July 19, 2011 - 4:49 pm
By Mindel de la Torre | Chief, International Bureau

Now that the summer season is in full swing, many of us will be traveling abroad. So, the FCC has designated the week of July 18th as the second annual Wireless World Travel Week. During this week, we are providing tips and information on “roaming” with your mobile telephone, for Americans heading abroad on vacation or other international travel. Roaming means that you are not using your local carrier any more, but your phone continues to work seamlessly on another company’s network as it moves with you. We are also offering tips on making international phone calls from the U.S. These tips focus on how to dial such calls, and how to find the cheapest rates. They are available on our Wireless World Travel page

Roaming.  You may find it helpful to use your mobile phone as you travel.  For example, you can call home, check e-mail, and access data.  But, you need to do some homework before your trip to make the most of your mobile device abroad, and avoid unhappy surprises.  If you don’t, you may find that your mobile phone is not compatible with the local network, or you may incur high charges that you won’t know about until you return home.

The key fact is that roaming is complicated.  So check with your service provider to verify that your mobile phone will work where you’re going, and find out the rates you’ll pay for using it.  You may want to ask about rates for four different uses while abroad:

  • making and receiving voice calls
  • receiving and checking voice mail
  • sending and receiving text messages and pictures, and
  • uploading to and downloading from the Internet.

If your regular mobile phone won’t work where you’re going, or it seems it will be too expensive to use, check our international roaming tip sheet for other options, such as purchasing or leasing an inexpensive handset with a local phone number in the country you’re visiting.

So, do your homework before you go!  And like your parents always told you, don’t leave it until the last minute.…

If you have other roaming or international calling tips, feel free to post a comment here.  We’d love to see them.