When you travel overseas, there are many things you need to plan for in advance, including your communications plan with your mobile device. Many mobile devices work only in the United States, and you could be charged thousands of dollars for using another carrier if your device does work at your destination. Before leaving the USA, have a strategy for your trip. This might involve purchasing an international phone and plan through Stanford, buying an inexpensive world-band travel phone, or purchasing or renting a device at your destination. Use the following checklist to minimize risk, cost, and inconvenience.
Checklist for international and cruise travel with a mobile device
Do the following before using a mobile device in another country or on a cruise ship:
- Address security issues
- Check your device and calling plan
- Estimate roaming cost and data usage
- Minimize international data charges
- Set your voicemail passcode
- Call for help
- Use only Wi-Fi while aboard a cruise ship
Warning: You can quickly accrue thousands of dollars in roaming charges while abroad or on a cruise. Manage your phone settings and purchase the correct data plan to avoid exorbitant bills.
Taking your laptop or mobile device when you travel significantly increases the possibility of data and identity theft. If you work with Restricted Data or travel to a country with known data security risks, leave your device at home and refrain from logging into high-value sites. If you must bring your device with you, remove all Stanford data and read the Guidelines for International Travel before leaving the country. When traveling to a high-risk country on Stanford business, the free iPad Loaner Program makes it easier to protect yourself and Stanford. You'll have the applications and information you need, less equipment to carry, and minimize the amount of sensitive data that could be compromised abroad.
Even if you don't work with sensitive data, remember that Wi-Fi is often unsecured and you are still at risk for data and identity theft. To decrease this risk, use only secured Wi-Fi networks, never transmit personal or sensitive data, and use Stanford's Virtual Private Network (VPN).
If you decide to take your phone with you, make sure that it will work in your destination country before purchasing an international data plan. AT&T, like much of the world, uses GSM technology. Use the AT&T Travel Guide to see if service is available where you're traveling and whether your device will work when you arrive. The AT&T World brochure has rate and dialing information for international travelers.
Sprint and Verizon use CDMA technology. You can check Sprint coverage online, and visit the Sprint support page for FAQs and video tutorials. If you're a Verizon customer, use the Verizon Trip Planner to find out if your device will work and what services you'll need. See the Verizon FAQ for information on traveling internationally with a Verizon device.
Some devices (such as newer iPhones) are dual-band CDMA/GSM devices, also called global phones. Apple offers support pages for changing your SIM card (check with your carrier first) and locating a carrier in another country.
Using your device outside of the United States is not covered under domestic data plans, so all voice, messaging, and data is charged as international roaming. International roaming charges accrue quickly. For example, opening an email containing a 5-megapixel picture or downloading a three-minute YouTube video takes about 2 MB of data. The cost would be almost $40, based on pay-per-use international data rates of $0.0195/KB.
Check your carrier's site to see how much roaming can cost you in your destination country:
How much data do you use?
The AT&T calculator helps you see how much data you use and how much it might cost. As a reference, the pay-per-use rate of .0195/KB equals $19.97/MB. This tool can help you estimate your data requirements even if your contract is with another carrier.
Do the following to minimize your international data charges:
- Purchase an international data or roaming package. An international plan can significantly reduce the cost of using data abroad. To sign up for an international plan, call the IT Services Mobile Support Desk at 5-HELP (650-725-4357), option 4 (choose option 5 after 5 p.m. or on weekends). Call before you travel.
- Use Wi-Fi instead of the local carrier's phone network. Wi-Fi is available in many international airports, hotels, and restaurants to browse the web or check email. On iPhone, you can use Wi-Fi even when your device is in Airplane Mode.
- Don't use your mobile phone at sea unless you can use Wi-Fi. International roaming packages often do not cover cell phone usage after you're a certain distance from the shore.
- Turn off Use Packet Data and Data Roaming on your Android device. Choose Settings > Wireless and Network > Mobile Networks.
- Turn off Data Roaming and Cellular Data on your iPhone. You can set your iPhone to stop receiving data over a cellular network but permit phone calls and text messages over Wi-Fi. Tap Settings > General > Cellular. Set the Cellular Data and Data Roaming options to OFF. To turn on Wi-Fi, tap Settings > Wi-Fi and set Wi-Fi to ON. To turn off all connectivity, tap Settings and then set Airplane Mode to ON.
Before you travel to another country, set up a voicemail passcode so that you can retrieve voicemails while abroad. Make a note of your passcode; you may need to enter it when you check your voicemail. Note: You might not receive a voicemail indicator when you travel internationally.
The procedures for setting up your voicemail passcode and retrieving voicemail from outside of the United States vary by carrier and device. Visit your carrier's site for instructions:
Your Department Contact, the Mobile Support Desk, and your carrier are available to help you.
Before your trip
Ask your Department Contact to purchase an international roaming plan before you leave. To help your Department Contact choose the best plan, specify which countries you'll visit, for how long, and your expected voice, text, and data usage.
During your trip
If your Department Contact cannot purchase an international roaming plan before your departure, call the Mobile Support Desk to upgrade your plan. Call 650-725-4357, option 4 during regular business hours PST; after 5 p.m and on weekends, option 5. Do not call your carrier for plan upgrades. If you cannot call the Support Desk, submit a HelpSU request.
If you have technical difficulties using your mobile device while traveling outside the U.S., contact your carrier directly:
- AT&T International Wireless Customer Service: +1-916-843-4685.* Give your location, the nature of your inquiry, your wireless number, and another phone number at which you can be reached. This is a free international call from your wireless phone. There is a charge if the call is placed from a wired phone, but AT&T International Wireless Customer Service will call you back to minimize your costs. Note: To access the plus sign (+) on most devices, press and hold the 0 key. On a BlackBerry, press the SYM key, then press the key with the plus (+) sign on it.
- Sprint: 1-888-226-7212, option 2.
- Verizon: Dial the exit code for the country you’re in, and then dial (908) 559-4899.
After your trip
Ask your Department Contact to remove the international roaming plans upon your return.
International roaming plans may not cover all voice and data charges when you travel by sea. For example, AT&T international roaming plans don't provide coverage 12 miles or more from shore. Making calls or accessing data using your usual carrier while at sea or in foreign ports will result in significant additional charges.
Rates and coverage vary by carrier and ship. Visit your carrier's site for more information:
Tips for using your mobile device while on a cruise:
- If your ship provides secure Wi-Fi for a reasonable fee, use it. If it doesn't, turn off your device.
- The cruise ship network is turned on once the ship is at sea. Generally, the cruise ship network is shut down when the ship is within 12 miles of land. The network is turned back on once the network is no longer near the coordinates of a port.
- Domestic voice rates apply while aboard a cruise ship only when it is docked or tendered at a U.S. port.
- Voice usage while aboard a cruise ship when it is docked or tendered at a foreign port is billed at the international roaming rate for that country.