How to best choose an international cell phone for short term (2 month) use?
August 27, 2007 1:43 PM   Subscribe

International cell phone question: I'm going to Kazakhstan (no Borat jokes, please) for a couple of months and need some advice on staying in touch in a cost-effective manner and with a non-Kazakhstan cell phone number.

My wife and I are traveling to Kazakhstan to adopt a baby (woo hoo!). We're making two trips, and aren't sure when we're going. We know that we'll be in either Kostanai or Astana (fairly good-sized cities).

I need to be able to stay in touch with the US in that I need people to be able to reach me conveniently (without having to dial Kazakhstan), and I'd like to be able to call people in Kazakhstan easily. As such, I'd like to obtain a phone here so that I can give people the number. I've seen various sites online that advertise "free incoming calls", but most of these have overseas #s (e.g., UK phone numbers). This would probably be fine, but I'd like to see if I can make things even easier.

Can anyone provide some advice or tips as to who to go with based on experience? Is it possible to get a phone with a US number that doesn't charge me for incoming calls? Any general advice on how best to stay in touch by cell without spending important diaper money on cell phone bills? Should I just go with Skype?
posted by scblackman to Technology (5 answers total)
 
when i went to spain recently, we enabled an international roaming rate that worked out to about a buck a minute, with 25-cent text messages. not ideal for shooting the breeze, but good for quick calls. there was a $7 activation fee, or something like that.

you might do better with skype, but call your phone company first and see what options they offer. it might be worth it to invest in both, using skype as your main communications tool, but having the phone activated as backup in case someone forgets (or if you really need to use the phone when you're away from your computer).

and congratulations on your new arrival! never done it myself, but i hear it's worth it. :)
posted by thinkingwoman at 2:40 PM on August 27, 2007


skype is a good idea, but don't count on reliable internet access. If you have tmobile or cingular, get your phone unlocked, take it, get a KZ SIM card and when you need to make KZ calls or US calls, swap the card. You'll need to make sure that the US provider has a KZ roaming partner. I know O2 in the UK roams in KZ, but I am not sure about US.
posted by k8t at 4:31 PM on August 27, 2007


You might want to check out Beeline, a Russian cell phone company that owns Kar-Tel, one of the main wireless providers in Kazakstan.
posted by Avenger at 4:44 PM on August 27, 2007


In my experience traveling outside of "the west," buying a cellphone from a local provider will be the easiest route: foreign companies are unlikely to have compatible cellphones or wide-ranging coverage. But that would necessitate a Kazakhstani cell-phone number. If you bring your own cell, you will probably, at the least, need a Kazakhstan card. k8t's suggestion is probably feasible, but I don't know how you would manage incoming calls.

If not-making-others-dial-internationally is a major priority for you, you might consider bringing your own cellphone to receive calls and either picking up a cheap KZ phone for local calls or relying on phone booths and hotels for that. I imagine pay phones of one type or another will be pretty widely available, since, unlike here, many folks don't have their own phones.

I also would not expect internet service to be up to your standards; at best, it will be frustratingly slow, and at the worst it won't be available. Skype might work at times but not at others.

Have you looked at this page or tried asking the agency facilitating your adoption for advice?
posted by bookish at 7:55 PM on August 27, 2007


I'll suggest the dual SIM card solution as well. Probably the easiest is to get a blackberry and communicate through e-mail. If voice communication is required then Skype it.
posted by Industrial PhD at 9:39 PM on August 27, 2007


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