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This is part of the series: How to work remotely from Buenos Aires

international iphone settingsThere’s no doubt smartphones have changed the lives of millions. We put up with the costs and hassles of the carriers because we pretty much now have a computer that we can carry around in our pocket, giving us access to a phone (do people still use those?), texting for quick messages, maps when we get lost, music to make us happy, games to kill the time, photos and videos to share, and the entire web at our fingertips.

But if there is one area of confusion and fear that most smartphone owners have, it is what happens when you take that phone across international borders. This article by Caty Kobe on outrageous cell phone bills gives several examples:

A British news site reportedthat an iPhone user had gone on a Mediterranean cruise and returned to England to find a 54-page phone bill totaling $4,800. The iPhone didn’t know it was cruising through foreign waters, so it was checking for new emails every five minutes – even when the phone was off – racking up hefty charges by the hour.

A NY Times article where San Francisco man whose European vacation cost him an additional $852 because he didn’t deactivate the iPhone’s automatic email-checker, which looked for new messages more than 500 times on his trip through Italy, Croatia and Malta.

If you DO want to use your phone overseas, what is the best option?
– Sign up for an international plan?
– Buy a SIM card?
– Rent a phone in the country you are visiting?
– Buy a prepaid phone card?

Your choice will vary based on they type of travel you are doing and just how connected you need to be. My opinion is in the video below.

If you decide NOT to use your phone, how do you set the iPhone so you don’t get huge charges?
Hint: you’re going to want to turn off the two settings in the “network” section. Needless to say, a lot of money is at stake with getting these settings right, and it’s not always comforting to rely on friends, blogs, Apple reps, or the crack customer service teams at the carriers. (And since I fall into that category, let me give a disclaimer saying please check your owner’s manual for exact instructions and I’m not responsible if you’re the next person the news reports come calling for).

Here is my video tutorial with screenshots to tell you how to set your iPhone for international travel:

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