In preparation for my trip around the world, I have canceled my cell phone contract and asked myself what options I'll have abroad. Fortunately, some things have improved in the last few years and phone use abroad is becoming easier and easier.
For example, inside the EU there are some countries(like Germany) that offer free roaming when traveling any other EU country; it's already included in the basic fee. This means that you can use your cell phone contract in the EU without any additional costs including your data.
The only problem with traveling around the world is that, by definition, you are not only moving around in the EU and therefore usually do not need a contract.
Free Roaming in the EU
Fortunately, to make use of the free roaming you don't need contracts. You can simply get a prepaid package and choose a monthly package that suits your needs. In Europe, I usually use a prepaid package from Vodafone Germany that costs me about 10€ for 3GB of data across the EU, call & sms flatmate inside Germany, 200 "units" (either sms or minutes) for use all over the EU. -A pretty solid deal if you ask me.
Another great option is buying an e-sim Card for Europe. The process for purchasing and activating an eSim is quite straight forwards and can save you quite some hassle. No more swapping of physical SIM cards - plus, you won't lose them anymore. Also the price is kind of attractive, you can get 15GB of data for around $30.
Just keep in mind that these options are first and foremost cost-effective. You might encounter slow speeds as these multi-country sims usually don't operate with top-tier mobile carriers.
Prepaid SIM card In Other Foreign Countries
When I'm traveling outside the EU - which is the case most of the time - it's getting a tad bit more complicated. Basically, you've got two options.
- Option 1: Get a SIM at a every airport and buy a package for your stay; -that's the cheaper option.
- Option 2: Get an eSIM-card that works in most countries. That's certainly most convenient but also comes at a slightly higher price.
Buy Local SIM cards at airports
Just a few years ago purchasing a local SIM wasn't easy at all. I remember times when I desperately searched for a counter to purchase a SIM but couldn't find any. Today, things have changed dramatically, no matter where you land, there's gonna be someone who sell local (or tourist) SIM cards for a good price.
And because you can choose the best operator for each country will getting decent prices, this is my recommended thing to do when you're on a budget. If you're more into convenience, check out e-sim cards...
Get an E-SIM For Global Traveling
I mentioned e-SIM cards for the EU already, but using those global SIM cards are actually even more attractive. For example, this card covers 86 countries in the world including the US, Australia, Canada, Italy, UK, Germany, Spain, Greece, Mexico, Thailand, South Korea, and many more.
You can get a data-only plan including 5GB of data for 30 days at around $35. The added convenience of not having to swap SIM cards and not having to worry if you can get a SIM at the airport are actually quite nice.
Using Local Prepaid SIM Cards
As I mentioned, purchasing a prepaid SIM once you arrive at the airport is becoming more and more convenient. In most other countries data usage with a smartphone is significantly cheaper. So you can simply get a prepaid SIM in any country and then surf away without worrying.
In Thailand, for example, there's AIS, which has good offers for foreign travelers. Or in Australia, Lebara has special offers for German backpackers, for example, with high data volumes and low prices for phone calls and text messages to Germany. And in other countries, too, there are some rates with low-priced options for the home country.
The disadvantage of this variant is of course the constantly changing cell phone number… But in times of Facebook, Facetime, Whatsapp, Skype etc. there are fortunately enough possibilities to stay in contact with your loved ones.
iMessage simply adds your new number to your account, and in WhatsApp you don't have to update your main number. The app will ask you if you want to update it, but you can simply deny it and keep your regular phone number.
I absolutely recommend to do this as updating WA numbers frequently is not only a hassle for you. Also your contacts will get annoyed with constant updates on your phone number. Trust me, you don't want that 😉
For traveling inside EU countries, the prepaid option from Vodafone Germany is quite nice. If you don't happen to visit Germany or want to get an e-sim before, checkout the various e-sim providers.
For all longer trips across the world, it is best to buy a SIM card in each country you visit. You'll get the best prices and best performance this way. Alternatively, you can again check e-sim card providers for more convenient traveling.