The Challenges with World Phones

I’ve never traveled internationally with a cell phone. In my opinion, the ability to stay in constant contact with home defeats the whole purpose of traveling in the first place. Nonetheless, I do understand the need of some people to maintain contact with the non-vacation world.

Traveling with a cell phone internationally, however, can be quite a complicated affair–at least according New York Times columnist Joe Sharkey.

Sharkey decided to research “world phones” that operate internationally and are easy to use. He quickly discovered, however, that he was way over his head.

Apparently an “easy-to-use” international phone doesn’t really exist yet; trying to figure out how to retool your domestic phone to work internationally, on the other hand, is only slightly easier than figuring out world peace. Sharkey basically gives up on his quest, and directs readers to an informative article by Joe Brancatelli.

Brancatelli has much better luck, aptly explaining to luddites and tech-heads alike about the various intricacies involved in international phone service. TDMA, GSM, CDMA and iDEN are just a few of the strange acronyms, for example, one needs to be knowledgeable about before purchasing a phone to use abroad.

Brancatelli also gives a rundown of how Sprint, Verizon, and other carriers deliver abroad, while also offering a few helpful tips (such as arranging for your hotel to have a local cell phone at your disposal upon your arrival).

I’m still not sold. My advice? Leave that phone at home and enjoy your travels. The world won’t fall apart while you’re gone.