Visiting foreign country. Option besides SIM

I’m going off to Israel in a couple of months. The last time I went, I decided not to bother buying an Israeli SIM because my cell phone provider gives me unlimited text and data and charges just 25¢ per minute for calls. A SIM was way more expensive. However, my Israeli relatives weren’t too happy with that because it meant that they had to pay for an international call to contact me when I was just down the block.

All I want is a local phone number I can forward to my phone. I don’t need texting. I don’t need voice mail. All I need is a local phone. I’ve looked at various options, and they seem way more than what I want and way more than I want to spend. After all, it’s not even for me, it’s for people who want to call me.

Anyone have any ideas?

I assume that using a VOIP app like one of the following is not an option for your relatives:

  1. WhatsApp
  2. WeChat
  3. Skype
  4. Google Hangouts
  5. Facebook Messenger
  6. Viber Messanger

Look at maybe they have Israeli numbers.

I had Google Voice for free and dumped them for iPlum. A lot cheaper than $0.25 a minute. Great support versus no support from Google

Or just use WhatsApp to call using data and not the cellular network. WhatsApp is free. Works great!

Do your friends and relatives have iPhones? If so, you can use FaceTime (audio-only, if you don’t want to use video) to call them.

No. That’s an option. Tell people to use WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger to contact us. Most people in Israel now use WhatsApp. In fact, it was WhatsApp that made me get my wife an Apple Watch (as well as a new iPhone).

My wife kept her phone in her purse where she could blissfully ignore it. That meant her friends would contact me to pass along messages to her. When her Israeli relatives who only spoke Hebrew started calling me, someone who only speaks English, on WhatsApp, I drew the line. My wife apparently told them they could do this.

For her birthday, she got a new Apple Watch and a new iPhone. Plus, she got a WhatsApp account. It was one of the most expensive birthday presents and one she least enjoyed initially. I had put her on a leash. However, she now does texting and stuff with her friends with her watch, and I’m no longer her social secretary.

Things have changed since we were last there. Israelis now use WhatsApp as a means of avoiding the expense of calling. Many Israelis now even use VoIP phones and calling an American number is no longer 10 shekels per minute (about $3). I believe a few of her family in Israel actually have secondary American phone numbers.

A SIM is like $30 per week. There are two of us and we’re staying for two weeks. In the bigger picture, paying $120 is pocket change to the rest of the cost, but swapping SIM cards is a pain. Plus, a lot of people contact me on my cellphone — either texting or phone. I don’t want to lose that, and I don’t want to pay for the forwarding cost. My son did that, and he ended up paying his cellphone service over $100 for the forwarded calls and texts.

And in the end, it’s not even for me. It’s for our Israeli friends’ benefit.

Feh on that. They can learn to use WhatsApp.

1 Like

Unfortunately not.

In most of the world, it’s an Android world. Android worldwide outsells Apple by 2 to 1. Of course, if you want just a cellphone or you want a dirt cheap cellphone, Android is the way to go. I can buy a new Android phone in for under $100 in most places in the world.

And in those places, Apple products are an absolute premium. They cost about 20% to 30% more than in the US. It’s why I see foreigners all the time coming out of the New York Apple Store with a ½ dozen phones, another ½ dozen iPads, and even multiple Macs. They’re loading up to pass them onto friends and family. Apple products are a status symbol in Israel.

Which iPhones do you have? If you have eSIM compatible phones, you can convert your existing service to eSIM before you travel and then put the Israeli SIM in while on the trip to continue to be contacted on both numbers.

That’s another option: purchase a cheap Android phone and get a local number for that device. (Will you and your wife be together the entire time so that you can share a single phone?)

In the Before Times, I was happy with using GigSky (e-sim) and Skype for reachability across Europe and the UK.

1 Like

There was a time you bought tokens at the post office for the pay phones. My wife still has a collection. Of course most of her family didn’t have phones. The waiting list was almost a decade.

Or alternatively, can you get an Israeli eSIM? I did some web searching and there seem to be companies that offer them (but I don’t know if any of these companies are any good).

1 Like