An international SIM card with unlimited data might not be at the top of your packing list for your next trip abroad.
But, if you’re not careful, you could end up like a guy called Alberto.
During his vacation in Mexico, he used his cellular data to download the movie Wall-E for his nephew to watch.
When he returned home, he found a $62,000 phone bill waiting for him!
Granted, Alberto’s story’s an extreme one, and it did happen over a decade ago.
Still, nothing spoils your holiday faster than running out of data (or, even worse, returning home to an enormous roaming bill)!
Investing in an unlimited international data SIM card.
They’re affordable, reliable, and won’t leave you with any nasty financial surprises when you get home.
In this post, I’ll discuss why you need a SIM card for international travel and help you choose the best international SIM card for your needs.
Read on for your complete SIM card education!
Heads up, this post contains affiliate links!
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What Is An International SIM Card for Travellers?
As you probably know already, your phone’s SIM card is what enables you to make calls, send texts, and connect to the internet.
For them to work, they have to be connected to a mobile network.
Different countries (and even different regions within a country) use different mobile networks. If you want to stay connected while you’re on the road, you need to ensure you have a SIM that’ll work with the local mobile network.
There are a few different ways to accomplish this goal:
Some travellers opt for the ‘international roaming’ option from their home carrier if it’s available.
While this can work for some, it’s can also be problematic. You may quickly burn through your data while roaming and get left in the lurch when you really need it.
Or, like poor old Alberto, you may come home to a surprise bill.
2. Buy a Local Sim
Another option is to purchase a local SIM card when you arrive at your destination.
Again, this has its benefits. For instance, it’s often the most affordable choice, and you’ll also receive a local number to use during your stay.
However, it’s not always easy or convenient to find a shop that sells local SIM cards.
If you’re short on time in an amazing destination, you don’t want to spend half the day looking for a SIM card.
There’s also a potential language barrier to overcome when buying one, especially if you’re travelling off the beaten tourist trek and unsure how to explain what you need.
3. Buy an International Sim Card
An international travel SIM card is the perfect solution to both dilemmas.
Untied to any particular network, country, or region, it allows you to use your phone (almost) everywhere in the world.
Travelling SIM cards like these are ideal for frequent business travellers, digital nomads, or fast-paced holidays.
If you’re bouncing around Europe or Southeast Asia, it’s a hassle to locate and buy a new SIM card every time you cross a border.
Experienced travellers will also tell you how frustrating it can be to enter a new country and try to get around without a working phone!
How to Choose a Travel SIM Card
First of all, you’ll need to make sure that your phone will work with an international SIM card.
It needs to be GSM-compatible to operate on global networks. (Most phones sold in the UK are GSM-compatible, but it doesn’t hurt to double-check.)
You also need to ensure your phone’s ‘unlocked’ – that is, not tied to a particular carrier or provider.
Once your phone checks out, it’s time to consider your specific needs.
For example, are you planning many short trips over an extended period of time? If so, you might want to choose a travel SIM card that will save any unused credit for your next trip.
Next, you’ll want to review your itinerary.
Some international SIM cards are truly global, providing coverage in nearly 200 countries. Others are made for use in a specific region (i.e., Asia, Europe, South America).
If you’re only travelling across one continent, you may want to look for a card specific to that part of the world.
Finally, you’ll want to consider the pricing and features of any card you consider.
Do you only need data, or do you also want to be able to call and text? Do you need to worry about coverage in remote areas, or are you more concerned with having fast data connections in major cities?
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer for travelling SIM cards, so take some time to think about the type of traveller you are and the factors that are most important to you.
Do you just need to check your email occasionally, or will you be streaming large amounts of data on a daily basis?
The Best International SIM Card with Unlimited Data – Top 5 Options
To make sure you have the coverage you need, your best bet is to look for an international SIM card with unlimited data.
As you might expect, there’s a wide range of prices, coverage, and limitations.
To make your life easier, I’ve put together a list of the best international SIM cards to choose from. Let’s review them one by one, along with some pros and cons of each option.
One of the best all-around travelling SIM cards is the simply-named OneSimCard.
It’s an offshoot of Belmont Telecom Inc., which has been offering US telecommunications services since 1994.
With that much experience behind them, it’s no surprise that they know exactly what travellers want in an international SIM card.
They even offer eSIMs for users whose phones are compatible with this latest technology.
Each SIM card can fit into a standard, micro, or nano card slot. They come with two phone numbers – a primary Estonian number and a secondary UK, US, or Australian number. You also get an instant $10 credit to use for calls, texts, and data.
OneSimCard offer three different packages to choose from:
- Universal SIM
- Expedition SIM
- Europe & More SIM
Their Universal SIM card provides voice and text coverage in more than 200 countries and data coverage in around 160 countries.
Your Estonian phone number can receive free calls in 162 countries. You also get voicemails delivered straight to your email inbox, which is a great additional feature.
The Expedition SIM card provides more extensive data coverage in more than 170 countries. This includes many remote and exotic destinations in Africa, Oceania, and the Caribbean. You’ll also enjoy free incoming calls from 130 different countries.
If you’re only travelling around Europe and western Asia, their Europe & More SIM card is worth considering. It offers coverage in 70 countries and direct-dial calling from 45 countries.
A few features I love about OneSimCard are the VoIP app and the partnership with Skype and Viber.
This makes calls through these services incredibly cheap (or even free). Casual data rates can get pricey, but their bundled data packages are reasonable.
Canada-based Knowroaming is one of few SIM cards that actually comes with an unlimited data option.
This provides coverage in 125 countries, with voice, text, and pay-as-you-go data available in over 200 countries.
You have three different options to choose from when you buy a Knowroaming SIM:
- An eSIM card
- A physical SIM card
- A SIM ‘sticker’ that affixes to your current SIM card
Knowroaming includes a free US/Canadian (+1) number, but you can purchase other foreign numbers for a small fee.
If you opt for pay-as-you-go data, any unused data is stored in your account as credit for nine months from your last top-up.
Another feature I love about Knowroaming is you get free WhatsApp data for 30 days every time you purchase credit through their app. If you talk, message, and send photos or videos via WhatsApp, this alone makes Knowroaming worth it.
If you go for the sticker option, it’s helpful to know that you don’t have to remove it when you return home. It simply goes dormant until your next voyage abroad.
Data packs range from $9.99 to $99.99, while unlimited data plans start at $3.99 per day.
Knowroaming might not be the cheapest option on this list, but it is the one provider that offers true unlimited data options.
If you’re a heavy data user, this one belongs at the top of your list.
3. Keepgo Lifetime World SIM Card
Keepgo offers straightforward, easy-to-understand travelling SIM cards.
They don’t offer voice or text capabilities, but it’s a good all-around option for data coverage.
Their most popular option is the Lifetime Prepaid Data SIM card, which comes with an array of impressive benefits.
If you take short, frequent trips, you’ll love the fact that the prepaid data remains valid for life (yes, really)! All you have to do is a small top-up at least once a year and you’ll have that data to use until you’re old and grey.
Keepgo offers coverage in a little over 100 countries, which is less than some others on this list.
Within the US and Europe, though, it offers some of the best pricing options per gigabyte of data.
Bonus: If you don’t have an unlocked phone or you want to share data among travelling companions, here’s another option to consider.
Keepgo also sells a mobile travel WiFi hotspot that offers unthrottled high-speed internet in those same 100+ countries. It can connect to up to 15 devices at once, making it a great option for travelling groups or digital nomads.
4. Three Mobile SIM Card
A relative newcomer to the international SIM card market, Three Mobile is another company that offers a rare unlimited data option.
At present, it offers unlimited data coverage in 71 countries, including the US, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Singapore, and most European nations.
You also get unlimited calls and texts to UK numbers, which could be a game-changer if you’re looking for more than a basic data package.
Activation is easy and you don’t need to enter any personal information to activate the Three Mobile SIM card. However, it’s good to know that you can’t use the SIM card for tethering, video streaming, or as a personal hotspot.
It’s too soon to know where Three Mobile will rank when compared to the other SIM cards on this list, but it’s worth considering if you want unlimited data and the ability to call home.
5. GigSky (Best Budget SIM Card for International Travel)
If you’re looking for a budget data option, it doesn’t get much cheaper than GigSky.
Keep in mind that GigSky only offers international data coverage, not voice or text abilities.
With that said, there are a few reasons to consider GigSky.
If your phone is eSIM-compatible, you can enjoy data coverage in 113 countries. Choose from a global option, or limit your coverage to specific regional packages in North America, Asia Pacific, Europe, or the Middle East and Africa.
In terms of pricing, GigSky definitely edges out the competition for eSIM providers.
If you’re looking for a physical SIM card, you can also get one through GigSky.
Users like the flexible plan options, including daily, 15-day, or 30-day. This could be a terrific option for a basic, pay-as-you-go, data-only SIM card.
Order Your Travelling SIM Card Today
Whether you’re planning a backpacking trip, a business trip, or a family getaway, you’ll need to stay connected with everyone back home.
As we’ve discussed, your best option is to buy an international SIM card with unlimited data.
That way you’ll have all the data you need to answer emails, join a video call, or navigate through a new city. Best of all, you’ll have the peace of mind of knowing exactly what you’ll pay for these conveniences.
Bookmark this article and refer back to it when you’re ready to start shopping for your travel SIM card. One of the suggestions listed above is sure to be the perfect solution for you!
Now that your SIM card is sorted, what’s next? Get inspired for your upcoming travels by checking out some of the most amazing destinations on the planet.