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How to Use Your iPhone for Free Abroad For Free

How to Use Your iPhone for Free Abroad

Today we go everywhere with our phones and traveling without them is not an option. However, data roaming fees, excessive charges for texts and calls can lead to many people turning off their phone and leaving in in the room. Luckily there are ways to use your iPhone abroad for free. This requires no jailbreaking or unlocking iPhones. The key is to be flexible and to realize you may not always have access to texting, calling, and the internet at all times when traveling but you can get them all for free.

How to Use iMessage for Free

There are many apps out there that let you text for free but the iPhone allows you to send unlimited texts over wifi for free using iMessage.

iMessage is built right in to the messaging app so there is nothing you need to do to activate this feature. There are some limitations to this.

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These will only be free (abroad) over wifi and only to other people with iMessage. This means you must be texting someone who uses an iPhone with iMessage. iMessage is part of any iPhone with iOS 6, 7, and 8 so most people will already have it. For myself, this is easy because over half the people I text have iPhones and free WiFi is easy to find in most cities. You may not be able to text at any given moment but at most restaurants or cafes you will be able to connect. You don’t even have to go inside and buy a drink, just stand on the sidewalk and connect. Locked WiFi? Just ask if you are a customer. I always do and the server is happy to provide it to me.

Of course WiFi can be used to make free calls over Skype and Google Voice.

Be sure to always turn off your data when using your iPhone overseas to be sure you don’t get billed for any unwanted charges. Another great thing about iMessage is you can use it with the iPod touch and iPad as well.

There are many texting apps that are free alternatives to iMessage you can use as well. For example, you can text/message in facebook, google voice, skype, meebo, WhatsApp to name a few over WiFi for free.


How to use iPhone Abroad for Free

How to Text/Message/SMS From an iPad, iPod, or iPhone for Free

Any apple device such as an iPad or iPhone can be used to text using iMessage. All you need to do is login with the same Apple ID that you are currently using on your iPhone. This way all of you contacts will still receive texts from you as the sender and your devices will be synced. You can send an iMessage from your iPhone or iPad and they will all work together.

How to Use Your iPhone for Free Abroad


You can use iMessage with any of the following:

  • Phone number
  • email address
  • Apple ID

This is handy if you share an Apple ID on multiple devices but do not want your iMessages showing up on each device. To change these settings head to Settings->Messages.

Using iMessage iOS 7

You can set up how you receive your iMessages on each device. Choosing from your Apple ID, email, or number. Choose one or as many as you would like people to be able to reach you at through iMessage.

Setting up iMessage iOS 7

How to Know You Are Connected to WiFi

Just look at the status bar of your at the top of your iPhone. If you see WiFi bars you are connected and it is free to text away. See below as an example.

You can even turn off the cellular signal of your phone and data to be sure you will not be charged. You do not need to be in airplane mode to use your device for free. Simply being connected to WiFi will ensure all of your iMessages and web browsing are free.

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iOS 7 Connected to WiFi

Keys to using iMessage

  • Only text others with iMessage and be sure they have iMessage on (it is on by default but can be toggled on/off in message settings)
  • Note that iMessage is only for iOS 6, 7, and iOS 8 (the latest iPhone software)
  • The texts will appear blue when texting someone with iMessage
  • No need to activate iMessage since it is automatic when it recognizes two devices with iMessage (blue text bubbles)
  • Only text when you have a WiFi connection to avoid charges

Turn Off SMS Messaging to Avoid Carrier Fees

If you are texting over WiFi abroad your message will be sent as an iMessage. Or if you purchased a small data plan to text using data (not SMS) you will also only want to text using iMessage to avoid texting charges. In both situations it is key to not text using SMS (green texts), however if the iMessage cannot be sent it will attempt to send using SMS by default. You can disable this feature while abroad to avoid charges.

Turn off “Send as SMS” to avoid carrier messaging rates.

This is found in Settings–>Send as SMS and turn this off.

How to use iphone abroad for free


WhatsApp: An Alternative to iMessage

If you have have a smart phone and the recipient also has a smart phone there are plenty of apps out there that are just like iMessage. For example, WhatsApp Messenger is 99 cents in the app store and is a great way to text overseas. Both parties don’t need an iPhone to text for free. As long as both parties have the app and are you are using WiFi in a country other than your home country it is free. I use them both when traveling depending on who I am trying to reach.

One great perk of WhatsApp Messenger is when you do return home you can continue texting anywhere in the world for free. So if you make friends traveling way it is a free way to stay in touch. When in your home country WhatsApp will simply use your data plan so there is no need for WiFi and it is still 100% free to text abroad(from home). But note this is only at home where you can use your regular data plan. If you are out of your home country you have to have a WiFi connection to use WhatsApp for free. I hope this is clear.

Learn more about How WhatsApp Can Save You Money While Traveling

FaceTime and Calling with Your iPhone

FaceTime is 100% free to call anyone on an iPad, iPod touch, Mac, or iPhone. Again, just find some free WiFi in the city you are visiting. You do not need to be constantly connected when traveling so being disconnected part of the day is nice anyway. Hopefully you can make better use of the time when you are connected. Once you find a secure WiFi connection simply open up FaceTime and call home.



Alternatives to FaceTime

Skype might be what you are used to using and they have made a great iPhone app. It allows you to make calls for free or very cheap depending on the type of call. FaceTime’s purpose is video calling but Skype will allow you to make regular calls back home when needed. Not all Skype calls are free so be sure to add a little money to your Skype account before you leave home.

Google Voice

One last alternative is Google Voice. It allows you to text and call right from the app. You can even create your own custom phone number for it while traveling. Again everything can be done for free over WiFi.

Browsing the Web and Email For Free

I think it is pretty clear here how to browse the web over WiFi. The only thing I cannot stress enough is do not use any international data. Usually as soon as your plane touches down or you enter a new country you get a text about some $20/MB data plan which is horrible. If your phone is automatically downloading emails you can expect an enormous cell phone bill. Turn off your data roaming, and change your mail settings. Just like messaging and calling you can browse the web and email for free. I highly recommend not using international data to do this. To turn it off follow the steps below:

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iPhone Quick Guides

  • Tap Settings on the iPhone’s Home screen.
  • Select Fetch New Data under Mail. Contacts, Calendars
  • Pick the desired mail checking interval for POP and IMAP accounts under Fetch.
  • Choose Manually to disable automatic checking.

Turn off Data Roaming

  • Tap the Settings app on your homescreen
  • Tap General
  • Tap Cellular
  • Toggle the Data Roaming slider to Off. You can also turn off cellular data here.

Turn off All Cellular Data and Only Use WiFi

  • Tap the Settings apps
  • Tap General
  • Tap Cellular
  • Toggle Cellular Data to “Off”

Now you will not be able to use international data at all by accident and can avoid all charges.

Paid Options

There may be times when you have to make a call or text in another country. Most likely (depending on your plan) you will pick up on the local cellular network. This is great for emergencies but it will be pretty pricey to connect.

The best option is to temporarily add features to your existing plan. You can do this online or by calling your carrier. For example, Mexico has a calling plan for $4.99/month from AT&T. You can add it for just one month if you would like and remove it the next.

If offers these discounted rates as examples:

• $0.59/min. roaming in Mexico
• $0.09/min. calling from the U.S. to a Mexico wireless device
• $0.25/min. calling from the U.S. to a Mexico wireless device

And for $10 you can buy 100 texts. These are better rates than making calls and texts without them. I would recommend them for when you absolutely need them but try to stick to WiFi. The best part is they are one time fees and you can remove them from your plan when you get home.

If you happen to use a lot of voice or data abroad with no plan that is ok. When you get back home call your carrier and you can retro-activate a plan that can save you money on minutes and data you have already used.

Still there is no need to purchase any texting or calling packages if you have enough patience while traveling. Just use WiFi and text and call for free no matter where you are in the world.

What to Do if You Go Over Your Calling Plan Abroad

Many carriers, such as AT&T offer plans that allow you to backdate your current plans. This means if you did not plan ahead you can buy a plan when you return home that will reduce the cost of all those calls and texts you made overseas. This can be a real lifesaver for those who forget to buy an international plan or simply had to make emergency calls.

Learn how to backdate your plan in this post.

Track Your Data Usage Abroad

If you do choose to use a paid option or simply want to track your data iOS 7 has a great new feature to help you control what apps are using data. Many apps you data without you even knowing it which is why you need to turn those apps when you are abroad or limit the ones you want to use your data plan.

To control which apps use data simply go to Settings->Celluar-> and scroll down to “Use Cellular Data For.” You can toggle all of these on/off right from the settings. You can even reset the statistics at the bottom of the settings to monitor how much date these apps have used.

If you really want to track your data closely I recommend the app called My Data Manager.

iPhone Data Usage iOS 7

If you have any questions about how to use your iPhone overseas please leave it in the comments section and I am happy to help!

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I have been traveling to over 100 countries by using the methods I share on this site. My goal is to maximize every trip and make the most of my adventures. Join me on Instagram.

  • Cal Wolfe

    My iphone 4 and Ipad 2 are both jailbroken. How can I call the USA from Mexico, via wifi, either cheaply or free???

  • Even without a jailbroken phone you should be able to call the USA using Skype or Google Voice over wifi. You could also use facetime over wifi if the person you are calling has access to an apple device. When using Skype it may cost a few cents a minute if you are calling a mobile number. Hope that helps. I used those methods when I was in Mexico just last month!

  • Jessica Johnson

    I just moved to China and I have been texting friends using imessages. I took my sim card out and I have been texting through WIFI, my cellular data wasn’t off, but my roaming data was. I’m not going to get charged for this, right? I was thinking as long as there wasn’t a sim in it and I was using wifi, it would be ok. I have an iphone 4s.

    • Hi, sorry for the delayed response but if you are texting via iMessage you will not be charged even with your data on. This is the same abroad as it is at home. A good way to be sure you are using WiFi and the iMessage is free is that the conversation bubbles are blue and not green. Green indicates a traditional SMS and those cost money or are part of your texting plan. Blue text bubbles are free iMessage conversations. They do not use data and you will NOT be charged. Hope that helps.

  • Nick

    What if I have data roaming off and cellular data off and I receive a text. Will I be charged?

    • If you have data roaming and cellular data off you will not be charged for a text you receive over wifi. You are only charges for texts you receive over the cellular network. The key is to be connected to WiFi when texting with iMessage.

  • Sam

    What about ios5 allows you to use iMessage abroad? iMessage is available for previous versions of the ios firmware.

    • It isn’t so much the iOS version but simply the iMessage that allows for use abroad. It can be used freely with a WiFi connection without using your texting plan. This is similar to WhatsApp Messenger and many other apps that work over wifi in the app store. iMessage was new and integrated with iOS 5. It is possible to use it on older firmwares but it was not built in. Hope that helps.

  • I have a 4 phone family plan with iPhone in florida and I am in thailand for several months, is there a plan I can use to keep from paying the hundred bucks a month back home. It is AT&T
    Thanks, ron

    • Hey Ron, first of all I love Thailand its one of my favorite countries. If you are under contract with ATT I would call and ask them to suspend your account. Last time I did that I was able to suspend the contract for up to 6 months and reinstate it when I returned. I would recommend unlocking your iPhone and getting a local SIM in Thailand if you haven’t yet. If you are out of contract ATT might help you with this, they have for me in the past. If you are under contract I would jailbreak you iPhone 4 and unlock it that way to use a local SIM. The important thing is to stop paying for service you don’t need back home. I don’t know all the details of your account so I can’t be too specific. If you family plan is still in use back home suspending the account my not be an option but they may be able to offer some reduced plans until you return. Hope that helps and I would give ATT a call.

  • Clint,
    Thanks so much for the quick response. I jail broke my phone before I left states , so I am good there. My family has 3 phones in use there, so I guess I will call and try for a short suspension.
    Yes Thai people are great and I can live pretty well on my social security.
    Thanks again .regards ron

    • No problem, Ron and good luck. I actually find ATT to be pretty accommodating over the phone. What they lack in US coverage they make up for in customer service in my experience with them. Let me know if you have any more questions and hopefully I can help. One of these days I may have to relocate there for good 🙂

  • Hi!
    My boyfriend visits his family in China a lot. He has an ipad that he takes with him and I have the iphone 4s. I was wondering if we text and facetime over wifi and the messages come up under blue does that mean it is free? Also I will be going over to China as well. When I was in South Africa, I never thought I could text over wifi. Does this mean I can with other iphone users now?

    • Hey Brianna, great question. You are correct, all texts that appear blue are free iMessage texts. I was in Mexico just last week and used both my iPad and iPhone to text back to the US for free over WiFi. However, you will only be able to text iMessage users (apple device users). You will need to login on your iPad with the same apple ID that you use on your iPhone so that you still show up as the sender. Even at home I use my WiFi-only iPad to respond to texts from iMessage users the same way I do abroad. Hope that helps and feel free to ask for more clarification.

  • Joshua

    How do you turn off just your cellular data and keep wifi on?

    • Hey Josh, To turn off all data simply go to Settings->General->Celluar->Cellular Data(toggle off). This is how it is done with AT&T and the path in settings can vary with the carrier. But turning off cellular data will will restrict all data to Wi-Fi, including email, browsing the web, and push notifications. With this toggled off you can be positive you are not using your data plan abroad and only using Wi-Fi.

  • Rob

    i have a blackberry and my GF has an iphone 4s. if she is on wifi, has her cellular data turned off, and sends me a text msg from another country to me at home, will she be charged for those texts?

    • Hey Rob, I would recommend you both use a third party app such as WhatsApp. This is what I use to text over wifi to non-iPhone users abroad and you will not be charged for the texts.

  • Gen

    Hey Clint, if my iphone 4s has been jailbreak then I use iMessage without any data or wifi, can i still send messages?

    • Hey Gen, you will need to have one or the other turned on to send an iMessage. There may be charges associated with using your data plan but if you turn off cellular data than you can send iMessages freely over wifi. So you will need a wifi connection to send messages. If you are abroad another option is to pickup a prepaid SIM card for your phone and use the local network at a much cheaper rate than your data plan at home. Hope that helps but let me know if you have more questions.

    • Gen

      Hey Clint, Thanks for the response.

  • Sloan

    I travelled over seas and I’m texting on my iPod with imessage and it shows in my imessage I can send ad receive at 2 addresses my phone number and email, I clicked my email for starting new convos from it and unclicked my phone number, and then in addresses I can be reached at it has both email and phone checked. If I have my phone checked will it charge me if I’m just texting from my iPod with wifi?

    • Hi Sloan,

      If you are doing all your messaging over Wi-Fi on your iPod it will be free and you will not be charged so don’t worry. I am in Uruguay right now doing the same thing with my iPad mini and iPhone. As long as you are messaging with a Wi-Fi connection you will not be charged for sending or receiving. Adding multiple addresses and your phone number is simply a means for people to message you across multiple devices. Enjoy your trip!

  • Jillian

    Great article!!! This has been incredibly helpful!

    I will be visiting my husband in Japan in the next few days. I have read that turning on airplane mode will also restrict the cellular data. Is that true? What is the difference between being in airplane mode and turning off all cellular data? Thanks in advance!

    • Hi Jillian, glad you found the post helpful. Turning on airplane mode will block all data and you can stick to using wifi when available. However, you can also just turn off cellular data as you suggested which is what I do most of the time. This way you can still make phone calls and receive them (depending on your plan) and won’t be restricted to airplane mode. Also, you won’t be able to send traditional SMS texts in airplane mode since you need a cellular signal. You should be able send iMessage texts with wifi only. Basically, turning off cellular data will give you more freedom and still prevent data roaming charges. I hope that is clear and let me know if you have follow up questions. Thanks and have a great trip!

  • Alison

    Hi, I’m leaving in two days to study abroad in Spain for 5 months with an iPhone 4 under a Verizon plan. Is it necessary for me to jailbreak my iphone for me to ensure I won’t be charged for any data? Also, Verizon told me to notify them and suspend my plan. Will that affect the data I can receive over wifi? Thanks! Best article I’ve seen on this topic yet.

    • Thanks for the questions, Alison. I am going to assume you simply want to use the phone for WiFi access while abroad? Once you suspend your account with Verizon you will not be able to use it for texts, calls, or data so you can’t be charged for those things. If you do not suspend it you will need to be sure to turn off cellular data in the settings or at least data roaming to prevent being charged. Jailbreaking is not necessary to avoid being charged in this case. Basically if you suspend your account your phone will not have access to cellular data and will not be charged but you will be able to continue using WiFi for free which is handy while traveling. Let me know if you have any more questions and have a time studying abroad!

  • Amanda

    Hi Clint! Your information has been extremely helpful. I just have one question that I didn’t see previously asked. My boyfriend is in the Airforce and was recently sent to Australia. We have been mostly texting thru iMessage but sometimes wifi isnt available were he is. He has a international plan with his plan, but mine does not. Will I get charged any additional fees for texting his local number while he is in Australia and I am still state side?

    • Hey Amanda, great question. It is likely you will be charged for every regular(non iMessage) text you send to your boyfriend abroad. It is probably less than what is cost him to send one to you but it isn’t free I am assuming. When I am stateside and texting without iMessage to friends abroad I simply use WhatsApp. If you both download it you will not be charged to text him abroad. When he has WiFi use iMessage and when he doesn’t just use that app. I use it all the time and hopefully it will work for you too.

  • jolene

    Hi Clint!
    Thanks so much for all the advice. I just have one question, I live in Canada, and am taking a group trip to Mexico. I want to be able to text my friends (who all have i phones) while in Mexico. But I will also need to text my kids back home. So I am just wondering if there are any apps or anything else we can use to reduce costs when wifi isn’t available?

    • Well when you have access to WiFi texting home and within Mexico will be free iphone to iphone using iMessage. However, when you do not have WiFi there will be additional costs. I have AT&T and traveled to Mexico 3 times last year. I always purchase a small texting plan that starts around $10 for 50 texts to use while in Mexico. I add this feature to my plan for one month and remove it when I get home. Another solution would be to purchase a data package from your carrier. For example, if you bought 300 MB for international data usage that is more than enough to text with apps that use data. Texting within an app that uses data will not effect your current texting plan at home and you will not be charged for texts sent though the app. If you are going to be texting home a lot and within the country this might be useful. I use the third party app called WhatsApp to text. It uses your data plan to send texts but it is also free when connected to WiFi. When you do not have WiFi you would have two good options: purchase a texting package or purchase a data package. With the data package you will need to send all texts through WhatsApp and all recipients must have it too. You shouldn’t send traditional texts unless you purchase a texting plan because you will be charged for each text. Data is more useful if you need ever need to browse the web or check email but it will be more expensive to add to your plan. Let me know if you have follow up questions and feel email me.

  • Gavin

    Hi Clint, I’m in Mexico on vacation. There is wifi where I am staying. I have turned off cellular data ,3G and roaming. But I still can sent and receive text msgs even when there is no wifi. Will I be charged for these msgs? I’m using iPhone 4. Thanks

    • Hey Gavin, If you have data off and you are connected to WiFi any text sent over iMessage will be free. Keep in mind the recipient must be able to receive iMessages too. This means all the text bubbles will appear blue. Traditional SMS texts will cost you money (they appear as green texts). If you want to text over WiFi to friends who don’t have iMessage you will need to download a third party app that can text over WiFi such as WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger.

  • DaninSTL

    Bobsled is the best way I’ve found for free calling over wifi in other countries. And it’s free plus the app is free.

    • Thanks for the tip about Bobsled I’ll have to take a look at it.

  • Yelena

    Hi Clint, we are the cruise lovers. In every port we try to catch WiFi to stay connected. But on the ship Internet is very expensive and deadly slow, it cost you a fortune to open one email. Can we text from a ship, using any apps without Internet? Do you have any suggestions?
    Also you recommend to use WhatsApp. As I understand, everybody in my list have to have it too in order to stay in touch. What about Textfree, Forfone, Textme apps. Are they the same way?

    • To use WhatsApp all parties need to have it on their phones. For these types of texting apps that avoid your texting plan all parties will need the app to send/receive. The only way to use these apps is to have a WiFi or data connection. Do you have any cell service on cruises at all? I have never been on a cruise so I do not know but I would expect not. It would be possible to purchase an international data plan to send/receive texts using one of the apps you mentioned or whats app. They aren’t cheap but they might be cheaper than buying WiFi on the ship everyday. Check with your carrier if that is an option. On ATT it would run my around $60 for 300MB which is plenty to texts over data and send some basic emails with no photos.

  • Ruth Roberts

    Hello I have a friend I am trying to contact from Korea and I have the iPhone4s. I what ways can I call or FaceTime or Skype for free to him?

    • Hi Ruth, you have a few options to contacts friends at home. My friend taught English in Korea for 3 years and had no issues calling me for free. To use Skype and FaceTime for free you simply need a WiFi connection when you use the app. You will not be charged for FaceTime when you are connected to WiFi. Skype is the same way if you are calling another mobile with Skype or computer. Since both apps can be used over a data network you need to be sure you are on Wifi to connect for free. Feel free to send me follow up questions.

  • Jodi

    Hi your site is very helpful- but if you are in Mexico using only wifi- aren’t all text messages free (unlimited text with AT&T) and not just iMessage?

    • If you have the unlimited texting plan with AT&T (I have the same plan) then you have unlimited texts (SMS) where your nationwide plan is covered at home and this is not the same as iMessage. It does not send and receive messages over WiFi like iMessage does. iMessage is free and unlimited but iMessage is only free for texting others over Wi-Fi using an iOS device or Mac with iMessage anywhere in the world and at home. So all iMessage texts are free over WiFi but regular (green) texts are not free with WiFi.

  • Jodi

    Thanks for that answer – is the same for email? Meaning after you change your settings to manually check for new mail- you still shouldn’t use email on your phone even in Wifi and just use web mail if need be- is that correct?

    • Email is free to use over WiFi and you will not be charged. Just to be safe you can even put it in airplane mode and then turn WiFi on to be sure no data is being transferred over the network. Basically, anything you do with a WiFi connection (iMessage, browse the web, email) is free. But if any of those are done without WiFi you will get charged international dating roaming fees. Just make sure you are connected to Wifi and you will be fine.

  • Kawika

    What if I begin a conversation with someone via iMessage, and I leave and disconnect from wifi. If I receive a SMS, will I be charged? I don’t have unlimited text or not even data.

    • You will likely be charged for sending SMS depending on your plan. If you receive an SMS it should be billed at the rate of your home plan. There shouldn’t be additional costs for simply receiving the texts. If you reply with SMS there will be international texting rates. I would check with your carrier but this is how many are handled and my own.

  • Toodles

    I have the IPhone4S and used it in Europe but I put it in airplane mode and when I had free wi-fi, I could send and receive e-mails with no charge. My question is: how can I send text messages with no fees? Do I need IMessage app? And the recipient needs that app as well?
    Your Jan. 30 e-mail seems to suggest that when you have free wi-fi, you can do anything free? Is that truewith Verizon ? Thank you.

    • iMessage is not an app you need to download. It is built into your iPhone as long as you are running anything over iOS 5. It will automatically detect another user with an iPhone and send an iMessage to them. This is free when sent over WiFi. There are other texting apps that also do this when your recipient doesn’t have an iPhone. For example, WhatsApp is one of my favorites for this. When you are connected to Wifi no data is being sent over the networks. You can use your phone as if it was your laptop and do things for free such as browse the web, make skype calls, facetime, send iMessages, etc. If you are in airplane mode with WiFi on you should be free of additional charges. This is the same for Verizon or any other carrier. Your phone basically becomes a mini-laptop and does not use any cellular data, only WiFi. Hope that is clear and feel free to email me with questions.

  • Jamie

    Hi Clint,
    Your site is very informative; thank you for putting all this together! I have a question – my sister is going to Ireland and has an iPhone, but I don’t have a smart phone. As I understand it, with apps like WhatsApp requires both parties to have it, and I can’t download it. Is there any way we could text without incurring international charges? Thanks!

    • Hey Jamie, you are correct that both parties need to have the app. Any chance you have another iDevice such as an iPad or iPod Touch? You can use those apps with any of those devices over WiFi. If not, I will look into some other solutions for you.

    • Jamie

      I don’t; I’m afraid I haven’t jumped on the apple bandwagon yet. Do let me know if you find some other alternative and thank you for all your help!

  • Toodles

    Thank you.

  • Jen

    I used google voice app while in in Nassau on my iphone with wifi. I was still charged on my ATT bill for international calling. I thought I should have only been charged for standard minutes since I was calling a domestic number via internet. AT&T was very understanding and credited me the $200.00. Every call showed up in both google voice and AT&T.

  • Annabel

    hey, i would like to know if i wish to suspend my phone line in my home country and my whatsapp account is linked to that particular phone line/number, would i still be able to use whatsapp now that the line is in essence “unavailable”? does whatsapp need the line to be active in order for me to receive whatsapp messages?

    • WhatsApp doesn’t support iPods or iPads yet so that would lead me to believe it is tied to your phone number. Other apps, like iMessage or TigerText (never tried this one) can use email addresses to link your phone. My guess is that number will no longer be linked once you suspend the account. However, it is possible that your SIM will tie your number to the app even while suspended at home. This is not something I have tried.

      If you really want to keep using WhatsApp over other messaging apps you may consider picking up a local SIM card. This way you will have a new number tied to your phone to use WhatsApp. Of course, you will have to give your new number to all of your contacts but it is an option.

  • Hi. Thanks for the great info. I wish I had seen it sooner. One thing that applies to my situation is not clear, though. My son just left for Australia and he will have limited texts he can send each month. He has an iPhone, but I do not. But I do have a WiFi-only new generation iPad. I am wondering if there is an app that will allow me to communicate with his iPhone via messages over WiFi using my iPad so his responses won’t subtract from his limited texts. I’m not real tech savvy but I’m learning and trying to figure out how to keep costs down….

    • Hi Candy, as long as you are using iMessage over WiFi it will be free on both ends. I don’t know his current plan but his texts limit should not be effected unless he is sending those texts to you over using his plan in Australia. iMessage texts are free and unlimited with WiFi and do not effect into texting plans. I use my iPad like this often and have never had any issues. When in doubt, stick to Wifi and use iMessage and you will not be charged.

  • Sherri

    My son lives in Ca. And his girlfriend lives in Canada. They use texting as their main communication however his international plan does not even begin to cover the hundreds of texts he sends monthly. He has unlimited data plan but no wifi where he lives. Will his phone be charged if they text with Facebook messenger?

    • Sherri, Facebook messenger, like many similar apps, uses data to send messages. This means you can send messages to anyone, anywhere, with the app on your current data plan. For example, I use WhatApp (a similar data app for sending messages) to text friends abroad from the US but I am not charged for this. As long as you have a standard data plan on your iPhone it should be fine. You do not need WiFi unless you are abroad and away from your home data plan because then you are roaming. At home in the US he should be fine texting to Canada for free. WiFi is not needed when you are on your home cell phone plan.

  • Terri

    What is the difference between Viber and WhatsApp?

    • I’ve never used Viber but from what I have read they achieve similar things. They both allow you to message people around the world for free. Viber also offers free calling but I haven’t tried it. If you do I would be interested to see which you like better. WhatsApp has been more convenient for me simply because so many people I message already have the app installed but there are many free messaging apps out there.

  • Traci

    I recieved my IPhone 4 from AT&T 2 days ago. I’ve turned off my cellular and the data. I use IMessage to talk to people. Yet, I keep getting texts from AT&T saying I’ve exceeded $100 in messaging charges? Yes, I have unlimited text. I use the wifi I have here at home, because I don’t really leave very often. Point is, any clue why I’m being charged? Thanks.

    • Hi Traci, that sounds odd to me and shouldn’t be happening. Have you given AT&T a call to ask their opinion? If you are using iMessage to text/message other people with iMessage it is free. Are you outside of your home country right now? If you are traveling be sure to only message over WiFi and only to people who also have iMessage with an iPhone. Otherwise you will be charged for sending regular text. iMessage texts appear green and regular texts appear blue. Let me know where you are, if you are always on WiFi, if you recipients have iMessage and we can try to solve this for you.

  • Lynne

    Hi Clint! You’re helping a huge number of people with your website – myself included – thank you! My question is… my daughter is studying in Italy, and we’ve suspended her service on her iPhone 4S with Verizon for the five months that she’ll be there. Since the time when we suspended her service, we think she hasn’t been able to send/receive iMessages (to my iPhone 5, etc.) – even when she has access to wifi. Is this due to the suspension, or do we need to figure out which of her settings she may have changed on her phone that now doesn’t allow iMessaging? Thanks in advance for any advice you can give us!

    • Thanks Lynne! When you suspend your iPhone the phone will still be able to operate as a mini-computer and messenger. This means she should be able to send/receive iMessages over WiFi with no problems. Suspending the phone simply cuts off her cell service so you won’t receive any international roaming charges. The phone will still fully operate over WiFi. Perhaps she needs to check the settings or add additional information to her iMessage settings.

      First check her settings: General->Messages->iMessage (ON).

      Now check her Send & Receive settings below that. You can send iMessages tied to your phone number or email accounts. Try “Add An Email…” in the iMessage settings. See if either of those work, be sure she is connected to WiFi and give it another shot. If that doesn’t work try downloading a third party app to communicate over WiFi such as WhatsApp. Let me know how that goes and we can try to fix this for you.

  • vps

    I really love this site.Thanks for all your tips and information.

  • Jessie

    Hi thanks for your help. I’m going to Mexico tomorrow and I’m trying to figure out how to use resort wifi without being charged. I have an iPhone 4S, and most of my friends have iPhones. If I have data and everything off, will I still receive texts? I just don’t want to be charged all this extra money. I only want to receive iMessages when connected to wifi. Any ideas?

    • Hey Jessie, It sounds like you are on the right track. If you are connected to WiFi you can send iMessages freely as you know. When you say “everything off” do you mean airplane mode with WiFi enabled? If that is the case you will be fine sending/receiving texts and won’t have any additional costs when disconnected from WiFi because your cellular data is off. If you leave WiFi enabled you will receive iMessages when on WiFi but not regular texts. Sounds like that is not an issue for you with most friends using iPhones.

      However, I always leave my roaming turned off but still allow for incoming texts and do not put my phone in airplane mode. This still allows people to contact me for any reason by calling/texting. You won’t be charged to receive texts you may receive from back home unless you are replying to them. You should double check with your carrier but typically (as with ATT), incoming texts are free.

      Either way you should be fine as long as you do not reply to texts when you are not connected to WiFi. Have a great trip! Let me know if you have follow up questions.

    • Jessie

      How do I put it on airplane mode but still have my wifi work?! THANK YOU FOR YOUR HELP.

    • All you need to do is turn on airplane mode, then manually go to your WiFi settings and turn it back on. From there connect to an available network. Now you have disabled all cellular data but still have WiFi.

  • Hi Clint, thank you very much for helping everyone for such a long time, I have a question, I am in Mexico and I have a Verizon plan, I have wi-fi but my i-phone still say roaming and then the wi-fi signal, my wife in US has an android devised and I notice the bubbles while texting are green and some other friends are white, both my daughters have i-phones and their bubbles are blue, will I be charged still, while it still said roaming even though I´m connecting to wi-fi? and for sure blue bubbles mean free text?

    • Hi Juan, first of all as long as you see WiFi bars and have a WiFi connection you are connected to WiFi. They don’t show up on the status bar when you are not connected. It would show the carrier name there and signal bars instead. Just be sure you connect to WiFi before messaging.

      iMessage will only work when texting other people who have iPhones and the messages will show up blue. You will not be able to use iMessage to text your wife if she has an android so you would be charged for the green texts that show up. Your daughters are free to text with their iPhones. iMessage is an iDevice to iDevice only service that is free over wifi. Blue bubbles are free, green are not.

      You can still text your wife for free using WiFi and a third party app. Download WhatsApp. You will be able to text her through the app over wifi with no costs. She needs to download the app as well. It is well worth the 99 cents to have free messaging.

      Hope that helps, Juan. Feel free to ask me any other questions. Thanks

  • juan jimenez

    Thank you Clint, you just made my day and my wife´s, I am gonna have to be in Mexico for about two years and this will help us save and stay in touch, one more question, while in wifi, can I still surf the web and open emails without being charge? once again thanks in advance for ALL the help we are receiving, thank you so much…

    • No problem, Juan. Happy to help. iPhones make it easy to stay in touch these days. When you are in WiFi you can do pretty much everything for free. Browse the web, email, iMessage, send texts through apps like WhatsApp, FaceTime, and even make calls using Skype. You won’t be charged for any of those things when you are connected to WiFi. Just think of your iPhone as a little laptop. If you were on a laptop connected to WiFi all of the same features would be free without cellular service. You will be able to stay connected whenever you have WiFi at no cost. Enjoy your time in Mexico. It is one of my favorite countries.

  • Juan Jimenez

    Hey Clint; here bothering you again, question; I download some games to my iphone and notice that even connected to wi-fi, my screen says Extended instead to say Roaming like in the past, this happen just overnight, that this means I already used all my data in my plan even though I was connected to wi-fi? and second question; Does a modum have to do with strenght signal? because last night I tryed to face timed with my wife I we kept getting disconnected, once again, thank you for all your help.

    • Hey Juan, no problem. Extended network basically means your carrier does not have a cell tower nearby but a carrier they have a partnership does. This means your phone will extend its network and connect to a partnered carrier at the same cost as your carrier. Roaming means there are no partnered cell towers in reach so your carrier is connecting to the nearest tower and paying extra for it. They will then most likely pass that cost on to you.

      No matter what if your games use data you will want to be in connected to WiFi and not roaming and getting those charges.

      Your modem can affect signal strength. You should have no trouble using FaceTime over Wifi but perhaps your signal is weak for other reasons. Try resetting it or moving closer to the router for a stronger signal. It can lose strength as you move away from it. Hope that helps.

  • Geo

    Hello! I’m geo & my boyfriend recently left on a 7 day cruise to Puerto Rico? the Bahamas & idk where else, it’s crusial that we speak, I’m sick & he’s considered for my well being, he wants to know if I’m ok every now & then, but the price to use his iPhone on the boat Is quite pricy, how can we communicate with out having to deal with a higher bill rate, the wifi isn’t even free you pay for so much MG’s & also texts & pay so much for minutes. It’s ridiculous, but it was a family vacation he was forced to attended, seems like you know alot about this topic, any advice/help? He has Verizon, the old unlimited plan! Thanks!

    • Well this is a tough situation. WiFi is always the best option but it’s not free in this case so it’s not going to be cheap. One option would be to purchase an international data plan from VZW and add a few hundred MB. For example, I am in the Philippines right now and added 300MB for the 2 weeks I am here for when I don’t have wifi. It’s not free much much cheaper than international roaming. You can add it to your plan and cancel when returning. With AT&T you can even backdate the plan if you forgot to add it before you left. That may be the best option in this situation.

  • Tyler

    Hey Clint, my girlfriend is in Europe and we text over wifi. Sometimes her phone will get knocked off the wifi and my message will be sent as a text and appear green. Her phone is on airplane mode and doesn’t receive the text until she gets wifi again. Will I be charged for the texts?

    • Hey Tyler, this is a great question. If they are being sent as texts and not as imessages it is likely you are being charged for those texts and this depends on your plan and carrier. Have you considered using a 3rd party app like WhatsApp? This way you can guarantee yourself you will never get charged for a text message by your carrier. And if you find you have sent accidental text messages you can always go back and backdate a small text plan with your carrier. For example, on AT&T you can backdate a package of 50 texts for $10. Hope that helps but let me know if you have additional questions.

  • George


    Great thread you have here. I looked for my question/concern but couldn’t find a similar one.

    I was living in the U.S. and had an iPad and iPhone 5. I recently moved to China and received a new iPhone 5 with a Chinese number and I also kept my U.S. phone number for when I move back to the U.S. I have linked my iMessage accounts with my U.S. number, Chinese number, and email address. So now my China iPhone and iPad are linked. My friends who are iPhone users can text my U.S. number or China number and I receive it via iMessage (blue =free). I send/receive these messages on WiFi or on the new Chinese network that my phone uses and they always show up as iMessages. So I am confident I am not getting charged or my friends are not getting charged even though I am not on WiFi, but using the China network.

    However, what about FaceTime? I know I can FaceTime on WiFi from China, but how about on the network? If my iMessaging is working and free on the network wouldn’t my FaceTime also work and be free on the network?

    Thanks for your help!

    • Hey George, this is new to me as well but I think you are on the right path. It sounds like you know how to keep everything free and have set-up a great situation to communicate back home. I can honestly say I am not 100% sure how the FaceTime would work on the network in China. I would imagine if you are using your network in China to freely iMessage for free than the same rules would apply to FaceTime but I am not 100% certain. You are using the date from the local carrier to FaceTime home and not roaming since it is your local network. This would lead me to believe it is free. When in doubt stick to WiFi. But if iMessage is working just fine I think FaceTime would work as well. Let me know what you find out. Thanks for this question since it was new to me as well.

  • Helena

    Hello Clint,

    I have read the entire thread and did not find the answer I was looking for. So here goes. My service on my Iphone 4s is temporarily interrupted but I am able to use Imessages when connected to WiFi. My question is when people try to send me an imessage while I am not connected to WiFi will I eventually receive it when I do connect to WiFi…say hours later? Is there anyway to receive backed up Imessages? Any help would be appreciated.

    • This is a great question because regular SMS text messages attempt to deliver to your phone for what is called a “attempted redelivery” period but I am not 100% sure about what iMessage attempts once disconnected. Here is what I know:

      If someone sends you an iMessage and you are not connected to WiFi those messages will come through as a regular SMS text message if you are abroad or have data roaming turned on (chances are you do not). Unless, you are in airplane mode with WiFi switched on to prevent receiving and using any texts/data besides iMessage over WiFi. If you are in Airplane mode texts sent to you will go to “attempted redelivery” mode and each carrier has a different “attempted redelivery period” which can last a few days to a week. iMessage you would think would attempt to deliver these messages to you in the same way but I have never tried this abroad. I have honestly not attempted this abroad because I always allow regular texts to come through. I am going to look into this further for you because this would be valuable to know. Great question and let me know if you find an answer out there.

    • David

      I am still trying to figure out if iMessages I send, that end up going through as texts because the recipient is abroad and doesn’t have data turned on, will be delivered as soon as the hook up to WiFi.

  • Ronna

    Hello Clint,
    I need to know if I should suspend my son’s Iphone 5 account with ATT while he is studying in Germany for 6 months. If I do this to avoid any possible SMS texts and data roaming, will he still be able to use the what’sapp and viber apps on his phone in Wifi? Also will he lose his contacts if his phone is suspended? He is leaving tomorrow (9/10/13) and need help. I’m a techie-challenged mom. Thanks for your help.

    • triphackr

      Suspending it is an option if you choose to and it would save you money stateside so it’s not a bad idea. WhatsApp does require a phone number verification when it is set-up. However, once you go into airplane mode (no cell service) WhatsApp and all other WiFi based apps still function. Assuming he is already set-up with WhatsApp and other apps before you suspend it I think it should still work just fine over WiFi but I have not tested this. If you find it is a problem there are other quality messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger that work over WiFi.

      He won’t lose any contacts on his phone. A suspended phone is essentially an iPod touch once the cellular service is deactivated. You can still perform every task over WiFi.

      If you keep it active just make sure he turns data roaming off and he doesn’t have his mail to automatically fetch new mail. Set it to manual and only check mail, data apps, and messaging over WiFi. Leaving it active isn’t a bad idea for making emergency calls home or in Germany. He can simply keep it in Airplane mode and connected to WiFi to be sure no data is being used.

      Hopefully this helps and feel free to let me know if you have any other questions.

  • Patti O’Farrell Brown

    I will be traveling in France with friends (who all have iPhone 5s) next week and have been told the best way to stay in touch with one another is to buy a international Nano SIM card from a French carrier once we get there. Do you know anything about these?

    • triphackr

      Hi Patti, that is the best way to stay in touch overseas. Picking up a local SIM card is a great if you have an unlocked phone. This article focuses on people without unlocked phones, but if your phone is unlocked you will be able to enter a local SIM card and pay as you go for local minutes and data. That is actually the best case scenario if your phone is unlocked. Most peoples phones are under contract and they cannot be unlocked and can’t use other SIM cards or carriers.

  • Lindsey

    My question is a little tricky – I have an iphone 5S and I am purchasing an International Data Plan with AT&T to use when I go to Europe in a few weeks. I have the Rebtel App and WhatsApp downloaded to use for making phone calls and messaging over WIFI. However, if I have an International Data Plan and want to check email or social sites or text message friends using the WhatsApp WITHOUT BEING CONNECTED TO WIFI, how do I do this without risking receiving incoming phone calls or regular text messages and getting charged for them? I assume you cant use your international data plan if you dont have cellular data turned on, and you cant use an international data plan with airplane mode on. Basically, how do I take advantage of using an international data plan when not connected to WIFI without incurring uncontrollable incoming calls or texts? I’ve searched everywhere and can’t seem to find a clear answer on this. Really hoping you can help! Thanks!!!

    • triphackr

      Hi Lindsey, this is a great questions an often the same way I travel when I don’t have an unlocked phone and simply add a data package to my current AT&T plan. I pretty much do the exact same thing you are describing.

      The problem is you can’t avoid receiving calls and texts while traveling without going into airplane mode which you do not want to do with your international data plan. Any incoming text messages will be taken out of your domestic bundle. So basically an incoming text will be treated the same as it is as home under your current plan.

      However, you will be charged for incoming calls and voicemails. So you need to set up call forwarding so your phone will not ring. Simply go to Settings–>Phone–>Call forward and turn it on. You can avoid incoming calls that way. Another good way to get answers from AT&T is to chat online with them. They are usually pretty quick to reply. Hope this helps and have a great trip!

  • RioTaylor

    Hello! I’m having so much trouble getting this to work. I can text anyone just fine with iMessage within my country, but I am trying to iMessage family abroad. I keep getting the same message “XXX is Unavailable. This person cannot be reached by iMessage at this time.” I am getting this message every time for every contact abroad. I have their apple ID linked to their contact, I’m also using my apple ID. Do you have any clue whats wrong?

    Another thing I am experiencing is with only one of my contacts. I can only seem to receive her texts if I am hooked up to some wifi. I don’t receive anything while I’m disconnected? Yet I receive everyone elses texts just fine.

    • triphackr

      First of all I am assuming the people you are messaging also have an iDevice since iMessage only works between two parties with iMessage. Also, be sure they have iMessage enabled on their devices. Check those firsts and let me know and then we can try something else.

      If you are only having this messaging problem with one contact then is is likely not a problem on your end since you are in your home country. Make sure your cellular data is turned on as well. Is the sender only sending messages when connected to WiFi or are they using a local data plan?

      You could also try using a third party messaging service such as WhatsApp. Both parties will need to install it but it is a very simply app to use.

  • Susan Walsh

    Hi Clint,

    I have a question. I am traveling in France now (I am a US resident) and am using my iphone 4S as a wifi device, with phone number forwarded to skype, cellular data, 3G and roaming turned off. It is working well but now I will need to use texting in non WIFI areas. I thought that I could by the $10 text for 50 texts plan, but I can’t figure out what I need to turn back on in order to use the texting part only. I will not be using data except when I am in WIFI mode, so I don’t want to buy a data plan.

    Thank you!

    • triphackr

      Hey Susan, great question. To text you will need to turn back on cellular capabilities. You can find this in Settings–>Cellular data–> toggle this on to send regular texts. You will still want to be sure data roaming is turned off so you don’t incur roaming charges.

  • Susan Walsh

    Hi Clint,

    I have a question. I am traveling in France now (I am a US resident) and am using my iphone 4S as a wifi device, with phone number forwarded to skype, cellular data, 3G and roaming turned off. It is working well but now I will need to use texting in non WIFI areas. I thought that I could by the $10 text for 50 texts plan, but I can’t figure out what I need to turn back on in order to use the texting part only. I will not be using data except when I am in WIFI mode, so I don’t want to buy a data plan.

    Thank you!

  • Raymond Mettler

    This is very helpful because of course you want to save when traveling so that you can spend some of your money for souvenirs and gifts. http://www.backcountrynavigator.com/

  • GG

    Hi: Complete technology newbie (as I’m about to demonstrate). I think I understood your instructions, but want to be sure becuase I’m headed to Mexico for a week with 3 teenage daughters, who no doubt text like crazy all day on iphones. So, to avoid having them run up huge bills, all I need to tell them to follow the instructions above to turn off the data and cellular (so no charges)? And they can send texts/emails to their friends for free when we find places with wifi, which i think is offered in our hotel lobby and a few coffee places near where we are staying. If I have that right, you are a life saver (or at least a saver of many pesos and dollars 🙂

    • Awesome, sum up of the article! You could also unlock your phone and use a local overseas carrier although not free it is very inexpensive and allows normal usage of your phone. Check out my site http://www.circuitdumpunlocks.com to get the details and unlock your phone. If you have more questions you can message me on facebook http://www.facebook.com/circuitdump or just call or text our number is on the facebook page!

    • OldVirginian

      Hi. Maybe you should instruct your daughters to not text, keep a journal and contacts their friends when they return to the US. All of their texting will focus them on that and not on the trip. All of you will enjoy the trip more and they might learn something. If you can’t accomplish that, I’m sorry for all of you.

    • Wanda

      So Ol’V nothing better to do than bitch at someone who is going on vacation with his teenage daughters to spend time with them and your Bitch’n on how to do it right, you don’t know them, pretty sure you don’t need to feel sorry for them Just to be sure you understand I think you’re an ASS OldVirginian

      Sincerely, Wanda

    • OldVirginian

      You are so sweet (and crude). Have a nice day.

  • gus rod

    hi clint
    i need help with this doubt bro, i bought a iphone 4s in the U.S and brought it to mexico brand new, now that i live here in mexico will unblock it so i can get service, my question is that once i set up my iphone as an a first boot what happens if i choose the U.S option as a country of origin instead of the MEXICO origin option, any Benefits or misleads for my iphone? thanks.

    • This is a good question and I missed this question (sorry about that). If you tested it out I would love to know how it went.

  • Analyn castillo

    Hi clint….

    I just wanted to know how can i set up my iphone if im gonna use it in another country as itouch with only the wifi connection…. Kindly enlighten me. I just upgraded to the new version and im having a hard time setting it up…. Hope yo hear from you soon… Thanks… Analyn here from manila.

    • HI Analyn, are you using your iPhone without a phone number and only as an iTouch? Your phone will operate just like an iPod when you are not using cellular service however you will need a WiFi connection to use most of the features you need.

  • Su

    Hi Clint,
    I live in the UK and have an Iphone 4. I communicate a lot with friends in the States who have Iphones. Which is the most economical way for me to communicate – via text message or e-mail? I’m also unsure whether it’s cheaper communicating from one iphone to another. Many thanks for any advice you can give.

    • Hi Su, you can communicate a number of ways. If you both have iMessage, which you should on your iPhone, you will text for free over WiFi connections. Another great way is to install WhatsApp messenger. This will allow you to text over your own data plan and WiFi to anyone location in the world. I use it a lot to text friends in other countries. Facebook Messenger is another good app for texting. Email of course is good for longer messages but if you are texting throughout the day I would download a third party app, my favorite being WhatsApp. Good luck!

    • Su

      Many thanks for this Clint. I’ll be trying WhatsApp.

  • Lisa

    Hi Clint
    We live in the UK and will be going to Colorado snowboarding in March. Myself and son both have an iPhone 5 on UK contract, is there a way that we can keep in touch on the mountain and in the town for free?

    • Hi Lisa, I always recommend sticking to WiFi for communicating so you don’t get hit with any data roaming fees. Using a third party app for texting such as WhatsApp will allow you to message anyone else who has the app back home. This will use data on the mountain when not on WiFi but back at your hotel/house or restaurants you can use it for free over WiFi. You may consider buying a small data package for messaging. Messaging doesn’t use a lot of data and if you only use your purchased data for that it won’t be too expensive. That is a the best paid solution and the best free solution would simply sticking to WiFi, but that may be more difficult when on the mountain.

  • Sherry

    I just want to take photos and use instagram. Can I turn everything else off for the month I’m out of the country?

    • Hey Sherry, you can simply put your phone in airplane mode to use those apps. You can re-enable WiFi after putting your phone in airplane mode which will allow you to share the photos on Instagram or via email.

    • Sherry

      Thanks Clint! I don’t want to talk to anyone, just show off photos of Tasmania all month. Lol

    • No problem. Have a great trip!

    • Sherry



  • judyj

    Hi Clint, I will be traveling with about six others to Morocco in a few months so I was very happy to see this article about using IMessage to communicate with family and friends back in USA. I plan to become very familiar with this info. Any suggestions as to how to communicate with the others traveling in our group should we get separated? Please clarify: How will persons who I plan to text back in the states know that they are receiving an IMessage? Will they have to adjust their Iphone setting? Will they be able to IMessage me back? Will I be able to use Facebook/Facetime or Skype without charge? I hope not to incur any additional charges but I want to stay in contact with family while away. Thanks for your help!

    • Hi Judy, sounds like a great trip. You will be able to use iMessage to communicate with anyone back home who has an iPhone. iMessage is enabled by default on iPhones so they should automatically be receive and send iMessages. iMesssages always show up as blue messages where as regular texts are green. If you have a data plan you can use iMessage (although not free) and when you are connected to WiFi it is 100% free. Your iMessage uses data at home to send messages which is why it is essentially free but when you are abroad and do not have data that is why you need WiFi (that is where it gets confusing). Basically stick to WiFi and consider buying a small data plan for backup emergencies if you want. 120 MB should be fine to start. You can also download the facebook messaging app or WhatsApp to communicate with friends back home. It will also send free messages over WiFi. Your friends can use it for free without usuing WiFi or iMessage to send you messages from home. You will be able to use Skype, Facebook, FaceTime and browse the web for free only when you are connected to WiFi. Hope this all makes sense. Feel free to shoot me an email if you want to go into detail further. Have a great trip!

  • Confused

    Hi. Please can you help me. I don’t want to get massive data bills and was wanting to do an SMS only roaming through Vodacom my service provider. They will therefore block calls and Internet so I don’t know if I will still be able to use a wifi???

    • You should always be able to continue using WiFi with or without other services enabled. So you will still be able to use WiFi on your phone even when only using it for SMS with data disabled. Just connect to a WiFi connection and proceed as normal.

  • iluvU2

    hi do I still need to put airplane mode on if I turned off roaming and cellular data I just want to i message my kids and email when have wifi

    • You do not need to have your phone in airplane mode to avoid data roaming charges. I never do and I currently do not right now in Mexico City. As long as you are connected to WiFi you can iMessage your kids and send email without using date.

  • rose11597

    hi do I keep the phone in airplane mode I have shut off cellular data and roaming. Can i now I message and email this way over wifi? thanks

    • When you put the iPhone into airplane mode it will automatically turn off WiFi. Just go back into the settings and turn WiFi back on. This will allow you to continue to use message and email while still being in airplane mode. Hope that helps!

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  • dlcrafter

    Hello – Am traveling to France & Italy. I have read all of the below posts. Extremely useful. Thank you. I think I understand it all. I just wanted to ask a general question – if there has been anything new as of the last several months about using one’s iphone in Europe free with imessage & facetime, or any other new info. about this subject? I have Sprint as my carrier. Thank you again for providing all of this great info.

  • Casady, MT

    Hi! This article was extremely helpful! I am moving to New Zealand in October for a year and at that time my contract with Verizon will be over. I would like to get an iPhone 5 with a new carrier and be able to use it abroad. Can you suggest which carrier (AT&T, sprint etc) would be the best? Both of these carriers offer SIM cards correct?


  • Heidi

    Hi Clint, hopefully not asking something already answered! I will be away from a wifi source while traveling, but the other person I am texting with will have wifi. Will any text I receive be free from charges? I will have cellular and data roaming turned off. What about the other way, if I send a text to a phone that is using wifi, will I be charged? I’m thinking of buying a plan for my phone, but not the phone that will have wifi access.

  • Floozzzzie

    I just got the 5 s and I still have the i5 but it isn’t getting iMessages … My iPad and i5s get them but I had my i5 shut off because I got the i5s. I get pictures on all devices but not iMessage … What am I doing wrong?

  • Sally N

    Hi. Great article. Question-You say that you do not need to be in airplane mode …. (re: texting for free-iphone to iphone). But is it OK if airplane mode is turned on (with the cellular data turned off) in order to do the free texting? I have always kept my phone in airplane mode for my whole trip (I go to London often).

  • KJF

    Ok here is my question – we are going to mexico and I purchased the 1000 minutes talk time but no texting. If we turn our phones data off we can still receive text messages – which will still cost us. How do we turn off the texting completely? Do we turn WiFi off and data off?

  • Katie

    Awesome post! When I went abroad this past semester using my cellphone was a primary concern. I was so worried about hidden costs and fees that I ended up actually getting a new service before leaving the US. I chose G3 Wireless and it worked perfectly. It was pay as you go, not prepaid, which was great because I didn’t have to worry about running out of minutes or going over my minutes and getting a huge bill at the end of the trip because of it! Also, no hidden fees! 🙂

  • Sharon

    Hi. I’m in morocco and I’ve used face time only on wfi and I’ve been charged for international minutes? I’m puzzled?

    • Try removing your SIM completely this should limit your phone ability to access networks in the area. To avoid it completely next time I recommend unlocking your phone this will ensure your home carrier is not associated with your phone while you are in a foreign country. Check out my site http://www.circuitdumpunlocks.com to get the details and unlock your phone. If you have more questions you can message me on facebook http://www.facebook.com/circuitdump or just call or text our number is on the facebook page!

  • JudyR

    Does using Time Zone Support on your calendar use data? I have put in alerts in my calendar to make sure I head back to my cruise ship on time. Will this work if I don’t have access to WIFI?

  • Lily

    Hi. I’m going to ireland. I’m a bit confused. I will have a wi fi hot spot in the car we rent for maps and directions. The person taking I phone will face time home. To make it easy can she just put the iphone in airplane mode and turn on wi fi. Would the family at home also have to put their i pad or ipod in wi fi to? .The have wi fi. Do they both have to redirect to a email address instead of cell phone number? She wants to take photos with I phone first and foremost so the facetime is an after thought but would be nice. If the airplane mode off and wifi on will do it seems easier for these old people. Then chnage phone number to email, please advise Thank you


    dumb question…if I only turn off data roaming on my iPhone but leave cellular data on, can I send and receive texts albeit at much higher rates?

  • RB

    Easier way when traveling – put phone in airplane mode and just turn on wifi – avoids any network charges – data and calls – would this work?

  • Adolfo E. Teran

    What about using Google voice in my iPad to make phone calls without using the click to talk feature. When you make call from the ipad, the iPad dial your cell to do the call. There is a sitch but it’s gray on my GV settings

  • Tara

    I am going on a cruise with my children. Is there anyway that I can communicate with them (I am sure they will wonder) without wifi. Not sure if there was an app.

  • S

    Thanks for the great article. I’m traveling to Japan in a few months. Just want to clarify real quick, and maybe you’ve already answered this question so I apologize…
    I know imessage is also hooked up to a Mac. If I send text messages through my macbook that’s connected to wifi, will I get charged on my phone bill? Also, does my phone have to be on and hooked up to wifi? hopefully I didn’t overcomplicate the question…

  • Ruth

    I am travelling and I will be relying on wifi so on my iPhone i will turn off cellular data and data roaming but what is the significance of enable LTE

    • LTE is just a faster version of your regular 4G service and loads data faster. Since you are using WiFi only you don’t want this enabled. You will have all cellular data off anyway which means LTE will be off unless data is turned back on.

  • Suzanne

    Clint, this is a really helpful article. Thank you! Question: I’m in Japan and my phone service on the IPhone is temporarily disconnected. I have turned off the SMS and turned on the iMessage. As a secondary source I also want to use Whats App but can’t get the code to verify. What do I do?

    • Thats a great question since you can’t verify WhatApp. You might want to try picking up a local SIM card cheap and verifying with that number. Might be your cheapest/easiest solution.

  • Nathan

    Thanks for all the helpful information. It really puts our minds at ease knowing this is a tried and true method

  • PR

    Hi Clint,
    I recently travelled to Bermuda from Canada and did some texting there. While my roaming AND data were off and I only attached to wifi while texting, I had my imessage off by accident for part of the time. I was charged for the texts sent and received in that time period, but am confused. If data and roaming were turned off, should I still have been charged for roaming?? Again, I was only attached to wifi while texting.

    • If you were sending/receiving texts you would still be charged for those if they weren’t over WiFi. Turning off data would only mean you wouldn’t be charged for data. You can still SMS over the network with those turned off which is why you were likely charged. Depending on your carrier and how many texts were sent you might be able to back date your plan to lower the cost of those sent texts.

      WiFi texting only works with iMessage or similar apps that use data to send messages such as WhatsApp. When you send an SMS text you will get charged unfortunately.

  • cliff

    I’m inTortola,Bvi. How can I get to Verizon wireless to add service for 2 weeks while I’m here. I can’t get through with any numbers or star 611 on my phone. Email only working once in a while too. Thanks

    • Hi Cliff, you might want to take a look at the toll free numbers page from verizon: http://www.verizonwireless.com/support/worldwide-access-numbers/ (011 800-50050099 is the number listed for BVI)

      611 might not work outside the country. Also, I am not 100% certain for Verizon but I know for ATT it is possible to backdate your plan after you use the data/make calls/text. Meaning you could use data now and add it to your plan later, which I have done with ATT in the past in some situations. I’d try to give their international number a call first.

  • Mrs. Goodlife

    I love this article. I will be heading to Asia this summer and these tips will come in handy. Thank you!

  • Elisha

    Can you send pictures over i message for free also?

  • Sarah

    Hi so i turned off all my data/3G and my data roaming is off but my phone so still connecting to a network in the US?? If im on wifi and go on the internet will it charge me? Also how am i connecting if all my cellular data is turned off

  • Emily

    Somehow iMessage was turned off. Now I cannot send or receive texts from my phone number. I cannot ‘click’ on the grayed out number. When I toggle iMessage to ‘on’ a message pops up “waiting for activation” but that’s it. I’ve a network reset. I’m in Italy, maybe that makes a difference. HELP Emily

  • Emily

    So if I turn off Cellular Data, leave voice roaming on, turn data roaming off, and buy a $40/month global voice and message plan from Verizon for my 7 day trip to Ireland, my phone won’t connect to any data unless I make it connect to wifi, and I can use my phone at my global rate if I need to make a phone call?

  • Previously On

    Great tips! Will definitely use them when I visit France. I found this awesome video that really captures the beauty and magic of the city,.http://youtu.be/i3cONM6_2cY

  • Alison Ruttan

    I am in an area with FreeWave but it only is available if I have Data Roaming on. Am I right then that extensive use of this service will be costly?

  • Maureen

    My son is in the French Riviera region and then traveling by train to Belgium, then to Dublin. While he is there, he has the ATT Passport plan added with 120 mb of data, and unlimited texting. Some questions: he’s turned off his cellular data roaming, but my question is, if he texts is it free all the time? And if he uses his phone only wherever wifi is available, is he good? I am confused by reading some of the above and I’m not sure what to tell him. The ATT Passport instructions tell you to download their app, then search for wifi hotspots, etc. Why do you need to use this app? Does this affect texting? I told him that texting is unlimited because that is what the plan said. I just want to know if there is anything he can use his phone for that will cost money outside the plan (Passport) we purchased – as long as he has the cellular data roaming turned off?

  • EOZ

    Found your terrific post less than two days before flying from the US to England for two weeks. Once I follow the turn off steps above, then I will not be able to make calls within England…yes? And, if that’s so, then I’ll have to get a temporary international plan added on to my normal US one in order to call within the UK…yes?

    My apologizes if someone has already asked this. I looked through a bunch of the Q&A’s yet not all.

  • Kristen

    T-mobile is the solution. Free unlimited data roaming and texts in 120 countries. I just ditched Verizon for T-Mobile because of this selling point. Planning my trip to China, Hong Kong and Philippines. All three countries are included in the 120 countries mentioned above. So once I land I will have access to text and data right away. No need to fumble with finding a local sim card, or turning off this and that on my phone to prevent roaming charges. Making and receiving voice calls while abroad is only 20 cents per minute. And if I upgrade my iPhone 5 to a 5S or better, I can get the WIFI calling on my phone which means once I’m connected to WIFI, I can make/receive calls for free to my friends/family in the US. For all international travelers, THIS is the plan to have. So far as coverage in NYC, it has been very good. No drop calls yet. A few delayed texts. I’ll let you guys know after I come back in Sept how this unlimited free data roaming and text is outside of the US. Bear in mind, you will only get 2G-3G speed. Not going to be fast enough for you to stream Netflix, but definitely enough to check Facebook, posts pictures, and check email. You have the option to buy a faster plan once you land but I think I can make do with 3G speed for a few weeks.

  • melissa

    I Just wanted to say thank you for this awesome article. It provided me everything I needed to know in prep for international travel. Very comprehensive, easy to understand and you actually SHOWED how to do everything. Bravo!

  • Wendy Woo

    Hi Clint,
    Hope you can answer this for me please. I’m in the uk and using wifi at home on my iPad to FaceTime an iPhone 6 in India. FaceTime worked great but would my friend in India incur any charges as I’m not sure if they were using wifi, or can FaceTime only work if both are on wifi?

  • brownjr

    I find free Wi-Fi in the world on this sitehttp://mapspanoramics.com/worldmap.html . What do you think about this?

  • Srishti

    Want to you phone free while travelling abroad, just download Ajura, an international roaming app through which you can make and receive calls to AJURA users for FREE! also, make calls to another person by saving on your heavy international roaming bills by 90% ie. cheapest international roaming charges . Visit: http://www.ajura.com

  • Sue Brown

    Hi Clint i am also a smart phone novice and just want to confirm a few points if that’s ok …I am going to Canada with a iphone and will only need to contact my son while away who also has a iphone.So where should i begin i am sat on the plane then what should i do with regard to settings ? once out there i can imessage him providing i have wifi if not message will be sent as sms and i will be charged is that correct ? how do i disable the sms option while i am away would this be the thing to do ? there is a skiing app that i wanted to use while away but would i be charged for using it ? any help to keep nil charges while away would be hugely appreciated !!

  • sharon

    i am going to japan at the end of the month I have an us at and t iPhone 6 i want to use email and text . I understand i should get a pocket wifi at the airport can you explain what i need to do on my phone to use the pocket wifi

  • Julia

    I am deploying to United arab emirates and am temporarily disconnecting my iPhone through Verizon. If someone sends me a text message from a text free messaging app to my phone number will I be able to receive the messages to my phone even if it’s disconnected. I don’t have the same text messaging app as the person texting so it won’t be that we are both in the same texting app). Will I still receive their texts even if I can’t reply to them?

  • Winkfone

    Winkfone is a great new app which is perfect for travellers and people regularly making international calls.

    Low Cost International Calls + Talk & Chat for Free, choose local numbers in the places that matter to you, Out of Wi-Fi coverage, no problem.

    Download the Winkfone App at http://www.winkfone.com/getwink

  • Riona

    i will be traveling to Iran and will need to text and possibly call a USA cell phone user in a way that does not result in cost to the USA person. Can I do this by acquiring and Iranian SIM card as opposed to using WiFi at the various hotels? Thanks for any help you can give.

  • Karen Sloey

    I need to be able to use airbnb app for my overseas trip. How do I do that if I have turned off apps etc

  • Lol such a nice trick 🙂 my question is, is it ok if airplane mode is turned on in order to do the free texting?

  • Jessica

    I am going to Iran for two weeks. I am a woman of a certain age and not at all tech savvy. I have an Iphone 6s. Can you provide me with the simpliest, easiest to use option for texting and/or calling and/or emailing. Too many choices. I just want one.

  • Jd

    Hi! I’m from South Africa and currently in canada! I only switched my phone on when I landed in canada! But i never unlocked my sim card. I only use wifi! Can i be billed for this?

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