1. Why can’t I use my current cell phone overseas?
The U.S. is actually behind the rest of the world when it comes to cell phone technology. Most cell phones in the U.S. are not compatible with the frequency or bandwidth used overseas. To get technical, only a tri-band phone (known as a GSM phones) with a 900, 1800 or 1900 frequency phone will work overseas. You can buy tri-band phones in the U.S. but they are generally more expensive, harder to find and only a few local networks sell them. All those big telco’s you know and love will only sell you what’s called a “locked GSM phone” meaning that you are locked into using that provider’s service and there’s no actual key you can use to unlock it. That translates to huge roaming fees and a big bill at the end of the month. You could use one of their phones, but why would you? An “unlocked” phone is what you want, one that isn’t tied to a particular network, so you can choose any network or provider and the service that suits you best.
2. How does a GSM phone work?
Cell phone users need to know what a SIM (Subscriber Information Module) card is, because it is the SIM card that operates a GSM phone. A SIM card is a small encoded chip that is inserted into the back on the phone, containing your unique account information including the telephone number and your personal address book. SIM cards are removable, interchangeable and can be purchased for individual countries or for multiple countries (i.e. a global roaming SIM card).
3. Is it true that I can get free in-coming calls, free text messages and local call rates overseas (without roaming charges)?
Believe it or not, what we consider as normal in the U.S. is to pay for the in-coming calls. Your friends across the pond have it much easier. In-coming calls on cell phones are actually free in almost every country in the world (with the exception of the U.S., Mexico, Canada, China, the Bahamas, Kuwait, Singapore, Hong Kong and parts of Russia). Instead of paying for in-coming calls, try Telestial, which has free in-coming calls in 40 of the most popular destinations around the world. You’ll pay the local cell phone call rates in most destinations, without being penalized with exorbitant international roaming charges. With Telestial’s Explorer SIM card, customers can also receive free text messages plus family and friends of Telestial customers can send free SMS text messages from www.telestial.com to Telestial Explorer subscribers overseas.
4. Do I need to sign a contract for my international cell service?
The beauty of owning an unlocked cell phone is that there are no contracts. SIM cards are pre-paid and can be purchased on a country by country basis. Alternatively, travelers can buy a global roaming SIM card which allows for usage in multiple countries. With Telestial’s global roaming “Explorer” and “Passport” SIM cards, users have cell phone coverage in 100+ countries and can set up an auto-recharge facility with no need to go online or phone in to recharge the card. You can start with as little as $10 of air time credit.
5. Is it cheaper to rent or buy a phone?
Depending on the type and frequency of travel, purchasing an internationally compatible unlocked GSM cell phone is both affordable and practical. It is especially economical for people who travel overseas often and is certainly a cheaper and easier option than renting. Factors to be considered are the length of a trip, the purpose (business or leisure) and your budget. The down side of renting is being locked into paying the rental company’s call rates, which can be as high as $5 per minute from some countries (plus many charge for in-coming calls). Purchasing a phone gives the freedom to choose a SIM card that suits your needs, without being tied to a particular network or provider. And, of course, the reality is that at the end of the rental period, you have to give back the phone whereas the price of purchasing it out right may not be much higher.
Purchasing also helps avoid additional administration each time you travel, including ordering, paying for shipping, always having different telephone numbers when you travel and the paranoia of keeping track of how much each call is costing. Add in the fact that you won’t need to become familiar with a new handset every time you rent, and that you can loan it out to friends, family and colleagues, and you have some pretty compelling arguments in favor of purchasing. GSM phones start from as little as $99, which is a small investment to make if you are a frequent leisure or business traveler.
Telestial is a leading provider of deeply discounted international cell phones, pre-paid SIM cards for global coverage and other communications services that allow travelers to easily retain control over costs while staying in touch overseas. Unlike phone rental options, Telestial eliminates problems associated with incompatible cellular networks abroad or being tied to a U.S. network that charges exorbitant international rates. Working with providers worldwide, Telestial customers can get the same low local call rates that international residents would pay, plus the convenience of an enabled phone prior to arriving in an international destination. Telestial ensures affordable and simple international calling options for business or leisure with a wide selection of phone types and packages. For more information visit www.telestial.com
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What the Department of State Can and Can’t Do in a Crisis
- What is the Department of State’s role during a crisis overseas? Do you always evacuate U.S. citizens during a crisis overseas?
- The actions we take depend on the nature of the crisis. In some instances, we may only need to provide information on conditions in the country, such as warning about areas of unrest, how and where to seek help, and other useful advice. In more serious situations, we may recommend that U.S. citizens leave the foreign country, and, if commercial transportation is not available, provide departure assistance, as our resources permit.
- What departure assistance do you provide? Why do you tell U.S. citizens they should leave, and then don’t offer transportation?
- The assistance we provide depends upon the nature of the crisis. Regularly scheduled commercial flights or transportation are always the best option when local communications and transportation infrastructure are intact and operating normally, even if we have advised all U.S. citizens to leave. Our efforts are devoted to keeping the local U.S. citizen community informed of developments and travel options.
- What happens during an evacuation?
- Each evacuation depends on the nature of the crisis. In extreme situations, where local infrastructure is damaged or severely compromised, we work with the host government, other countries, and other U.S. government agencies to arrange chartered or non-commercial transportation for U.S. citizens seeking to depart. This could include transportation by air, land, or sea. While we partner closely with the Department of Defense, military options are only used as a last resort. You should not expect the U.S. military to assist you when we issue a Travel Warning advising you to leave a country.
- Why don’t you use the U.S. military in every evacuation?
- We use the resources that are most expedient and appropriate to the situation. Expectations of rescue by helicopters, the U.S. military, and U.S. government-provided transportation with armed escorts reflect a Hollywood script more than reality. While some evacuations involve U.S. military or other U.S. government assets, most rely on commercial transportation and local infrastructure. Any level of departure assistance constitutes an enormous logistical effort.
- Will the U.S. government come and pick me up if I need assistance getting to the airport or other evacuation point?
- Crises place an enormous strain on our resources as embassy personnel focus on assisting U.S. citizens affected by the crisis. Security conditions can also limit our ability to move freely around the country. It is almost impossible for the U.S. government to provide in-country transportation service to individuals or specific groups during a foreign crisis. You should therefore pay close heed to our travel and safety information for the country they are traveling to or residing in, monitor local conditions, and have a plan of action in case of emergency.
- Will the U.S. government pay for my travel? How much will it cost?
- Departure assistance is expensive. U.S. law 22 U.S.C. 2671(b) (2) (A) requires that any departure assistance be provided “on a reimbursable basis to the maximum extent practicable.” This means that evacuation costs are ultimately your responsibility; you will be asked to sign a form promising to repay the U.S. government. We charge you the equivalent of a full coach fare on commercial air at the time that commercial options cease to be a viable option. You will be taken to a nearby safe location, where the traveler will need to make his or her own onward travel arrangements. If you are destitute, and private resources are not available to cover the cost of onward travel, you may be eligible for emergency financial assistance.
- What about my pets? Will the U.S. government transport them?
- In general, we are not able to provide transportation assistance for your pets. If the pet can fit into an under-the-seat carrier, it can accompany the traveler. U.S. citizens traveling or residing abroad with pets should make alternate plans for their care or commercial transport if a crisis occurs abroad.
- How can I receive updated information during a crisis?
- We encourage all U.S. citizens traveling abroad, especially citizens who plan to be overseas for a significant amount of time, to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). It is important that you keep your contact information up-to-date so that we can notify you or your designated emergency contact of developments and provide valuable information.
Also be sure to monitor our website, travel.state.gov, for updates, as this is our primary tool to disseminate important information during a crisis. Our Facebook and Twitter accounts are also good sources of information. Rest assured that in case of a crisis, we will make use of all available modes of communication to keep our citizens informed, including the internet, social media, TV, and radio.
- If I don’t hear from the embassy or I’m not enrolled in STEP, can I call them?
- Often our embassies and consulates abroad cannot handle the huge volume of calls that follow a major crisis. We encourage you to contact us using the Task Force Alert (see below for more details), special e-mail addresses established for public inquiries during a crisis, or our U.S.-based telephone number at 1-888-407-4747 (from overseas +1-202-501-4444).
- What is Task Force Alert? How can I provide information about myself or my U.S. citizen friends and loved ones who are affected by a crisis overseas?
- The best way to contact us during a major crisis overseas is via Task Force Alert, a free service that allows U.S. citizens to enter information about themselves or their U.S. citizens friends and loved ones into a database that we use to provide emergency consular assistance to U.S. citizens during a crisis. This service does not automatically alert emergency medical or law enforcement officials. U.S. citizens experiencing an emergency that requires immediate medical or law enforcement response should contact appropriate local responders. It is only applicable to U.S. citizens who are in the affected foreign country, and we do not collect information on people who are not U.S. citizens.
- What if I don’t have access to e-mail or phone?
- We know that Internet and cell phone service is sometimes interrupted during a crisis. Land line phones might also be affected. In such cases, we will use local television and radio to broadcast emergency information and may also use a system of pre-designated U.S. citizen “wardens” to pass on information to other U.S. citizens in your area. We also encourage citizens to reach out to family and friends outside the affected area to obtain information and relay messages to and from the task force handling the crisis at the Department of State. Don’t underestimate the power of social media – regularly updating your status through social media sites is an effective way to let your loved ones know how you are doing.
- What about my family and friends who are not U.S. citizens? Will you help them depart the country?
- During a crisis, our priority is assisting U.S. citizens. You should not expect to bring friends or relatives who are not U.S. citizens on U.S. government chartered or non-commercial transportation. Exceptions may be made to accommodate special family circumstances, such as when the spouse of a U.S. citizen is a legal permanent resident, or “green card” holder; however, it is the non-U.S. citizen’s responsibility to be sure he or she has appropriate travel documentation for the destination location. Any services provided to non-U.S. citizens are on a space-available basis after U.S. citizens are accommodated.
- If my U.S. passport is expired, will you still assist me?
- We strongly recommend that all U.S. citizens traveling or residing abroad keep their travel documents up-to-date. If your U.S. passport expires, you may be required to obtain a valid emergency travel document from the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate before traveling. In some cases, we may need to take additional steps to determine your citizenship.
- What happens to visa processing during a crisis?
- In a crisis, our priority is assisting U.S. citizens. Depending on the nature and extent of the crisis, visa processing could be limited or suspended.
- Death of an American citizen abroad
- Arrest/detention of an American citizen abroad
- Sending Money
- Help for American Victims of Crime Overseas
- American citizens missing abroad
- Abduction of a child abroad
- Lost and Stolen U.S. Passports Abroad
CONTACT OVERSEAS CITIZENS SERVICES:
From within the U.S. 1-888-407-4747
From outside the U.S. 1-202-501-4444
The State Department’s Office of American Citizen Services and Crisis Management (ACS) is here to assist you and your family whenever and wherever we can. We work with our overseas embassies and consulates to provide emergency services to Americans abroad. We can help send money overseas to assist U.S. citizens, repatriate the remains of loved ones who have died, assist victims of crime, and help U.S. citizens who are detained in foreign prisons. ACS also administers a repatriation loan program to bring home destitute Americans. We operate a 24-hour Duty Officer Program.
We also work on task forces convened to deal with natural or man-made disasters.
Hurricane Irene Update- September 9, 2011
We wanted to give you an update on NC Disaster Relief efforts following Hurricane Irene. We have been serving in many different locations across eastern NC. Here are some totals as of today:
- Total meals prepared: 163,746
- Total showers: 3328
- Total laundry loads: 720
- Total work requests completed to date: 806
- Number of jobs remaining: 603
We have also had many volunteers doing Medical Reserve Corp, Childcare, Administration, Chaplaincy and other things to help minister after Hurricane Irene. In addition to our NC volunteers we invited other sister state conventions in to help us. So far there have been volunteers from Florida, Mississippi, Kentucky, Arkansas, Alabama, South Carolina, West Virginia, Oklahoma and other states.
We still need lots of volunteers to help people affected by Irene. Right now we are focusing efforts on Greenville, New Bern, Kinston, and Belhaven. We are doing some things in other places including Hatteras, but we hope to open more opportunities in Pamlico County and in Hatteras in the next few days.
Pray for the volunteers that respond! Pray for people affected by Hurricane Irene. Pray that God will use our efforts to Glorify Him. For more information and to sign up to help, go to http://baptistsonmission.org/Projects/Type/Disaster-Relief/Hurricane-Irene
Posted on Sep 2, 2011 | by Mickey Noah
ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP) — Twelve Southern Baptist Disaster Relief feeding units from seven state conventions had already cooked nearly 94,000 meals for Hurricane Irene survivors and first-responders as of Sept. 1.
The SBDR feeding operation spans 11 states ravaged by heavy rains and flooding from Irene’s march up the East Coast.
But the work is only beginning.
Irene claimed more than 40 lives; as of Sept. 2, more than a half-million people remained without power up and down the eastern seaboard. Damages from Irene have been estimated at $10 billion.
As more SBDR assessment teams are able to get into inaccessible or isolated areas, the long-term challenge of Hurricane Irene’s devastation is coming into focus. In much of Vermont and in north New Jersey around Paterson, entire towns and villages are surrounded by floodwater.
Mike Flannery, state disaster relief director for the Baptist Convention of New York — which also serves northern New Jersey — said it may take a week or more to get into the Paterson area. Across New Jersey, more than 15 rivers continue to flood.
Mickey Caison, disaster relief team leader with the North American Mission Board in Alpharetta, Ga., reported, "It will take time to get in some of these places because in these locations, the river level is just now cresting or receding."
But in areas where Southern Baptists can get in, Caison said feeding units from Baptist state conventions are either up and running or on the road en route.
In North Carolina — where Irene hit last Saturday — feeding by Florida Baptists is underway at Second Baptist Church and Riverview Baptist Church in Washington, N.C. Meanwhile, Mississippi Baptist volunteers are feeding in Ahoski, N.C.
Feeding also is underway by New York and Mississippi Baptists at Grace Baptist Church in Washingtonville, N.Y., where the American Red Cross has requested 20,000 meals a day over the next week. To support the New York and Mississippi crews, a Kentucky Baptist feeding unit became the 13th state convention feeding crew to be activated. That feeding team, accompanied by two shower units, began the 15-hour trip to the Albany-Schenectady area of upstate New York on Sept. 1.
Bruce James, disaster relief director for the New England Baptist Convention, called the SBDR response in New England "fluid."
"Vermont seems to have the greatest needs at present," James said. "There is no local support in the area and many small towns have been affected."
Incident command centers to coordinate the DR response in Vermont have been established at Capstone Baptist Church in Bennington, Vt., and at Resurrection Baptist Church in Vermont’s capital city of Montpelier, James reported. Assessors from South Carolina are in Vermont to survey the flood damage and develop a response plan.
The Southern Baptists Conservatives of Virginia (SBCV) feeding units are preparing 7,000 meals a day on the campus of Liberty Baptist Church in Hampton, Va., while Virginia Baptist Mission Board (VBMB) units are feeding at the Virginia Baptist Resource Center in Richmond and at St. Stephens Church in St. Stephens, Va.
In southern Maryland, the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware is coordinating a chainsaw operation based at Leonardtown Baptist Church in Leonardtown, Md. Three Tennessee chainsaw units are deployed there, along with a Kentucky shower unit.
In addressing SBDR’s response to Irene, Kevin Ezell, president of NAMB, said, "We’re anticipating that Southern Baptist volunteers will be in demand for weeks to come. This is the kind of work that Southern Baptists are well-equipped to perform. As always, our disaster relief chaplains and volunteers will bring the hope of the Gospel.
"I’m grateful to our state convention partners who do such an amazing job in times like this," Ezell said. "In times of need, we bring a hope that transcends our circumstances. Southern Baptists have always responded generously when fellow citizens face a crisis."
Southern Baptists and others who want to donate to disaster relief operations can contact their respective state conventions or, for NAMB’s disaster relief fund, go to www.namb.net/disaster-relief-donations and hit the "donate" button. Other ways to donate are to call 1-866-407-NAMB (6262) or mail checks to NAMB, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. Donations can also be sent via texting "NAMBDR" to the number "40579." A one-time donation of $10 will be added to the caller’s mobile phone bill or deducted from any prepaid balance.
Mickey Noah writes for the North American Mission Board.
Posted on Sep 2, 2011 | by Mike Creswell
WILLIAMSTON, N.C. (BP) — North Carolina Baptist Men distributed more than 12,000 meals a day from their food preparation unit Manna One in Williamston the week following the Hurricane Irene‘s landfall, part of a wider response helping people across coastal North Carolina in their recovery.
Some 60 men and women volunteers were manning the mobile food preparation unit, set up at a vacant lot in downtown Williamston Aug. 31. The volunteers prepared 11,652 meals on Aug. 30, said John Gore, the "white hat" incident commander overseeing the food ministry.
"We had no power when we arrived Sunday, but they got it back later," said Gore, a member of Greenwood Baptist Church in Thomasville. He said most meals were being distributed in and around Williamston by the American Red Cross, operating a fleet of emergency response trucks.
Volunteers packed individual meals in Styrofoam boxes, with the boxes placed in insulated containers so most people would get warm meals.
Hundreds of meals also were served to local people, many of whom were still without electricity. "Bless you!" one grateful woman said as she accepted two box lunches of hamburger steak, lima beans, mixed fruit, bread and cookies, along with either tea or punch.
Several of the volunteers were members of nearby Memorial Baptist Church, where many volunteers were staying and where phones were being manned to handle the intense behind-the-scenes coordination required to keep people, supplies and multiple response organizations functioning smoothly.
Gore said more volunteers were expected to arrive in Williamston from across North Carolina and 40 or 50 Baptist volunteers from Arkansas. Methodists and Roman Catholics offered to house volunteers, plus one local person offered a vacant store equipped with air conditioning and bathrooms for visiting volunteers to use.
Many of the volunteers in Williamston were from western North Carolina, recalling how coastal Baptists came to their aid in 2005 when heavy floods struck wide areas of the western part of the state. Jo Davidson, for example, is a member of Ellijay Missionary Baptist Church, just upstream near the Cullasaja River where mudslides killed several people that year.
NC Baptist Men also have a major food preparation ministry under way in New Bern, recovery work in Greenville and other sites still being evaluated for future work. Baptist Men from Kentucky arrived Sept. 1 to begin helping with recovery efforts in Greenville. Baptist Men volunteers from Mississippi are helping with recovery in Ahoskie.
"We are mainly working in Martin and Bertie counties from here in Williamston," Gore said. In addition to the food ministry, some 30 other NC Baptist Men volunteers were out helping homeowners clear fallen trees in the area.
Gore went over to Washington, N.C., about 25 miles away, on Aug. 29 to welcome a 45-member team of Baptist Men from Florida who came to help with recovery.
Two days later that team was preparing up to 6,000 meals a day from a base initially set up at Second Baptist Church in Washington, said Fritz Wilson, director of disaster relief with the Florida Baptist Convention.
Most of the cooking team came from First Baptist Church in Ocala, Fla., which transported team members in one of the church’s buses for the 550-mile journey. Other teams were out clearing downed trees for homeowners.
"You guys in North Carolina have driven down to help us many times over the years, so that’s why we’re happy we’re here to help you," said Wilson, who was making his third trip to North Carolina to help with a hurricane response.
Dale Duncan, an active volunteer and former NC Baptist Men president, was on hand to help coordinate with the Florida volunteers. Duncan is a member of First Baptist Church in Spruce Pine, N.C.
Wilson said NC Baptist Men’s men and women volunteers have been great partners with Florida Baptists in ongoing ministry in Haiti as well.
As boldly proclaimed on their trucks, Florida Baptists support disaster relief through their Cooperative Program giving.
NC Baptist Men, meanwhile, primarily is funded through the North Carolina Missions Offering, which is being promoted across the state in September. Meeting the NCMO goal of $2.1 million will assure that NC Baptist Men can continue to have the equipment and other resources needed to respond to disasters like Irene. Disaster relief is just one of the 14 ministries carried out by NC Baptist Men in North Carolina and beyond. To donate to NCMO, go to www.ncmissionsoffering.org or call 1-800-395-5102, ext. 5547.
Mike Creswell is the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina‘s senior consultant for the Cooperative Program.
We all have heard of the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan. As disaster relief leaders work toward getting set up for volunteer assistance, we are sure many will want to have internet access to keep in touch with loved ones and supporters back home. One company has announced special offerings for disaster relief workers assisting the Japanese people.