When you are abroad, you will want to keep in touch with family and friends from home, but if you're not careful, you could rack up hundreds of dollars in cell phone charges. With a little research and planning, however, you can keep your communication costs to a minimum. Here are some tips to keep in mind. Please note that
AIFS is providing this information for your reference and does not recommend one option over another. You may find that a combination of options will work best for you.
Use your current cell phone plan: If you would like to use your current cell phone and number abroad, many cell phone providers offer add-on features (such as international voice or data plans) that can offset the high international charges associated with use of your cell phone internationally. You will be reachable through your current device and number, but this option is not recommended for extensive or long-term use, as rates can still be quite high.
Also, keep in mind that most smartphones transmit and receive data automatically. This can result in unexpected charges when the phone is powered on outside the U.S., whether or not it is actively used for communication. In order to avoid these charges, you should contact your U.S. cell phone provider for further information if you plan to bring and use your cell phone abroad.
International cell phone plans: Some providers provide special plans for international use, which may end up being less expensive than your current plan. For example, AT&T offers a Study Abroad Package for students participating in AIFS Programs. This plan is an add-on feature offering you a seamless way to remain in contact with the U.S. by talk, text, and data. If you already have a cell phone through AT&T, you will keep your current device and number. This allows your friends and family to reach you as soon as you arrive in your host country, and without having to pay international rates.
You will also have the option to purchase a local phone and SIM card once you are abroad, and your Resident Director will be able to provide information on purchasing a phone during the first days of orientation. Pay-as-you-go (PAYG) phone options in your host country allow you to keep an eye on your budget and be assured that you will not face high unexpected costs.
Various Voice-Over-Internet Protocol (VOIP) applications and programs are available, such as Skype. These programs will allow you to place domestic and international calls over Wi-Fi networks using your smartphone, tablet, or computer. The prices for these services are often inexpensive, but they rely on a Wi-Fi network, which is not always available. Therefore, this option is not recommended as a primary method of communication.