Z Roam

INTERNATIONAL WIRELESS ROAMING TIPS

  • Phone Models:
    When selecting an "Unlocked" GSM phone for global use, make sure it is a "Quad-band" model (850, 900, 1800 & 1900 MHz). That gives you almost universal access to all cellular networks around the world. However, new bands are being introduced, so this situation may change. A "Tri-band" phone may work in some countries but potentially not in all towns in those countries. "Dual-band" phones work almost exclusively in North America. A GSM phone takes on the characteristics of the wireless network in each country you visit. So if you are traveling in Germany, your phone will work like a local German wireless device.

  • Voice Mail:
    When you are calling your voice mail or any US number from a foreign country, you must enter the international calling Prefix (or "+1" on GSM phones) before your number to access a US-based number, even if the phone called is roaming internationally. In most GSM devices, holding down the 0 key will cause the + sign to appear, in others it may the # key. "1" is the country code for the US.

  • Language:
    You need some foreign language skills to use Local international cellular services efficiently. Even if you have your prompts switched to English, most messages beyond the balance and refill access are still in the host language. While some foreign carriers offer English as an option, most do not. Often, the concierge or someone else at your hotel should be able to help. Be prepared. Also, make sure you know. or ask for help, how to change the language option of your phone. It will be hard to guess when your choices are in Arabic.


  • Customer Service:
    In most cases, calls to your own US cellular service provider ("611" or their normal customer service number) do not incur any charges. Check with your carrier before you leave to make sure. They may be able to help with some of your roaming problems in English. You may not be able to call their US "800" number from another country, so learn their "international access" number, beforehand. The number for Verizon Wireless is (908) 559-4899, for AT&T it's (916) 843-4685. This is a free call if you use their phone.

  • Preactivated Phones:
    Some independent foreign cellular retailers offer pre-activated phones and SIM's for the convenience of tourists. Don't be afraid to ask.


  • "Call Me Back":
    Consider having one party call the other back, based on who has the cheapest rate. Some international phone suppliers offer Free incoming calls.

  • Long Distance Charges:
    In some countries you may get a higher charge for Long Distance for Roaming when outside of your landing city. For example, in India, you can cross through the coverage of several different cellular companies in a single 200 km trip, each with different roaming and Long Distance fees.
  • Extra Passport Photos:
    Many countries require identification to buy a local wireless phone or SIM. It would also helpful to carry a few passport-size photos (2" x 2") to attach to your wireless application form. Activation is normally immediate. Some retailers overlook this requirement and others just don't want to be bothered. In other areas you may only be able to buy a Local SIM or phone at an "official" store. Extra photos are a also good idea for any foreign Visa's that may be required.


  • Activate International Roaming:
    With most US carriers, international Roaming must be activated which is usually done for free by customer service.


  • Cruise Ships:
    Using your cellular phone for calls on a cruise ship can be quite pricey but it should be much less than calling from your stateroom. It may be cheaper to make your calls or check your voice mail while in port if your phone can roam there. Cruise ships are normally required to turn off their onboard cellular access when they arrive at each port. Make sure your phone is indeed roaming on the desired system while you're in port or wait until you're away from the ship before trying to access the local, and usually less-expensive, network. Get more details at Cellular@Sea and On-Waves.


  • Caller ID
    does not work on all networks in all places. You may not be able to choose which calls you answer and which you ignore.

  • Unanswered Calls That Go to Voice Mail:
    There is sometimes a per minute charge with US GSM carriers for roaming calls that go to voice mail, even if your phone is off and even if no message is left. You can have your home carrier temporarily disable voice mail. Make sure your own network knows when you are "home" by turning on your phone once you arrive in the US. Some carriers, like AT&T, claim calls to voice mail do not incur a charge while roaming if your phone is turned "off."


  • Toll-Free Numbers:
    Calls to US toll-free "800" numbers from foreign countries are not free, and may not be possible. Per minute (or per call) rates apply, but long distance charges may not. Wireless and credit card companies provide a normal US number for foreign callers.


  • The Number for Emergencies:
    is not usually "911" outside of North America. In many European countries the emergency number for police, fire, or ambulance is 112. In other areas emergency numbers varies. Find the number before you arrive. If you have trouble being understood, you might try calling your hotel and ask them for help. Program in their number as soon as you know it. GSM phones normally have several emergency numbers preprogrammed based on the network you are using. You can always try "911" and the SIM will try to convert your call to the right number, but don't always expect English-speaking help.


  • Numbers to Have Programmed  Before You Leave:
    Enter these numbers in your phone and travel without fear.

  • Finding Service:
    When you are abroad and turn on your wireless phone, it will automatically search for a wireless network. Registration can take from 30 seconds to several minutes. When the name or network number of the local network is displayed, your phone should be ready to use. The same is true when you return to the US.

  • Battery Chargers:
    Like any other appliance, your phone's battery charger may need universal power and plug adapters for the countries you are visiting. Most chargers for US wireless phones are compatible with both 110- and 220-volt systems but outside of North America their plugs are not.

  • Wireless Laws:
    In some countries (or states), using a wireless phone while driving is prohibited and is vigorously enforced. Contact the local tourist information office for regulations.


  • These are observations we and other contributors have noted while traveling, yours may be different. Rates and specifications are subject to change. We'd like to hear about your experiences.
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