I’ve been in Brazil for a few days this week leading a 2 day STEM Institute for K-12 teachers at Graded School in Sao Paulo. From my past experiences traveling overseas to China, I know it can be a VERY costly mistake to simply use your cell phone in another country if you don’t arrange in advance to have an international calling plan or add-on feature to your existing plan which covers overseas charges. This turns out to be accurate for U.S. AT&T customers traveling in Brazil. My iPhone 6 is on our school’s business plan, and without an “international passport” add-on from AT&T these are the charges for calling, texting, multimedia texting or using data:
Calling: $1.99 min
SMS: 50 cents per text to send (no charge to receive)
Multimedia SMS: $1.30 for each picture message to send
Data: $12 per MB
Yes you read that correctly: a charge of $12 per megabyte to use data on my iPhone 6 is assessed by AT&T if I don’t have a special “international calling package” added to my line. This makes it fiscally crazy to use a transportation app like Uber or 99taxi without an international phone plan. Because my iPhone 6 is “locked” by AT&T, it’s not possible for me to purchase a compatible SIM card from a local Brazilian cellular company and simply put it in my iPhone. This can be a good option when traveling in other countries with an unlocked smartphone. The rules and procedures for getting a smartphone unlocked by a U.S. carrier changed in early 2015 to make it a little easier on consumers, but generally it’s still not possible to get a smartphone unlocked before it’s out of contract. So in a situation like mine (when I’m still in an iPhone contract) this means signing up for an “international travel package” is the only viable option for using my smartphone when traveling abroad, other than using it on hotel, school, or other provided free WiFi.
Here are the current options for AT&T international travel packages:
If you can’t view that image, here are the rates for the 3 available plans shared as text:
$30 passport plan
calling: $1 per minute
120 MB of data
extra data: 25 cents per MB
$60 passport plan
calling: 50 cents per minute
300 mb of data
extra data: 20 cents per MB
$120 passport plan
calling: 35 cents per minute
800 mb of data
extra data: 15 cents per MB
I’ve been able to use Skype on my laptop over school and hotel wifi to make a few calls back home to my family during my trip.
Lessons learned: Be sure to get an international calling plan activated on your phone BEFORE you leave the United States, if you’re traveling overseas with a locked smartphone. If your phone is on a school/business calling plan, you will NOT be able to directly get an international calling plan added to your line unless you are an authorized phone plan manager for your organization, registered with your cellular provider.
Be careful using a cellular telephone when traveling abroad if you don’t have an international phone plan activated. Failing to heed this warning can be costly to your organization and/or to you when your next phone bill arrives.
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