Using your cell phone abroad can be expensive, assuming your calling plan even allows you to do so. Fortunately, there is an easy and cheap way to use your cell phone overseas. Just follow the steps described below.
Things You'll Need:
An unlocked cell phone with GSM technology
A global SIM card, or a SIM card for the country you're visiting
Make sure you have a cell phone that uses GSM technology. T-Mobil phones, as well as some AT&T phones use GSM Technology in the US.
Unlock the cell phone so that it can be used on any network. To do this, purchase an "unlock code" available from http://www.thetravelinsider.info/roadwarriorcontent/nokiaunlocking.htm . You need to do this if your cell phone was bought in the US. Or even easier, just buy an unlocked cell phone in your destination country. This is a one time investment of just a few dollars, and you can use the unlocked cell phone in almost any country in the world.
Buy a SIM card in your destination country, which you can pop into your unlocked cell phone. SIM cards are widely available in stores. You will get a local phone number and local calling rates for that country, and when the time on the card expires, you can just buy a refill card to replenish your minutes. You can also buy international cell phone plans before leaving the US, at http://www.telestial.com/, although there's really no need to.
Swap out the SIM card when you travel to a new country with a SIM card bought in that country. It's as simple as that - everywhere you go, you can just buy a local SIM card for a few dollars and use it in the same unlocked cell phone. And if you travel back to the first country, you can always use the unused time on the old SIM card by swapping it back into your cell phone (unless it has expired in the meantime). In any case, this method is much cheaper than international roaming charges incurred using a US-based cell phone abroad.
And now you're all set to use your cell phone overseas for cheap!
Tips & Warnings
You can receive free phone calls from anyone using the SIM card, so your folks can call you from back in the US, once they have your international number.
Calling to the US from abroad using your SIM card might be expensive, but you can just buy another calling card for international calls, which will give you a better rate.