Taking T-Mobile’s international calling tariffs as a guide for the average international calling rates in the US, a call from the United States to India could cost you $1.99 per minute. According to the current exchange rate, this translates to about ₹128 per minute!
Given the negative exchange rate, living in the United States is anyway an expensive affair for an Indian and using a mobile phone only adds to the cost of living. On the other hand, can we any longer imagine life without a mobile phone or Internet connectivity? So, while this expense is inevitable, it can definitely be minimised to some extent.
Using Your Phone in the United States
According to official statistics of non-immigrant visa issue, released by the US Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, a total of 68,992 Indians traveled to America in May 2017 on B1 and B2 (tourist) visas alone. A journey this popular is often seen as an opportunity by cellular service providers to offer tailormade plans, travel SIMs and calling cards, specifically designed for such travel. Therefore, finding an economical way to stay connected via your mobile phone in the United States is not a tough task.
Using your Indian SIM
You can always use your existing Indian SIM card in the United States and make discounted calls from there. What you need to do for this is to contact your service provider and buy an international roaming plan.
Don’t forget to get insurance.
It is recommended that you get travel insurance when traveling to USA, as medical expense (even for common flu) can run into hundreds of dollars! Here are some of the best insurance for US visitors.
DigitBin says, with 265.9 million subscribers, Airtel is the most popular mobile network in India and it provides a variety of international plans, such as:
- One day validity – This plan costs ₹649 and provides unlimited incoming calls; up to 500 MB of free data; 100 minutes of free calling, local and to India; and 100 free SMSes.
- Ten days validity – This plan costs ₹2,999 (₹299 per day) and provides unlimited incoming calls; up to 3 GB of free data; 250 minutes of free calling to Indian and local numbers; and 100 free SMSes.
- Thirty days validity – This plan costs ₹3,999 (₹133 per day) and also provides unlimited incoming calls, along with up to 5 GB of free data; 500 minutes of free calling (local and international) and 100 free SMSes.
You can buy a plan that suits you here.
If you are a frequent traveler, Airtel also provides an Airtel World SIM that can be used conveniently across 190 countries and even recharged online.
Using an American SIM card
Buying a mobile phone contract or a postpaid plan in the United States requires a credit check, which, in turn, requires you to have a credit history in the country. Therefore, a pay-as-you-go SIM card is the most feasible option for travelers to stay connected when in America.
T Mobile offers a cheap pay-as-you-go plan for tourists. For $30, it gives you 1,000 minutes of local and STD calling (not ISD), unlimited national and international SMSes; unlimited mobile data, 2GB of LTE data and hotspot enabling at 4GB LTE speed. Use their Store Locator to find out where to get their SIM or you could buy it online.
Using a SIM card is a more conventional way to connect internationally via your mobile phone. However, most places in the United States offer free Wi-Fi, which can be used to access mobile applications for messaging and calling, which are often free or at least cheaper. You can use Ringo for calling, WhatsApp for text messaging and Skype for video and audio calling.