International SIM cards
International SIM cards for travel: what I wish I knew.
If you’re traveling abroad for an extended period of time, it makes sense to grab a SIM card when you arrive. This may or may not be obvious, but: for this new SIM card to work in your phone, it needs to be unlocked. Aware of this, I walk into an AT&T store the day before I leave to get it taken care of. The lady turned me away as soon as I got in the door because I could “just do it online”. Easy enough, right? So I go online and knock it out.
Cut to: I buy a Vietnamese SIM at the Hanoi airport with unlimited monthly 4G/LTE for $9 (USD). Next thing I know, I’m sitting at my Airbnb on hold with AT&T Customer Support back in the States. I’m trying to find out why I haven’t received the unlock email their website promised to send me. Now, the website is very clear that you must confirm the unlock request through a link in the email within 24 hours, or you will need to start the process over. Meanwhile, the rep takes me off hold to tell me I should receive the email within 48-72 hours… Things aren’t adding up, and they know it too.
I finally get a supervisor who will expedite my request and have my phone unlocked within 1-2 hours. They tell me I will receive a text message letting me know it’s been done. I never get that text, but I wait 3 hours and then swap the SIMs. Success.
Everything worked out (after some minor bitching to get a manager). I just wish someone would have warned me ahead of time, so I could enjoy my first day in a new country!
TL;DR - unlock your phone before traveling internationally (if you want to pick up a local SIM card at your destination).