T-Mobile offers an incredible deal for travelers. All of their monthly plans offer free text messages and mobile data in over 120 countries worldwide.
On previous trips, I’ve done everything from buy a local SIM card in every country to pay AT&T upfront for way-overpriced international phone, text, and data packages. On this round-the-world trip, I kept my phone and phone number and got free text messaging and mobile data in five of the six countries I visited. In all my trips abroad, this was the most stress-free when it came to staying connected.
How does the T-Mobile plan work? What countries does it cover? What was my experience?
You may have noticed the intense competition among American wireless providers in the last year. T-Mobile took a novel approach to attract subscribers and completely did away with contracts.
When I came back from eight months abroad last year, I had a phone but no phone contract. I didn’t want to sign a contract, so I was attracted to T-Mobile.
T-Mobile offers four monthly plans, and they are all month-to-month plans.
All four plans offer unlimited talk, text, and data. Where they differ is how much of the highest speed data you get per month. If you reach that limit, you still get unlimited data, but you get it at the slowest (Edge) speeds.
I selected the $60 per month plan and was generally happy with my service. Then I went abroad, and I was thrilled with my service.
All four of the plans include “Unlimited international data & text in 120+ countries and destinations PLUS unlimited international texting from the U.S. to virtually anywhere.”
On my trip, I was visiting:
All of those countries except Slovenia were on the free list.
So in Macau, Singapore, Cambodia, England, and Germany, I turned my phone on after landing, and I could text friends and family in the United States. I could use my phone for email, maps, and everything else even when I was not at my hotel on wifi. And all of it was free.
I could not make free phone calls. Phone calls back to the United States cost $0.20 per minute. I accidentally dialed my voice mail a few times during the trip and ran up under $1 in charges.
Local calls were even more expensive. I lost my passport for about an hour in Macau, and in the mad scramble, I made a few calls to my hotel which cost me $2.39 per minute. (Best $17 I ever spent to figure out that the passport wasn’t in my room, so it must be in the taxi and have them contact the taxi driver and get him to drive it back to me!)
For whatever reason, Slovenia, an EU member, is not on the free list. Data in Slovenia would have cost me a whopping $15 per MB! I use about 60 MB a day of data on my phone at home. I don’t want to spend $900 a day on data charges, so when I landed in Slovenia, I kept my phone in airplane mode, only used it on wifi, and made do without data when I left my hostel.
Since international data can sometimes be extremely expensive, I was very careful when using T-Mobile’s free plan. First I checked that my countries were on the free list. Then I called a T-Mobile rep to double check. Then I anxiously awaited my bill after returning home. Other than the $17 spent on roaming phone calls that I mentioned above, my bill was for the normal $60 plus taxes that it always costs!
Is T-Mobile a Good Deal for You?
There are a number of factors to consider. International data and texting prices are only two factors. For me, T-Mobile is a good fit because I want a contract-free plan, had my own phone already, and travel a lot. For you, some other company may offer a better deal.
Have you used T-Mobile’s free international data and texting? Do you know of a better phone deal for travelers?