International roaming with T-Mobile

By Rich & Joan Blacharski
This item appears on page 15 of the January 2017 issue.

T-Mobile ( is wonderful. 

Our service plan with T-Mobile includes unlimited data for our two phones for $120 a month and for our tablet for another $20.

We took a 2-month trip, Sept. 13-Nov. 3, 2016, visiting eight capital cities in Eastern and Central Europe: Budapest, Bratislava, Vienna, Ljubljana, Zagreb, Belgrade, Sophia and Bucharest. During the trip, we enjoyed unlimited data (Internet, email, Google Maps, Google Translate, etc.) and unlimited texting.*

Under a T-Mobile plan, you get data and text roaming for FREE on the local cellular networks. These networks could be 2G, 3G or 4G speed, depending on the city. If you must make a call and do not have Wi-Fi to connect to, phone calls cost 20¢ a minute. 

We traveled by train from city to city. Whenever we came across a decent-size city along the train route, we had cellular service. We paid attention to whether or not local passengers were using their cell phones. Sometimes they had service and we did not.

We hooked into the Wi-Fi at our hotels and called the US for free. We also could have created a Wi-Fi hotspot with the tablet and connected the phones to do free calling. 

One warning — before you make a call over Wi-Fi, you must change your setting to disconnect from cellular networks. We have found that when the phone is, instead, set to ‘Wi-Fi preferred,’ the roaming network would still grab our call. 

After you are done with any Wi-Fi calls, change your setting back to ‘Wi-Fi preferred’ or just use the cellular network so your text and data work.

This information should also be helpful to people who travel internationally on cruise ships. The Internet service on most cruise ships is very expensive (40¢ to $1 per minute) and very slow (like dial-up). (Fortunately, the newer ships are getting faster connections that are almost as good as our service at home.)

On an upcoming around-the-world cruise, January-April 2017, instead of purchasing Internet access on the ship, all our communications (email, text and Skype) will be via T-Mobile-connected phone and tablet. (We may buy a small Internet package on the ship for emergency use — 250 minutes for $100.)

To the fullest extent possible, we will access Internet by T-Mobile only in ports and avoid the slow and expensive Internet on the ship. We have typed our itinerary into a spreadsheet and listed the ports where T-Mobile is available.

We hope to not need Internet while at sea (where there are no cell phone networks) and will try to manage things so we need NO ship’s Internet.

Cumming, GA 

* The T-Mobile ONE phone service plan offers free international data and texting in more than 140 countries and territories, including most, but not all, countries in Europe.