Service Review: Brightroam

Most of the time when I travel to Italy, I never even think about having a cell phone with me. I go on vacation, and my cell phone just reminds me of being home and having to deal with work calls and voicemail. But if you are heading to Italy with friends or have friends there, having a phone can be indispensable — especially if you are trying to coordinate a night out or track down a friend. Nothing is worse than sitting around in your hotel room or at your hostel waiting for the phone to ring. Italians can almost be fanatical about their phones (some have two or three!), and it’s a good way to fit in with your Italian friends because they know that they can get in touch with you easily. That will make reconnecting with people you meet much easier!

This past trip instead of using international roaming with my own cell phone carrier, I decided to try out Brightroam, a company that specializes in providing Sim cards and telephones for international travelers. The great thing about this company is that the phone is not a rental, and, if your phone is already capable of working in Europe, all you need to do is just pop in the new Sim card for whichever country you are traveling too, and you’re good to go. They also offer a service whereby you can forward calls from your normal cell phone, home phone or office phone all to your Brightroam number – that way you can avoid having to check multiple voicemails or carry around more than one phone. Also, it will avoid friends and family having to keep track of your international cell phone number – they can just dial you direct and get you directly at your new number while you’re overseas!

The rates, I found, were much cheaper using Brightroam than using international roaming with my home carrier. I tend to use text messages more often than not, and it cost me only 29 cents per message sent – you don’t pay to receive calls or text messages. I also didn’t have to worry about recharging my minutes – they simply bill you at the end of each month. If you don’t want a bill, they give you the option of purchasing phone credits, too. During my month in Italy, I spent less than $50 on text messages and phone calls, and I never missed a night out with friends and had the peace of mind knowing that, if something went wrong back home,  my friends and family could get in touch with me. The best part: you only pay for the calls and texts that you send and never for the calls and texts that you receive, just as if you had a proper European mobile!

If your current cell phone is locked to your carrier and won’t accept another SIM card, Brightroam sells inexpensive phones. I purchased a basic Nokia 3120 that doesn’t have a lot of the bells and whistles that many modern phones do, but it served its purpose for text messaging and telephone calls. You could even just buy the SIM card and hunt for an unlocked tri-band phone on Ebay. The possibilities are endless.

Check out their site – perhaps it will be as useful to you as it was for me.

NB: I didn’t use the forward phone call feature, but I’ve heard good things about it. Contact Brightroam directly if you want to know more about it. Also, this review was unsolicited – I was not paid for my opinions. Any opinions expressed are solely mine. Your experiences with Brightroam may differ from mine.