Cell phone rental is a very good option for the occasional traveler, as you can avoid the incredibly expensive roaming charges that may be involved with using your regular cell phone overseas, and even then, your usual phone may not even work in other countries!
Typically, you can rent a phone from a company, which will also package in a temporary phone number and a certain amount of airtime. Whether you're just on vacation or taking an extended business trip, if you want to keep in touch with those around you, renting a cell phone may be the way to go.
Cell Phone Rental
The vast majority of the world operates on a GSM-based network (like Rogers Wireless and T-Mobile), rather than a CDMA-based one (like Telus Mobility and Sprint). But that's not to say that any GSM phone will work with any GSM network!
There is the issue having a locked or unlocked phone (check out our article on Locked And Unlocked Phones for more information), as well as the different "bands" or "frequencies" that are involved. Generally speaking, in North America, GSM operators use the 850MHz and 1900MHz bands, whereas in Europe and parts of Asia, they use the 900MHz and 1800Mhz bands. In this way, getting a quad-band (850/900/1800/1900) GSM "world phone" is the best bet and it is typically a handset of this type that cell phone rental companies offer.
Pros and Cons to Renting
In short, the pros and cons to renting a cell phone are:
Pros: No roaming charges, newer handset to use, guaranteed service, no long-term commitment
Cons: Can get pricey if used for extended periods, "used" cell phones, usually lower-end handsets offered, friends won't know your temporary number
Useful Cell Phone Rental Websites
In nearly every country of the world, there is a cell phone service provider to keep you connected to the rest of the world. While you may not be able to waltz into any given store and ask for a cell phone rental, there are countless websites out there that offer this very valuable service. Here are four of the best known companies that will rent you a cell phone for a day, a week, or longer.
- Cellular Abroad: This has got to be one of the most prominent companies out there when it comes to renting a cell phone for international use. They serve a wide of destinations ranging from Argentina and Chile to Ukraine and Vietnam. Cellular Abroad, in addition to cell phone rental, also offers SIM card purchases and phone & SIM purchases. They have been in business for over five years, providing "you with economic solutions for international cell phones." Their FAQ is a good resource for cell phone rental information
- Mobal: Mobal goes about the cell phone rental and satellite phone rental in a slightly different way. They are more interesting in selling you a GSM world phone. While this may be off-putting for some, bear in mind that a Mobal GSM world phone can be had for as little as $49, so you'll only need to pay for a SIM card and airtime. They do have cellular phone rental packages, though, for international, North America, Japan, and Korea.
- PlanetFone: PlanetFone's biggest selling point is that they are "very affordable." A standard rental runs about $40 for one week, with significant discounts for longer rentals ($99/month, etc.). Airtime charges are on top, and depend on the country of destination (about $1-$3/minute).
- PuPuRu: Happen to be taking a trip to the land of the rising sun? PuPuRu caters specifically to travelers destined to Japan. Their mobile phone plans cost 399 Japanese Yen (about US$3.70) per day.