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We have a lot of questions asking what the best phone plan is for country X or Y:

These strike me as archetypal shopping questions: we're looking for one with just the right rates, and the information will be obsolete in 6 months anyway. I don't get the feeling from this question that phone operator comparisons would be considered ok here.

I do appreciate that finding an operator in a foreign country isn't easy, but this doesn't seem like a good fit for a questions and answers platform, for all the reasons in the blog post. Thoughts?

  • 1
    +1: I would like to see better defined guidelines for this area – Casebash Mar 6 '12 at 22:17
  • Another question - this one was closed. – Casebash Mar 6 '12 at 22:22
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I hear ya. Close all those questions with extreme prejudice. The answer is, and should always be, the following:

  • Go to Wikipedia page for mobile operators
  • Select a region
  • Find your country
  • See the list of mobile operators available in the country
  • Visit their websites
  • Compare prices and features

Voila!

Another option is to write a question with canonical answer, which will be pretty much what is says above, and close all others as duplicates. Probably not what people want to hear, but in this day and age some searching skills are kind of a requirement.

  • I really like how DSample answered my question. "Although this has been phrased as somewhat of a shopping-related question I'm going to answer the issue of short trips in multiple countries and having an easy way to stay connected to each other." – Casebash Mar 12 '12 at 22:20
7

We've had a discussion in general earlier and some SE sites have a 'General Reference' reason for closing questions. Having said that, many questions here on Travel.SE could be answered by Wikitravel or any number of travel sites so where do we draw the line?

My stand is that we should not close them unless they are exact duplicates. The questions may sound similar but it's not necessary at all that getting a SIM card is that easy. For instance, even for pay-as-you-go cards in India you need to provide photographs, proof of residence, and some form of ID to buy a SIM card. A blanket ban will disallow questions like this. Similarly, there could be different rules in other countries - credit checks being the most common form of screening travellers may not be able to meet.

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    This isn't about questions whose answers are easy to find, but about questions that don't really have an answer (they're too specific to a particular choice of price point) and the data behind the decision process changes very often. – Gilles Mar 7 '12 at 12:31
  • 2
    I haven't found a question TOO specific, rather, they have always been too vague! – Ankur Banerjee Mar 7 '12 at 12:52
3

I would suggest having a wiki answer for some of these issues, with generalised statements of advice as well as some useful sources and maybe even country/region details for particularly hard-to-find points.

There are certain issues with finding relevant network operators which could be relevant questions here, such as "What operators in X have an unlimited data tariff on a prepaid SIM?", I have a wiki I usually use to find rough information about any given location. Some countries (eg. Sweden) require a Swedish ID in order to purchase a prepaid SIM, so it's perhaps worth noting things like that against particular countries, and it's not the sort of thing I've found on WikiTravel in the past.

I've posted an answer with some possibly-relevant advice for some of the general topics, if a wiki answer is created of course these points can be copied there if desired.

I would think this is going to be an ongoing issue with a Travel Q&A site, so I think it would be better to have a real answer, rather than pushing people away.

2

I think we need to look at it from another angle. We see all these questions because SE expects us to be specific and hence users try to be very specific. While some of the questions may indeed be specific to the user's requirement (for e.g. GSM SIM card for Japan), I believe people in general are looking for mainstream as well as alternative means of communication while on the go. How about having an advice wiki for such possible questions? After all, the information is certainly useful.

2

I think that although the answers may include particular companies as examples, the questions can't be explicitly asking for the best company or plan as this information becomes old too quickly. The focus of these questions should be to give a broad picture of the market - for example buying a prepaid, roaming or starting then terminating a contract.

1

@mindcorrosive and Gentlemen; disagree with your strategy. Visiting company websites to compare data plans is bad advice. For example Australia, Canada and the US has quite a few providers, but since they all focus on profit rather than service they may only cover the big cities, and you are getting charged high roaming fees when you (as a traveler who probably wants to go places) try to use your phone outside their own network. Last time i was in Australia i remember all the backpackers who complained about one particular cheap provider (Optus?) because they wouldn't get reception in all the rural areas with a town population of less than 10.000. Of course this fact is something you will hardly find on a company website who tries to make a sale, unless you specifically look for a network coverage map and they really have an up-to-date one.

Also, i get the impression that most people ask this question because they want to use mobile internet to check emails, use google maps etc., rather than for actual calling. To my surprise, data rates are always very good hidden or just not well explained with all the 100 different and idiotic pricing models most providers offer.

I think a generic answer like "Provider A is rather cheap on data plans, but provider B has the better coverage and won't charge roaming fees" would be good advice. Yes, this information might be outdated after a while, but there is an option to add comments and edit exiting answers here :)

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