Best phone plan for traveling internationally
27. Apr. 2023
As international roaming charges can be a painful site to see on a phone bill, selecting the best phone plan can mean the difference between an excursion (or two) on your travel budget.
Between analyzing different data plans, it can seem overwhelming to determine the best cell phone plans for traveling internationally. That’s why our team at Remote Year has put together a guide to helping you navigate your needs.
Disclaimer: The scenarios below are not a comprehensive list of all of the international phone solutions that exist, but simply some of the most popular ones among the Remote Nation. We know staying connected to work, family and friends throughout your Remote Year Is important, and we are always happy to have a 1:1 consultation with you if you’re confused about what to do with your phone—send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Remote working with a view
Your Cell Phone Needs Abroad
The first step to finding the best phone setup to work for you, is determining how you plan to use data throughout your travels. Do you need a basic data plan, with access to apps like Whatsapp and social media? Or, are you someone who needs high-speed data for streaming video content, gaming, or serving as a hotspot ?
How important is international calling on your phone plan? If you need to make daily outbound calls to clients regularly, it may be a necessity to keep your existing number. If your remote work centers around phone calls, and it’s important to keep your current number, you may want to upgrade your current plan.
Keeping Your Existing Phone Plan
Many telecom providers have phone plans that work outside of their home countries. In fact, some carriers may have free coverage in your continent or region. For example North America’s plans can cover the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. While some European plans can cover anywhere from Portugal to Turkey. Talk to your provider about what works for your coverage, as some plans’ international travel benefits included are meant for traveling abroad, not staying abroad for an extended period of time.
What Remote Year participants learned about existing phone plans while traveling:
Sam, from the United States, wanted her clients to be able to reach her while she’s traveling with Remote Year. She switched her provider to T-Mobile before leaving on Remote Year, so she didn't have to think about ongoing phone service throughout her year-long Journey. It’s helpful when she goes to a different country for a side trip, because she doesn’t need to purchase a new SIM card in her phone to stay connected.
Woman using phone
Local SIM Card
While you may not be able to make unlimited calls or have unlimited data, there are benefits of having a local SIM Card. From reasonably priced plans, to appropriate data usage allowance, some of the countries best international phone plans are hassle free ways to connect. You’re able to send text messages through apps Whatsapp and social media messenger. To replicate traditional phone calls, travelers are even leaving voice calls or voice messages to take advantage of international calling.
However, when you swap phone SIM cards, keep in mind your existing phone number associated with your home country will be removed. Keep in mind the type of phone you have, and whether it’s an Android, iOS (Apple), or Google operating system – as some have locked and unlocked phone options for a new SIM.
What Remote Year can do to help navigate local SIM cards
During your travels, Remote Year can arrange your local SIM card each month if you opt in to the Remote Year SIM Card Service. For $30 / month, you’ll receive a new SIM card upon arrival in each city—just pop it in your phone and you’re connected. To opt in to the Remote SIM Card service, use the Connectivity & Tech survey on your Remote Year Profile. Additionally, review all the details of the service in section four of the Remote Year Participant Policies.
Tips when using local SIM cards:
1. Port your number to Google Voice
Only available to U.S. citizens, Google Voice ports your U.S. number from your current provider (AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, etc.). By using Hangouts app on your phone, you can make and receive calls as usual, for free (as long as you are on wifi or have a local SIM card with data). This process needs to be done in the US, takes about 48 hours to process and costs $20.
2. Utilize Skype
Remote Year participants from most countries are eligible for a Skype subscription This allows you to receive and make calls and texts via Skype on your smartphone and computer. For U.S. Citizens, you can also work with Google voice to connect the two platforms together.
3. Try Line2
Line2 serves as a phone provider that delivers calls and texts to any device, anywhere in the world, using data. With their services, you also get a designated US or Canada phone number. Read about Remote Year participants' experience with using Line2.
A phone provider that gives out a new phone number for texting and making calls, at only $6 per month.
5. Project Fi
A provided Google service, Project Fi, is prefered for those with an Android operating system. Users use Google Hangouts while on wifi. For iOS users, you’re now in luck, as Google Fi works on iPhones, however iOS is still in the "beta" phase.
How Remote Year participants have traveled with local SIM cards:
ELKE - HOLLAND
Not needing to receive calls on her Dutch number while traveling abroad, Elke utilized apps like Whatsapp to stay connected to her family and friends back home. For all her personal and work calls, Elke used both Zoom’s video conferencing software and her Dutch Skype number. By opting for the Remote Year’s SIM Card service, she was able to utilize each platform through the card’s data.
JOHN - USA
It was necessary for John to be reachable by clients through his US phone number, he signed up for the Remote Year SIM Card service – but also did some logical maneuvering. Receiving a local SIM card upon arrival in each city, his data connected him to both Google Voice and Skype where he had ported Verizon Wireless number prior to leaving the USA. However, in order to avoid paying double for his phone bill, once he ported over his telephone number, John canceled his plan.
ZOE - AUSTRALIA
A veteran of long-term travel, Zoe learned to buy local SIM cards once she gets to a new destination (whether that’s at the airport, a convenience store or a phone shop). Zoe then uses the data from the local SIM card to stay connected on apps like Whatsapp, Slack, and Google Maps. On the few occasions it’s taken a day or two to find a SIM card that works, she uses an affordable international Vodafone plan to use in-between SIM cards.
KAARINA - CANADA
Deciding it was important to keep her Canadian cell phone number during Remote Year, Kaarina ported her number to Fongo for only $5 per month. While the quality of her calls depends on the internet connection through free wifi or local SIM Card Service, she’s still able to keep her number attached to her phone.
JENNA - USA
Not needing to utilize her previous phone plan for work, but also not wanting to swap her SIM card every month, Jenna found a solution. As she likes the idea of being reachable via her US number regardless, Jenna decided to use Project Fi for her complete phone needs. Now, she never pays more than $60 / month for unlimited international data ($10 / GB until she reaches 6 GB, then it’s free up to 15 GB of data use!)
As you can see, there is no one-size fits all plan when it comes to picking out the perfect international phone plan for you. As you start narrowing down your decision on which plan you’d like to move forward with, keep in mind logistical factors like call needs, phone operating systems, as well as the possible tech hacks. If you still have questions regarding international phone plans, send Remote Year a note at email@example.com.
Wanting to opt in to the Remote Year SIM Card service, use the Connectivity & Tech survey on your Remote Year Profile. Discover all the details of the service in section five of the Remote Year Participant Policies.