The magic of cell phones has forever changed world travel. Instead of being of being unreachable while you're abroad, you can now have your friends and family keep in touch as you traverse distant lands (let's just hope work doesn't call you though). Yet as convenient as that may sound, the solutions for getting GSM cell phone service outside the United States have their drawbacks. If you roam with your U.S. number, the people back home can ring you on the cheap, but you'll incur pricey fees for any calls you make. In contrast, if you get a local SIM card while traveling you'll pay much less for calls but anyone phoning from the States will have to pay international rates.
So what to do? Is there a way to make is easy for both parties? Well, a company called RangeRoamer offers a solid solution. Available in 140 countries, the company's service offers a unique SIM card that uses two phone numbers. The first is a number based in Estonia, while the second is a toll-free 866 number based in the United States. The advantage of this two-tiered approach is clear. Callers from the U.S. can use the 866 number to call you at no charge to themselves--you'll pay for the calls though--while the Estonian number, thanks to roaming agreements with the Estonian carrier, gives you free incoming calls in 40 countries, mostly in Europe, as well as inexpensive rates to many places around the world.
To use RangeRoamer, you have a number of options available. For $30 you can buy a SIM card and use it in an unlocked GSM phone of your own. There are no other activation fees, though you will have to start off by buying $20 worth of airtime. Unfortunately, smart phones aren't supported at this time, which means business users will have to carry two handsets. Also, your unlocked phone should support the four GSM bands (850/900/1800/1900) for the best international coverage.
If you don't have an unlocked handset, you can buy a phone with the SIM card. They range from basic models to high-end phones, and each comes with a set of international charging adapters. You can get a Siemens A70 for $129, a Siemens CF110 for $179, a Motorola L6 for $229, a Motorola Pebl U6 for $279, a Motorola Razr V3 for $279, or a Motorola Krzr K1 for $379. (Japan and South Korea require a special Motorola Razr V3x.) If you prefer not to buy a handset, you can rent the Siemens A70 for $39 per week, which includes free shipping. There's no contract or activation fee for any of the phones, but again, you must also buy $20 of airtime. Also, if you want to use the 866 number, there's a $3.99 per month charge after the first month.
RangeRoamer's rates are relatively reasonable; a full list is available on the company's