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  • Alisha Miranda
  • "How do you use an iPhone 6 abroad?"

Alisha Miranda

New York, New York

How do you use an iPhone 6 abroad?

Hi I just got a brand new iPhone 6, but need to learn how to activate it and use it abroad. I will be going to Buenos Aires and Uruguay. I've never used a smartphone overseas, but will need to on this upcoming trip. What's the most cost-effective way to do so? I will be traveling for 3 weeks through South America and can't afford a big cell phone bill.

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  • Elliott Lowen

    top answer by

    Congratulations on travelling to Monte Video and BA. I assume you want to be cost effective and not run up a huge cell phone bill by using your US carrier. Therefore, I assume you are wondering how you can stay in touch with loved ones back home without running up costly roaming fees. You can always buy a roaming pack from your cell phone carrier, suffer through pay-as-you-go rates (very expensive and not something we'd recommend), or maybe just leave your phone at home and pray for frequent Internet access.

    You can, however, take your IPhone 6 with you and pay much cheaper rates for calls, texts and data than your carrier would have you believe. What you need to do is swap out your regular US SIM card for a specially made global or travel SIM, you can access affordable voice call and texting prices, as well as go online without having to take out a second mortgage.

    With your iPhone6, there's a few things you need to check.

    Firstly, to use a travel SIM in your device, you'll need to make sure that your iphone is "network unlocked". When you buy a device through a carrier, it's usually 'locked' to that network - meaning you can't simply take your phone and use it on a rival carrier's plan.

    Depending on who your original carrier is, you may be able to have your phone unlocked by the cell company themselves, so I recommend either giving the company’s customer service hotline a call or visiting their website. Unlocking iPhones can be done by contacting your carrier, but they will forward the request to Apple to be processed; alternatively, you can fill out an online form on the Apple.com site.

    There is a very small door on the side of your Iphone 6 designed to house the SIM Card. This can be swapped out and just inserted if your phone does not use SIM technology.

    Travel to BA - HOW TO BUY A PAY AS YOU GO SIM...

    If you're on vacaciones in Buenos Aires or not on any sort of proper work visa, you’re not going to be able to get a mobile plan and will have to use a prepaid/pay-as-you-go SIM. This is what we address setting up in the following.

    Step 1: There’s 3 main carriers in Buenos Aires but just go with Movistar. While they won’t always be the cheapest (but sometimes they are – like most things I understand this moves around) they do reportedly have the best coverage and their SIMs are stocked everywhere. You can’t walk down Av Santa Fe(or similar) for very long without seeing a Movistar sign (see below). When you do, go in and ask for a ‘Tarjeta SIM’. Make sure you show them which iPhone6 you have - as iPhone6 for example are very rare in Buenos Aires due to the prohibitive cost (at US$500-600 that’s the equivalent of some people’s salaries in Buenos Aires), and the Tarjetas are often a less used form-factor. Expect the SIM to cost about 20 pesos.

    Step 2: Charge your card. The $20 for buying the card is just for that – ie. buying the card. Within an hour of putting the SIM in the photo it should automatically connect to the network and show reception, but you won’t be able to phone/message/surf the net yet because there is no money on your account. Now you need to find one of these:

    …which is basically the Argentinian equivalent of a 7-11 or small convenience store. You won’t have to look hard to find one, they’re more or less on every street corner, and if the first one you wander into doesn’t offer recharge just walk along to the next street corner. If you’re not sure what to ask for when recharging say ‘Yo quiero a recarga mi Movistar SIM por favour’ which more-or-less translates as “Listen muchacho, get some credit on this SIM pronto” (ok, it might be slightly politer than that). The checkout gringo/chica will then either pick up something that looks like a card-swiping-machine-thingy (mindblank) and ask for your mobile number (the 8 digits after the ’11’ or ’15’ on the packet your SIM came in or will hand you a receipt with the recharge details, and you’ll have to manually call and add the credit. .

    Step 3: So you’ve added credit to your phone – great! Now you can Whatsapp, Google map and check your emails to your heart’s content right? Wrong. Having added credit you now have the ability to phone and text – THAT’S IT. To use data services, access the internet etc you need to purchase a data package from Movistar. But don’t worry, adding credit to your phone was the hard part. Getting data access simply involves choosing the data plan you want, then texting Movistar at a pre-determined number with the name of the package and – voila! – you should have data access within the hour.


    Check http://movistar.com.ar/planes/prepago/paquetes/ for all the different ‘add-on’ packages with Movistar, with the package name and number to text. It’s in Spanish but it’s all pretty self-evident, and if you do have trouble understanding don’t message me, get on a plane and go back home because you’re too challenged to be travelling by yourself.

    That’s it!

    A quick note on Spanish mobile numbers – they all start with ’15’ or ’11’ and are followed by another 8 digits which is the actual phone number. I recommend storing every mobile number you collect in Buenos Aires in your phone as ‘+549 11 XXXX XXXX’ (the country code for Argentina – ’54’ – plus the area code for Buenos Aires – ‘9’), because this will automatically allow you to find local Whatsapp etc users. If you just store the number as ’11 XXXX XXXX’ they won’t come up in your contact list for Whatsapp and similar apps.


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    • Elliott L.

      Elliott L.

      The issue is, as I encountered, if you buy your iphone 6 from certain carriers. I bought mine from Verizon and, unfortunately, it was networked locked until I specifically requested it be unlocked. If I had bought the exact same phone from the local apple store, it would have come unlocked. · (0 likelikes)

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  • Jen Dudley

    answered by

    If you have T-mobile they offer free data roaming, unlimited free text messaging and 20 cents a minute calling from 160 countries world wide. I use my iphone 5 and recently switched to T-mobile for this reason. I have had flawless coverage in Costa Rica, Germany, Austria, France, Switzerland and France so far. The phone will automatically search for the new carrier in the country--just make sure you have data roaming turned on. So easy. It is only 3G coverage, (you can buy 4G data time if you want) but it is still free! Best move I have ever made by switching from Verizon to T-mobile, especially if you see yourself traveling abroad at least once a year. Before T-mobile, I used onesimcard.com. Data was still expensive, but at least calling was cheap--though I find data much more useful when traveling.

    Oh and iPhone 5 and beyond are already unlocked---there is nothing you need to do with the carrier if you want to switch your SIM to an international SIM.

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  • Ronnie Paskin

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    Unless you paid full price for your phone, it's probably locked and you won't be able to use another SIM card. I'd buy another cheap unlocked phone and get a local prepaid SIM card. You can still bring your iPhone and use it on wifi. Or if the other phone can work as a hotspot (get an Android, I've bought older unlocked ones for less than US$100) you can get the iPhone online through that. one more idea, if you have an old iPhone you can probably ask the carrier to unlock it for you. Just call them.

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  • Kristina Kupka

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    Its more about what your provider (AT&T, Verizon, etc) offers for traveling abroad. I have AT&T and recently went to Mexico and got a deal for 80 minutes for $30 which also included some texts and data usage. But a good thing to do when you go out of the country and take your phone is to turn off cellular data and data roaming (under Settings, Cellular).

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  • Samantha Phoenix

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    I believe that terms depends on the provider. Some companies have international rates. I would call them and talk to someone in person, but don't let them bully you into getting an international package. It might be cheaper to get a burner phone.

    I try not to use my cell at all, unless there is wifi available. I also make sure my roaming is off. If it's a vacation, unplug for a bit! Just use your phone to take some amazing pics of your trip!

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  • Ragan Sommerhalder

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    I hope you have a fabulous time! We have always taken our phones with us, mostly because for the size the cameras are fabulous!, but we only have 1 connected so it can receive texts and emergency calls. We have Verizon as our carrier and they have international plans that include text, calls and data. The plan is $29.99 but I can't remember the amount of data...the thing you need to be aware of is that there isn't wifi everywhere outside the US..so check on cafes or even your hotel where you can send an email or a note and upload your photos on Facebook instead of a phone call or a text...you will probably get a half hour for free and then have to purchase more...and besides when your on vacation who wants everybody to be able to call you?

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