Short term cellphone service in LA
May 21, 2018 2:37 PM   Subscribe

I'll be spending 2 weeks in Los Angeles. Does it make sense to buy some sort of prepaid cellphone plan?

I live in Chile, and my phone company charges a ridiculous amount for international roaming.
I'll be at USC most of the time, staying on campus, but think it would be useful to have a cellphone for my forays in to the city, especially for hailing Ubers.
In Chile and most of LatAm you can buy a prepaid phone chip, pop it in and are good to go, is this the case in LA?
I have an iPhone SE, if that matters.
posted by signal to Travel & Transportation around Los Angeles, CA (4 answers total)
Your phone will be compatible with AT&T and Verizon Wireless (your two best options among the 4-5 major US carriers, with T-Mobile as the third choice, slightly (really, slightly) less coverage), and a lot of the MVNO's (Mobile Virtual Network Operators-- the carriers that don't own towers): TracFone, Burst, Ting, etc. You can definitely buy a prepaid SIM card from those guys in their stores. Without checking, I would wager that T-mobile probably has the best deal, while AT&T and Verizon are the giants that like to name their price.

I read someplace that you can buy SIMs at the Hudson Book Company, which is a bookstore you can find in just about every airport in the land. Others say these SIMs are a ripoff. I think that's likely the case if you have an option to leave the airport before buying.

Here are some decent suggestions for pre-paid plans in the US.
posted by Sunburnt at 2:58 PM on May 21, 2018

T-Mobile has a plan almost specifically for you. It's $30 with unlimited sms and a decent amount of high speed data. You should have plenty of coverage in LA. The only downside is it only lasts for three weeks, which is perfect for you. You can walk into any T-Mobile store and get it - it might be offered in vending machines in LAX when you land, but I've not looked.
posted by Candleman at 3:04 PM on May 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

You could download Whatsapp and use that for all your texting/calls. If you're not into Whatsapp, there are probably other choices, like Google Hangouts, Facebook, etc. I imagine USC will have wifi hotspots everywhere. When I went to Europe, I got a burner phone and sim card, but then I realized that Whatsapp + free wifi was sufficient for my needs. I'm not an iPhone user but I image you can turn off your cell signal so it only uses wifi and you won't get charged.

There are cheap burner phones you can buy in the U.S. though. AT&T GoPhone, cheap StraightTalk phone, TracFone are all options if you really want to have a cheap, fully functional phone.
posted by AppleTurnover at 3:35 PM on May 21, 2018

I use ZIP SIM (formerly known as ReadySIM) for this purpose when I'm in the US.
posted by neushoorn at 10:20 PM on May 21, 2018

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