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Using a UK mobile in the USA

(26 Posts)
Silkchiffon Fri 29-May-15 20:15:18

I haven't got a smartphone just a very basic call/text thing and I really haven't got a clue about it all. Ds wants to take his smartphone on our California road trip and I've come round to the idea that it would be useful to have but I keep hearing stories about people coming back to huge bills. I've gone into debt to have this holiday - our first for years - so I really can't afford any unexpected charges.

How do I avoid extra charges? Will we need a code to enable the phone to work? Which provider is best for this sort of thing? Ds is coming to the end of his contract so we could switch before we go.

GERTgert06 Sun 31-May-15 10:04:53

You are wise to be careful about this.Your phone needs to be at least tri-band to work, your son's sounds as if it would be. One problem is even local calls are routed via UK, so become long distance. I would say - take the smart phone for emergency use only, then buy a very cheap (around $10) American PAYG mobile or sim card to use within the US. You will find them in most shopping malls.

OldBeanbagz Sun 31-May-15 10:13:22

We were in New York recenlty and there were loads of Wi-Fi available so i just switched my phone to airline mode and then switched Wi-Fi back on. That way i couldn't run up any call/data charges. I think EE texted me on arrival to say it was £1/minute for calls.

lljkk Sun 31-May-15 10:18:01

Doesn't OP have to turn off data roaming to avoid high charges?

Bunbaker Sun 31-May-15 10:21:59

I always keep data roaming switched off as a default setting anyway and just make use of free Wi-Fi wherever I can. I would just buy a local PAYG SIM card.

GERTgert06 Sun 31-May-15 10:22:55

Yes OP should turn off data roaming.

TheOneWiththeNicestSmile Sun 31-May-15 10:23:32

Yes, keep mobile data off except when in range of free wifi & always make sure to turn it off again when leaving free wifi (because if it's on it'll be updating & whatnot in the background even if you're not doing anything)
If you want to send picture messages, use whatsapp, not text

Bunbaker Sun 31-May-15 10:26:01

Data roaming and Wi-Fi are two separate settings on my phone (Android software), so I just keep mobile data off and Wi-Fi on all the time, and there is no extra cost involved.

TheOneWiththeNicestSmile Sun 31-May-15 10:26:01

Sorry, keep mobile data off all the time & just log in to wifi
(I was there last year but getting mixed up with US & Europe)

TheOneWiththeNicestSmile Sun 31-May-15 10:40:34

Got it straight in my head now blush

keep mobile data off all the time, & airplane mode on, except when you need wifi turned on or to make a call (if you don't buy a cheap PAYG phone there)

I'm fairly sure that's what I did...grin

fitflopqueen Sun 31-May-15 10:47:09

Look at Three if changing contracts, but you will need to be with them at least a month I think before going away, no international charge for certain countries inc US.
Has worked great for me in US and Australia.

AttilaTheMeerkat Sun 31-May-15 18:11:53

Turn off data roaming and speak to your phone provider before you travel as well. Your son's smartphone is more likely to work in the US than your phone but he needs to be careful with his phone usage as well.

What are you going to use the phone for?. uying an international If it is mainly for talking, buying an international phonecard from somewhere like Walgreens will give you lots of talk time (at least 3 hours) as well as only costing around $10.

The network Three do free calls to the UK from the US and other countries.

Silkchiffon Sun 31-May-15 19:44:31

Thanks all!

Confused about the data roaming/wi-fi thing - so if he turns off data roaming he can still access wi-fi where available? But it has to be in 'airplane mode'? (don't actually know what that is...hopefully ds will but he's not really that tech savvy tho he pretends to be)

We aren't likely to need calls much - mainly keep it for emergencies or quickly looking up something if we come unstuck. Ds mainly wants it for updating facebook I suspect - after years of reading his friends updates of amazing summer holidays I can't really begrudge him.

TheOneWiththeNicestSmile Sun 31-May-15 20:25:47

turning airplane mode on switches off all your comms.

then there are separate buttons for general mobile data (which has a sub-button for mobile roaming), & wifi connection.

If you turn mobile data off, mobile roaming is automatically off too.

when you turn airplane mode off again, you can then turn wifi on.

mobile data will stay off until physically turned on again. while it's off that unsets data roaming automatically. (I've been playing with mine today grin)

I have an iphone but I'm guessing android phones have similar buttons. ask your DS to take you through his phone's controls

AttilaTheMeerkat Sun 31-May-15 21:19:24

If your son uploads stuff to facebook he will incur roaming charges and that could well be expensive. The data roaming on his phone will need to be switched off. The best thing to do here with regards to his phone is to speak to his mobile provider to see what they offer package wise.

Data Roaming describes the use of your mobile phone on another network abroad for a short period, while still being billed by your existing provider.

What uses data on my iPhone?

Any apps that use the Internet connection use roaming data e.g. Safari YouTube, Maps, Email, iTunes, Social Networking Apps e.g. Facebook/Twitter

Just to be clear the following actions do not use roaming data:
Filming a video
Taking a Photo
Listening to the iPod
Playing stand alone games (Suduku, Labyrinth) - See more at:

TheOneWiththeNicestSmile Sun 31-May-15 21:43:55

Just discovered that you can turn mobile data & data roaming on even with airplane mode on - apparently airplane mode only relates to phone connection

caroldecker Sun 31-May-15 22:29:47

As people have said:

wi-fi can be used - many places have free wi-fi or you can use hotspots which you sign up for and pay at the time - there are no surprise charges for these.

Mobile data can be expensive - 3 mobile is part of your data plan in the UK, but will charge above this. Other networks vary and you can buy packages beforehand which reduce the cost

Do not believe any network which says there is a cap which will switch off the data or alert you in advance - they lie.

Calls to and from the UK can be expensive.

Do not worry about 'airplane' mode. The settings section of the phone will have a data/connection section and you can switch wi-fi and mobile data on and off separately. Sit down with the phone and the manual and learn this before you go.

Depending on your network and any roaming packages you have bought, keep mobile data off and switch wi-fi on when you are in a free wi-fi area (hotel/starbucks/mcdonalds etc).

Stokes Sun 31-May-15 22:37:49

No need to use airplane mode. Just make sure mobile data is turned off for the duration of your trip (unless with 3, in which case just ensure you know how much you can use) and use free WiFi where available. There should be no shortage of WiFi in the US for him to update Facebook or message friends using What's App etc.

Calls and text messages will be more expensive than at home, so easiest to keep these for emergencies and use web based apps to communicate with people at home.

Enjoy your holiday!

Bunbaker Sun 31-May-15 22:41:43

I just keep the Wi-Fi switched on all the time on my phone and switch mobile data on as and when I need it. I switch mobile data off when I have finished using it, so the default setting on mobile data on my phone is off at all times unless actually being used.

Silkchiffon Mon 01-Jun-15 15:47:44

Blimey you lot are knowledgeable! That's all really helpful and I will sit down with ds and go through the phone stuff together.

Interesting caroldecker about the 'cap' business - Sainsbury's (who I've got a payg a/c with and was wondering about switching ds to) claim they will cap at £42.00. Should I not believe this?

caroldecker Mon 01-Jun-15 17:12:41

People have been hit by the cap not being activated or not being warned, so it is risky.
The Sainsbury's charge is also £7.50 a MB, so if the cap works, less than 6mb - this is a 4 minute song downloaded. A webpage view can be 0.3MB, so only 18 of these.

A 3 mobile PAYG 1 month sim only contract here for £20 has all you can eat data (unlimited) that can be used in the USA. You can then revert to Sainsbury's on your return if you wanted.

Bunbaker Mon 01-Jun-15 19:41:03

Or you could install 3G Watchdog (it's free) and it warns you when you are getting close to your data limit.

Silkchiffon Tue 02-Jun-15 15:35:11

3 do a credit check on you even just to buy a payg sim. Is that normal?? Seems a bit over the top.

Fluffyears Sun 14-Jun-15 18:34:01

I'm with Vodafone and activated world traveller before going to the U.S. For £5 per day (above my bill) I was able to use my norma minutes, texts and data so didn't need to turns anything on/off. When I turned on phone at airport it said AT&T. My usual bill is £19 and it was £35 that month. Check with your supplier.

MirandaWest Sun 14-Jun-15 18:38:50

When DP and I went to America we got PAYG sims from 3. I think there were two different sorts of package you could have but one of them was the sort where it was as if you were in this country. I needed to use a spare phone of DPs as my iphone couldn't be unlocked but that was the only issue.

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