Free Voice and Data While Traveling Outside the US

Recently I took a vacation outside of the United States and spent two weeks traveling throughout the incredible country of Ecuador.  Even though I wanted to keep in touch with my team, clients and family members, I was not interested in spending ridiculous amounts of money for International phone and data fees.  Especially after I spoke with Verizon (my cellular provider) and they informed me that there was a good chance that I would not have coverage in several of the areas that I was planning on being at.

After doing some research in voice and data options in Ecuador and other South American countries, I learned that most hotels and tourist sites, even remote locations, have great WiFi coverage and decent Internet speeds – at least 25 Mbps down and 5 Mbps up.   So Internet wouldn’t be an issue for my laptop and my cell phone, so I just needed a solution for voice calls and the occasional text message.

I did some additional Google searching and found websites for ex-pats from the US that were in South America.  What they were doing was ingenious and I’m disappointed that I did not think about it myself!  They were enabling WiFi calling on their Verizon (AT&T and other carriers offer this as well) prior to leaving the US, and then when they leave for out of the country, they enabled their Airplane mode.  Once they arrived to their destination, they kept the Airplane mode on and only enabled the WiFi.  After they connected to a WiFi connection out of the country, they had full voice, data and text capabilities and ZERO additional costs.

Rather than call Verizon again, I used their customer chat feature which is just a Facebook chat, but I wanted to make sure that I had it in writing that this would be completely free.  The Verizon customer service person kept trying to sell me on various International plans and danced around the fact that what the ex-pats were saying was accurate.  After ten minutes, they put in writing that it would be completely free and just enjoy my vacation!

Technically I understood why and how it was free, because I was just using the free Internet to allow my phone to connect back to Verizon services based in the US, and then it is as if I’m still in the US.  The only catch would be if I called a local (Ecuador) number, then it would be an International call because my calls are originating from the US.

So if you plan on doing any international travelling for either vacation or business, this is one free solution that I would recommend.  Every hotel, restaurant and even national parks had free WiFi in Ecuador and I’m guessing that most of South America, and other continents are the same way.

Written by Frank Stephens



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