Trying to set up a phone in a new country can be a huge hassle. Taking the time to figure out what the options are in a new country, which ones work with your phone, and how expensive they are can take a lot of work. In some countries, like Japan, you can’t even get a phone unless you are a resident. In other countries you are likely to pay a small fortune for just a little data. T-Mobile just recently introduced a new feature that makes it exponentially more valuable.
Free data and SMS anywhere in the world
Well, it’s technically only 100 countries, but if you are traveling somewhere outside of those, you already know you have an extreme case. And did I mention it’s free with your normal service you are already paying for in the states? The most unexpected perk is that they don’t charge an arm and a leg for their service. They have a flat rate of $50 per month that gives you unlimited everything, and this is included with that. That makes them the second cheapest provider in the US. (The only cheaper one, Virgin, doesn’t let you leave the country with their service at any price.)
What about free phone calls?
This is where you use one of the most essential tricks in the travelers’ handbook. Google Voice. You can set up a free US phone number and get free phone calls to and from the US and Canada from anywhere in the world. It has a ton of other features a normal phone line doesn’t, and is very easy to use. If you have an iPhone, just install a Google Voice app (I prefer Talkatone, but they do have an official one) and you are good to go. If you have an Android phone, it’s already installed for you. Now calls made to that phone number will come over the internet, but will act just like a normal call, and you can call out in the same app for free.
What’s the catch?
I scoured through all the fine print and only found one. You have to spend at least half of your time in the US (judged every 6 months). This means the longest trip you can take while using this is 3 months, which should be enough for 90% of people. In short, it’s not much of a catch. On a recent trip through Japan, this service was amazingly seamless. Once the plane landed in Tokyo and the phone was turned on, it quickly found a Japanese carrier and worked just like it was in America. I kept checking in on the bill to make sure it was truly free, and it was. I really can’t recommend this service enough. T-Mobile is truly the traveler’s choice for a phone provider.