Sunday, January 26, 2014

An Expat's Guide to Visiting London: Mobiles working Mobiles chirping

Getting a mobile phone working in the UK is pretty easy.  Here's what you need to know.

First, an iPhone or other smartphone with GPS and maps will be a huge benefit.  In fact, you will probably want GPS and data more than you will want phone minutes and texts. 

NOTE:  Verizon phones are on a different type of network (CDMA) and won't work in the UK.  It needs to be a GSM phone (AT&T, T-Mobile). Wikipedia more info on US cellular providers and what network they use.
Step 1:  Before you get here
Make sure the phone is either unlocked or your provider allows for international SIM cards.
AT&T has gotten a lot friendlier about unlocking out-of-contract iPhones, so if you have an old iphone that is not under contract, it should be unlockable.  Check AT&T's website for instructions.  It may require a phone call, but hopefully just a web form. 

You can test your unlock at home by switching someone else's SIM who's on a different (GSM) carrier and see if the phone works.

Some new plans allow international SIM cards as long as you keep paying the bill back home.  If your current phone's plan allows this, then you should be good.  Again, double-check that both your provider and your phone allow this before traveling so you don't get stuck.

Step 2: After you get here
Once you get here (the easy part) go to any phone shop (EE, O2, Vodafone) and tell them you need a pay as you go SIM card for your phone.
£10-15 should get you more than enough minutes & data for the trip.
NOTE:  There are SIM vending machines at the airport.  Skip these if at all possible and wait until you can go to a proper shop.  There is a lot less risk of getting a bad deal from a shop.
It is so much easier here than in the USA where you typically have to get a single-month contract and pay a lot more money.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Singapore - Day 1

First day in Singapore.

Arrived at 7am.
The city feels a lot like Honolulu--my USAcentric reference point.
Got to hotel (Park Royal) and showered and changed clothes then met with real estate Agent to look at apartments.

There were two possible ones.  The first one we looked at is on Sarkies Road and is probably the front runner of what we have seen so far.  It is a large 3-bedroom flat that looks over an old colonial house, so it has a nice green view that will never be built up because it is a protected home.  The building is a bit older than others--which is apparently less desirable to asians, who prefer things brand-new, but is no problem for us.

The other one is in a building called I-residences, and I liked it a lot but Alice and the agent were concerned about street noise.  We will see later today (day 2) if there are other units on higher floors and see what is available.

We then met with a lawyer and then the Ministry of Manpower (MoM) (Not the Friendly Robot Company). to submit the paperwork for our employment pass (EP) for Alice and Dependant Pass (DP) for me.  The paperwork was turned in.  The pictures we had were not approved, but there was a shop next door that could do pictures for us.  So our passes will have pictures of us after a 12 hour flight and zonked on jet lag.  Should be fun!

But the paperwork went through and we should have our passes monday morning, right before we fly out.

There are lots of rules here, but as long as you follow them, everything is very efficient!

Also picked up a SIM card so I have a Singapore number on my phone.  More later.