Your guide to international and travel SIM cards


WhistleOut
09 May 2017

International roaming travel SIM card


International traveling with your smartphone may be convenient, but it can also be expensive. 

By swapping your regular US SIM card for a specially made global or travel SIM, you can access affordable voice call and texting prices, as well as go online without having to take out a second mortgage.

We've compiled a quick overview of some of the most popular travel SIMs on the market. If you're unsure if your device will work outside the US, we're also answered a few of your questions in the below box to get you started.

If you'd rather skip ahead to the SIMs, click here.

How can I take my phone overseas?

If you're planning to take your phone on your travels, there's a few things you need to check.

Is my phone unlocked?

Firstly, to use a travel SIM in your device, you'll need to make sure that your handset is network unlocked. When you buy a device through a carrier, it's usually 'locked' to that network - meaning you can't simply take your phone and use it on a rival carrier's plan.

Depending on who your original carrier is, you may be able to have your phone unlocked by the cell company themselves, so we recommend either giving the company’s customer service hotline a call or visiting their website. Unlocking iPhones can be done by contacting your carrier, but they will forward the request to Apple to be processed; alternatively, you can fill out an online form.

Is my device GSM-capable?

As well as a phone unlock, you'll also need to ensure that your device will work on a GSM network. Most of the countries you're likely to visit (with the exception of maybe Japan and Korea) use the GSM standard for mobile devices. However, in the US carriers rely on two different types of technology - GSM and CDMA.

Out of the biggest US carriers, AT&T and T-Mobile run on GSM networks, while Sprint and Verizon Wireless use CDMA. Carriers with GSM networks make it easier for their customers to swap phones, because GSM compatible phones use a SIM card - a small removable card that stores customer information.

If you bought your phone from T-Mobile or AT&T, it probably runs on GSM technology, so you'll be able to insert a travel SIM with no trouble. If you're with Verizon, Sprint or another company, you may need to check with your carrier during the unlocking process to see if it has a SIM card slot.

Travel SIMs compared

Travel SIMs aren't the perfect option for everyone, but if you're thinking about giving one a try, we've done some of the hard work for you already by comparing some of the bigger brands on the market.

Shown are some example costs for calling, texting, and using data in three popular destinations for US travelers: Canada, Mexico and the United Kingdom. All prices listed are accurate at the time of publication, and we'll keep this page updated.

GO-SIM

GO-SIM offers a World Pack to get you started, which for $49 includes an International SIM card with $20 of pre-loaded credit, plus 250MB of data. Credit can be used to make calls, send texts and browse the web, with call rates starting at $0.35 per minute and data from $0.25 per MB. You can upgrade to 1GB of included data with GO-SIM's World Plus Pack, priced at $134. 

The multi-fit international SIM is compatible with all mobile and WiFi devices and provides roaming coverage in over 190 countries and 220 cruise ships worldwide. The SIMs are rechargeable via phone or web portal, or you can set up an Auto-Recharge with your credit or debit card. Friends and family back home can also call your GO-SIM number free of charge via a toll-free hotline. 

If you're planning to use data, GO-SIM also sells prepaid Global Data SIMs. Users can choose between 250MB of data for $29, or 1GB for $89, and can also add WiFi hotspot access for an additional $40 for the 250MB pack and $30 for the 1GB option. Data can be used in over 120 countries, and has a 30-day expiry.

Canada Mexico United Kingdom
Cost to call the US per minute $0.35 $0.75 $0.35
Cost to send text message to the US $0.35 $0.75 $0.35
Cost of data $0.25 per MB $0.45 per MB $0.25 per MB

WorldSIM

WorldSIM's global roaming service covers 200 countries, with voice call rates starting from $0.15 per minute and data from around $0.10 per MB. The WorldSIM International SIM Card includes a UK and USA number, and features a 12-month expiry period, with easy top-up options and no minimum ongoing balance.

Customers can add prepaid data bundles to their SIM at any time, with options available for the UK, Canada, Asia, Europe, Brazil, Saudi Arabia and more. Bundle sizes include 100MB, 200MB, 500MB and 1GB, with prices ranging from $9.45 to $13.50 for 100MB, and $47.25 to $74.25 for 1GB, depending on your destination.  

Canada Mexico United Kingdom
Cost to call the US per minute $0.30 $0.47 $0.15
Cost to send text message to the US $0.20 $0.20 $0.08
Cost of data $0.15 per MB $0.20 per MB $0.15 per MB

OneSimCard

If you're a serious globetrotter, OneSimCard provides roaming mobile service in more than 200 countries, with a standard saving of 85% on voice calls. OneSimCard products include free incoming calls in 160 of those countries, and data service in more than 170.

If you have an unlocked GSM phone, you can get the OneSimCard Data & Roam package. Data rates start from $0.02 per MB, with bi-weekly and monthly packages available, and the SIM itself will cost you $29.95 with free shipping.

OneSimCard also offers a $29.95 Plus SIM package for cheaper international calls and SMS in more countries. The Plus SIM includes $10 of call credit and is designed for travelers with a preference for lower voice rates, with outgoing calls starting at $0.25 per minute.

Customers can also use the OneSimCard VoIP app to make and receive low-cost calls over WiFi, as well as to send cheap SMS. OneSIM also offers a $29.95 Europe & More SIM, which includes $10 of call credit and outgoing calls rates from $0.25 per minute.

The following table includes prices for the Data & Roam SIM card:

Canada Mexico United Kingdom
Cost to call the US per minute $0.29 $0.75 $0.49
Cost to send text message to the US $0.20 $0.20 $0.15
Cost of data $0.50 per MB $0.50 per MB $0.25 per MB

The following lists prices for the Plus SIM:

Canada Mexico United Kingdom
Cost to call the US per minute $0.65 $0.39 $0.39
Cost to send text message to the US $0.40 $0.25 $0.25
Cost of data $0.25 per MB $0.25 per MB $0.25 per MB

Travel and international roaming SIM deals

Telestial

Telestial provides several packages to cater to travelers, including its International SIM Card. The card gives customers rates from as low as $0.15 per minute for calls, $0.15 for SMS, and data from $0.35 per MB, with over 190 countries and 220 cruise ships covered.

The one-rate card costs $19 and includes $10 of credit, with included Global +44 and US +1 phone numbers, and the ability to set up call forwarding and recharge your credit automatically.

If you're off to Europe, Telestial also offers a Europe-specific SIM pack for $19, which gives users cheap calls, texts and data in 50 European countries and 140 additional global destinations.

Data packs are also available, each with a 14 or 30-day expiry period. Depending on your destination, you can purchase 250MB for $29, 500MB for $49 or $69, 1GB for $69 or $89, or bump up your data to 2GB for $119.

Canada Mexico United Kingdom
Cost to call the US per minute $0.35 $0.75 $0.35
Cost to send text message to the US $0.35 $0.75 $0.35
Cost of data $0.25 per MB $0.45 per MB $0.25 per MB

GigSky

Unlike other travel SIM providers, GigSky only offers international data access. However, its service does extend to over 90 countries and includes both SIM cards and a GigSky mobile app for easy activation and payments.

GigSky's data SIM card costs $9.99, and includes 100MB of starter data that can be used worldwide. All data is prepaid, and you can recharge your SIM and data packages from the GigSky Data app at any time. GigSky SIMs work in any unlocked smartphone, tablet or laptop, while the GigSky Mobile App is available free for customers using Android or iOS.

Different packages are available for different destinations. Canadian and Mexican packs include $15 for 100MB with a 3-day expiry, $25 for 250MB with a 7-day expiry, $35 for 500MB to use over two weeks, and $50 for one gigabyte with a 30-day expiry.

Customers going to the United Kingdom can buy 100MB for $15 (to use over 3 days), 500MB for $25 over one week, 1GB for $35 with a two-week expiry, or a generous 3GB for $50, to be used in 30 days. 

If you're traveling with an iPad with an Apple SIM, you can also sign up for a prepaid data plan. Prices start from $$0.01 per MB, with packages available for travel in North and South America, Europe, the Asia Pacific, and Africa and the Middle East

eKit

Similar to other companies, eKit offers service with no connection charges for voice calls, and free incoming calls at many popular destinations.

eKit's International SIM Card SIM gives you coverage in over 190 countries and 150 cruise ships, and with a $22.80 purchase price, comes pre-loaded with $10.00 of call credit. Rates begin at $0.25 per minute for calls, and customers can recharge anytime via eKit's app, over the phone, or through auto-recharge. 

A data-only SIM option is also available. Depending on your destination, you can sign on for 250MB for $34.80; 500MB for $46.80 or $58.80; 1GB for $82.80 or $106.80; or 2GB priced at $142.80. 500MB and 250MB data cards come with a 14-day expiry, with all higher data options expiring after 30 days. 

Canada Mexico United Kingdom
Cost to call the US per minute $0.27 $0.63 $0.27
Cost to send text message to the US $0.27 $0.63 $0.27
Cost of data $0.27 per MB $0.63 per MB $0.27 per MB

Compare Carriers to Find the Perfect Cell Phone Plan

Original woman with map image via Shutterstock

Cell phone with boarding passes image via Shutterstock


Compare phones and plans from the following carriers...

Mobile Deals

Cell Phone & Wireless Deals Every Week

Cell Phone & Wireless Deals Every Week

Our pick of the Hot Deals from every carrier, handpicked and fresh

T-Mobile Cell Phone Deals

T-Mobile Cell Phone Deals

All the deals on T-Mobile every week

Sprint's Wireless Deals & Best Plans

Sprint's Wireless Deals & Best Plans

All the deals from Sprint, updated every week

Straight Talk Cell Phone Deals

Straight Talk Cell Phone Deals

All the deals from Straight Talk, updated every week