Well, there is a way around that. Most countries have very large support for GSM phone systems. These are the carriers who sell phones that use SIM cards, similar to the way T-Mobile and AT&T do here in the States as opposed to Verizon and Sprint which are primarily CDMA-based; a different technology altogether.
I will use the Philippines as an example to show you how you can really save money by purchasing an unlocked phone and travelling abroad vs. roaming. We will make this recommendation assuming that the US carrier will not unlock your phone for travel.
If you go to the Philippines, you can easily purchase and activate a SIM card for just under $5. Then you can add as little as 50cents of load to the card to at least get you to the point that you can send text messages within the country. 50cents would yield you 10 to 20 messages. Frequently, however, there are promotions whereby 50cents will allow you to text the whole day, unlimited. Given that there are multiple cellphone carriers, all specializing in pre-paid services, it is very simple to find a competitive price for communications. I found that for calling back home to the United States, Globe has better options. That was my experience when I was there. So the way it works is that you bring your unlocked GSM phone (making sure that it runs on the bands that the country's carriers operate on) and slip in the new SIM card and you're done.
FINDING A PHONE THAT WORKS ABROAD:
First, you will need to check which band the country you are visiting runs on. Then buy a cellphone that works on that band. For instance, in the Philippines all carriers run on the 900/1800 bands. The Samsung Galaxy SIII International version runs on LTE BANDS LTE 800 / 1800 / 2600, so it would be a good choice as you will be able to use it on the Philippines speedy LTE data spectrum as well.
Where do I find these unlocked phones? Well short of going on Craigslist and risking purchasing a phone without a warranty, we recommend safe places like Amazon.com, eBay.com, and Etsy.com. We have found that Amazon offers very competitive rates and with an Amazon Prime membership, which you can acquire for free as a trial for 30 days, you can get most items shipped within 2 days FOR FREE!
Here are some of the BEST phones that are international-worthy options for you to consider purchasing. They should also work on American and Canadian carriers' networks too:
Here's the complete list of Unlocked GSM phones on Amazon. Find the one that fits you best:
Just click on the phone to see the complete list of unlocked GSM smartphones:
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