How to Unlock an International Cell Phone

By Editorial Team

Updated July 21, 2017

The Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) is the predominant cell phone system used throughout the world. The United States, however, currently uses a different system, which means your cell phone may not work in other locations. An unlocked international cell phone will allow you to make and receive phone calls in almost any country in the world.

Find our if your cell phone is already unlocked. Place a SIM card from another provider in your phone and try to make a phone call. If the phone works, it's already unlocked; if it doesn't, then you'll need to unlock it.

Visit The Travel Insider website (see Resources) or a similar website to find the unlock code for your cell phone. You'll need to pay a small fee to get the code, but it's often less expensive than buying a new unlocked phone.

Enter the code into your cell phone and follow the prompts that appear. In some cases, you may need to connect your phone to your computer using an additional cable, but the website where you get the code will tell you this in advance.

Check that the unlocking procedure has worked. Insert a SIM card from a different carrier into your phone and try to make a phone call. Once you enter the code and follow the prompts, your cell phone should be unlocked and ready to use on any network.


Another option is to bid on an international cell phone from an online auction site like eBay, as long as the phone comes already unlocked. These phones are usually a little cheaper than those available commercially. You can also find unlocked international cell phones from third party sellers such as Telestial. The cell phone comes unlocked and ready to use in a variety of different countries.


Make sure your cell phone operates on a SIM card by looking for the slot on the back of your phone where the card fits. There isn't currently any way to unlock a cell phone unless it uses a SIM card.