What to Ask when Renting an International Cell Phone
When thinking about a vacation phone rental, travelers should consider several things. To be sure you know what you're getting into, here's what you should ask about using cell phones abroad, and why.
Cost is an area that can be extremely tricky if you don't pay careful attention to the fine print. Ask what is included in the package and if there are additional fees for roaming, web browsing, data transfer (including pictures, files, and texting), or other things you might use the phone for. The contract language should be straightforward and the documentation should clearly state that there are no hidden fees. If it doesn't, you can be sure there are.
Not all vacation phone rental contracts are the same. Many charge a base fee plus extra for data transfer and web browsing. Some even appear to be cheaper by offering plans with severely limited usage. That may be fine for people who only want to call home once in a while, but if you want to email pictures, send company information, update your Facebook status, or join a hashtag chat on Twitter, you'll need a more comprehensive plan. Three kinds of people should be concerned about this: business people who need to retain constant contact with clients and their office even while traveling, and vacationers or students who want to share their trip with family and friends – and let everyone back home know they're okay. In other words, anyone who uses a cell phone abroad.
Equipment and Service
The company you choose should offer a late-model smartphone with built-in GPS and apps designed to make your trip easier. The Blackberry is a great choice for international travel due to it's built in encryption features. Any service you choose should offer GSM phone rentals that work in more countries. Other technologies like the CDMA used by some of the major U.S. carriers are incompatible with cell transmission in Europe, parts of Asia and a number of smaller countries around the world. GSM phone rentals are compatible in more than 220 countries worldwide and work almost anywhere you want to go.
Some contracts may appear to be cheaper on the surface, until you understand the finer points, including contract start date. Most companies charge from the day you pick up the phone until the day you return it. Since most of us cannot afford to leave details until the last minute, and won't rush to the vacation phone rental office to return the phone until after the suitcases are unpacked and the jet lag is over, this detail could result in weeks of extra charges. If the service starts on the day you begin using the cell phone abroad and ends when you return to U.S. soil and discontinue use, you're not wasting money.