For all the acclaim that Israel gets for technology, I was shocked at how slow the wi-fi service was while we visited there. With all the advanced security systems in place and all the tech startups and established R&D places there, I was expecting blazing internet service. Instead, I found internet service was based on DSL technology, and I had to ask why??? It was the slowest internet service I’ve experienced anywhere on the planet (though I’m sure I haven’t visited the places that are even slower).
While your experiences in Israel may differ from mine, the visit reinforced the need to plan for your tech needs as you plan your itinerary. In our case, I brought two phones, and we had Danit’s phone.
I ordered SIM cards for Israeli cellular service for my iPhone X and Danit’s iPhone before we left the US. They were ready for me at the airport, and using a little tool I carry, it was a simple matter to pop out our US SIM cards and install the Israeli cards. Our cost was $60 for the two cards, and we got 10 gigabytes each of data usage plus the ability to make unlimited calls worldwide. We also got the 4G cellular data service, and it was really fast.
Of course, that meant my iPhone X did not have my US phone number. That meant I lost access to voice mail for my number, and I lost the ability to receive text messages. The solution was to carry an old iPhone 5, which was activated for my US number. That gave me the ability to monitor US calls and texts and to use my “Israeli” phone to call and text as needed. The only issue with SIM cards in other countries is that you are likely to get text messages in the language of the country tied to the phone number. Along that line, if you are using your phone for GPS car navigation, you should check your settings to make sure you get displays and voice directions in English – and maybe in kilometers, too.
There are a number of workarounds for phone-number challenges. One is to get a Google Voice number through Google. You can then forward that to any phone number you want, such as the phone number tied to your SIM card in another country. I chose to get a US phone number in Israel for my Israeli phone, and people who needed to reach me immediately could use that number. That helped me balance time away while being accessible.
If you are averse to getting a SIM card and changing your phone number, you can arrange for international service with your cellular carrier. That can be expensive (“expensive” can be a relative term), and if you have an iPhone phone that you bought from a Verizon store, you’re stuck with just a CDMA radio in your phone. Without getting overly technical, CDMA is one of the two radio systems used in cell phones, and it’s used in the US. GSM is the other radio system, and it’s used worldwide.
Most Android-based phones, all iPhones sold in AT&T stores and iPhones sold in Apple stores have both radios built in, giving you seamless service if you decided to use an international phone plan from your carrier. If you are planning to buy a new iPhone and want to use Verizon as your carrier, we recommend buying it in the Apple store to get both radios and keep more options available.
If you opt not to have cellular service on your phone, you can still use wi-fi for email, browsing and making calls through various apps, such as WhatsApp, Viber, Skype and others. Just be aware of security needs when using public networks. You can also rent a cellphone in the country you are visiting.
We can help you plan for tech needs for travel. Give us a call – 973-433-6676 – or email us to talk about what’s available in the countries you’ll be visiting.