AT&T International Passport plan sucks, sucks, sucks

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.

AT&T International Passport Plan
AT&T logo on a building – Wikimedia Creative Commons – http://istizada.com/understanding-arabic-url-uri-structure-encoding-for-arabic-sites/

Related: Thai Travel Clinic for vaccinations

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.

Passport
My passport cost less than an AT&T International Passport Plan (which sucks, sucks, sucks)

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.

frustration
Me trying to figure out my AT&T bill because they double charged me – By Tanya Little – Flickr: 9 of 365 ~ Frustration, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25700112

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.

head in hands
Me when I got texts alerting me I was getting charged for $50.00 – Wikimedia Creative Commons – By PrisonImage – Prisoners Advice Service, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=70060717

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.

Middle finger
I felt like giving AT&T the middle finger when getting these over usage text alerts – Wikimedia Creative Commons – By Letmeeatyouras – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=78322207

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.

Bali Indonesia
No International Daily Pass in Bali, Indonesia

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.

AT&T International Passport Plan sucks
Get away from anyone trying to get you to sign up for the AT&T International Passport Plan because it sucks, sucks, sucks

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.

Whatsapp
Use WhatsApp when in a friendly Wi-Fi zone

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.

 

 

Chiang Mai Mandala House

There must be a thousand hotels, guesthouses, and hostels in Chiang Mai. The amount of options can be overwhelming. I was on a bus from Ayutthaya to Chiang Mai scrolling through Hotels.com, and I stumbled on the Mandala House.

Mandala House
Mandala House in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Mandala House amenities

I was looking for a pool, air-conditioning, Wi-Fi, hot water for the shower, and a relatively budget priced room. I also wanted a spot close to the action in Chiang Mai, which meant close to the night bazar. My plan was to book a tour the next day in Chiang Mai, so I wanted a place I could walk to a local tour office. Mandala House checked all of those boxes and also offered breakfast, so I booked.

Mandala House pool
Pool across the street

Related: Thai Travel Clinic for innoculations in Bangkok

Bus drop off

My bus from Ayutthaya dropped me off at the bus station a little outside of town.  I got a tuk-tuk ride to the Mandala House for 50 baht. The nice thing about booking on an app is the app shows the location on Google maps. Therefore, I could follow the progress to the location and even give navigation tips to my driver if he did not know where the location was. With so many lodging options in Chiang Mai, even local tuk-tuk drivers will not know where every place is.

Chiang Mai lodging
Spacious bed and room

Easy check-in

Mandala House was located in a narrow street just off the main drag in Chiang Mai. I showed my passport, and dropped off my backpack in my room. My room was clean and spacious enough for one person. Staff was of course exceedingly friendly and helpful. Every hotel staff in all of Southeast Asia pretty much is.

Chiang Mai night market
Mandala House was close to the night market

Mandala House super convenient location

I immediately departed to hit the night market area. The booking app indicated Mandala House was .6 miles from the night market. It turned out it was even closer to the main action. In just a couple of turns I was on the main road. Before I even came across the night market, I found a booking agent for the next leg of my trip. I then proceeded to the night market and bought dinner and some clothes. I could not have been more happy with the location.

Chiang Mai Thailand
Bathroom with hot water and free water

Breakfast and check out

Next morning, I walked down to the entrance and had a choice of breakfast. I choose the fried egg option, and I inquired about the pool because I had not run into it yet. I was informed it was across the street. Sure enough, the pool was conveniently located right across the street. This was not far because the street was quite narrow.

Backpacking Thailand
Another view of the Mandala House room with air-conditioning and TV present

Conclusion

The Mandala House in Chiang Mai was exactly what I was looking for. The price for the room turned out to be only $16.00 and the breakfast was around another $3.00. I know some backpackers prefer to spend under $10.00 and sometimes even under $5.00. There are plenty of options available in Chiang Mai for those prices, but I was looking for a single room, a pool, and A-C, so I was willing to spend a little more. I am glad I chose Mandala House and would happily return.