As a rule, local SIM cards are the most affordable option for calls, texts, and data while traveling. They provide a local number for making and receiving calls, and are typically cheaper than other options, especially if you’re a heavy data user.
Buying them can be a hassle, though, especially in countries where there’s a language barrier, or you’re short on time and just want to get connected with a minimum of fuss.
So today, we’re looking at alternatives. International SIM cards (sometimes called “travel SIM cards”) aren’t tied to a specific country or group of nations, but allow you to use your phone all around the world — for a price.
There are several of these cards on the market, each with different plans and pricing. We’ve done the legwork to discover which ones are best for certain types of traveler, and whether any of them might be right for you.
Note that using an international eSIM rather than a physical SIM card will usually save you money. You’ll need a recent iPhone or other smartphone that supports this technology, however, so it’s not yet a universal solution.
OneSIM (below) offers an eSIM with calls, texts, and data, but if you only need data, we’ve found better prices with Airalo. You can read our full Airalo review here.
Are International SIM Cards Useful?
International SIM cards aren’t our first choice for long-term trips, but what if you’re not constantly on the road? Is it always worth buying a new SIM card and package every time you step off a plane, or do international SIMs have their place?
For business travelers who dip in and out of countries on short trips several times a year, international SIM cards can be a sensible choice. They’re typically cheaper than roaming with your usual cell company, and more convenient than local SIMs. When time is money on a business trip, that matters.
For travelers who have a home base and take a few short trips a year, international SIM cards are worth considering. Look for a card that can be left dormant whenever it isn’t required, with any remaining credit held over until the next overseas trip.
International SIMs can also make sense for those skipping through several countries in a hurry. The cost savings of local SIMs disappear if you’re buying them every few days, and there are more exciting places to visit on vacation than the inside of half a dozen mobile stores.
Finally, even if you’re on a longer trip, an international SIM can come in handy. There’s often a lag between arriving in a new country and picking up a local SIM, and it’s good to have a working phone straight away to call an Uber or tell your Airbnb host you’ll be late. A little light use shouldn’t be too expensive, and makes your first few hours somewhere new a lot easier.
Comparing International SIM Cards
We’ve broken down the options into two basic categories: international data-only SIM cards, and those that also include calls and texts. There’s full details of the number of countries they work in, data, voice, and text rates, package options, whether they support eSIM, and more.
Prices and limitations vary widely, so be sure to read the details carefully to make sure you’re getting a SIM that works well for your specific needs.
International SIM Cards With Calls, Texts, and Data
OneSim is the international SIM card offering of US carrier Belmont Telecom, and comes in two different packages:
- Universal (for discounted calls, SMS, and data service in around 50 countries)
- Expedition (for calls, SMS, and the widest data coverage)
All plans give customers two numbers, one European (based in Estonia), and one from the USA, Canada, UK, or Australia. Numbers for other countries are available for purchase.
Plans are all prepaid, and include free incoming calls and messages for many countries, as well as reduced rates for outgoing calls.
Where Does OneSIM Work?
You’ll get voice and SMS in 200+ countries. Data is available in 150+ countries on the Universal package, and 170+ countries with the Expedition package.
OneSIM Data Plans
Data prices vary depending on where you’re traveling and whether you buy data bundles in advance.
You’ll pay under 1c/MB in 40+ countries, for example, if you add a 10GB Zone Giga data bundle to a Universal package, or around 1.3c/MB if you go for a 3GB Zone Asiana bundle that covers 15 countries in Asia and Oceania. Several other bundle options are also available.
Casual data rates typically start at 20c/MB, so you’re almost always better off to add a data bundle instead if you plan anything other than very light data use.
OneSIM Calls and Texts
Incoming calls are free in 162 countries if received on the EU number, and 20c/minute otherwise.
Outgoing calls start at 25c per minute on the Universal package. As with data, cheaper calling bundles are available if you plan to do a lot of it. Unlimited calls to the US and EU are an option on the Universal package.
Incoming text messages are free to receive anywhere on the European number, and outgoing texts cost 20-25c each.
OneSIM includes a few extra features and bonuses to help sweeten the deal. There’s an Android and iOS Voice-over-IP (VoIP) app that lets you call and text over a Wi-Fi network at a cheaper rate, and a partnership with Skype and Viber that lets users of those apps call you for free.
You also get a voicemail service, along with bonus miles on several frequent flier programs. OneSIM also has eSIM support for recent iPhones, Samsung Galaxy, and Google Pixel smartphones.
Separate “World” and “Asiana” eSIM packages are available, so if you want an eSIM that comes with a phone number as well as data service, this is a good way of getting it. If you only need data, however, we’ve found that Airalo is usually cheaper.
If you’re looking for calls, texts, and data almost anywhere you’re likely to go, OneSIM is our top pick overall. The company has been around for a long time, and offers free incoming calls in most of the world and free incoming texts everywhere.
As with most international SIMs, casual data rates are expensive. If you’re traveling to Europe, the US, Oceania, or somewhere else covered by the various packages, however, pricing becomes much more reasonable.
That said, we’d like to see those packages highlighted more clearly on the site. To find them, click on Rates, then choose the SIM name and country you’ll be in. Choose ‘Data’ in the table that appears, and scroll down to see the different data bundles on offer.
Like its competitors, GoSIM offers voice, messaging, and data plans for international use. It approaches things a bit differently, however: there’s a single international plan, three regional plans, and various data-only options.
For calls, texts, and data, you can choose between the following plans. All use the same SIM card, you’ll just get better pricing with the regional plans if you’re traveling in that part of the world.
- International (voice, SMS, and data around the world)
- USA (free calls to US and EU numbers )
- Europe (cheaper data in Europe)
- Asia (cheaper data in Asia and Oceania).
There are specific data-only plans as well:
- Zone A (65+ countries, cheaper per MB)
- Zone B (110+ countries, more expensive per MB)
- Regional data packages covering between 1 and 35+ countries
Customers get an Estonian number to use globally. Just as with the other companies, incoming calls are free in most countries, as are incoming text messages.
Where Does GoSIM Work?
GoSIM has call and SMS coverage in 210+ countries, and data service in 110+ countries.
GoSIM Data Plans
Casual data pricing starts at 25c per MB and go up from there, so if you’re planning anything other than extremely light data use, you’ll be better off with a data pack or data-only SIM.
As an example, 3GB of data for use in Vietnam costs $10, while 5GB to use throughout Europe costs $29. If you’re roaming around the world, 3GB costs $53 for Zone A countries and $150 for Zone B. Smaller and larger packs are also available.
You can have multiple data packs active at once, so could have a smaller “global” pack to use anywhere combined with larger regional packs to save money.
GoSIM Calls and Texts
Incoming calls are free in 135+ countries. Incoming texts are free everywhere you have service.
Outgoing calls start at 29c per minute, but can be a lot more expensive than that depending on where you’re calling from and to. Sending an SMS starts at 25c, but again, can cost much more.
While GoSIM has global coverage for calls and texts, data service is more limited. Call and text rates are too expensive to use more than now and then, as is casual data.
Inexpensive data packages are available for places like the EU and Vietnam, but they only last for 14 or 30 days, and you’ll lose whatever data you haven’t used at the end. As a result, GoSIM is hard to recommend for longer or multiple trips, or customers who plan to call or text frequently.
Canada-based KnowRoaming provides physical SIM cards, eSIMs, or a special sticker that sits on top of your usual SIM card inside your device.
Whichever approach you use, your phone or tablet will connect to local networks for voice, messages, and data in whatever country you’re in. You buy the SIM with some initial credit, then add more via the website or app. A US-based phone number is included, with others available to purchase.
Casual call, text, and data rates vary by country. Several data packages are available for use by region or globally. Each one is valid for either a given length of time or a certain amount of data.
We wrote up a full review of the service here.
Where Does KnowRoaming Work?
KnowRoaming offers service in 200+ countries for voice, text, and data. “Unlimited” data packages are available in 125+ countries, the rest are pay-as-you-go.
KnowRoaming Data Plans
“Unlimited” data plans are available for either one day ($3.99) or three days ($9.99) for use in 125+countries, or $5.99 for three days in the United States. You’ll get at least 250MB of data per day at full speed, potentially reduced down to 2G speeds at some point after that.
You can also buy 1GB and 5GB data packs that cover either the United States, Europe, Asia, or all countries. Prices range from $9.99 to $99.99. These data packs last for nine months or until used up. Casual data rates start at 10c per MB, but pricing differs per country.
KnowRoaming Calls and Texts
Receiving a call starts at 8c/minute, but can cost significantly more depending on the country you’re in. Receiving an SMS is free.
Calling rates start at $0.11 per minute for both mobile and landline, while sending a text will cost a minimum of 14c. Again, prices can change depending on where you are and the country you’re calling.
If you’re using the sticker, it doesn’t need to be removed when returning home, but just remains dormant until the next time you travel internationally.
The company also sells mobile hotspots, and includes 30 days of free WhatsApp use each time you top up your credit. A call-forwarding service is also available.
KnowRoaming’s sticker-based service is convenient, but doesn’t work as reliably as a physical SIM card or eSIM. Charging for incoming calls is becoming more unusual, and makes KnowRoaming less appealing for customers who expect to receive more than the occasional phone call.
As there are no bundles that reduce the cost of calls and texts, you really need to check the prices in the app or on the site before arriving somewhere new. Given the wide price variation per country, you may need to be prepared to find an alternate solution in some cases.
The “unlimited” data packages sound more useful than they are, with the company only guaranteeing 250MB of use per day before reserving the right to reduce speeds. You’ll likely be better off with one of the 1GB or 5GB data packs, which are much cheaper than casual rates.Buy on Amazon
International Data-Only SIM Cards
As the name suggests, international data-only SIMs only provide cellular data, with standard calling and SMS service not included.
You can make calls to physical phones via any VoIP service like Google Voice, Skype, FaceTime, and Viber, however, and some of those services let you send and receive texts as well.
If you only care about having internet service when you travel, KeepGo is one of several international SIM card companies that focus solely on mobile data.
With just two types of SIM and a handful of data packages available, it’s easy to figure out whether any of the company’s offerings are right for you.
Where Does KeepGo Work?
As the name suggests, KeepGo’s Lifetime World LTE SIM offers data service in 100+ countries around the world. The oddly-named GoFi Europe USA SIM only covers 33 countries in Europe plus the United States, but your data costs less.
KeepGo Data Plans
The Lifetime World LTE SIM comes with 1GB to use in a year. Extra packages can be purchased from KeepGo, ranging from $14 for 500MB to $165 for 10GB. Data stays active as long as you top up at least once a year.
The GoFi Europe USA SIM has no data included by default, and costs $8 for 1GB of data valid for a month. Each additional 1GB also costs $8/month.
If you don’t have an unlocked phone or want to share service among several people or devices, KeepGo also sells portable hotspots with the same World and Europe/US data services.
KeepGo does a good job of keeping its options simple and easy to understand. Coverage isn’t as widespread as some of its competitors, however, even on its so-called World SIM.
Costs with the World SIM are relatively high unless you buy the larger data packs. On the upside, unused data stays available for a year, or indefinitely if you keep topping up.
If you’re going to one of the 33 countries covered by the “Europe USA” SIM, pricing is much more competitive. At $8/GB, it’s cheaper than any of the other Europe or US international data services we looked at.
As with all data-only services, while calling and texting to/from normal phone numbers is possible, it takes a bit of effort.Buy on Amazon
Like KeepGo, Surfroam only provides data connections. Service is available for users of any mobile device or hotspot, including those with eSIM support.
Unlike other companies, though, Surfroam doesn’t require you to purchase data packs in advance. This flexibility is appealing for those traveling long-term, or skipping between different parts of the world.
Where Does Surfroam Work?
Surfroam’s data coverage is available in 200+ countries. To access all possible network providers in those countries, you’ll need a Pro account. This is enabled automatically when you top up with 100€ credit. You’ll still get service in all 200+ countries without a Pro plan, you may just have fewer cell providers to choose from.
Surfroam Data Plans
Surfroam makes its pricing easy to understand, and doesn’t make you purchase specific data packages in advance. Each country has a single per-megabyte rate, starting at 0.01€/MB (10€ per gigabyte).
Details for each country are on the pricing page. While many countries fall into that 10€/GB tier, some less-visited destinations can cost quite a bit more than that. It’s worth double-checking ahead of time, just in case.
You pay 15-20€ (+ shipping) for the SIM card, but receive the same amount as credit on your account. After that, you just use the credit as you travel, and top up online as needed.
Surfroam offers both physical SIM cards and eSIM service, at the same price per megabyte. If you have a recent iPhone or Google Pixel smartphone, or one of the small range of other phones, tablets, and laptops with eSIM support, it’s worth considering.
Surfroam has impressive coverage around the world, and its pricing model is flexible and easy to understand. As long as you’re going to one of the many countries where data is 10€/GB, that flexibility doesn’t come with a high price tag.
As we’ve mentioned before, it takes a little more effort to call and text normal phone numbers with any data-only SIM including this one. Not much, but a little.
So, Which International SIM Card Should You Buy?
If being connected all over the world is what you’re after, go for Surfroam. Most travelers benefit from having access to mobile data on the road, and Surfroam’s straightforward approach, simple pricing, and global coverage make it our top choice for an international data-only SIM.
That said, if you’re going to Europe or the United States for a month or less, it’s worth taking a look at KeepGo’s GoFi Europe USA SIM instead. It’ll save you money in those parts of the world.
Finally, if your phone supports eSIM (all recent iPhones do, along with some Samsung, Google, and other Android devices), check out Airalo. It’s often, although not always, the cheapest option for international data, especially if you don’t use huge amounts of it.
In either case, you’ll be able to check e-mail, text via a messaging app or iMessages, and upload pretty sunsets to make your friends jealous. Should you need to make a call, VoIP services like Google Voice, Skype, WhatsApp, and Viber work fine.
If you’d like traditional voice and text as well as data, we’d suggest OneSim, especially if you’re heading to Europe. The well-established company has free incoming calls and texts, and a wide range of package options with particularly good rates in many European countries.
Have you used an international SIM card when traveling? Would you recommend it?
Images via Brett Jordan (SIM card with tablet), Daria Nepriakhina (woman using phone on platform), OneSIM, GoSIM, Surfroam, Amazon (other images)
I used Gigsky in India and it worked well. the main downside is that data is
I’m an international airline pilot.
Haven’t used it on the road yet but it’s worth noting that KnowRoaming’s 30 day money back is only good if you don’t use the card (or sticker)at all, i.e. no testing. In order to use it at all you have to buy credit, (minimum $25 non refundable). I bought it for the WhatsApp feature planning to use it on a spare phone but it will not support a separate WhatsApp account, i.e. you have to transfer your previous existing account to the UK number. I haven’t actually been able to do this yet and plan to wait until closer to my departure date to follow up.
When I traveled to Singapore I picked up a local Singtel sim card. My next destination was Thailand and I discovered that I could activate a 1GB roaming plan for $15. When I arrived in Bangkok I activated my roaming package and I had data on my phone the moment I stepped off the plane. Singtel offers inexpensive roaming in multiple East Asian countries. The big advantage was I could activate the roaming package in an iphone app and pay for it with a credit card. (Unlike Thailand where I had to feed cash into a machine in person in order to top up my service.) I’m holding on to my Singtel sim card for future trips.
Do you know any european sim with free incoming calls in Morocco?
I don’t, sorry.
i am a international flight crew..which is the best card just for whatsaap mesg only. dose know roaming do it for free?
Yes, it does, as long as your KnowRoaming account is active and you’re in a country where the company offers data service. There’s more information on their website.
My best experience is with OneSimCard. They offer the lowest cost actual mobile data and discount data packages. I think 5GB for $30 in China and many other countries is a great deal. The service is feature rich with many options including secondary numbers in over 60 countries, optional VOIP calling using the same numbers on the SIM and switching automatically to roaming when the data is not available, so no calls and sms are being missed. This is the most reliable SIM and the best customer support I experienced and I tried them all being a very frequent international traveler. OneSimCard allows changing the caller ID depending on the number being used, voice mail, auto-top up of the funds on the sim and data packages covering many countries. The web site is a bit overwhelming because of multiple features offered, but once you figure this out, it works. All charges are transparent and calls, sms and data use records available within 24 hours for review. Data Charges are rounded to 1kb and to 1MB as I learned the hard way with WorldSIM. Minutes are not rounded to 2 either. Obviously the local SIM offers the lowest cost. However for the guy jumping from one country to another the time is a valuable thing and the roaming sim saves this time and provides the convenience of just working when you land in the country.
Do you know if any offer sms with a US/Canadian number? KnowRoaming just got rid of their sms service. I’ve been using Know Roaming for calls/text and a local SIM for data in a dual SIM phone. This was great until about a month ago when I discovered the number I have registered with Uber, whatsapp, facebook etc has been discontinued and I can’t get verification texts to the other phone number…looking for a new solution, ideally one with a Canadian/US number that I can keep as my permanent phone number and use anywhere.
You can’t get texts to the US number KnowRoaming provide?
I signed up for a Google Voice (US) number a few years ago, and use that for WhatsApp, verification texts, etc. It works surprisingly well, although there are occasional services that don’t want to work with ‘virtual’ numbers like this. Very few overall, though.
Hi, am travelling to india from uk,what sim is best for calls to uk ,i have free wifi in hotel so calls on the go are more important to me . Thanks
Each of the listed companies has detailed pricing info on their site, so it’s just a case of sitting down and comparing it when you get a chance. It’ll change over time, so maybe do it a couple of months or less before your trip.
I have travelled and been using KnowRoaming for just over 6 months now and would not recommend it-
it’s highly unreliable. When entering any new country, I had to contact customer support so that they could manually guide me through how to change the settings on my phone to get a signal to work. As of Oct 2017, support team has said “Unfortunately, the process of fully enabling SMS on our KnowRoaming US Number will take slightly longer than anticipated and it is currently under development by our team.” Also, they have done away with all UK numbers, only offer a USA number how. How a SIM card is incapable of core SMS, callback and data feature is beyond me – essentially pointless.
GigSky pricing has changed (very affordable) since 2016 and coverage is even better on both the GigSky data SIM, and on Apple SIM for WiFi + cellular iPads. They also offer regional plans for North America, Europe, Caribbean, Asia Pacific, Middle East/Africa. 185+ countries on one SIM. For me, it’s more convenient than looking for a new Sim every time I arrive in a new country.
Every year I spend 3 months in Europe, three months in the US, Mexico and Canada, three months back in Europe, and three months back in US. As a US senior citizen with kids in France, Holland and Germany I’m thinking its a good idea to have a one smartphone with different SIM cards. Any tips on what phone and what kind of SIM strategy? Thanks from a restless hippie geezer!
I’d say that an international SIM will work out to be too expensive if you’re using it for 6+ months of the year. Instead, you may be able to get by with a T-Mobile One service in the US — you’ll get service in most of the world, although data speeds will be quite slow outside North America. Read more about that here, and you’d want to double-check with T-Mobile that you won’t be deemed to be outside the country too often for their liking.
Another solid option is Google Fi, which has no restrictions on how much you use it outside the US, but you’re limited to certain models of Android phone. We reviewed it here.
Otherwise, just pick up a SIM card in the first European country you go to on each trip (we’ve got coverage for the Netherlands and Germany on the site, and will add France at some point), and use the free EU roaming for the rest of your time there. Your phone number will be different on each trip, but that’s about the only downside. You could probably keep a US cell service throughout the year — most carriers have relatively affordable options for roaming in Mexico and Canada, and if its a prepaid service, you should be able to switch to a basic, cheap call and text package to keep it from expiring during the time you’re in Europe.
Dave: contrary to what you’ve said, it seems like Google Fi DOES have international restrictions. Refer to 2nd paragraph in the “Using the Services” section at the following URL:
I was about to start using Google Fi until I read this. This is basically equivalent to T-Mobile restrictions. Not ideal for nomads. 🙁
Thanks Jon – you’re right, it seems like Fi does have some restrictions on international use after all. 🙁 I don’t remember seeing that section when I first used and reviewed the service, but I guess that was a while ago now.
Gigsky have a poor client support
I have experienced a ~24 hours period without data service.
Gigsky support still not have any explanation.
Advise to 2 sims users: change your home sim APN setting to prevent any automatic switch in case of your international sim issue, the cost may be terrific…
Plan this year after some practise doing short trips around Europe to do a final around the world trip before I pop my clogs. So now very use to Airbnb, SkyScanner, GoogleMaps (download offline maps) but having several bad experiences with my own local mobile providers (Isle of Man) and attempts at buying an Italian and Norwegian local sims. I now rely Skype and Whatsapp on hotel and wifi-hotspots (very unreliable) for making phone calls and ensure all flights, hotels, Airbnbs are booked before I go. But now confident to attempt ‘on-spec’ single journeys starting IOM – New York – Seattle – China then pending prices choose Asia (Vietnam, Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore ) pending flight prices staying a few days in each – with a return flights and stays in India, Turkey. This intend to book accomodation and trains as I go , thus this time will need a reliable sim so I can contact Airbnb hosts and Hotels when trying to find them. Once spent 2 hours in the boiling sun in Italy trying to locate an Airbnb because my IOM sim could not pick up a network when arriving in Italy. So out of the sims which would you recommend for my needs please.
Since data is your main requirement, I’d probably check out Gigsky. Prices are reasonable, although like any international SIM, you’ll want to limit the amount you use. Heavy data users are always better off with local SIMs, but as long as you can be disciplined about your usage, international SIMs can sometimes be a somewhat-affordable (and easier) option.
Whichever company you go with, be sure to double-check their data pricing for the countries you intend to visit before making your final decision. Some of the places you’re going might have expensive data rates, in which case you may decide to buy a local SIM while you’re in that particular country, and use the international SIM elsewhere. As always, it’ll be a balance between budget and convenience. 🙂
every year …. Aussie to singapore to hongkong to seaoul to moscow to amsterdam.to prague to budapest to dubai to capetown to singapore to india to doha to us to montreal …constant data and phone calls … I can use two sims which one you suggest
I don’t know of any SIM that’s going to give you reasonable pricing for “constant data and phone calls” across all those countries, I’m afraid. Perhaps look at a data SIM from KeepGo that will give you data coverage in almost all of the countries you list, at a not-awful price, and make calls via Skype, WhatsApp, etc. You’ll still need to limit your data usage to some degree, though, if you don’t want to be spending a lot of money.
Get a oneplus phone, dual Sim and one of thr best android phones
We are global nomads, no home, have been on the road for 7 years. Initially we relied solely on wifi, no phone, however when banks required more security we changed to local sims but when that failed and a bank could not get in contact with us over a fraud (almost cost us tens of thousands of dollars) we changed to an international sim. We have Gosim (which has just changed owners) and now part of ekit. It is very useful to have one phone number for banks etc to call and sms us on (Skype can’t quite do this yet), but data is too expensive. Unfortunately they have just increased rates unexpectedly on us so we might move to OneSimCard (looks cheaper). Ekit are good with customer service but coverage is patchy, Canada for example was terrible, and we had to change phones a couple of times. We now have a Blu (but even that would not work in Canada) with dual sim which is good as can add local sim for data and outgoing and international for incoming.
Best one I use for Europe is Keepgo the data is valid for the whole year top it up before the year ends and it carries it over. Price is also reasonable.
I’m surprised nobody mention ekit SIM which are excellent and the International SIM I have works in more than 190 countries. We have 4 SIMs – one for each family member. There have been few problems – once in Palau I think. There is excellent support and it’s easy to recharge. Only drawback is the balance expires if no use for 3 months
Lufthansa Mobile seems to be quite attractive offer for international SIM funcionality.
I can’t see any data packages listed, only the default rates, which seemed to be at least EUR 0.05 / MB anywhere I checked. That puts it roughly on par with the others for default rates, but the lack of cheaper data packages means it’s a much more expensive option if you use even a moderate amount of data on your trip.
For instance, with OneSIM, 1GB of data over a month across several European countries can be had for $19 USD. With this Lufthansa SIM, you’d pay 50 euros (currently $62) for the same usage.
Any suggestions for an international sim for a simple flip phone used for calls and text messages when traveling – and a Canadian phone number?
One option is OneSIM — for Canadian customers, they include both a Canadian and Estonian number. The Canadian number is free for 30 days, and then $4/month or $25/year after that.
I am new to international travel and pretty limited in my SIM knowledge.
I will be potentially traveling from the US to Greece and then Spain or Indonesia. I may also spend time in Malta.
i am looking for the easiest and most affordable option. I do not think I need to make calls, etc… the data should be enough. I have WhatsApp on my phone and will want access to social media for photography.
I may also be doing some teaching as a foreign language online. In that case, I would need to use my phone as a hotspot for my laptop.
So far, it looks like because I will be changing country/region often, I would be best with an International card?
If so, am I best with something like Gigsky or Keepgo? Looks like Keepgo may have better pricing, no?
Since the EU roaming rules changed about a year ago, you can roam between EU/EEA countries without extra charge. That means if you buy a local SIM in Greece, you can also use it in Spain and Malta, if you go there.
Due to that, and because Indonesian SIMs are very inexpensive, personally I wouldn’t bother with an international SIM for this trip. Use your Greek SIM across the EU, buy an Indonesian one when you get there. You’ll have more data, for a lot less money.
As with all SIM cards, you just need to make sure the SIM slot in your phone is unlocked. It’s becoming more common than it used to be in the US for phones to be sold that way, at least for international use, but if you bought your phone through your cell company and you’re not sure, you’ll need to check before you travel.
I’m currently traveling throughout Europe my second time. 3 weeks this time. I just bought a Vodafone pre pay SIM when I landed in Ireland. €30 with unlimited talk and text within Ireland an the rest of the EU. Also, 8gb of data 99% I have 4G LTE sometimes the H+ but that’s even about 8-12mbps down never had an issue. Also, it comes with 100 international minutes. You can buy 400 more international minutes of you want for another €15 or 5 more gb of data for €15. That’s what it did and I just use WhatsApp with my friends. Not sure why these other places are needed? They seem expensive
If you’re only traveling within the EU and are happy buying a local SIM in the first country you arrive, you don’t need an international SIM at all. We’ve written a lot about the benefits of local SIMs and last year’s change in EU roaming regulations elsewhere on the site.
International SIMs are still useful for travel elsewhere in the world, and/or people who want to get set up ahead of time, however, which is why we discuss them here.
I’m travelling to costa rica, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina and staying in each country for at least 2 weeks each – I can’t decide whether a local Sim for each country is better than an international Sim?
For 2+ weeks in each country, personally I’d probably go for local SIMs in each one, perhaps with an international SIM to use just for the first few hours or days after arrival so you’ve got connectivity for finding your hotel etc if you need it.
Canadian residing in the middle East. I would like an international sim with a Canadian number for visiting Canada, a middle East number when residing there and a Chinese number when visiting China. Any suggestions? Many thanks in advance.
I don’t have any suggestions, unfortunately — none of the providers mentioned above provide Chinese or Middle Eastern numbers, and I don’t know of any others that do. Sorry!
I do not know if OneSim has changed their policy since you recommended them, but I would rate them UNACCEPTABLE based on their current ordering policy. They will not disclose the cost for shipping until after you have to placed the order. In other words, they want you to buy the product without knowing the total cost. They are even deceptive about it. On the page where they request the credit number, they have a line that says “Transaction Amount: $29.95” where in fact the transaction amount will be higher than that, the amount they charge for shipping. They will not even disclose shipping cost when you contact them and request that information.
For a consumer, it is flattly unaceptable to have to provide email, phone, address and credit card details before being given a total price.
Please forget all these services: too expensive and complicated. Have a look at surfroam who offer a worldwide data sim with global coverage from 1ct/MB
Some countries are prohibitively expensive but most are OK for surfing (live streaming is always expensive except in WiFi zones).
Used Ekit in my dual SIM international phone for years, but they have become crap lately. Prices skyrocketed (they say they are lowering), then it started to not work at all in some. No coverage in Singapore.
Last straw was my SIM being restricted in Indonesia for no reason. No way to call customer service since the SIM wouldn’t work, their website contact us returned back to same page, NO response from either their FB page or messenger to my pleas for help.
Got back to US, called to cancel, on hold over 25 minutes. When finally got through, didn’t even ask why I was cancelling, NO mention of a refund of the credit on my account.
I had a CC tied to the account for automatic payment.
They started out good but have consistently declined.
I usually pick up a local SIM but move between a lot of countries and had a US number for my family.
Need one I can actually rely on in case of emergency.
I can’t believe the article completely overlooks TruPhone (https://www.truphone.com) which gives you 8 genuine SMS capable mobile numbers with local rates and local outgoing caller ID when calling or texting to those countries or your main number otherwise. If one travels regularly, it makes an excellent second SIM for voice and texting (not so much for data though – way too expensive),
You outlined the reason why we didn’t include Truphone in your comment: the high data rates. If all you need is calls and texts, though, their prices aren’t too bad.
Truphone’s prepaid sim is convenient and doesn’t expire, nor does it deplete your balance when dormant for long periods. The casual data rates for, say, Italy, are comparable to the international sims reviewed in this article ($.25/megabyte…which would quickly break the bank), but calls and SMS are not too bad, and incoming SMS are free. Some countries in their network are treated as local, so they’re much cheaper. They don’t provide MMS, though, which also affects group messaging capability, I think.
Most of the SIMs we list have much cheaper data rates than that, though, and the couple of the international SIMs with similar casual rates both offer significant discounts if you buy data bundles for various parts of the world. Truphone doesn’t seem to have bundles like that, so other than the 10 countries it lists where it charges 6p/MB, you’ll be paying that 25c/MB rate for all the data you use. In practice this makes it much more expensive in most of the world.
As I mentioned above, I agree about calls and text rates being reasonable. If that’s all you need it’s not such a bad choice, although other international SIMs will likely still be cheaper for most travelers.
P.S. I was talking about their personal prepaid sim. They also have business bundles, probably better priced.
Hi! Former long-time Truphone customer and unfortunately they are eliminating their calls and SMS and focusing on data-only, which it seems like many, doesn’t work with my lifestyle. My parents live in the US and I live in Europe because of my job. Truphone was a God-send when my mother was in an accident. Emergency services are hesitant to call internationally. I rarely used their data as it was expensive, but it’s good to have a “local number” that you can be reached my family or services (incl. banks) when you are abroad. Pre-COVID, I liked to travel on long weekends, and at least I didn’t have to worry about signal with Truphone within the EU, Ukraine, and northern Africa. I hope with the rise of digital nomads that a service like Truphone will emerge, as you don’t want to spend money on data going constantly.
GigSky rates are _ridiculous_. In Myanmar you can buy a SIM card for $2 with 1GB of data. In Thailand at 7/11 a SIM card cost 50 baht ( $1.60) plus you can load it with cheap data – for $10 they will give you additional 4GB for a week.
The first line of this article reads: “We’ve said it many times before: for most people, local SIM cards are the best option for affordable calls, texts, and data while traveling.”
Local SIMs will almost always be the cheapest option, especially in countries like Myanmar and Thailand that have particularly low data rates. If you don’t need the benefits of international SIM cards (multi-country support, immediate connectivity on arrival), you should buy local SIMs instead and save money.
I will be five weeks in Africa in five different countries (Egypt, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, and South Africa). Normally when traveling, I buy a local SIM but it does not seem reasonable for one week, and I know not all airports will have access to local SIM’s. I would like voice, texts, and data (for navigation). Not many comments above relating to Africa. Any suggestions?
Is GoSIM the only card offering cruise ship “cellular at sea” support?
Thanks for your comprehensive review, it was exactly what I was looking for -b
I am about to go on a one-year trip around the world, and while I don’t usually find getting data abroad necessary, I figure it’s useful to be able to access it in emergencies. So I think I will go for SurfRoam in the end
I’d like to keep my German number as my bank sends me texts to authorise transfers, but OneSim doesn’t seem to offer that for Germany anymore and WorldSim has pretty bad reviews online…
I’m planning to go to India and I’ll arrive at 3am in the morning in a small airport. I was thinking to get a local SIM card later on in the morning but I’ve read that it can be a hassle sometimes to get a local SIM card. I’m also going to be traveling in China but I don’t intend to buy a local SIM card there, instead, I’ll try and use offline maps and detailed instructions. I was wondering what you thought the best international data SIM card was for these two? I was thinking to buy a surf roam SIM but then I saw that their shipping cost is now £15 and I don’t think my phone model fits the e SIM technology. Should I just spend the shipping cost fees? Or is there a better option or even a cheaper way to purchase a surf roam SIM?
Yeah, the shipping rates are quite high (although the Surfroam site is showing €14.50 / ~£12 to the UK, rather than £15) — I presume that’s because they ship using a courier company rather than the postal service. eSIM would be the way forward, although obviously only if you phone supported it.
I don’t know of a cheaper way of buying a Surfroam SIM, unfortunately — I guess the one good thing is that the cost of the card (without shipping) is reimbursed in the way of data credit on your account, so you’re only really out the shipping cost itself.
I wrote up my experience of buying a local SIM card in India recently — it definitely can be a hassle, and if you’re arriving at a small airport, there may well not be a booth there for you to do so (especially at 3am). You’d need to sort it out at a store the next day, and it can be a time-consuming process. On the upside, it’s very inexpensive once you do get the registration process out of the way.
Dave, I bought one of these Surfroam SIM cards in September 2021 (and paid the exorbitant shipping cost to the U.S.). The loaded credit was supposed to be valid for 1 year. Now I’ve learned that Surfroam intends to cancel all existing SIM cards, require customers to buy and ship their “new” SIM card, and expire any unused data balance if you don’t buy a new SIM card by March 2022!
Their product seemed like a good deal, but now I see they’re not honest. I recommend people avoid this company.
Thanks John. I’ve reached out to the company for clarification, and will update this reply when I hear back.
Update: Surfroam has got back to me, and it sounds like it intends to offer a free or low-cost transition to a new eSIM or physical SIM before the old one stops working next March. They’ll apparently be in touch directly with all affected customers before then.
Thanks for investigating, Dave. That’s potentially good news.
UPDATE: Surfroam’s “solution” is to offer a free SIM replacement to those who recently purchased the older soon-to-be-obsoleted SIM. But you still have to pay for their very costly express shipping. The replacement SIM comes with a zero balance, and your remaining credit from the old SIM will be transferred over.
To end up paying double for shipping (first, for the original, which two months later they informed me would soon be useless, then second, for the replacement SIM) seems unreasonable, and represents a combined cost to me of about $52US just for having shipped two small pieces of plastic. That’s on top of the original cost of the SIM itself (€25, with €15 credit included).
I think I’ll avoid Surfroam and look elsewhere.
Thanks for the new info, John. I’ve followed up with Surfroam again, as that shipping cost contradicts what I was told in my earlier emails to them. Will update with anything new that comes through!
And now Surfroam have apparently changed their mind about the free replacement SIM: instead, it’s now €5 (discounted from €10), with no credit loaded. Plus shipping, of course. Note that right now, a brand new customer gets a €35 SIM for only €25, loaded with €25 in credit. (Plus shipping)
So in essence they’re not giving anything to those of us to whom they recently sold the obsoleted SIM. They actually want to charge us more.
They haven’t replied to the email I sent after your last comment, either. I’ll follow up with them again, but if nothing comes of it, I suspect it might be time to look at alternative recommendations.
Ok, I got a reply this time. Looks like there’s a bit of disagreement about costs here – Surfroam said in their email (and at the service update link they provided) that the replacement SIM is free for anyone who made a purchase in 2021. That covers your situation, so in theory if you use the discount code at that link, the SIM itself shouldn’t cost anything. They also added a regular shipping option, which is apparently €8.50.
While ideally you wouldn’t have to pay anything to be forced to replace a SIM card that you only bought a few months ago, I suppose transferring the balance and covering everything except the shipping cost isn’t the worst deal I’ve ever seen. If your phone supports it, I guess you could also move to eSIM, which wouldn’t require shipping — so that, at least, would be totally free.
Dave, thanks very much for running down this information. You’re right, €8.50 for shipping is less bad, though I agree with you that they should be providing that at no cost to customers who made recent purchases. And eSIM would be a good option if there were just more than a handful of phones that actually support it.
In the meantime, I deliberately depleted my Surfroam balance, and will probably move on. I’m currently looking at Vegolink instead, which has similar prices, but free shipping.
I really appreciate your site, the interaction, and the data you provide, so thanks again!
I was wondering if anyone knew if there was a cheaper way to get a surfroam card? Their simcard shipping costs £15 and I live in London (so not exactly remote). I was hoping to use their sim as a backup for India and China due to potential local sim acquisition difficulties.
I think the Google Fi service is worth a look-over as well.
Tried it in several countries. Most times I’ve gotten the
‘Welcome to _________ ‘. (whichever country) text before my plane
rolls up to the gate.
No SIM swapping, no configuration, super simple. Fair rates as well.
If you’re US-based, Google Fi can be good — we’ve used and liked it in the past. It makes most sense if you’re happy to swap to using it as your main service while in the US as well, otherwise you’ve still got the SIM-swapping issue to deal with.
No good if you’re not from the US, however, since Google doesn’t officially make it available to non-US residents.
As a boat Captain we need a large amount of data for the yacht. We had searched for and used a multitude of different operators for the Caribbean, Europe and US. After searching for “unlimited data” we kept running into issues with speed throttling – so not really unlimited at all!
We’re currently using 4G Yacht (https://www.4gyacht.com/boat) for all of the regions we travel. We have 8 SIM cards that we use for speed bonding (4 at a time and swap depending on the region). Works great so far. We pay a monthly allowance fee and any overage when required – but no throttling which is great!
Just check 4G Yacht website and it also looks like they are doing pay as you go plans now. A little more expensive, but I guess good if you’re not sure how much data you might need.
Thanks for keeping this article up to date in 2021.
I used SurfRoam for several years and I loved them, but now that they are requiring everyone to buy a new sim, and their $27 Euro shipping fee makes them not so appealing anymore. Though if you can get past that charge, they are still great.
I checked out all the providers on your list and found that KeepGo was a decent alternative to SurfRoam. At the time of writing, KeepGo offers a bonus 2GB on top of the 1GB included, making it 3GB in total. They also offer 50% off with the promo code “new-sim”. So basically you can get 3GB for $24 USD and free shipping.
That a very good deal, but I’m not sure how their refill costs will affect my overall experience. Either way, If I don’t find a better deal in the next 24hrs, then I’ll go with KeepGo this time and see how it works out.
Just an FYI for those still using Truphone’s prepaid SIM, which was discontinued in August 2021:
Truphone has now disabled topups as well, so any remaining balance on your account is all you’ve got. This is according to the Support area on their website, linked from the “Personal” solutions page. They’re also not refunding any unused balance.
It’s still possible to port your number to a different carrier.
U.S.-based users can get similar pay-as-you-use-it international roaming rates from one of the T-mobile MVNOs that has international roaming (Ting, Mint, Ultra, etc.)