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Reader Q: How Do I Call My Airbnb Host Without a Phone Abroad?

Is it really worth dealing with a phone plan if you’re going to be outside of the country for a few days? Probably not. Technology is not always the answer *GASP.*

A reader recently emailed us this question:

Hi Erica,

I have a question for you. I live in the U.S. and have Verizon (I know you would recommend T-Mobile). I’m going to Spain for a few days for a wedding and don’t really need to stay super connected beyond the Wi-Fi in our Airbnb. But I do need to call the Airbnb hosts. What is my best option here?

As far as I have been able to figure out, I can pay Verizon $40 for a monthly international plan that includes texts and minutes. It’s $25 for data, which I suppose will do the trick if I use Google Hangouts to make the call. Is that correct? A small cheat here is that I’m traveling towards the middle of the month, so they will actually pro-rate the monthly plan if I buy it right before I leave, making it slightly cheaper. Any other ideas?

Thank you!

Hey Jocelyn,

I’d actually pick neither because this all seems really complicated! But it’s also a nice reminder that the simplest solution is often the most effective. Unless you’re going to be in actual physical pain without a phone for a few days, I’d recommend using one of the options below. Or the top two.

Option 1:

Experienced Airbnb hosts often will recognize that their international guests rarely, if they ever do, have mobile access. Even then, to be on the safe side, explain to the host that you will not have cellphone access.

Do make sure they know your flight number, arrival time and how you plan on getting to their place (metro, taxi, etc.) so they know when to expect your arrival. (They know how long it takes to get to/from the airport from their place.)

Cost: Free

Option 2:

Borrow someone’s phone to call your host. Yeah, dude.

I realize it’s not the hippest way to get in touch and technology is supposed to get our level of required human interaction down to zero, but this is still the most efficient way of doing it.

Most people are pretty nice (if you’re nice) so just be sure to explain (or gesticulate) the situation in non-frightening overtones. Explain the situation best you can. Even if your language skills are poor, people can suss out what’s going on by context. (I’d point to my phone, hold it to my ear, point to the phone number, make a confused look, point to their phone and put on my best pathetic sad face.)

I always offer a dollar or two to cover the cost of the phone call out of courtesy but most people won’t take it. Plus, the upside is that the person can dial it locally for you if you don’t know how to do it. HINT: Taxi drivers are great for this because they need to know where to drop you off anyways.

Cost: Free

Option 3:

If by for some magic, your Verizon phone supports GSM, then you might be in luck. Just call Verizon and see if it’s possible to unlock for international use.

Once you arrive at the airport, head to any cell phone kiosk and ask if they have prepaid cards available. Put the smallest amount of euro on it possible and get it activated. Some providers may also offer a daily rate for a set amount of minutes and data. This requires a bit more hassle but should cost less than the $25 international plan Verizon offers. (For instance, it only cost me $2 per day in Australia for unlimited text and data.)

Cost: A few euro.

Got a question? Feel free us to email us at [email protected].

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