To survive, we need oxygen and a good data plan! Right after I book an overseas trip, the first thing that comes to mind is getting a good data plan while I am abroad so I can stay connected with friends and family. I also cannot survive without Google Maps or Google Search for long.
Most people want to get a SIM card before they leave the US. But that may not be the cheapest option but will give you peace of find. Here are a few options to get a SIM card that you can use while you are traveling abroad.
If you are traveling to Mexico or Canada, some US mobile carriers offer roaming services in those countries as part of their standard plan. Check with your carrier to confirm coverage. If you are with an MVNO, your roaming services will be limited in most cases compared to those who have post-paid services.
How to use your phone internationally
Get a local SIM card when you land
Many travelers want to get a SIM card that works overseas before they leave the US. But the cheapest option is to buy a local SIM card when you land in your destination country. Many international airports have stores that sell SIM cards. Note that you may need to provide your passport information and local address (a hotel address may work since you are a visitor). Data plans in other countries are much cheaper and more flexible compared to the plan you can buy in the US.
Note that some countries will not allow foreigners to buy local SIM cards or make it very cumbersome. You can read the country by country breakdown here.
If your phone supports eSIM, you can sign up for Airalo. You can download the Airalo app, install eSIM and sign up for a data package. Data plans are cheap and work in almost 90 countries.
Many low to mid-range smartphones don’t have the eSIM feature. Thankfully, there is a workaround for Android phones. eSIM.me has built a physical SIM card that brings the eSIM feature to any phone starting at $25. eSIM.me works with Dent, Ubigi, and Airalo. You can scan the QR code provided by these companies with the eSIM.me app to install the eSIM.
Buying SIM cards on Amazon
You can buy SIM cards on Amazon.com. If you are traveling to Europe, UK THREE has reasonably priced options. You can use the service in 71 countries. It takes about a week to get the SIM card by mail. You can activate your card while you are in the US and you will be all set before you board the plane. You can find SIM cards for other countries and continents on Amazon. Note that you can buy these SIM cards for a cheaper price if you buy them locally after you land.
Other things to consider
You will need an unlocked phone
If your phone is locked to a mobile carrier, you won’t be able to swap SIM cards. So you will need to unlock your phone before you travel abroad. Many mobile carriers will unlock your phone if it’s paid off. If your phone is not paid off, you can call customer service and find out if it’s possible to unlock the phone for international travel.
Check phone compatibility
If your phone uses GSM, you will be fine since most countries in the world use the GSM system. You can check if your phone will work in the country you are traveling using willmyphonework.net
Traveling to other countries is stressful enough. You have to plan ahead, usually months in advance. Having access to a data plan when travelling abroad will make your life easy. The cheapest option is to get a local SIM card when you land. But if you want peace of mind, you can order SIM cards while you are in the US and activate them before you board the plane. Ensure that your phone is unlocked and compatible with international phone providers.