Buying tips - A guide to buying a phone or SIM card for your trip

Which phone service is best for me?
Will my existing phone work in the country that I am traveling to?
If my existing phone won’t work, what type of phone should I buy?
How do I forward my existing number to my new roaming number?
What is a SIM card?
Will a different SIM card work in my existing phone?
How do I unlock my existing phone?

Which phone service is best for me?

Going on short a vacation or holiday to another country?

Enjoy the benefits of ISIConnect's Global Service

  • Coverage in most countries of the world with a +1 USA and +44 British Isles number
  • Low cost to purchase the service
  • Competitive rates for calling back home and No connection fee
  • Very low data rates in many countries including europe
  • Free to contact Customer Service in most countries
  • Family and friends can call you for free using our toll free access numbers. This is absolutely free for you for a total of 30 minutes (thereafter a surcharge applies)
  • Buy more minutes anywhere, anytime via the web, over the phone, via 24/7 Customer service and using auto-recharge
  • No joining fee, contracts or monthly bills

Visiting several countries in a region or staying in a country for an extended period of time?

Enjoy the benefits of ISIConnect's Passport, and Home and Roam Services:

  • Coverage in most countries of the world with a +1 USA and +44 British Isles number
  • Highly competitive rates for making international calls home, receiving calls, and using Data
  • Buy more minutes anywhere, anytime via the web, over the phone, via 24/7 Customer service, and using auto-recharge
  • No joining fees, contracts or monthly bills

Visiting a specific country on a regular basis, or for a longer period of time?

ISIConnect offers local services or domestic services. These services offer low rates for local calls and local a phone number in that country. In general, these services do not work outside the country for which they are designed.

  • Coverage throughout one country
  • Cheap calls within one or two countries at low per minute rates
  • Make cheap international calls, using the ISIConnect global phonecard
  • Receive a local phone number for that country
  • No joining fees, contracts or monthly bills

Will my existing phone work in the country that I am traveling to?

If you are from the United States or Canada and are planning to travel to Europe, Asia, Australia or South America, chances are your existing cell phone will not work in the country you are traveling to. If you are from the UK or Australia, your phone may not work in North America.

There are two reasons for this.

  1. There are two main cell or mobile phone network technologies used in the world: GSM and CDMA (including PCS). 77% of the world uses GSM and GSM networks can be found virtually in every country including the United States. Approximately 20% of the world use CDMA and CDMA networks can be found in a number of countries, but primarily in the United States, Canada and Mexico. If you are from the US or Canada, you may have a CDMA phone which will only work on CDMA networks.
  2. There are five GSM frequency bands used by network operators around the world (GSM frequency bands are the radio spectrum frequencies that the GSM system operate on). The frequencies and the countries in which they are used are summarized in the following table. If you are from the US or Canada, and have a GSM phone, your phone is likely to only have the frequencies that work in the US (GSM-850 and GSM-1900). If you are from Australia or the UK, your phone may not have the frequencies that work in the United States, Canada or Mexico.

Frequencies by region are typically:

Region GSM Frequency
Europe 900/1800MHz
Asia Pacific 900/1800MHz
North America 850/1900MHz
Canada 850/1900MHz (3G only)
Caribbean 900/1800/1900MHz
South America 900/1800/1900MHz

If you are planning to travel internationally, you need to check if your phone is GSM compatible and if it will work on the GSM frequency band used in the country you are traveling to. This information should be in the instruction manual that accompanied your existing phone when you purchased it, or you can call your network operator.

If my existing phone won't work, what type of phone should I buy?

If your phone will not work in the country you are traveling to you will need to buy a new GSM phone. You have a choice:

1. A dual band phone that works in the country you are traveling to, but not in your own country. There are different types of dual band phones:

Dual band phone types Suitable for:
850/1900MHz North America only
900/1800MHz Europe and Asia Pacific

2. A tri-band phone works in most countries (with the primary exceptions of Japan and South Korea). There are two main types of tri-band phone:

Tri-band phone types Suitable for:
900/1800/1900MHz Europe, Asia Pacific, North America and Caribbean
850/1800/1900MHz North America and Asia Pacific

3. A quad-band phone works in most countries (with the primary exceptions of Japan and South Korea).

Quad-band phone types Suitable for:
850/900/1800/1900MHz All GSM operators in the world

4. A 3G dual-mode phone works in Japan, South Korea and in the rest of most countries. These phones include combination of GSM and WCDMA (also known as 3G or UMTS) technology. There are two main types of dual-mode phone:

3G Dual-mode phone types Suitable for
3G/900/1800/1900MHz Excellent in Japan, South Korea, Europe, Asia/Pacific, Africa and Brazil. Very good for US/Canada, Central and South America and Caribbean
3G/850/1800/1900MHz Excellent in Japan, South Korea, USA/Canada, Central and South America. Not suitable for Europe, Asia/Pacific, Africa and Brazil.

Dual band phones are cheaper than tri-band phones because they don't work in as many countries. If you are concerned about the up front cost of a phone, the cheapest option is a dual band mobile phone. However we recommend a tri-band phone so you can use it when you have finished traveling.

If your existing phone will work in the country you are traveling to, you may be able to buy just a SIM card (without having to buy a new phone).

How do I forward calls to my existing number to my new roaming phone number?

You can forward calls to your existing number to your new roaming phone number by changing the settings in your existing phone.

  1. Turn your existing phone on.
  2. Follow the instructions on www.callforwardinginstructions.com. We recommend that you forward calls to your new roaming US +1 number, if your existing number is a US number (you will be charged the standard per minute cost to call a US number by your existing network operator).
  3. Turn your phone off and on again for the setting changes to take effect. Calls to your existing number will now be forwarded to your roaming number.
  4. When you return from your trip, repeat these instructions to disable call forwarding.

For instructions on how to enable call forwarding with network operator short codes, please click here.

Depending on your GSM operator, the cost to forward a call to another number may vary.

What is a SIM card?

A SIM card is the device (a small plastic card about the size of a thumb nail) that enables your phone to work and provide a phone service. The SIM card stores information that identifies the phone to the network service provider and thereby allows the phone to connect to the network and make calls. In many phones the SIM card can be removed and replaced with a different SIM card.

Will a different SIM card work in my existing phone?

A different SIM card will work in your existing phone if your phone is a GSM compatible phone and is not "locked" to your network provider.

Many network operators sell "locked" phones. "Locked" means that the phone is restricted by the network operator to work only on its� own or affiliate networks. If your existing phone is locked, you cannot use a SIM card supplied by another network provider without unlocking your phone first.

Check if your phone is locked - Your phone may be locked if you purchased it on contract or pay as you go. To check, insert a SIM card from another network into your phone and switch it on. If you are able to view the menu then your phone is unlocked. If the phone does not allow you to view the menu, but displays an error message such as "Phone restricted", "SIM not valid", or "SIM card not accepted, insert correct SIM card", your phone is most likely locked to your network provider. If you are not sure, contact your provider and ask them if your mobile phone is locked or not.

How do I unlock my existing phone?

In most cases it is a simple process to unlock your phone. You have several options:

  1. Ask your network provider to unlock your phone. Charges and instructions are available for network providers in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia at www.unlockingcodesforphones.com
  2. Purchase an unlocking code for any handset from online unlocking specialist, Unlockscodes.com. Unlocking codes are available within 24 hours (the wait can be up to one month from network providers) and prices start from just $3.99.
  3. Visit a local phone store. It will cost US$10 to US$20 to have your phone unlocked.
  4. Finally, we offer a range of very low cost unlocked tri-band phones that you can buy online, or if you are redeeming a voucher. There are many advantages of having a separate phone for your trip as it is easy to lose or break things when you travel!