Google 2 3



Aug 14 2012

Which type of SIM card should you take travelling?

Decisions, decision, decisions!

mobile, communication, telecommunication

I think everyone who travels these days does so with a mobile phone.  Am I right or am I right?  For that reason, it’s important to think about which type of SIM you should use so you can stay in touch with everyone back home as well as those you meet or are intending to meet up with en route.  But, how do you choose which type of SIM to go for?  Do you use your own local SIM with roaming, or buy a local or even global SIM card?  Hmmm, decisions, decisions, decisions!  Well, I believe it depends on where you are intending to go and how you intend to use your phone.

Option 1 – Own SIM card with roaming

If you decide to use your own SIM with roaming, you need to find out the cost of the charges you and those who contact you will face.  This can be a very costly way to keep in touch and is often not the cheapest option.  I have heard about expensive roaming charges (for calls, texts and data) so be aware of this when using your own SIM card abroad.  Although, as of July 2012, there are new EU roaming rules to make it more affordable to use your mobile phone abroad.  You can find more information about this on the Europeans for Fair Roaming website.

Option 2 – Local SIM of the country you are in

The next option is to buy a local SIM in the country you are visiting.  This is an excellent way of getting in touch with people in that country.  If this is what you are intending to do, it will probably work out to be a more cost-effective alternative even if you have to buy the SIM.  When I was in the US, it wasn’t possible to buy a pay-as-you-go SIM on its own.  I had to buy a handset as well.  Just be careful about using it to call internationally because it will probably be quite pricey.

Option 3 – Global SIM

The third option is to buy a global SIM.  This is a SIM card that can be used in a number of countries for a set tariff.  Global SIM cards are useful as ‘all-rounders’, for texting home and for emergencies.  I always take one with me when I travel abroad and it has certainly come in very useful when I really needed it.  There are an increasing number of companies offering these types of SIM cards.  You generally have to buy the card and add credit, which can be done via the Internet.  Shop around for one that is going to match your budget and your route.  None of them offer coverage in every country so it’s important to ensure it covers the countries or majority of countries you are travelling to before you make your purchase.  Before I left to go travelling around the world, I chose one that covered most of the countries I was intending to visit.  Nowadays, they can include data packages, which is useful for those of you who travel with a smartphone.  Having said that, wifi is available in an increasing number of places so that will be your preferred and cheapest option.

Is one enough?

It depends.  When I travelled the world, I didn’t find one type of SIM card was enough.  I travelled with a global SIM card so I could stay in touch by text with people back home and bought local SIM cards when I knew I would need to contact local people by phone.  If you decide to go for options 2 or 3, you need to ensure that your phone is unlocked otherwise the SIM cards won’t work.  I only ever buy unlocked phones for that reason because if you buy a phone and then have it unlocked, it invalidates the warranty.

About the author

Teresa Keane

Teresa has been to almost 60 countries. She started travelling independently at the age of 38 when she gave up her job, rented out her house, put her possessions in storage and spent a year travelling the world. It changed her life. She now creates, publishes, & promotes online travel content and is an experienced freelance trainer & EFL teacher.


  1. John Williams

    Teresa, can you elaborate or add another post on the experience you had with local SIM’s? I have bought SIM cards to get a data allowance in a number of European countries. I would love to hear more on this subject.


    Thanks for raising that, John. I was thinking of writing another post about it. I have only just started travelling with a smartphone so I never had to think about data allowance until this year and it is an issue. There seem to be more and more options. On of these is Toggle, which I am currently looking into.

Have your say...

Floating Social Media Icons by Acurax Wordpress Designers
%d bloggers like this: