The best travel SIM card depends on your circumstances. Keep reading to find your ideal network provider when venturing abroad.
I’ve dealt with various SIM card options when traveling to multiple countries. That led me to create this guide on finding the best foreign SIM card.
Here’s what I’ll cover in this piece:
Let’s make some calls.
6 Best Travel SIM Cards Compared
Let’s compare all the best international SIM cards :
|Provider||Price Per Line*||Max. Download Speeds (4G) †||Best For||Premium Data ‡|
|Google Fi||$40–$65/mo. per line||9.0–47 Mbps||Unlimited data||50 GB|
|Local SIM Card||Varies||Varies||Pricing||Varies|
|T-Mobile (Roaming)||$25–$60/mo. per line||256 Kbps||Roaming rates||5.0 GB|
|Vodafone||$26–$52/mo.||25 Mbps||Europe travel||Varies|
|Telstra||$10–$250/mo.||5.0–180 Mbps||Australia travel||Varies|
* Price when I published the article.
† These speeds will vary. You will likely have lower speeds when in crowded areas or during peak hours.
‡ Upon using all your premium data, the provider will throttle your mobile internet speeds.
1. Google Fi Unlimited Plus: Best Overall & for Unlimited Data
- Unlimited texting
- Unlimited hotspot data
- A little expensive
Choose Google Fi if you’re abroad for more than a month, want to use multiple devices away from an area with a public Wi-Fi network, and don’t make many calls.
Google Fi is a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) that uses U.S. Cellular and T-Mobile towers in the United States. But it’ll receive more priority over other MVNOs that use T-Mobile towers (e.g., Mint Mobile).
The $0.20 per minute call rate isn’t the best. But it’s better than the company it runs its services from (T-Mobile).
And Google Fi has a few nice features that’ll work well with digital nomads or travelers. The 100 GB of cloud storage with Google One is an excellent option for backing up files. And the 1 year of YouTube Premium is a great option to download videos to stream offline while you’re away from a hotel room.
Because you won’t want to burn through your premium data while working outside your room. 50 GB allows you to stream 19 hours of 1080p HD content.
2. Local Postpaid SIM Card: Best Follow-up Option
- More affordable
- Ideal for expatriates & those immigrating to new countries
- May require a guarantor
- Access to unlimited calling
This option’s only viable for expats or those immigrating to a different country. It’s usually much more affordable than going with an international SIM card.
You’ll likely need a guarantor and an ID number for that country. This isn’t the best option for travelers, though. Maybe the next one is.
3. T-Mobile: Best Roaming Global SIM Card
- 5.0 GB soft data cap
- Not ideal for calling or high data usage
T-Mobile’s Magenta MAX plans include unlimited basic data and texting. Then you’ll need to pay $0.25 a minute for calling. There’s a catch, though. Once you use 5.0 GB of data, your data speeds will fall to 256 Kbps.
These countries include Mexico and Canada.
5.0 GB would allow you to stream 7 hours of 480p SD video . After which, you’ll have data speeds that would only allow you to browse the web and check emails.
Magenta plans include the same perks as its MAX counterparts, but only in 11 Central European countries.
T-Mobile Magenta roaming rates work best for anyone who:
- Doesn’t want to bother switching carriers
- Primarily communicates through texting
- Only uses mobile data for checking emails, browsing social media, & Googling stuff
- Someone who mostly uses Wi-Fi
When I mention browsing social media, that means low-quality images and not playing videos. I wouldn’t recommend using sites like YouTube Shorts or TikTok. Otherwise, you’ll burn through your data quickly.
4. Airalo: Best International SIM Card iPhone 14
- Less cumbersome to deal with: since there aren’t physical SIM cards
- Easy to set up
- Data-only eSIM
- Requires eSIM-compatible phones
Only go with Airalo if you don’t need calling and texting. You could use VoIP to text and call, though. Or with WhatsApp. And there’s Wi-Fi texting and calling.
Download the app (iOS and Android), select your plan, then follow the steps in their introduction email to set up the eSIM on your phone.
It’s also an exceptional eSIM card for traveling to multiple countries. Because of their Global and Regional cards.
I wish I had known about Airalo when I frequently traveled.
I do intend to use it during my next trip. According to their app’s page, Airalo doesn’t sell your data to third-party providers. A huge perk at a time when companies mismanage people’s private information.
5. Vodafone: Best International SIM Cards for Europe
- Unlimited talk options
Vodafone only works well if traveling to Europe for 1–24 months. And for those who need unlimited talking. They’ll give you unlimited talk, text, and data. But the data speeds aren’t much.
It isn’t really one of the best international providers. But it’s an option if every other suggestion isn’t ideal.
6. Telstra: Best International SIM Card for Australia Travel
- Some of the best coverage
- Allegedly the fastest network in Australia
Telstra offers texting, calling, and data for those visiting Australia. There’s nothing more to say other than that they offer decent coverage:
International SIM Card Buying Guide
Here are criteria to help you find the best international SIM card:
- Trip duration: helps determine how much data & minutes you need
- Talk vs. text vs. data:
- Focus on unlimited texting if you frequently text or receive 2FA SMS codes
- Pay for more minutes if you talk often
- Get data-only plans if you’ll only use data
- Do you have a business number: you may have to deal with roaming rates
- Will you venture to multiple regions: opt for roaming rates or “global” plans
- Is your phone eSIM only: phones without physical SIM trays will require eSIM plans
You Need an Unlocked Phone for International SIM Cards
“Unlocked” means your phone isn’t bound to a particular network provider. If your phone isn’t already unlocked, do so through your provider. The method to do so will vary.
Before unlocking your phone, you’ll need to check whether your phone will work in whatever country you’re visiting. Visit willmyphonework.net and enter the following information:
- Phone brand
- The country you’re visiting
- The carrier you’re considering
Upon entering your information, the site will say whether your device supports 2G, 3G, and 4G bands. Knowing this information is critical if you’re considering a prepaid card.
Who Should Use International SIM Cards?
Use international SIM cards if you’re in one of the following situations:
- Visiting multiple regions: think backpacking in Europe
- You need more data: gives you control over your data without dealing with local providers
- Traveling longer than a month: prevents you from having to register for a local SIM
- Don’t have the requirements to register for a local SIM plan
International SIM Cards vs. Paying Roaming Charges
Opting for roaming charges works better for those who are on short trips. And don’t intend to use data. How short? It depends on the mobile carrier’s roaming rates.
I’ve researched many mobile providers and found no good data rates. But who knows? You may find someone who offers unlimited international data.
International SIM cards work better for trips of a little under a month. But if you intend on staying in a different country for more than a month, consider a local SIM card. Or opt for a service like Google Fi.
Mobile Internet vs. Wi-Fi
Cellular data’s advantages and disadvantages include:
- More secure
- Great for a backup internet connection
- Limited data usage (soft data caps)
- Must remain within range of a cellular tower
- Could experience throttling when many customers on the same network are in an area
- International data rates cost a fortune
Use mobile internet if you need to connect to sensitive websites and don’t have the tools to protect yourself on public Wi-Fi networks. Or if you have an unlimited data plan. However, check whether your mobile provider has a data limit for mobile hotspot data.
Mobile hotspot data is when you connect other devices to your phone (e.g., laptop). Most providers I’ve seen don’t offer unlimited hotspot data. If you need to connect a device not attached to your cellular plan, consider Wi-Fi.
Wireless fidelity (Wi-Fi) pros and cons include:
- Faster internet speeds
- Connect as many devices as your router can handle
- Public Wi-Fi networks leave you vulnerable to hackers
- Limited to distance
- Requires a router
SIM Card Sized Compared
SIM cards have the following dimensions :
|1FF||Full size SIM card*||85.6 mm||53.98 mm||0.76 mm|
|2FF||Mini SIM card||25 mm||15 mm||0.76 mm|
|3FF||Micro SIM card||15 mm||12 mm||0.76 mm|
|4FF||Nano SIM card||12.3 mm||8.8 mm||0.67 mm|
|MFF2||eSIM (MFF2)||5 mm||6 mm||1 mm|
* No companies use 1FF SIM cards anymore.
“FF” stands for “form factor”. MFF2 stands for machine-to-machine form factor.
An Access Point Name (APN) provides your device’s details to a mobile provider to receive service. Cellular providers should provide this information upon signing up for their service. Otherwise, your data, calling, and texting may not work.
Access an Android’s APN settings by navigating through these settings :
Settings > Connections > Mobile Networks > Access Point Names
Select your cellular provider and enter your provider’s APN settings.
Edit an iPhone’s (iOS) APN settings by following either one of these settings paths :
Settings > Mobile Data > Mobile Data Options > Mobile Data Network
Settings > Cellular > Cellular Data Network
Cellular companies will automatically add your APN settings. However, if your phone’s calling, texting, or data isn’t working, this is a solution.
Voice Over Internet Protocol Instead of Calling
Voice over internet protocol (VoIP) calling uses the internet to call landline or cellular numbers. I use Google Voice and recommend it for texting and calling.
However, it’s not ideal for adding SMS-based 2-factor authentication or adding phone numbers to some online accounts. Because many sites forbid using VoIPs.
Check out these FAQs to learn more about getting a SIM card abroad.
What Is An International SIM Card & Why Do I Need One?
An international SIM card is a type of SIM that allows customers to call, text, and use data when you’re out of the country. You’d need this type of SIM card for short- or long-term travel to a different country.
Which International SIM Card Is the Best for Travel?
Google Fi is the best SIM card for international travel. Since it offers unlimited data plans at a somewhat affordable rate.
Are There Any International SIM Cards That Offer Unlimited Data?
Google Fi offers unlimited data in more than 200 regions.
Can I Use My International SIM Card in Multiple Countries, or Do I Need a Separate One for Each Destination?
You can’t use an international SIM card in multiple countries unless you sign up for a plan that allows you to do so.
Can I Keep My Current Phone Number When Using an International SIM Card?
You would have to transfer your phone number to an international SIM provider. Whether you could do this depends on providers.
Are There Any International SIM Cards That Offer Discounts or Promotions for Frequent Travelers?
There currently aren’t any international SIM cards that offer discounts for frequent travelers.
There isn’t a “best international SIM card.” Whatever provider you opt for depends on the circumstances presented. Don’t want to deal with a new provider? Deal with your provider’s roaming rates. And conserve your talking, texting, and calling.
What did I go with?
I used prepaid local SIM card options when visiting Japan, Vietnam, and Taiwan. Now that I’m staying in Taiwan, I stick to prepaid options since they’re affordable. And don’t require guarantors.
I’ve covered plenty of other travel technology to help you when abroad. Check out my recommendations and reviews.