Unlocked cell phones: A must-have for travelers

travelersBest Buy offers unlocked phones for every traveler’s budget. They range from the basic, budget-friendly cell phone to unlocked Android phones. Here’s what you need to know if you’re planning to buy an unlocked phone for a travel.

I love traveling and I’ve learned a lot during my experiences abroad, especially how important it is to be well prepared before visiting a foreign country. If you’re a frequent traveler or planning an international trip, here’s a practical tip to remember: Buy an unlocked cell phone ahead of time. It’s sure to save you a lot of headache and some money.

Why? The obvious reason is that it is never smart to use your regular cell phone abroad as international roaming rates can be very expensive. Besides, if you own a smartphone and forget to turn data roaming off on your phone overseas (even if you don’t Web surf or check email the entire time), you could come home to an astronomical bill.

So…what is an unlocked cell phone?
When you buy a cell phone in the U.S, it is usually tied to your wireless carrier’s network.However, an unlocked cell phone comes with a SIM card slot, which makes it easy to use the phone with different carriers.  This is ideal if you’re traveling overseas — you can simply buy a prepaid SIM card at the destination and insert it into your phone to start making calls at cheap local rates.

Travel tip: I’ve noticed that SIM card prices tend to be much higher at the airport so wait until you’re in the city before you buy a card.

Which unlocked cell phone to buy?
Here are some features to keep an eye out for when buying an unlocked cell phone for travel:

1. GSM
The first thing to look for is a GSM compatible cell phone as most of the countries in the world use the GSM network. GSM cell phone models come with a SIM card slot. If you’re an AT&T or T-Mobile subscriber, your cell phone is already using the GSM network. However, Verizon and Sprint run on a different CDMA network. CDMA phones may not work abroad as many don’t come with removable SIM cards and are not compatible with GSM technology.

2. Dual-band, tri-band or quad-band?
There are four GSM frequency bands– 850, 1900, 900 and 1800. Different countries support different bands. So it is important to check beforehand that your unlocked GSM phone supports the correct frequency, otherwise it will not work abroad. If you’re a frequent flyer, consider buying an unlocked quad-band cell phone, which will work almost anywhere in the world. Best Buy carries a selection of unlocked quad-band phones which are perfect for international travel.

Here’s a handy chart to help you figure out which frequency bands work in which country.

3. Basic phone or smartphone?
Best Buy offers unlocked phones for every traveler’s budget. They range from the basic, budget-friendly cell phone to unlocked Android phones. The choice is entirely up to you and depends on your travel needs and budget.  If you like to check e-mail and Facebook on your trips then it might be worth investing in an unlocked smartphone.

Is an Unlocked Phone Right For Me?
Why Buy an Unlocked Phone?
Unlocked Phones
Unlocked Android Phones
Unlocked Basic Phones


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  1. I just called my local Best Buy store and they said they don’t sell unlocked phones. Where can I buy them?

    • Bryan,

      All of our Best Buy mobile stores carry unlocked phones. Check out what the online selection has to offer (http://bit.ly/17GbAY6); then just find a mobile specialty store near you that carries that phone.


  2. i have a smartphone…how can i tell if it’s unlocked?

  3. I also travel a lot as well as use my phone here in the U.S. so I’ve now bought 2 phones from Yippz.com . They sell dual-sim manufactured unlocked phones from rugged to Android and they work worldwide. I can put an H2O SIM in one slot and when I travel I buy a SIM card from the country I’m in, put it in slot 2 and I’ve got a local phone for the duration of my trip. The technology is so simple these days, there is no reason to ever buy a contract phone or a carrier locked phone.

  4. Hello my name is Lawrence, i want to know if you can help me order Samsung Galaxy and iphone 5s.. Please get back to me if it’s possible so i can order for them. Thank you

  5. I am thinking of buying an unlocked Galaxy 5 phone so I can use it in Chile. But in a couple of years I’d like to replace it with a newer model. Would be able to trade in my Galaxy 5 then? If so, roughly what percentage of its value would it retain for trade-in purposes? Thanks!

  6. Hi,
    Can I use an unlocked smartphone in Europe and then here in US? I’m going to buy a smartphone for using in France and then when I come back I plan to use it here. I have Verizon provider and I don;t think that they support GSM. Is there any no contract plan? Thank you,

  7. Hello
    I am with Verizon and I would like to buy an unlocked phone to use when I travel separate all together so I do not even take my current phone. Do I have to even use my current carrier to do this? I am going to the store Monday to get a phone for my trip to London and Paris next week. I will just pick up the sim card there. I plan to use the phone for text, a few calls, some internet and possible emails. Is this possible? Thanks for the feedback!!

  8. Going to Aruba need a phone to call home in NJ nothing fancy