CDMA has "better" coverage, GSM has superiority clarity. In fact, it is usually discernable when you are speaking to someone using a Verizon (or Sprint) phone that they are on a cell phone whereas with AT&T or T-Mobile, that distinction is harder to pin down. An analogy with CDMA over GSM is AM radio vs. FM radio. Since AM radio has bigger waves, it give you more distance in more nooks and crannies (hills and valleys) and it also travels further. That is why when you are in the boonies you have a hard time picking up an FM radio but can pick up AM radio. But, just like FM radio has stereo quality and an overall better sound, so does GSM. So, given this, all Verizon phones use CDMA in the United States. The newer phones are actually hybrid phones - both CDMA as well as GSM. However, they only use the GSM portion overseas. If your phone is an older Verizon phone, it may only be CDMA. If it is a pay as you go or less expensive handset, it also may only be CDMA. If it is a smartphone like the Samsung Galaxy or the iPhone 5 or iPhone 6 then it is a hybrid GSM/CDMA phone and you can use it overseas...as long as it is unlocked.
How does Verizon's international rates compare to other carrier's international rates?
In sum, they are on the high side - not quite as high as Sprint's rates but higher than AT&T's rates and much higher than T-Mobile's rates. Still, all 4 of these carriers have significantly higher rates than other carriers rates. For example, if you are going to Spain and get a local SIM card for your phone and want to call back to the US, you can pay just 1 cent per minute as opposed to the over $1.00 that Verizon charges. That is a 100% increase!!!! Local SIM cards can be purchased before your trip. You can even keep your own cell phone number by using the forwarding service that companies like Cellular Abroad provide. Not only are the rates better but you have a local phone number for the Spanish to reach you on and a US number (or your current US number if you want) for people back home to reach you on. In terms of data, there too Verizon's international data rates are a bit higher than AT&T, less than Sprint's and more than T-Mobile. Please note that T-Mobile offers free international data. The catch is that it is only 2G speeds meaning that if you intend on doing anything besides just checking your emails, you will experience frustratingly slow speeds.
How do I make a call with my Verizon phone when I am overseas?
When making a call, the correct dialing procedure is + followed by the country code, followed by the area code and then the number. The + sign is the same thing as 00. In fact, overseas, you will typically see this on websites or in brochures. For example, if you are traveling to Italy you will see +39 and then the number or +44 if you are in the UK, +49 for Germany, and so on. However, with Verizon phones, they will automatically add the + sign and the 1 so, if you do that, the call may not go through. If you need to call locally, you definitely do need to dial + and then the country code, area code and then the number.
How long does it take me to get my bill for international roaming?
It may take up to 60 days to get your international roaming data bill.
What happens if I get my bill and I do not agree with the charges?
This happens all the time, particularly for data usage. While you may not think that you used your phone for data, most phones have apps that are continuously running in the background that are essentially, data hogs. Your best bet is to turn off data roaming - that is of course, if you don't want to get a local SIM card before your trip or once you arrive. If you get a huge, unexpected bill from Verizon, try calling them and negotiating them down. Verizon is typically flexible with discounting your bill for large roaming charges and they should be; after all, they are making a huge mark up on their services! If you are no longer in contract with them, remind them that you have other options. They will usually go out of their way in order to retain you as a client.
Which Verizon phone is the best for international travel?
The "best" phone for you is not necessarily the best phone for someone else. For example, if you only need to make and receive phone calls and maybe text messages and you are not technically included (or say for example you are giving the phone to an elderly person who doesn't usually use cell phones), you do not want to get the "latest and greatest." If you go into a Verizon store and ask a 20 something year old sales rep what the "best" phone is they will undoubtedly steer your towards the latest, most expensive phone with all of the features that...you will never use. It is like saying that the "best" car is a Bentley but not considering the fact that you are going to be driving off road. In sum, it depends on the scenario. If, however, you do appreciate a phone that has a large screen, great resolution, a fast processor and you to take advantage of the many features, you will want perhaps the iPhone 6 or the Samsung Galaxy. Chances are that if you are using these features, you will use a lot of data. If you can limit your usage to when and if you find free data, you will not spend a dime for roaming but if you intend to use your phone anywhere and everywhere, it makes sense to use a local SIM card with a local data plan. Not only will you get faster speeds since you are not roaming, but you will get significantly more bang for your buck. This scenario requires an unlocked cell phone. Verizon's iPhone 5 and iPhone 6 phones already come unlocked and will accommodate any nano SIM sized SIM card in the world.
What other tips can you offer for using my Verizon phone internationally?
Besides the previously mentioned tips such as trying to use free wifi or getting a local SIM card, there are other tips that you should be aware of prior to your departure. First, make sure that you have a security code on your screen just in case it is lost or stolen. You don't want someone racking up a big bill or looking at any of your private information. Many of us keep passwords and other vital information stored on our phones. Speaking of which, you should take a snap shot of your passport and even your credit cards just in case they are lost or stolen. It will help to replace them quickly. Don't use free wifi while logging on to your bank's web portal. Make sure that you alert your credit card companies that you are traveling and may or will be using your credit cart. Often, credit card companies block them for your protection, entailing a lengthy conversation in order to get them unblocked. Probably not the last thing you want to do when trying to pay your dinner bill after a nice evening out on the town. Speaking of calling customer service numbers, not all 800 numbers work internationally. You many need to get a non toll free number or an international toll free number for the company you will need to reach. Don't put your phone down anywhere even for a second. While a city can be regarded as safe, if you are visiting a tourist area, such as St. Peter's Square in Rome or the Louvre and surrounding areas in Paris, rest assured that there are people there targeting tourists for their personal items like their phones and wallets. Lastly, use your cell phone as a travel tool. Use GPS, apps such as Whatsapp and Skype to communicate or Facebook or twitter to update your friends about your trip, Yelp in order to read reviews and Google Translate to communicate with the locals. Just be sure to have the proper data plan, either a local plan bought when you arrive or before your trip through Cellular Abroad.