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Off-Topic: Cell Phone Data Plans Abroad

I travel a lot visiting distilleries around the world. I need to check my email at least at night, but I also have fantasies of uploading pictures and video from my phone as I roam about during the day. When I'm in a place without wi-fi, I'd have to use an international data plan. So I decided to price those out for the top three US carriers. 

These are only the data plans, not voice roaming. I hardly use the phone for phone calls so I don't worry about that much. As far as I can tell the international phones and cards are good for phone calls and maybe texts but not data. 


  • Has a separate email plan for POP3/LAN accounts for $65/month unlimited use 
  • Global Access for web/data $129 for up to 100MB in Europe, or $20.48 per Megabyte


  • In 90 international countries, packages cost 20M for $25, 50M for $60, 100M for $119, 200M for $200


  • $15 per Megabyte in Europe

Conclusion: It seems Verizon would be best for business travelers who communicate via email only. I need more general data transfer (web use) though, and for that it appears AT&T has the best data rates. 

I already have AT&T so I guess I'll just stick with that, but I still may not use it for international data. 

When I was in Jamaica a few years back I bought one of these data plans but unfortunately the phone (same iPhone I still have) didn't provide any realistic way of tracking data use (wifi and non-wifi data use recorded together so couldn't tell which data you were paying for vs. getting for free) so I went way over my limit and ended up with a huge bill on top of the plan. 

Anyway, just thinking out loud over the internet and thought I'd share in case anyone else was wondering the same thing. If I'm wrong, let me know! 


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Cocktail Geek

What about something like this?

Camper English

Very cool, thanks Marco.

$18.00 per day unlimited data plus $30 shipping, with the additional bonus that you don't have to pay for hotel wifi if it's not included. I think that is the real bonus here.

For a 5-day trip (with a day in transit that I think you have to pay for, so 6 days) that would cost $138. (So a little more than 100M data transfer with AT&T.) That seems a little expensive just for cell phone data transfer, but if it saves even $10/night wifi at the hotel then it's the equivalent of $68 total and not so bad.

Thanks for the info!


I had very good luck with Verizon data and my Blackberry Storm while traveling in Spain.

Customer support was very helpful and pro-rated the international access to be billed only for the duration the trip and then scheduled it to cancel itself on the date of my return.

Verizon 3G service was even more available in Spain than in some regions I've traveled in the US the US, and access speeds were excellent.

Camper English

So you bought the thing that would be $129/month and it was pro-rated for just the days there? Seems good.

Jay Hepburn

One of the cheapest options, particularly around Europe, is to pick up a local pay-as-you-go SIM card that has a good data usage deal. Some airports (Heathrow for example) even have vending machines where you can buy the SIM cards at baggage collection. Worth considering if you have an unlocked phone.


Hi! I've been having this conversation for ages as well ~ and traveling non stop, i USED to have sims for my usual countries (france, italy, uk, singapore, etc) ~ but lately with more work calls and sms' and shorter stints in each country ~ what i do now is use T-Mobile, and a blackberry (my android and iphone are TOO smart and are terrible with actually having no background data happening while leaving data on which have cost me tons accidentally!)

I have a T-Mobile unlimited international email plan that is like 20$ a month ~ so any incoming and outgoing emails are part of that ~ including sending pictures/vids to twitter/posterous/etc. And it has been an absolute godsend! Short of the few sms' running around, or a few emergency phone calls ~ it generally keeps my bills totally reasonable, without rushing about to recharge prepaids or tell people new numbers (though with skype/google voice you can fwd as well)

Also with t-mobile ~ certain phones ~ when on wifi will just make calls through that and it just takes off normal minutes. So if you're on wifi, and turn off cell, you can make calls as if you're in the US.

good luck!

Camper English

Thanks Jean - great advice!

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