©Lynn Friedman 2011

While on a vacation in Ixtapa I hadn’t quite unwound & easily surrendered to the lure of the smart phone. With plenty of time to text, tweet, twitpic and talk I came home after four days with a $600 phone bill. Ouch. Lesson learned. Turn off the roaming on the phone. Even better, buy a local SIM card. This proved all but impossible for iPhone users until the heavens parted in June 2011 and the UNLOCKED iPhone made it’s appearance in the US. Cue sound of angels.

At your destination airport you usually have the option of renting a local phone or SIM card with a variety of time plans. That’s “subscriber identity module” in case you want to look it up.

Check with your local cell phone carrier well before you leave on your next trip. They all offer special plans for travelers. Even if your phone is capable of international calling, you may have to get it “unlocked” before you leave town. This can take a couple of days.
Several independent companies have stepped in to make your life easier. Here’s a couple worth checking out.

One Sim Card offers an international plan. For $29.95 you get an international roaming SIM card for over 190 countries, zero airtime balance, and free incoming calls. The OneSimCard global SIM card comes pre-programmed with a main European mobile number. You can keep your cell number by forwarding calls to a dedicated Local or Toll Free Second Number provided by One Sim Card.

Telestial has an incredible deal on SIM cards. Their most basic plan is the Passport Lite Travel SIM card. It’s essentially free as it costs $5 and comes with $5 of credit. That includes 30 minutes free talk time in some popular European countries, free voicemail, free 24/7 customer service, and no connection fees.

According to Telestial President Ken Grunski, telecommunications consultant, his wireless data plans are only $1 per MB in some European countries. In contrast, Verizon charges $20.48 per MB. They have low rates for your tablets as well.

Next time you are traveling and find yourself hooked on your cell phone, at least you know you will still be able to pay for those adorable designer shoes you found in Italy.