When looking for a cell phone that will work in various areas around the world you want to find a phone that is listed as ‘Quad Band’. This ‘quad’ designation means the phone is designed to accept and work with the different bands and frequencies of cell phone systems in other countries. A quad band phone is also called a world phone and will easily adapt to find the nearest cell phone network and begin using it automatically.
Tri-Band phones are generally good in some countries but your risking a useless phone if you travel with a Tri-Band phone and happen upon a network that uses the band your phone doesn’t support so go with a Quad Band phone only. Satellite phones are only for those who travel to all 4 corners of the earth often and financially are not worth the investment for the average traveler.
You’ll also need to pick a service provider that either has networks around the world or has agreements with other networks to allow their customers to use other provider networks when traveling. Companies such as Verizon and Sprint do NOT have this kind of accessibility(they are exclusively based in the US network), so even if you buy a quad-band phone from them you will not be able to access networks in other parts of the world easily. I recommend T-mobile as in my experience they have the best worldwide service available. They have agreements with cell phone networks all over the globe and sell many Motorola quad-band phones. I was in Ireland and had excellent service where ever I was (and for those that know Ireland there are many areas with nothing but rolling hills and nature). Many companies charge a monthly fee to ‘activate’ international usage, T-Mobile is free to set this feature up.
To sum it up you want to purchase a Quad-Band phone that will work on all 4 of the world’s cell phone bands. Motorola makes excellent world band phones for this purpose. As far as cell phone providers go, T-Mobile offers some the most shared network access around the world and their international calling rates and text message rates are lower then the industry average. One other option you have is to purchase an unlocked quad-band phone then buy a SIM card for what ever network you assume you’ll be accessing. It may offer lower rates while in that network, but for anyone who travels to various locations around the world instead of just one, it may be easier to go with a company such as T-mobile.
Also be sure to purchase electrical outlet adapters (and possibly voltage converters) for the countries you will be in. Like most electronic devices, cell phones are extremely sensitive to even small voltage differences while charging which could leave you with what used to be a usable communications device.