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Cell Phones & International Student Travel: 5 Ways to Use Your Cell Phone Abroad

Michael Furniss -- You're a student headed abroad. Your luggage is packed and your passport's current. But did you stop to think whether or not your cell phone service will be as reliable as that expensive pair of all terrain boots, especially if something goes wrong?

Have you ever traveled abroad for school and had a crisis?

You've gotten lost. You've had something stolen. You've missed a connection. You've fallen ill. No matter how big or small, avoiding the unexpected at home is impossible. So the idea you can do it while you're abroad is obviously crazy.

If you've had a crisis while traveling internationally, do you remember the feeling?

Suddenly your heart rate skyrockets and panic quickly starts to take over. What do you do?

Back home chances are you call someone who'll help solve your problem. But that's not easy to do when you're in a strange country.

So how do business travel experts handle the unexpected?

They always take a reliable, quality international cell phone service with them. And it makes sense for you to copy them when traveling abroad for school.

Here are the five most popular ways to use your cell phone while traveling internationally:

1. Use Your Own Cell Phone Abroad -- Tricky!

This sounds like the perfect option, doesn't it? You don't have to change your number and you already know how to use your cell phone. But there's a problem -- approximately 80% of U.S. cell phones cannot work internationally due to pesky mobile technological incompatibilities.

First, check with your carrier, but be ready for extra charges. You may need to pay to upgrade your account and handset. You'll also have to pay more for your calls. Business travelers might get people who don't know they're traveling abroad calling just to check in on their accounts. And because the former has to pay for incoming calls, this can be expensive unless they don't care about their clients and don't answer!

2. Rent A Cell Phone -- Old News!

Don't do this. Sorry to be so blunt, but renting a cell phone is outdated. You wouldn't think about renting a suitcase every time you traveled, would you? This is no different.

For the cost to rent a cell phone for about two weeks, you could easily buy your own second international cell phone, and it's yours for life, ready for every future trip you take, whether you're a student or business person.

3. Buy Local SIM Cards -- Hidden Expenses!

Buying your own cell phone is a better value for your money. However, there are three methods you can use. The first uses "local SIM cards." You'll need a different local SIM card for each country you visit.

With local SIM cards you pay in advance for talk time, and then you keep buying extra talk time to keep your service active.

The problem with local SIM cards is they can be expensive to buy, (e.g., the local SIM for Germany will cost you $60, and that's without a cell phone and before you've made calls). Business people run the risk of getting cut off during an important call with a client or a boss if they run out of talk time. And you won't be able to find anywhere to buy more time immediately. Plus, your cell phone can only use one carrier's network in each country, so you may not have great reception everywhere.

4. Buy A Global Call Back SIM Card -- Questionable Quality!

You can use this SIM card in lots of countries. However, like local SIM cards, you still have the hassle of pre-paying for your talk time and the threat of being cut off during an important call. But this is not the main headache: Global Call Back services use a complicated dialing system...

First, you call an access number and enter your Pin number. Then you're prompted to enter the number you want to dial. Then you hang up. Then you're called back and connected to the number you originally wanted to call. Just to place a quick call!

But here's the real killer. Because it uses an extra connection in the middle, it can really damage the quality of your calls, so you can't always be sure you'll even be able to make your very important phone call. For business travelers this can translate into lost dollars.

5. Buy A Global Direct-Dial SIM Card -- Best Quality!

Travel experts love this method! You get global coverage on one cell phone number. It's easy to use because it uses standard direct dialing like your home phone, unlike the complicated call back system above. And your service is continually active whenever you need it so you'll never be cut off.

Most important, you get the optimal cell phone call quality. This method automatically locates the strongest cell phone signal of all the carriers in the area. It's the equivalent of your U.S. cell phone being able to choose between Cingular/AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Nextel, and Sprint for the strongest signal every time you make a call, so the quality is always the best.

And quality is obviously the most important feature of cell phone service for the successful international business traveler!

So if you're a student traveling abroad, learn from seasoned business travelers. It'll give you (and your family and friends) greater peace of mind.

Mobal World Phones newsletter editor and Mobile Technology Travel Expert, Michael Furniss has stopped millions of international student travelers just like you from wasting their money on expensive international cell phone rentals. For more information, visit and receive five FREE high-quality electrical adapters, so you can charge your phone in any country in the world.

© 2007 Michael Furniss

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