Hello everyone, the phrase in the title used to refer to AMEX back in the days. Today the third most valuable items when I travel, is the smartphone. If you consider the newer payment systems like apple pay, it would rank just below your passport and it wont be long before our passports are inside these devices.
For example, apparently the best way to get in and out of the Moscow airport is the train (if someone has a different opinion please share it as I’m a newbie at this) I downloaded the train app today and it looks pretty good (for example you can get your tickets on apple wallet)
So, as we are preparing for the trip to Russia in, wow less than two months, one item that came up is making sure that our smartphones can connect over there and have data service. (to be honest I couldn’t care much about voice service as long as I have data)
Let me share my thoughts on a couple of options (and my current choice)
Option 1: Data roaming package
With AT&T Mexico it’s only MXN$1699 (about 90 USD) for 1 Gb of data (valid for up to 30 days) and with Telcel the cost for 1 GB is $999 but it’s valid for seven days.
(I thought about enquiring about a mortgage with the bank to pay for roaming costs and then decided against it)
Option 2: Buy a Russian Phone
After reviewing the internet, turns out mobile service is not expensive in Russia and in theory, prepaid should be simple to acquire. The Megafon Russia webpage has a 4G phone for 2500 rubles which is about 42 USD and the plan is about 10 dollars including 10 GB of data per month. (you need to present your passport to acquire the phone and that’s it) (in theory)
With this plan, the amount of money is significantly less than the mortgage plan (#1) however… phone in Russian?
Plus, I’m not sure if it would work as a modem for other devices and if something doesn’t work I’m screwed.
Option 3: Buy a Cell Router
Buying internet access on a nationwide basis is not expensive, 900 rubles (about 15 USD) can get you 20 GB of data which should be enough data for all the trip and all the devices. You can check the plans here .
I will need a modem that can provide wifi access for my phone and other devices and I chose the Glocalme U2 (Amazon). The nice thing about this device is that it can provide it’s own service where 3GB cost $14 dollars or it can take a local sim.
What I liked about this plan is that I can have an account setup with this guys (Glocalme) before leaving, check it, test it (promise I will report on it) and then when we get to Russia, I will try to get a local SIM as it is definitely cheaper. (if we have issues with the local SIM, the $14@3GB is definitely better than the $90@1GB option reviewed above even after considering the cost of the device)
Most reviews were positive about the device and the service plus the cost of the device is very comparable to that of other plain router models (those which would only allow you to use the local SIM).
I will let you know when I get the device set up and tested.
There is one important downside to this strategy, beware: the Iphone has a lot of configuration settings to limit the amount of data it consumes when it is using mobile data, however in this case, the phone will be connected through WiFi to a cell network. All of these features will not work. (for example, if your phone is connected to icloud, and you take a photo, it will upload the photo immediately).