Technical difficulties

One of the things that has changed in the past 20 years since I’ve been to Israel is that the first time I didn’t need to worry about incurring roaming charges.

Part of my assignment for this trip is to share it with our readers – sending tweets, posting blogs and updating my Facebook status. But once we arrived at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport, I learned that it’s not as easy as it initially sounded.

First of all, one of my fellow trip participants who has frequently traveled internationally noted that she needed to change the settings in her phone to not incur roaming charges. So three of the four of us who were on the flight from Los Angeles to Tel Aviv spent the first few minutes after getting our baggage searching through menus on our phone trying to find the right settings. The airport has WiFi so I connected with that then experimented how to keep my phone on airplane mode while using WiFi to update my Facebook status and let my husband know that I arrived safely. (I already had taken the requisite photo of me half-asleep in front of the “Welcome to Israel” sign in the baggage claim area).

But then by the time I set that all up, our representative from the Israel Ministry of Tourism who had met us with the “AJPA” sign upon our arrival was ready to direct us outside to meet the car that would take us to our Jerusalem hotel. I had a few seconds outside to quickly update my status indicating that I had arrived in Israel but then discovered that the airport’s WiFi connection didn’t work outside.

So there we were, traveling in the car fidgeting with our phones still trying to find the right setting. Although the driver didn’t speak much English, apparently cell-phone coverage issues transcend language barriers and he asked us if we needed WiFi. He turned it on in the car, gave us the password and then we had access again. But then how do we use airplane mode to not incur roaming charges but still use the WiFi network to communicate with those in Arizona who are probably still sleeping because it’s only about 4:30 in the morning there? Definitely not something I thought about in 1992.

Anyway, one of my wise co-travelers said she was just going to worry about it when she got to the hotel and she was going to look out the window instead. I decided to do the same.

(If you are reading this after doing a Google search for “turn roaming off Verizon,” here’s what I did: turned WiFi on, put it on airplane mode. I did this several times without the “roaming” message going away but then at some point the “roaming” message was replaced by an “airplane mode” message. Not really sure why and I won’t be sure it actually worked until I get my next bill, but maybe that will help you.)


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