Unexpected Glitches & International Phone Issues

I now have only 8 more days to go until I leave. I have made some progress towards gathering everything I need to pack but have also run into a few more glitches along the way.
1. Research Proposal: The package arrived safely along with my check for the $500 research and ethics committee fee in Uganda and the documents have been filed. But the check was rejected because it didn’t contain the word “University”. I ended up having to write a personal check because Wilkes University couldn’t issue a check without the recipient filling out the appropriate IRS forms and I knew that I would not be likely to get Makerere University to do this in a timely fashion. But, I wrote the check to “Makerere Faculty of Medicine Research” and it was supposed to have been “Makerere University Faculty of Medicine Research”. Thankfully, my Pharmacy Dean collaborator in Uganda is going to pay and I will reimburse him.
2. Lodging in Kampala: I had originally planned to stay at the Namirembe Guesthouse in Kampala which isn’t too far from the University but I found out from another Uganda contact, a medical researcher on TB and HIV, that the area to the west of Mulago Hospital and Makerere has been the “center of the cyclone” when it comes to the recent political unrest and riots. Although that has calmed down for the present, my friend highly recommends finding a different area to stay. I was reluctant to change places at first since the people at Namirembe have been so helpful, but I am traveling with my student and we need to think of safety first. I’m still working on that at the present- more to come…
3. Skirts: Well, I finally found the perfect black skirt to take with me at Christopher and Banks and I think I am going to make do with the shoes in my closet.

    Phone Issues

A couple of months ago I had checked with AT&T, my service provider to make sure that I could purchase a temporary international plan that would allow me to make some phone calls and use the internet and receive emails on my iPhone. I had probably spent at least 30min in the store talking with them and going over all the options. The woman even looked my travel locations online and said it looked like their plan would cover me. Thankfully, though, my husband was double checking online himself and discovered that Uganda and Tanzania are NOT in countries that can utilize this international plan. At first I didn’t believe him (when will I learn 🙂 but looked for myself and found the same thing. I can get an international plan to call Uganda and Tanzania at reduced rates FROM the USA, because that plan covers more than 200 countries, but not if I am IN those countries and calling the USA. I confirmed this when I went to the AT&T store on my birthday to get my present, my new iPhone 4. So, for the past couple of weeks I’ve been surfing the web and talking to friends who have traveled internationally to try and figure out this whole “International Mobile Calling” stuff. It finally all came together in my mind when I found the website for Telestial.com. This is a business that sells international phones and SIM cards, but it also has a lot of great information and clearly explains why a lot of US phones don’t usually work in other countries. I highly recommend reading through their info if you have questions, but it all comes down to realizing that the type of cellular service available in most other countries is GSM with the frequency of 900 or 1800 while the GSM network in the USA is either 850 or 1900. Also, not all US cell carriers even use the GSM frequencies. For example, AT&T does, but Verizon doesn’t. So in order to use a cell phone in another country, you first have to have one that can use the GSM frequencies in the country you are traveling to and then you need a SIM card that works in that country.

My main two options were to just buy a phone in Tanzania and Uganda along with a SIM card and a card with minutes. This would probably be the least expensive way to go but I wouldn’t be able to get a phone until I got to Tanzania. I could use my iPhone in an emergency since it is a quad GSM frequency phone but it would cost me $4/min and I wouldn’t leave it on to receive calls because I don’t want to incur unnecessary costs so it is unlikely someone could reach me in an emergency (or at least not until I turn the phone on). And I also wouldn’t have a phone number to give to people until I got to Tanzania either. Separate SIM cards would be required for Uganda and Tanzania and that means 2 different phone numbers. Finally, since I my student is meeting me in Uganda and not traveling the whole way with me, it is really important that he can reach me in case of delays in flights or other issues. So…I purchased a phone and an international SIM card that can be used in all my travel locations. The card comes with $10 to use for minutes or text messages, but for more minutes I plan to buy the inexpensive phone cards that are available in other countries. The phone I purchased will work in the US and abroad so I can try it when it arrives and keep it as a back up phone for the future (it is not connected to any kind of “plan” so you just need a phone card or to add minutes to the SIM card I bought to be able to use it. I’ll let you know how it goes.

About kbohan

Professor and Founding Chair, Department of Pharmacy Practice Binghamton University School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences Binghamton, NY USA
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