“Don’t worry, I’ll only be a call away”. Did you use this line on your parents, while they were sobbing at the airport, trying to see you off? Yeah, we thought so. Technology has come a long way since rotary dial telephones were the only way to talk to people across vast distances. Today, with just a tap on our mobile phone screen, we’re able to communicate with a person located anywhere in the world. As an international student, you will greatly rely on technology to stay connected with your friends and family who are probably living thousands of miles away from you. For this, you will need international sim cards.
What Is An International Sim Card?
Before we get into international sim cards, let’s understand what a ‘Sim Card’ is. A SIM stands for Subscriber Identity Module, and stores basic information like the name and number of the user of the phone. It is a small plastic card that goes inside your phone and uses the Global System of Mobile Communications, or GSM, for short. A sim card allows you to make calls, send messages and access the internet. In the same vein, an international sim card has the same functionality as a normal sim card but can be used worldwide.
An international sim card allows you to switch between domestic and foreign numbers, so that you and the people communicating with you, don’t have to spend extra to call or text you. In today’s time, most incoming calls and text messages are free. But this doesn’t mean that you should walk up to a shop and choose the first international sim card you find. You need to closely identify your needs and peruse carriers of the various schemes offered by sim card companies, to get perfect international sim cards.
Why Buy International Sim Cards?
We understand that international sim cards aren’t usually the first thing you think about when travelling. You might be tempted to use your local sim card and forgo the pain of running around to get an international sim card. We get it. But having international sim cards come with a host of benefits. Service providers like Vodafone and Airtel offer students various cost-effective plans that suit their requirements. This allows students to avoid paying exorbitant amounts on incoming and outgoing calls, and texts. Moreover, these service providers have great value packs on data usage.
All You Need To Know About International Sim Cards
There’s also the factor of convenience, International sim cards can readily be bought from an airport kiosk, the minute you arrive in a new country. So if you were wondering, “Where to buy the best international sim card from?”, we hope you’ve got your answer. It takes just a couple of minutes to set up but soon you will be hooked up with data, calls and texts before you even step outside to catch a taxi.
Most international sim cards allow students to access data, calls and texts in over 100 different countries around the world. The rule of thumb with sim cards is that – international sim cards are nearly always cheaper than roaming with your home carrier but are normally more expensive than using local SIM cards.
Who Should Buy International Sim Cards?
International sim cards best suit students headed abroad for their higher education. Anyone embarking on a long-term trip should pick up an international sim card. This is because there’s always a lag between reaching a new country and picking up a new local SIM, and it’s always a good idea to have a working phone straight away to call an Uber or tell your student accommodation that you are running late.
International sim cards are also a great option for business travellers who dip in and out of countries several times a year. These international sim cards are much cheaper than roaming with your usual cell company, and more convenient than local sim cards.
Travellers who are skipping through several countries in a hurry or make a few short trips a year are also recommended to get international sim cards, as they work out cheaper than local sims and offer more convenience.
How Does An International Sim Card Work?
An international sim card is very different from a local sim card. Local sim cards are programmed to operate on only one network, which exists in a specific geographical location. On the other hand, international sim cards are programmed to work on multiple networks in different geographical locations around the world. For instance, many mobile phones in the U.S. and Canada are locked to use the local infrastructure as set by the respective mobile network provider.
International sim cards allow users to connect to different networks in the world without being charged outrageously for making or receiving calls. This is possible because carriers make bilateral agreements with other carriers ahead of time to allow each other’s customers to use telecommunications networks across the globe. Many SIM cards built for travel, use call-back technology that transforms outbound calls into inbound ones for phone calls. Carriers have set in motion this system to automatically reduce the expenses paid by consumers who have acquired a roaming card. This ensures that operators do not have to employ staff to physically intercept calls and reduce their customers’ bills by hand.
Which are The Best International Sim Cards?
Sim card carriers have different plans and packages for their customers. Rates and limitations vary widely, so make sure to study the details carefully to make sure you’re getting an international sim card that best suits your specific needs. Here are some of our favourite international sim cards –
OneSim is an international mobile service provider, which is an offering of US carrier Belmont Telecom. OneSim has three popular packages –
- Universal – Ideal for discounted calls, SMS, and data service in more than 50 countries.
- Expedition – Ideal for calls, and SMS, and has the widest data coverage of any other package.
- Europe and More – Ideal for calls and messages globally, and data in Europe.
OneSim gives users two numbers, one European based, and another one from the USA, Canada, UK, or Australia. Numbers for other countries in the world are also available for purchase. All the aforementioned plans include free incoming calls and messages for many countries, coupled with reduced rates for outgoing calls. There is no postpaid option, as all the plans are prepaid. The cost of data depends on the country you are in and whether you buy data bundles in advance. On average, you will pay around 1c/MB in 40+ countries or around 1.3c/MB if you are in Asia and Oceania. Casual data rates start at around 20c/MB, so it makes sense to opt for a bundle instead.
KnowRoaming is a Canadian carrier that provides physical SIM cards and eSIMs. Irrespective of your sim preference, your phone will be able to connect to local networks for voice, texts, and data in whatever country you’re in. Customers are required to buy the sim with some initial credit, and then perhaps buy more via the app or website. A US-based phone number is the default option. Numbers of other countries are also available for purchase.
The cost of calls, texts and data depends on the country you’re in. Many data bundles are available for use regionally or globally. Each one is valid for either a given length of time or a certain amount of data.
Voice call, text and data services of KnowRoaming can be used in over 200 countries, while ‘unlimited’ data packs are available in 125+ countries. These packs are available for either one day ($3.99) or three days ($9.99) for use in 125+ countries, or $5.99 for three days in the United States. Expect at least 250MB of data per day at full speed, but potentially reduced down to 2G speeds after you’ve crossed the threshold.
Just like the other carriers in this article, GoSIM offers users voice calls, messaging, and data plans for international use. However, GoSIM does things a little differently. There is only 1 regional plan, 3 regional plans, and several data-only options.
Calls, texts and data are standard across all three plans. All plans use the same SIM card, but you will get better pricing with the regional plans if you’re travelling in that part of the world. Similar to other countries, users will get an Estonia-based number and enjoy free incoming calls in most countries, as with incoming text messages.
GoSIM has connectivity in over 210 countries and data service in 110+ countries.
We end our list of best international sim cards with KeepGo, a unique carrier that truly does things differently. KeepGo is the only international data-only SIM provider mentioned in this list, but this doesn’t mean it doesn’t match up to its counterparts. In fact, due to its only cellular data functionality, users will find KeepGo more affordable than other traditional international sim cards.
Users will be able to make calls via any VoIP service like FaceTime, WhatsApp Call, Google Voice, Skype, and Viber. Some of these services also let you send and receive text messages.
KeepGo is perfect for users, especially students, who only care about having internet service. KeepGo offers two types of global phone sim cards, along with a handful of data packages. This makes it easy to figure out which package is right for you. KeepGo provides data services in 100+ countries around the world.
Using An International Plan With Your Cell Phone Provider
If you’re not on a pre-paid plan, your home phone provider is most likely to offer an international phone plan that allows you to use your phone overseas without changing your number or SIM card.
How: Before you go, check your options on the website of your phone provider for accurate data on costs and activation. Once you land and switch off flight mode, you’ll probably receive a text message from your international plan. You will be prompted to choose whether to register in their international plan. To activate it, just say “yes.”
Visiting Mexico & Canada: It should be noted that certain American cell phone packages provide coverage in Mexico, Canada, and other North American countries. This depends on your provider and plan. If you are unsure whether your phone will work as usual when visiting Mexico or Canada, contact your cell phone carrier.
Using An International Sim Card On Your Phone: In some ways, international SIM cards function like prepaid phone plans. In order to add extra “credit” for data and phone usage on the go, you first pay to top-up your SIM card.
Handy Tips For Using Your Phone Overseas
Regardless of how you decide to use your phone abroad, follow these tips to make sure you’re properly connected:
- Verify that your SIM card purchased operates before you leave the store.
- Take note of your local number whether using a local or an overseas SIM in a secure location for future use.
- It’s challenging to navigate your phone’s information menu in Thai characters. Check your phone’s language settings, especially after inserting a local SIM.
- Keep your old SIM card. If you changed your SIM card, secure the previous one with adhesive to a card and keep it in your wallet.
- Add important or useful contacts because not all emergency situations can be handled through 911. In case something happens, add the local emergency numbers to your contacts.
- Make sure WhatsApp is installed on your phone, especially if it is unfamiliar to locals. Compared to SMS, WhatsApp makes it simpler and frequently more reliable to text international numbers.
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