I recently returned from a one month overseas adventure in Southeast Asia. I opted to get a data plan from my carrier. I found out that the AT&T International Passport Plan sucks, sucks, sucks. It was so bad it needs three sucks to bring the point home.
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AT&T international options
There are basically two options that AT&T offers for international usage. There is a daily plan and a monthly plan. The International Day Pass is $10.00 a day and works in over 100 countries. Unfortunately, this did not work for me as the plan does not work in Indonesia and Laos. $10.00 a day is not bad, but over a month it would be $300.00 if used every day.
The other option was a monthly plan. I chose this and it is $60.00 a month and works in over 200 countries. The problem with this plan is it is a two month minimum. I was going for one month and two days, so I had to pay $120.00 due to the two month minimum. It was still cheaper than $300.00, so I felt like it was the best option.
Off to a bad start
When I got my first bill, AT&T overcharged me because they were charging me the $60.00 a month for the International Day Pass, and they charged me $10.00 day for 4 days in Thailand on the daily pass. I had to take time out on my trip to study my bill then open up a chat with an AT&T representative. It took over an hour to resolve. I have better things to do with my time while traveling.
Ten days into the second month
I backdated the plan, so the first month covered two days I was in Thailand and the second month covered the last 30 days I was in Southeast Asia. Eight days into the second month, I got a text that I had used 80% of data. I then tried to use the rest of my data sparingly and put on airplane mode when not using.
Despite the data saving trick, I ended up going over the data twice resulting in a $100.00 charge. They only give you 1 GB for the $60.00. Every extra GB used is $50.00. I ended up paying $220.00 for the month abroad. In retrospect, I could have gone with the daily plan, but that did not work in the countries I was wanting to visit.
The upshot is the AT&T International Passport Plan sucks, sucks, sucks
This $220 charge was on top of the $130.00 I pay each month. The AT&T International Passport is a rip off. The only reason I went with this option in the first place was because I am taking care of my mom, and it was important that I have my phone active.
Alternatives to the A&T International Passport plan (which sucks, sucks, sucks)
Wi-Fi and WhatsApp
There are some options to using the AT&T International Passport plan or whatever international plan your carrier provides. You can stick to Wi-Fi only. Southeast Asia is pretty connected via Wi-Fi. Just about every hostel, guesthouse, hotel, restaurant, and many public places provide free Wi-Fi. You can usually make calls and texts through Wi-Fi. You can also use WhatsApp for phone calls and texts assuming the people you want to contact have it also.
Buy a phone and local Sim card in each country
The cheapest way to use a phone in Southeast Asia and in most countries is buying a local Sim card. If you are on a plan with your carrier they may lock your phone, so the Sim card may not work. In this case you may have to buy a phone also. You can buy a cheap phone and then sell it back when you leave.
If you have any other ideas to save money on a phone plan while traveling, please share in the comments.