SIM Card & Int'l Roaming

william webster

Platinum
Jan 16, 2009
24,309
986
113
We should save this somewhere for all the questions we get about telephones, SIM cards, etc
=============================================================

April 9, 2019

There’s an easy way to get zero roaming fees, inexpensive internet service and cheap phone calls when you travel. The trick is the SIM card, a tiny, removable chip, inside your phone.
What is a SIM card?

Subscriber Identity Module cards are roughly the same size, and indeed look like, the microSD memory cards you’d find in a digital camera. (Some phones actually have both microSD and SIM cards, but most just have the latter.) The main purpose of a SIM card is to store a small amount of data that lets the closest cell tower know, among other things, what wireless company you’ve subscribed to. For example, if you’re on Verizon, the SIM card will let Verizon’s tower know that, yep, you’re on Verizon.

When you’re traveling, this creates a problem. When your phone connects to the tower in a different country, the tower effectively says “I don’t know you,” and either denies you service, or tells Verizon you’re roaming. If the latter, you get whatever speed Verizon and that provider have determined is acceptable, and you get charged exorbitant roaming rates. AT&T works similarly, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Google Fi are different, but we’ll get to them later.

If you’re wondering if you can just get a different SIM card that will work on a different network, you can.

For years that’s how I’ve gotten cheap data in dozens of countries all over the world. I’d arrive in a city, head to a local cellphone company store (like Vodafone, 3, or Orange), and buy a SIM and a month of service. These would have different names, like “pay-as-you-go” or “prepaid.” but in every store I’d just say I was traveling and wanted a SIM for a few weeks, and they all knew what I was looking for. Put the new SIM in your phone (make sure you don’t lose your old one, you’ll need it when you go home!) and you’re all set. If you’re not sure how to do that, the store will probably do it for you. You can be in and out with cheap high-speed data in less than 30 minutes.
How much does a local SIM cost?

The prices vary depending on country and provider, but on average I’ve paid around $20 for a month’s worth of 4G data and calls in that country. You read that right. Most roaming packages charge that for a few days, and are slow and data-limited as well. Most companies want to look at your passport, so make sure you bring it. A handful of countries have other requirements, so a quick Google search before you go is a good idea.

The catch, and you knew there’d have to be one, is that your phone has to be unlocked. This means your cellphone company has to enable a setting on your phone that allows you to use it on a different network. The process to do this varies, but in most cases you need to have paid off your phone. The actual unlocking process is free, though. I wrote about how this works over at Wirecutter, the product review site owned by The New York Times Company.

Not every phone will work in every country, but most new phones should be fine. Best to check with your current cellphone company to verify that your phone will work, and if it needs to be unlocked.

A handful of phones have dual-SIMs, which is exactly what it sounds like: two SIM card slots. This lets you keep your home SIM and your “away” SIM in the same phone. Not necessary for infrequent travelers, but for anyone who regularly goes to another country, quite handy.
Editors’ Picks
Stripping Away Lies to Expose a Painter’s Nazi Past
Charles Van Doren, a Quiz Show Whiz Who Wasn’t, Dies at 93
‘I Really Just Wanted the Comfort of My Husband’s Being There’

Times are changing for SIM cards, however. Both Google and Apple have “eSIMs” in some of their phones and tablets. These Embedded-SIMs are essentially a virtual SIM card, and work across multiple cellular networks. This is how Google’s Fi works.

Speaking of Google Fi, it, along with Sprint and T-Mobile, have generous free international coverage. Generally, if you have one of these providers, you’ll be able to step off a plane just about anywhere in the world and your phone will work more or less normally. Google Fi has 4G data, Sprint and T-Mobile have far slower 2G, but offer 4G packages for a few dollars a day.
Where do I get a local SIM card?

You can buy SIMs at airports, but these are often far more expensive and offer less data than those you can purchase from a local telecom company. Lists of the main providers in the Americas, Asia/Pacific, Europe, and Africa and the Middle East can be found online before you depart. There are also “universal” travel SIM cards, but these cost more than a local SIM.
Will I have the same telephone number?

No. Your apps will work, but you will have a new number. Your old number will go direct to voice mail until you return home and swap in your original SIM, which will return your phone back to normal. Just something to keep in mind.
 

SKY

Gold
Apr 11, 2004
9,961
270
83
This is no new information. Take out your Sim before arriving in another Country where you pay for roaming and get a Sim there and put it in your phone. Easy, Peasy.............................
 

ctrob

Silver
Nov 9, 2006
5,268
388
83
About a year and half ago I finally got a dual sim phone. Absolutely awesome. I can leave my Stateside sim card in and have a Claro sim card in the other slot.

I do a lot of running around when in the DR, and need constant wifi. Claro now has a Data Plan that is accessed thru their Cell Ph sim card. 5 days unlimited data for $140 pesos. And by activating a Hotspot thru the Claro Data sim card, I can open my laptop and work anywhere.
 

william webster

Platinum
Jan 16, 2009
24,309
986
113
This is no new information. Take out your Sim before arriving in another Country where you pay for roaming and get a Sim there and put it in your phone. Easy, Peasy.............................
No - not new -
but the question is asked a lot by lesser world travelers than you, SKY

Just good info... IMO....
my Good Samaritan contribution of the month sneered at by you !!!
hahaha
 

SKY

Gold
Apr 11, 2004
9,961
270
83
No. It is good that you posted it. But I just wanted to make it simple. No Sim in phone, no roaming charge.
 

william webster

Platinum
Jan 16, 2009
24,309
986
113
It also mentions Sprint & T-Mobile as having good int'l plans.

This too , has been a constant topic.
I am T-Mobile and got AE to switch from Verizon..
The savings are big
 

SKY

Gold
Apr 11, 2004
9,961
270
83
A lot or people think that as long as they don't make or receive calls they can keep the Sim card in and not get charged. Well if your data is on when you get there be prepared for a large bill when you get home. As data will flow and you might not even know it is until you have to pay. Take the Sim OUT.

Also, unless roaming is free like it is on Claro in the US you will NEVER get a better deal with your company than you will by getting a local Sim in the Country you go to. Not with any US carrier.
 

william webster

Platinum
Jan 16, 2009
24,309
986
113
Ooops
I have never re'cd that - and I'm here way more than you are ....

my roaming is on , data on.... I use 2 phones -- one local and my US one.
Local is pay as you go
Banking etc is on the US one... whatsApp, Facetime...
 

Uzin

Bronze
Oct 26, 2005
1,348
6
38
Not just data, the telecoms have all sorts of nasty tricks to charge you. Once your phone and SIM in it is switched on in another country, it notifies the provider that you are abroad, then even if you take the SIM out after that, it is not enough... !

Anyone calls you, it will try to connect them to you abroad (in roaming mode), then as you have taken your SIM out, or if not answering, if you have your voice mail active, it will send them to your voice mail - but in roaming mode... !? I was charged quite a few pounds just for a few voice mails, even the other caller did not leave any messages but the roaming voice mail connection fees were horrendous. Imagine if I had many calls and messages left... !!! (Also if you try to listen to your messages from abroad you will be charged a lot for accessing it in roaming mode, nuts... !)

Now I take my SIM out before travelling abroad and I even disabled the voice mail for good measure... If you travel once a year I guess it is not much, but if travelling a lot need to take care of this.

(I think there are some offers now to help with these roaming charges and the ofcom has clamped down on them, but still many people don't know, so watch out.)
 

Drro

Bronze
Mar 22, 2006
1,365
62
48
I have Sprint and have free interrnational texting in/out and free data but at a lower rate. Phone calls which would go to my US cell and ring wherever I am are 20 cents in and out. Simple. I don't answer my phone, but call back people who call that number using Whatsapp or my Magic Jack. i have personal experience of using this in the DR and in Europe. Never get a charge because never use my phone. Has saved me from buying a sim card in each country or for Europe. Very pleased with this service and of course no roaming charges
 

chico bill

Lobotomy Surgeon
May 6, 2016
7,063
1,045
113
About a year and half ago I finally got a dual sim phone. Absolutely awesome. I can leave my Stateside sim card in and have a Claro sim card in the other slot.

I do a lot of running around when in the DR, and need constant wifi. Claro now has a Data Plan that is accessed thru their Cell Ph sim card. 5 days unlimited data for $140 pesos. And by activating a Hotspot thru the Claro Data sim card, I can open my laptop and work anywhere.
Me too - the Samsung A8 (2018). It is fast with a nice screen great WIFI & 4G range, I keep both sims in and have them set to which country I am in. But I always set my text messages to my T-Mobile account(traveling and in the US) because the banks, credit cards and Amazon sent messages frequently. I get a Citibank text about any purchase before I leave a store when using my American Airlines mileage card.

Oh and this phone also has a separate sim slot (not shared with either sim slot - and 64GB of storage and 4GB Ram. That's easy peezy, lemon squeezy. One of the best purchases in my recent history
 

william webster

Platinum
Jan 16, 2009
24,309
986
113
My T-Mobile calls are 22 cents or so....
Free data & roaming

Pay As You Go Claro is about the same cents /minute

AE, what did you do to get the Text?
You must have a different plan than I do...

Call them and ask...
 

wojtek

New member
Mar 25, 2013
12
0
0
Thank you William for this thread.I have a couple of questions.What prepaid calling and data (2-5 GB per month) prepaid plans would you guys recommend for staying in DR for about two months? How much is hotspot thru the Claro data sim card? Also what would be the best place to get it in Las Terrenas? Thank you for your help.
 

ctrob

Silver
Nov 9, 2006
5,268
388
83
Thank you William for this thread.I have a couple of questions.What prepaid calling and data (2-5 GB per month) prepaid plans would you guys recommend for staying in DR for about two months? How much is hotspot thru the Claro data sim card? Also what would be the best place to get it in Las Terrenas? Thank you for your help.
I originally used a dedicated Claro Data sim card. No extra charge to set up as a Hot Spot (if I understand your question correctly). You just set it up in your phone with a password. Turn your laptop on and log into that wifi signal with the password you just put in your phone HotSpot settings.

I'm pretty sure they have different plans for the Data sim card, but I don't remember what they were.
 

wojtek

New member
Mar 25, 2013
12
0
0
I originally used a dedicated Claro Data sim card. No extra charge to set up as a Hot Spot (if I understand your question correctly). You just set it up in your phone with a password. Turn your laptop on and log into that wifi signal with the password you just put in your phone HotSpot settings.

I'm pretty sure they have different plans for the Data sim card, but I don't remember what they were.
Thank you. I thought that it was a dedicated hot spot mobile device. You are talking about setting your phone as a hot spot.Thank you again.
 

suarezj519

Member
May 14, 2014
113
0
16
I used to have a nice xiaomi dual sim phone I got off Amazon less than 180. Last summer I went down I put in a claro and altice and was rocking with both. It was really convenient to switch between them, especially when you lose coverage in a certain area. I sent that phone down there a month ago for my wife's aunt to use temporarily and the bad luck of everything breaking there strikes again. Moment it arrived, the lcd panel gave out.. Right now I have a tmobile oneplus 6t, which doesn't have dual sim and is still locked, so either get it unlocked before than. Or get another cheap dual sim xiaomi. Also, I was under the impression to get a local sim in the DR you had to have a cédula? Before I got my. Dual nationality, I had to use my uncle, friends or wife's to get myself a local SIM.
 

SKY

Gold
Apr 11, 2004
9,961
270
83
There are tons of dual sim cells on both Amazon and Ebay for all price ranges. Just make sure they are unlocked. Best ones to work here are GMS.
 

william webster

Platinum
Jan 16, 2009
24,309
986
113
Thank you William for this thread.I have a couple of questions.What prepaid calling and data (2-5 GB per month) prepaid plans would you guys recommend for staying in DR for about two months? How much is hotspot thru the Claro data sim card? Also what would be the best place to get it in Las Terrenas? Thank you for your help.
There are several plans available... I was solicited recently for one b/c Claro saw my frequent purchases of minutes.
You can buy daily, weekly monthly GB for internet.

Go to a Claro store in LT or find a friend to help you choose

Really not hard

And I am glad you like this thread.... we get a lot of questions about this