International business travel and phone/data
December 30, 2017 4:37 PM   Subscribe

I’m going to be on a business trip in Europe for several weeks, and need to be able to use my phone as normally as possible (phone calls, texts, data, gps, and most importantly my secure work email/calendar). I have an iPhone 7 (Verizon, US). Should I pay Verizon hundreds of dollars for international access? Buy a local SIM card when I get there?

I’ve traveled internationally extensively, but typically use the opportunity to disconnect and avoid phone/internet use. That’s not going to work for a business trip, obviously, so I need a new plan.

My top options:
1. Pay Verizon’s travel pass ($10/day), appears to retain all my info and access.
2. Buy a new SIM card when I arrive, and buy local cell plan.

My questions:
- have you used the Verizon travel pass with a secure corporate email/calendar, and did it work? (Mine is based on office365, but requires specific corporate approvals, extra installed apps, and full/administrator access to my phone)
- Are there any other drawbacks to the Verizon travel pass, aside from steep fees?
- what happens when you put in a new SIM card? Does it change anything about the phone’s operations or permissions?
- what kind of cell phone plans are available that would cover several countries in Europe, and how would I get one?

Any other thoughts would be appreciated, within the constraints that I need to use my current phone with generous allowances of data/minutes/texts. Unfortunately, my employer has no guidance on international cell phone use, and will not reimburse this expense.
posted by chemicalsyntheticist to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Another idea would be to get a temporary Tmobile Sim in the US and use their generous international roaming agreements.
posted by k8t at 5:02 PM on December 30, 2017

I've used travel pass several times while overseas with zero issues (besides the annoyingly high cost) - this was with a personal phone without any corporate data on it, but I wouldn't think that would be an issue so long as your phone has roaming enabled.

One thing with travel pass is they only charge $10 for the days that you use it - if you can get by just using WiFi part of the time you could reduce the cost. Otherwise the only option I can think of is T-Mobile. Most European SIMs to my knowledge are country-specific unfortunately, so a local SIM probably won't help.
posted by photo guy at 6:00 PM on December 30, 2017

For cost savings, the local SIM and associated plan would likely beat Verizon. However, you need to research plans to avoid getting scammed, and also figure out how to pay for it and set it up, some stores and kiosks can do this all for you.

Changing the SIM means your US phone number is no longer attached to your phone, and you’ll have a local number instead. You can probably have Verizon forward your calls but that might be expensive. Checking voicemail will involve calling back to the US number and logging in, etc, it simply isn’t attached to your phone at all anymore.

When you get back home you just reinstall your US SIM and you’re back to how it was before.
posted by odinsdream at 7:47 PM on December 30, 2017

Assuming all countries are in the EU, there's free roaming throughout the EU since June, so it's going to be much cheaper to buy a SIM when you get there.

If you're arriving in the UK first, Three UK has pretty generous data allowances, unlimited for £35/month, or 30GB for £25, and lower data allowances for cheaper if that's too much data. Obviously depends on where you arrive first, Three Ireland is equally generous (Unlimited data for a month for 20 Euro). There are some limits, fair usage on how much you can use when roaming, but I've never reached them anyway.

See this:
posted by Boobus Tuber at 10:51 PM on December 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

Actually the limits only apply if you have unlimited data from here:

If you're paying per GB then you pay the home rate wherever in the EU you are.

And if you can get a 3 UK SIM, they also offer free roaming in the US, Australia, New Zealand, much of South America and many other countries, so worth hanging on to for travel. I'm on holidays in New Zeaaland at the moment, and I get more data cheaper here with 3 UK than if I bought a New Zealand SIM card.
posted by Boobus Tuber at 10:56 PM on December 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

I travelled across Europe last year and local SIM cards are dirt cheap.

Also it has been mentioned to avoid getting 'scammed' when buying. It's really as simple as going into a shop and asking for a pay as you go sim and looking at what they have on offer for the money. When I was doing it, I had to buy a new one in each new country and it appears that is no longer necessary, but even if you did do what I did they are really cheap comparatively to $10 a day. Add to this, the price reflects where you are, so for example Poland is amazing value whereas UK and Germany are more expensive. I think I paid £8 for 12GB of data in Poland.

I was cycling through and was always able to buy a sim in the first town I hit, sometimes in villages.
posted by TheGarden at 5:35 AM on December 31, 2017

Ask your company how they would like you to manage this (you’re going to expense it, right?).
posted by scyllary at 2:21 PM on January 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the insights!

I ended up ordering a SIM card shipped from The Netherlands, purchasing a monthly plan from vodaphone, and it works great. My corporate apps worked fine (so I guess they’re tied to the phone rather than the SIM).

The one challenge I encountered was two-factor authentication prompts, which typically are texted to my phone. If I travel in this manner again I could probably authorize the new SIM number prior to traveling, or choose an authentication that’s not phone-dpendent. In any case, if the two factor was critical I could swap in the Verizon SIM card for a day and pay the $10.
posted by chemicalsyntheticist at 11:43 AM on January 10, 2018

Ask your company how they would like you to manage this (you’re going to expense it, right?).

I wish, but as I said in my question: Unfortunately, my employer has no guidance on international cell phone use, and will not reimburse this expense.
posted by chemicalsyntheticist at 11:46 AM on January 10, 2018

« Older What is a name for writing that communicates on...   |   Changed my full name legally, how to explain? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.