Cell service for travel to Asia

So I have a trip coming up where I will spend a couple of weeks in Japan and Indonesia. I have Verizon Wireless service in the U.S., and I am generally pretty happy with it– the network is much better than Sprint and T-Mobile for the places I am likely to be, somewhat better than AT&T here in the Petroplex, and the rates are competitive with AT&T. I also get an employer discount which is helpful. Verizon also has international travel options which work pretty well in most of the world. While a $10 a day charge is sometimes criticized as too expensive, it is awfully convenient and probably the best way to handle a reasonably short trip.

Here’s the problem, though. Neither Indonesia nor Japan is on Verizon’s list of Travel Pass countries. That leaves me with several options:

  • Turn my phone off and hope I don’t feel the sudden urge to call my family or check my email.
  • Pay as I go, which can cost many thousands of dollars depending on what I do.
  • Buy Verizon’s $40 International Travel Preferred Pricing Plan. That comes with 100 voice minutes, 100 sent texts, unlimited received texts, and 100 MB of data. Additional data would be $25 per $100 MB.
  • Buy a local SIM card.
  • Use a portable wifi device such as a Sky Roam.There are, of course, many competing products.
  • Switch to AT&T and use their similarly problematic international pricing plan.

Sooo…. I can’t turn my phone off. I’m just not that disciplined. I also don’t have thousands of dollars to spend on checking Facebook and updating my travel blog, so that won’t work either. My problem is that in a typical month I use 2-3 gigs of data, so on a two week trip I would expect to use a gigabyte or a gig and a half. I don’t care to switch networks, and Verizon is a better deal for me when I’m not traveling, so I am not inclined to switch to AT&T unless they have a phenomenal Black Friday sale. I could buy a local SIM card, but I would like to be able to conveniently receive calls and texts on my existing number. I am just barely old enough that my primary use for my phone is, you know, as a phone. I am also young enough that I desire data.

So that leaves me with Verizon’s plan and a portable device. I suspect I will use both, and I will obviously post here about how well that works. The moral of the story, folks, is this: If you are traveling abroad, don’t just take your phone and hope for the best. That can be hugely expensive. Rather, look through choices with your own carrier and local providers to decide what works best for you. In my case, that will probably involve using Verizon’s rather limited plan and looking for a lot of wifi hotspots.

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