Whether you use it to stay connected with your fellow travellers, keep in touch with home or surf the internet for maps and restaurant reviews, a travel SIM is a great way to use your phone without relying on Wi-Fi hotspots or spending a fortune on international roaming charges, but what are some of the other options out there.
Local SIM cards
While travelling abroad, for most people, local SIM cards are the best option for getting affordable calls, texts, and data while traveling.
They provide a local number, which comes in handy both for placing and receiving calls, typically offer inexpensive data and SMS packages, and allow you to live a more local life without expensive roaming charges.
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.
The best alternative is to get a travel SIM.
What is a travel SIM?
A travel SIM is a prepaid card you can use to connect to local networks while overseas. Different to buying a local SIM card when you arrive at your destination, travel SIMs are purchased in your home country before you leave.
Using your existing SIM card overseas can be surprisingly expensive. With a prepaid travel SIM, you’re more likely to have complete clarity and control over the charges you pay for data. Instead of your network provider continuing to charge extra fees as you use your phone, your prepaid travel SIM will simply run out when your allocated data is depleted or when it’s period of validity ends.
They are also a lot more secure than using public WiFi networks and more flexible.
Buy a multinational data SIM card
These all sell on the premise that they’ll work anywhere in the world, with the usual exception of parts of Africa and a small handful of paranoid dictatorships such as North Korea and Turkmenistan.
In some countries they work like a charm, most of the time, in others they’re completely useless. If connectivity is crucial 100 per cent of the time, they’re not totally reliable.
For travellers who have a home base and take a few short trips a year, international SIM cards can be worth considering. Ideally, the card could be left dormant whenever it wasn’t required, with any remaining credit held over until the next overseas trip.
Your best option is to visit your local mobile service providers and compare the various option and planes they have on offer for international travel.