Staying Connected

When my iPhone 5 finally gave up on me earlier this year,
One of my conditions for my new phone was that it had to be
Unlocked—for those that don’t know, this means
The phone itself accepts all carriers, and it is
Not tied to any one carrier, like it would be
If you bought the phone
From a Telecommunications company rather than, say,
A phone store.

For travelers, buying a
Local SIM is one of the oft-found
Budget tips online; hence,
The need for an unlocked phone.

But honestly,
How useful / practical is this tip
In actuality?

There are two things to consider:

One,
How long will you be staying in that place?

The longer you stay in ONE place,
The more beneficial it is to have that place’s local SIM.
For me, who is spending one year based in Italy, it
Makes sense and yes, is

Cheaper, to use a
Local Italian SIM—
Not only do you make the most of the
Data (and data plans) of that place,
But you are also free-er to connect with
Locals, through their local phones, i.e., it is
Easier to contact and arrange meet-ups with locals you befriend when you are
Not limited by online means or international fees.

And two,
How good of a roaming plan does your carrier have?

Some of my fellow international students who come from the
United States have mentioned some
Good plans from their US carriers,
Where the rates are fairly cheap(er)—I believe it was
T-Mobile which was mentioned,
With 20¢/min calls, free texts, and really bare 2G data.

In this case, if the calls and texts are of a fair price, and you are
Willing to give up data-on-the-go—not counting
WiFi hotspots if you should find any—then,
By all means, I would recommend this option.

And when actually
Choosing a local SIM,
How do you know with which to go?

Your priorities, i.e.,
How you intend to use it, is
Important here.

Do you need data? How much data do you need?
Do you have enough access to WiFi spots, or
Is data all you expect to have to go on?

Do you need calls / texts? How many calls / texts do you expect to use
In a month (as most plans go)?
Do you need to make calls / texts to foreign numbers (e.g., your parents, family, friends at home)?

Do you intend to travel
From your base location to other destinations? How good is the
Roaming service of your chosen SIM, e.g.,
The coverage (i.e., places it can be used), and
The fees (i.e., for calls / texts only, for data)?

And, of course,
Your budget. How much are you
Willing to spend
Every month to reload / recharge your phone?

Remember that
You are the one who defines
Your use and
Your budget.
What everyone else does may not always be
The right way for you.

And when keeping in touch, the
Number of messaging applications—

From Viber,
Which is most used in the Philippines,

To WhatsApp,
The preference of Americans and Europeans,

To LINE,
As chosen by the Japanese,

To KakaoTalk,
The mode of choice of Koreans,

To Skype,
Which is still the best for video calls, in my opinion—

Ensure that,
As long as there is internet—and there is
Practically everywhere these days, if
Not on the road, at least
In hostels, hotels, B&B’s or the like—
You’ll find (more than) one way to

Stay connected.

P.S. Do you have any other considerations when choosing to buy a local SIM?
If so, what are they? Let me know! 🙂

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