Traveling overseas offers enough stress without adding the issue of “how am I going to make calls?” into the mix. There are two options for trips abroad: Go with an unlocked phone and foreign SIM card(s); or pick up a cheap, local phone once you’re over there.
It depends on how much you travel and what kind of high-tech options you want to have on your trip. Basically, it comes down to you and your travel needs.
There are pros and cons for each option. For example, if you choose simply to pick up a new or refurbished phone abroad and want to save money, there’s a strong chance you’ll get an old-school flip phone that works perfectly well for texting and making calls, but you won’t have Internet access.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing if you’re addicted to Instagram and think maybe you should stay offline to enjoy your vacation fully. It’s not such a great thing if you’re on a business trip and really need a data plan.
The case for an unlocked phone
Buying an unlocked phone in the US and swapping out SIM cards while abroad can be cheaper than buying a new phone overseas. Of course, this depends on just how low you’re willing to go when shopping for a foreign phone.
On the other hand, you’re still going to have higher text and call rates if you expect to get and receive calls from the US with a SIM card. They’re going to be much more affordable than roaming fees, but more expensive than a calling card or Skype phone number.
Unlocked phones themselves can be costly if you’re not already prepared for an upgrade. The initial sticker shock can be extreme even though you’ll save a lot of cash in the long run by avoiding a contract.
However, if you simply want an unlocked phone for traveling and still have 18 months or so left on your contract, you might want to wait it out.
A case for phones abroad
If you’re only going to be in Mexico for five days, you probably don’t need a Mexican phone. However, if you plan to visit the country frequently or you’re staying for more than a two-week stretch, it’s worth checking out.
Old-school phones can be incredibly cheap abroad (less than $50) and they’re a lot less hassle. Plus, it makes a great souvenir.
Only you can decide which option is best for you, but keep your total cost in mind.