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bren 5 Dec 2010 03:37

Planning a trip from Canada to USA, Mexico and Central America. What are people using out there on the road, regular cell phone, smart phones, other. We have never even owned a cell phone so we are overwhelmed with the options. What works best and is cost effective? Thanks.

markharf 5 Dec 2010 05:20

I never used my cell after leaving the States for Latin America, and I never use it in Canada either (too expensive either way). I used Skype when I needed to make international calls (cheap) and phone shops-"cabinas"- or other people's mobile phones otherwise (cheap and sometimes free).

Always having to worry about getting the right sim cards for each country and keeping them charged up with minutes seemed like a lot of trouble to me. Paying for smartphone use seemed ridiculously expensive....and why do I want to carry a phone that costs almost as much as my bike is worth, more or less?

Don't know if that helps, but it worked for me for 70,000 km so maybe it'll work for you.


ozhanu 6 Dec 2010 00:38

i think a normal phone which can work in all frequency can help you. also sending and receiving text messages (sms) is not that expensive abroad and would be good to keep in touch with your relatives and friends.

you can get such a phone for 50-100 usd from e-bay (nokia e51 for instance). don't forget to buy a pay-as-you-go sim card and top it up before you leave.

skype and other computer dependent communication styles can be cheap, but, you need to find a computer or carry one with internet connection.

markharf 6 Dec 2010 03:52

Most riders seem to carry netbooks or full-on laptops these days. If you really want a phone, be careful buying in the USA or Canada. The two things you need to remember are: "quad band" and "unlocked." Most phones sold in the States will not work in South America (wrong bands) and many are locked against using your own sim card.

Buying in Europe is different, of course.

Hope that helps.


TurboCharger 6 Dec 2010 15:36


Originally Posted by markharf (Post 314932)
The two things you need to remember are: "quad band" and "unlocked."


Use your own unlocked phone that supports the frequency in the destination country (countries).

Buy a local pre-paid SIM card is usually the cheapest option.

Downside is that you constantly change numbers... you decide whether to opt for convenience or price.

Personally I like my HP IPAQ smart phone (without data roaming) so I can use the functions on it like wifi or word or excel... I also have GS-911 that connect to my phone using bluetooth. Pretty handy for remote diagnostics of my GS.

colebatch 29 Dec 2010 13:15

i use local SIM cards in smartphones, and use netbooks via wifi and via USB GSM dongles as well.

Richard-NL 29 Dec 2010 15:50

And what about this:


Sawyer 29 Dec 2010 19:31

My feeling is it's not really necessary to have a cell phone, for if it's only to call someone when you need help, well who will you call? I think it's better to rely on the good people you meet when you have troubles, for they will be there first. Also if you want to call home, in any town almost you can just step inside a cabina, and call with a few coins. I agree also with the others, Skype and email is far more realistic and easier than getting a new card and minutes for every country in Central America.

Flibber T Gibbet | Surreality is what you see before your eyes do, before one’s instincts are misleaD


normw 30 Dec 2010 01:35

World Phone / World SIM
Outfits like Brightroam will sell you, quite inexpensively, an unlocked GSM cell phone and a world SIM card that will work in most countries. The service is then post paid. I.E. you open an account, give them a credit card number, and then only pay for the time you actually use. The charges per minute are far less than roaming costs typically charged by North American cell carriers and you have one unchanging telephone number. Incoming texts are free, which is a plus.

These sorts of companies also typically sell some country specific SIM cards. If you use them within that country (e.g. I have one for Italy and one for the U.S.) the cost per minute is less than using a world SIM. These country specific SIMs will also work outside the particular country but at a higher per minute cost.

Sometimes you can benefit from promotions (e.g. no charge for a SIM card if you open an account).

It's a pretty cheap and simple way of maintaining the ability to communicate in a pinch and there is no ongoing monthly cost or up front prepaid use committement.

The SIMs I bought do expire in 90 days but I extended them for a year for $20.

Selous 21 Jan 2011 11:15

When i was in Aisa, & Oz just took my old Nokia (Quad Band) and brought sim cards on the way round, & just before I left that country found a backpacker sold it to them for a lot less than i got it for still with money on it.

HendiKaf 27 Jul 2011 14:47

any of you guys use skype phone , looks pretty cheap and wifi is available almost in every big city .

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