What SIM card should I use when travelling overseas?
Global Multi-Country Roaming SIM OR
Local Country SIM OR
Australian Home SIM?
If you are planning a trip overseas and want to keep using your phone what’s the best option?There are a number of factors to consider:
- Travelling just to one country as a one off trip?
- Will it be a short or a long (over a month) trip)?
- Travelling to multiple countries?
- Want to be able to use voice, text and data on your phone?
- Want calls back to Australia included in the cost?
- Want to set your own spending limits?
- Will you have access to WiFi?
- Have you got an unlocked phone (i.e your phone is not locked to your local Australian carrier)?
- What are the roaming rates for the country you are travelling to?
- Are there roaming bundles available?
- Do you want to keep your own Aussie phone number?
With these initial questions sorted it's time to consider your options when travelling overseas and wanting to stay in touch. They fall into three main categories.
Option 1: USING YOUR AUSSIE HOME COUNTRY SIM:
The first and the most expensive option is to use your home country phone provider’s roaming package (post-paid roaming). Travellers who choose post-paid roaming keep their phone number, keep their phone plan, and pay their bills like normal while abroad. People will be able to reach you at your regular number, and you pay per minute for roaming charges.
If this is important to you and you don’t mind paying for the privilege, then picking a roaming plan is probably the right choice. The disadvantage with roaming with your existing phone number is that you pay very high charges whether they are local or international, and you have to pay for phone calls from friends back home who didn’t realise you were away.
If you decide against this option, we would still recommend you have your international roaming activated on your SIM before you leave which would enable you to still use your home based SIM if you wanted to check messages occasionally or to be used as a back up if your overseas SIM card stopped working for some reason.
Option 2: USING A LOCAL COUNTRY PREPAID SIM CARD:
The second option is purchasing a local country SIM i.e. a SIM card that is only valid for use in the country you are visiting. These can either be purchased when you arrive in the country or you can visit: http://roamingsolutions.com.au/collections/roaming-communications and buy a local SIM before you go.
In the majority of cases a local country SIM will be the cheapest option but it’s important to understand what you want to use your phone for before you buy.
Lets say you are travelling in the USA. If you want to use your phone to call US numbers but also want to be able to call back to Australia make sure the SIM you are buying includes this option. The Roaming Solutions USA SIM has been set up to incorporate calls back to Australian landlines as part of the deal as well as unlimited calls to US numbers and a generous data allowance.
Be aware if you choose to buy your SIM when you get to the States that many of the local SIMs do not include international calls or the roaming rates you pay to call back to your home country are similar to the roaming rates you would pay if you used your Australian SIM.
Buying a local SIM card (or buying an international multi-country SIM card) means that you will be allocated a different phone number to the one you are used to using.
Without question, local SIMs are generally cheaper and the best option if you are travelling to only one country.
However, as with any of these options there are pro’s and con’s so it’s worth considering the following:
- If you purchase when you arrive in the country, you can't give friends & family and essential work people your number before you go.
- You will receive a new phone number, which will need distribution to your contacts, every time you go to a new country and purchase a new SIM.
- If you do not speak the native language in a country you may find it difficult to purchase and then subsequently set up and top up.
- Be aware that some countries require you to prove residency before you can purchase a Local SIM – France is an example of this.
- Know before you go what sort of usage you want out of your SIM card so you can get the right amount of credit and / or data included.
- Local prepaid SIMs usually have a time limit, for instance 30 days, so may not be appropriate if you are travelling for longer periods of time.
- People calling you from home on your local SIM will incur an international mobile charge.
- Roaming Solutions offers a variety of single country SIMs that you can purchase before you leave and you can choose the best option to suit your needs.
Option 3: USING A MULTI-COUNTRY INTERNATIONAL PREPAID SIM CARD:
This is the most convenient solution if you are visiting multiple countries on your trip or going for a longer period of time (i.e. longer than 30 days) or if you are a frequent traveller.
A big advantage is you receive ONE phone number that is used for your whole trip. This is allocated to you once you have activated your SIM card so it’s easy to distribute to family, friends and colleagues before you leave. If you buy a local SIM in each country it’s a different number each time you get a new SIM.
There is also an option to keep your own Aussie phone number which can be diverted to your Global SIM number. Be aware, however, your home SIM provider will probably charge diversion costs for this to occur and also that you will only be able to receive calls NOT texts from your home SIM number via this method.
How long do you need your SIM to work for? Will you go another trip next year? The RoamingSIM Global SIM card doesn’t expire after 30 days. Both the SIM and credit will last indefinitely as long as you top up the SIM and either make a call or text at least once within 12 months. If you don’t top up or use the SIM then the credit will expire after 12 months – still significantly better than a 30 day option. The other advantage is you can pass your SIM onto a friend to use who’s travelling once you’re home.
The rates will be cheaper than using your Home Country SIM and these days there are many bundles and packages available, as optional extras, to choose from.
Topping up is simple, as long as you can log into your account you can top up. Many people choose to activate Auto Top Up before they leave with their own pre-set limits. This means you will never be in the position of running out of credit but you still have control over how much is being spent.
The RoamingSIM is cheaper than its main competitors. It costs $19.95 and comes pre-loaded with $10 credit to get you started. Woolworth's Global SIM card is $29 with $10 credit and Travel SIM $49.95 with $20 of credit.
Another benefit of the RoamingSIM is that you get a free, for the first month, local Australian land-line number that is allocated to you from the state of your choice. This land-line number enables your contacts in Australia to call you for the cost of a local call rather than incurring an international mobile charge every time they ring you. Great peace of mind if you have kids or elderly parents at home wanting to stay in touch.
Our multi-country SIMs also have 24/7 customer support so if you have any problems whilst travelling you can call or email for help any time knowing that regardless of where you are you will have English speaking help when you need it.
Some of the factors to consider when researching this option are:
- Many global SIMs use call back technology to keep the rates down. This simply means you dial a number, your phone will automatically disconnect you and then calls you back, you answer the phone and it through connects you. Sounds tricky but its not, just do a test call before you leave so you understand how it works.
- Its an INTERNATIONAL SIM card so you will need to use the international prefix dial code every time you make a call, regardless of the country you are in.
- Data can be pricey in some countries so if you are wanting to use data, try to use WiFi whenever you can and/or purchase a data bundle (if available) as generally these bundles are much cheaper than the casual rates on offer. Just be aware bundles are usually timed so only buy them when you are ready to use them.
In summary, you can organise a Multi-country SIM before you leave so your phone works as soon as you step off the plane rather than messing around trying to find a store. These global SIMs are obviously more economically attractive if you'll be travelling to several countries and the advantage of one phone number for the whole trip is far more convenient to you and your contacts back home.
ANYTHING ELSE I SHOULD KNOW?
There are lots of Apps out there that you can also use to reduce your communication costs when travelling.
WhatsApp and Viber and Skype are 3 other options people are using to stay in contact.
These Apps allow people to communicate with other users who also have the App installed and they are a free service. You obviously need to have access to a mobile device or computer and you do need to have an Internet connection to use these Apps so there will be data costs involved, however, if your calls and or messages are free it can be a substantial cost saver.
Deciding whether to travel on your home country phone provider’s roaming package (post-paid roaming) or purchasing an international SIM card (with special international rates) or paying for a destination-country local SIM card (prepaid local) is a judgement call that comes down to your phone, your phone number, the roaming packages available, international SIM rates, prepaid SIM packages available, and your travel plans. Regardless of which option you choose it’s worth doing your research and deciding on the best option for your circumstances before you head off on your trip.