We like to travel with a cell phone for several reasons, most importantly safety and convenience. This tutorial breaks down how to stay connected on the cheap while wandering.
An unlocked phone is a phone that is not set for a specific carrier like for example AT&T or Verizon, or any other major company. When you purchase a cell phone it almost always comes locked to your carrier. The best place I know of finding an unlocked phone is on a website like eBay. You can also buy them while traveling, I have seen phones for sale that claim to be unlocked. If you are tech savvy you can unlock your own phone too, if you have the right kind of phone there are lots of tutorials online to unlock.
The Right Kind of Phone
This is important, if you don’t get a phone with the following feature you won’t be talking to anyone!
- Must be GSM and take a SIM Card
- Tri-Band (850/1800/1900 MHz) or Quad-Band (850/900/1800/1900 MHz) The more bands the better!
- Must be unlocked! If you buy a phone while traveling I would make them show you that it is truly unlocked with a few different sim cards before buying
Its best to check online which local carrier has the best deals for how you want to use the phone. For international calls many carriers have a few different prefixes to dial before the number, these prefixes dictate the quality of the call. They also set the price per minute, we typically use the cheapest and haven’t found the call quality bad at all. For example for the cheap rate to dial international you start by entering “00600”, or for higher quality connection (and higher price) dial “006”. Many times the instructions to add minutes or activate a card are in English, but if they are not it is worth finding a store owner that can help you cause it can be tricky.
If you are just looking for coverage for emergency calls and don’t plan to talk to much some carriers offer a free SIM Card. The cost for the card itself can be up to $5usd, so a freebie helps! I know for sure there is free ones in the Bangkok airport.
Its a great way to be able to call home, or for an emergency, and to arrange things with local people. Safe, convenient, and smart!