Avoid a Huge Phone Bill When Traveling Internationally

Last Updated Aug 9, 2010 5:50 PM EDT

A few years ago, during the iPhone's infancy, the news was filled with stories about international travelers getting unexpectedly hit with multi-thousand dollar bills due to roaming changes for voice and data. We're all a little wiser now, and such tales have faded into the background.

But that doesn't mean we don't still need a cheap mobile phone when traveling internationally. Recently, the New York Times cataloged a number of ways to avoid high cell charges when traveling. Each carrier has its own deal or arrangement -- here are some options:

Verizon. If you're a Verizon customer -- and have been a subscriber for at least 6 months -- Verizon will lend you a free global phone for trips of 21 days or less. All you pay is $10 for overnight shipping. Using the phone, you can choose an affordable rate plan that matches your needs.

AT&T. Since AT&T uses GSM, your phone will probably work overseas -- and therein lies the problem that led to those $5000 phone bills. Be sure to sign up for an international roaming plan. For example, with the $5.99 a month plan, calls from many European countries about 99 cents, and 50 texts costs $10.

Swap the SIM card. If you have a GSM phone -- like one from AT&T or T-Mobile -- you can swap out the SIM card with one in-country. It'll give you a new number, a new data plan, and make your incoming calls local.

Buy a travel phone. Another option: Get a travel phone from a company like Telestial or Planet Omni. You can get such a phone for about $50, which means you can leave your existing GSM phone at home, eliminating the risk of accidental roaming data charges.