The first thing I did when I got to Cairo (after checking into the hotel) was go buy a SIM card. This was simple, as in many countries. I walked into a tiny store, found a salesman who could understand me, then bought a new phone chip called a SIM. He stuck it in my GSM phone, made an activation call (during which he kindly specifed "English" when the computer-voice asked), and I walked out moments later with my brand-new Egyptian telephone number.
For those of you in my home country who believe I am speaking gibberish, it works like this. Almost the rest of the world outside the USA uses GSM mobile phones that work on different bands to ours. As most of you know, your phones won't work overseas unless you buy a fancy one with tri or quad band. But even then you get to pay roaming charges and your charger won't plug in.
If you want to save a lot of dough, instead get yourself an unlocked GSM dual-band phone off eBay.co.uk or in a phone store next time you're in a foreign country. The older, the cheaper. Mine was 12 UK pounds. Then every time you go into a new country, you can walk into a phone shop, and walk out with a local prepaid phone number. These are cheap--my SIM card in South Africa was about $2. Here it was less than $10.
If you want to go even farther, get a USB charger for your phone. This is usually lighter than a charger, but obviously only works if you are also carrying your laptop.
This is not rocket science. You will see ads touting world phones and companies that will get you a local phone number for a small fortune. No need. Just remember not to make a lot of calls or you'll have to buy more minutes. But hey, in the rest of the world, incoming calls are free. That's right. FREE.
My new phone company here in Egypt, MobiNil, kindly pre-programmed in “common” SMS text messages. Great! With one click, I can tell someone “I am thinking of you,” "mabrouk" (congratulations), or “Dinner or lunch.”
This seemed a bit of a waste of my phone’s memory, so as soon as I found a little café where I got a mango juice and chicken salad, I hit “Delete.” I’ve never texted anyone “I am thinking of you,” at least not without an expletive on the end.