Traveling Overseas? Get AT&T's International Plan

Avoid high international phone charges with these tips

Young couple taking self photo in Paris
Sylvain Sonnet/Photodisc/Getty Images

International travel is a lot of fun. But if you bring your iPhone on your trip and expect to use your regular monthly phone plan, you're going to get a huge, unpleasant surprise when you get home: a bill for hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

That's because your phone plan only covers use in the U.S. (for most people, at least). Overseas use counts as international roaming, which is very expensive.

Streaming a song or two using just 10 MB megabytes of data use could cost over US$20.

Add in email, texts, social media, sharing photos, and getting map directions, and you'll run up a big data charge. Unless you get an international plan before you travel, that is.

AT&T Passport International Plan 

If you use your iPhone with AT&T, you should consider signing up for the AT&T Passport plan before leaving home. This add-on to your regular plan gives you the ability to make calls and use data at prices much cheaper than under your normal plan.

The plans offered in AT&T Passport are:

 Passport 1 GBPassport 3 GB
Data1 GB
$50/GB overage
3 GB
$50/GB overage
Wi-Fi HotspotsNot includedUnlimited

These plans are available in dozens of countries. Check out AT&T's full list of included countries. If you're going on a cruise, AT&T offers a special calling and data package for cruise ships.

You can sign up for AT&T Passport on a one-off basis that lasts for 30 days or add it to your standard monthly charge.

The other major phone companies also offer international plans. If you're a customer of one of those companies, check out:

Another Option: Swap Your SIM Card

International plans aren't your only option when traveling.

You can also swap the SIM card out of your phone and replace it with one from a local phone company in the country you're visiting. In that scenario, you can take advantage of local calling and data rates as if you weren't traveling at all.

The Costs Without AT&T Passport

Thinking you don't want to spend the extra money and that you'll take your chances with international data roaming? Unless you plan to use no, or almost no, data I don't recommend it. Here's what you'll pay without a plan like AT&T Passport:

TalkCanada/Mexico: US$1/minute
Europe: $2/minute
Cruise Ships & Airlines: $2.50/minute
Rest of World: $3/minute
$1.30/picture or video
DataWorld: $2.05/MB
Cruise Ships: $8.19/MB
Ships/Planes: $10.24/MB

If You Forget to Sign up Before You Travel

You may be convinced of the need to get an international plan, but what if you forgot to sign up before you travel? The first way you'll be reminded of this will likely come when your phone company texts you to let you know you've incurred a big data charge (maybe $50 or $100). Call your phone company and explain the situation. They should be able to add international data to your plan and backdate it so that you only pay for the plan, not the new charges.

International Travel Tips for iPhone Owners

There's a lot to know about traveling internationally with your iPhone. If you're planning to take your iPhone on your trip, read these articles:

Oh, and don't forget the correct international charging adapter when you travel. Don't want one of those exploding phones, do you?

Contesting Huge International Data Bills

If you forget to sign up for an international plan and come home to a phone bill of hundreds or thousands (or even tens of thousands) or dollars, you may be shocked and worried that you're stuck owing a lot of money.

Not necessarily. If you're in that situation, check out How to Contest iPhone Data Roaming Charges.

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