Sometimes you just need to use a cell phone especially when you are new to the area. How else can you call for help or listen to a friendly voice? Using cell phones in the Dominican Republic may not be easy as you think but definitely much easier if you know your options before hand. You have to think if you will even have good cell phone reception in the area you will be living at (okay in the city but maybe none in the country). Sometimes all you have do is ask maybe the person selling or renting the house or maybe the reception at a hotel you may be staying in or maybe a local who lives or works in the area. Even if you don’t plan originally on a phone in the DR, I recommend still reading this article in case you do.

First, you got to know what you currently have – the type of carrier (GSM or CDMA), length of your contract, if you will keep your service or not, what are the roaming rates, do they have any international plan, etc…If you decide to continue with your service in the US and maybe use the phone in case of emergency only and pay the roaming charges you may be okay to continue but again I wouldn’t recommend it.

I will try to provide the information that I currently know about the major carriers in the US – Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T. Your options for using a cell phone in the DR are:

  1. Use your current cell phone service as is a very expensive and I don’t recommend it, trust me there are cheaper with other options.
  2. Use your current cell phone service but with an international roaming special plan is a little cheaper option and may work well but it depends on your carrier and how long you will be here. For example, Sprint has an Open World plan that gives you unlimited calls to the US and 1 GB of roaming data is included in your plan, both while in the DR. The downside Sprint is a CDMA network and although the DR has Tricom (another CDMA provider) it is a bad network for data. T-mobile (GSM carrier) has a special add-on for DR travelers which gives you unlimited data in the DR you just have to pay an additional $20 to your plan. (this is the only carrier that I haven’t ever personally tested in the DR). Verizon (CDMA carrier) roaming per MB or call or $10 per 24 hours for use of your plan as if you were in the US. So if you have 2 GB plan in the US, you have 2 GB that you can use in one month in the DR. You also have unlimited calls with this option. AT&T (GSM) roaming is per MB or call or a certain amount per 30 day period. I forgot what it is but I think its $40 additional to your plan.
  3. Keep your cell phone service and place it on hold where you pay little or no money a month to your US provider while using one or more of the options below (#5-7).
  4. Keep your cell phone number and pay no money a month to your current carrier by porting your number to a Google Voice number. See my article on Google Voice. You have to be on a no contract or completed a contract to ensure you don’t get charged cancellation or early termination fees.
  5. Unlock your phone if it’s locked. Any authorized dealer will unlock your phone starting at $700 RDU. They may charge you more if you are American but if they tell you it’s like $1500 RDU for your phone, just say that’s too expensive and find someone else. They may bring down the price some, maybe to even $1000. It’s up to you but I have to mention that no matter what they tell you Verizon doesn’t lock their phones. Don’t pay any money like I did. Better yet regardless of who you have to talk to your carrier first to see if you have a locked phone by asking – is my phone locked? Can I use it with another GSM/CDMA carrier? Also, don’t let the dealer start anything unless you have agreed to pay. It’s sometimes best to say before they start -“I don’t have the money, I will come back later” or anything to prevent them from starting to program your phone. Otherwise, they will be pressuring you to pay for a service they performed at their price. NOTE: You can always state “I didn’t tell you to do that, I don’t have the money with me, and I am not paying” and walk away (with your phone). Most of the times, they knew they were wrong they just wanted the money.
  6. Get a local sim card. For programming purposes, you need to stay with the same type of carrier especially if you want access to data. The Dominican Republic has 3 major carriers for cell phones – Claro, Orange, and Tricom. Claro and Orange are GSM carriers and Tricom is a CDMA carrier. This means Sprint phones you could only use with Tricom and Verizon you could use with Tricom and have at least calls work with Claro and Orange. AT&T and T-Mobile you can use with Claro or Orange. See my post on using a local carrier.
  7. Use your Chatsim sim card that I mentioned in the Set post.
  8. Buy a local phone cheap phone with a local sim card at the carrier. See my post on using a local carrier.

Do you know of any other options for international roaming in the DR? If so, please leave a comment.