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The 10 Best Tips For Using A Cell Phone During International Travel

Traveling abroad? Use these tips to stay connected without going broke

international travel and cell phone use

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iPhones and Android smartphones will work in any country you travel to, but their functionality can be limited depending on your current mobile plan, whether you want to rent a SIM card or portale Wi-Fi devices upon arrival, and how well you prepare your apps before your departure.

Here are 10 things you need to know to save some money and get the most out of your smartphone when traveling internationally.

Confirm International Texting, Calling, And Data Fees

By far the most-important thing you need to do before traveling abroad is to check with your service provider about their current policies relating to international cell phone use and what your current contract already allows.

Global roaming functionality used to be an extra feature that users would have to manually opt into using for an additional fee. This has now changed and many cell phone service providers such as Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile now activate international texting, calling, and data features automatically as soon as the handset is used in a foreign country.

This activation usually incurs a pricey fee that's recharged on a daily basis and can get very expensive if you're planning to travel for a long period of time. Metro PCS' World Calling is another popular service many people use for making international phone calls while traveling.

Mobile providers frequently update their international roaming services with new prices, features, and payment options. Verizon , AT&T , and T-Mobile each have dedicated pages on their official websites that detail their current options. However, you may have signed up for a contract that was created before the current model launched so the updated information on their sites may not apply to you. The best advice for cell phone usage when going abroad is to talk to a customer service representative over the phone or in person about your specific mobile phone contract.

Check If Your Smartphone's Unlocked

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If you're planning to use an international cell phone plan with your current provider while traveling overseas, you don't really need to worry about whether your smartphone is unlocked or not. If you're thinking of renting a SIM card once you arrive at your target destination though, this bit of information is incredibly important.

Having a locked phone means that it can only be used on one specific provider's cellular network and this means that you won't be able to use that phone in a country where that network doesn't exist. If your phone is unlocked, you can use it on other cellular networks both in your home country and abroad.

Rent A SIM Card For International Cell Phone Use

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SIM card rental allows you to use all of your phone's features, such as phone calls, text messages, and cellular data, by swapping out your current SIM card for one that's compatible with the country you're visiting.

While using another SIM card, your phone will be unable to receive texts or calls to your regular phone number as the SIM card will give your phone a new number. Due to this side effect, it's recommended to tell friends and family to contact you via email or a chat app like Facebook Messenger while you're traveling.

SIM card rental is available in most regions and can be done at specialized stores in major airports and at cell phone company branches. Renting a SIM card is generally much cheaper than paying for an international roaming service, especially for those planning to travel abroad for several days or weeks.

Rent A Portable Wi-Fi Device Instead

If you don't need texting or phone calls while traveling overseas and you think you'll be fine using your smartphone's apps for communication and navigation, a popular alternative to rental SIMs is a portable Wi-Fi device .

These Wi-Fi devices are about the size of a deck of cards and can be carried in your pocket or handbag. They broadcast a strong Wi-Fi signal to which you can connect your smartphone and other devices while traveling.

Such devices can usually be rented at airports and in telephone service provider stores. Some tourist information buildings also offer them to travelers.

Invest In A Quality Battery Pack

Odds are when you're traveling overseas, you're going to be using your phone a lot more than usual to navigate and to take photos and video. Your phone will also likely be going longer without chance to recharge and all of this extra usage will use up its battery power a lot faster than normal.

To prevent you from ending up with a dead phone while on the road, some good advice for smartphone owners is to invest in a good quality battery pack that can hold a significant amount of power. These typically feature at least one USB slot which can be used to recharge your smartphone, tablet, or other electronic accessories. A quality battery pack is a solid addition to any travel tech kit.

While most battery packs can be charged by being plugged into a wall, a growing number also boast solar panels which lets them be charged by the sun. These can be useful when traveling anywhere really but they're particularly practical for travelers that go camping.

Buy A Modern USB Power Adapter

A traditional power adapter with old-school power sockets for your chargers and laptop is a necessary purchase if you want to keep your electronics charged while traveling. If you're planning to buy a new adapter though, it's worth investing in a modern model which has at least one built-in USB port .

A USB port in an adapter will save you a lot of space when packing as USB cables generally take up much less room than cables with wall plugs on one end. USB charging cables will also likely work with more than one of your devices so you won't have to bring a separate cable for everything you own.

Pre-Download Media For Long Flights

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When using your cell phone for international travel, you're bound to experience significant periods of time when you have access to neither a cellular nor Wi-Fi network and accessing online content will be almost impossible.

Because of this, it's a good idea to download some content before you travel so you have something to keep you entertained during your flight or after you arrive in a foreign country. The Netflix smartphone app lets you download many of its movies and TV shows, while the official YouTube apps have the ability to download your favorite videos if you're a YouTube Premium subscriber .

If you're not a subscriber of YouTube Premium, there's still a way to download YouTube videos to your device for offline viewing.

Other good options for offline media include the first-party digital stores for iOS , Android, and Windows 10 devices, all of which allow for the downloading of movies, songs, podcasts, and TV series. Spotify is another good choice for podcast downloads and music downloads, though you'll need a Spotify Premium membership to download songs for offline listening.

Pre-Download Maps For Offline Access

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Unless you're paying for a global roaming package when going overseas, you'll likely be arriving at your target destination with no online functionality on your phone. This can make looking up travel information on your maps app very difficult or in many cases impossible.

Some airports do offer free Wi-Fi but many don't. The airport's Wi-Fi shouldn't be relied upon either, as once you leave the airport and get in a train, bus, taxi, or Uber , your smartphone will go completely offline again.

Fortunately, many map apps allow for the downloading of maps for offline viewing before you get to your location. Google Maps supports such a feature on both Android and iOS devices while the Maps app on Windows 10 laptops and tablets also contains this functionality.

While a lot of the location data can be downloaded in map apps, most of the public transport information won't function when offline. A good alternative is to download the local public transport app for your target destination before you go. Many of these apps work completely offline and also feature some useful information on the transport services available.

Set Up Cloud Services On Your Mobile Device

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Having your smartphone lost, broken, or stolen during international travel is always a possibility. Fortunately, experiencing any one of these bad situations doesn't have to be as devastating as it once was due to a variety of cloud services that can back up all of your photos, videos, and app settings to the cloud for access on another phone, tablet, or computer in the future.

The iPhone and Android smartphone first-party cloud services, iCloud and Google Drive , are usually installed and enabled by default on their respective devices to save your data to their respective servers but there are also some third-party options that you may want to check out as a backup.

Dropbox and Microsoft's OneDrive two popular alternatives to the default smartphone cloud options but there are a number worth checking out. Most cloud services can work alongside each other to back up your data so if you reach your data limit on one, you can rest assured that one of the other services has picked up the slack.

Prepare For App Content Changes In Other Countries

While many apps and services can function abroad, many travelers discover that some licenced content on their cell phone's apps changes slightly despite the same app and account being used as back home.

For example, a variety of music playlists may be available in the Fitbit Coach and other fitness smartphone apps when using them in the United States but you may find your song selection to be more limited when traveling to New Zealand. Once Upon a Time and Frasier may be on your Netflix list back home, but when traveling to Australia you may find that they disappear from the Netflix app completely.

The changing of content within apps isn't necessarily always a bad thing, though. While some of your favorite shows may become unavailable in Netflix when traveling to Japan for example, you'll also gain access to a lot of great Japanese films and anime series that you wouldn't be able to watch with your Netflix account back home.

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How to Use Your Phone Internationally With Minimal Charges

5 strategies to help you connect in other countries without paying a bundle.

If you travel to another country and use your smartphone as you would in the States — to access maps, check email, text the kids, many times a day — you could end up with hundreds of dollars in fees. To connect abroad affordably, you need a strategy. Here are your easiest options.

1. Put your phone in airplane mode to avoid charges

Aside from features such as the camera, only use the phone when you can connect to Wi-Fi. Some phones and  apps  automatically download data when the phone is on and connected, leading to charges — even if you aren’t using the phone for calls. To make calls, use apps such as WhatsApp (which is also great for texting photos to friends), FaceTime, Skype, Google Voice, Viber and Facebook Messenger.

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2. Get an international phone plan

Every phone carrier offers its customers international plans, which vary. If you use T-Mobile, for instance, your monthly plans include unlimited overseas texting and data, at no extra charge, and 25 cents per minute for phone calls. But, again, you can avoid those fees by switching to airplane mode. (See tip No. 1.) For Verizon customers, overseas options include a TravelPass plan that costs $10 per day for unlimited calling, texting and data. AT&T’s International Day Pass is also $10 per day with the same benefits. Google offers a wireless phone service called Google Fi: The plan covers texting and data, whether you’re at home or abroad, though you’ll pay 20 cents a minute for overseas calls. The  Federal Communications Commission  maintains a list of select service providers and how to contact them about their international plans (click on “Web Resources: Service Providers”). Most carriers offer cheaper options if you’re visiting Mexico or Canada.

3. Buy a prepaid SIM card to use your phone in another country

This is a slightly more complicated option: A SIM card stores your subscriber data in your phone. When you’re traveling internationally, you can replace it with one that gives you a local phone number. The first step: Ask your carrier to “unlock” your phone (a “locked” phone will only work on your carrier’s network). The unlocking process varies depending on the phone and the carrier; some new phones are unlocked by default.

You can buy a SIM card before you leave. Amazon, for example, sells SIM cards for Europe ranging from around $20-$50, typically for 30 days of use. (Before you buy, research the most used networks in the country you’re visiting and buy that brand of SIM card. In France, for example, the largest mobile company is Orange, followed by SFR and Bouygues Telecom.) The cards vary based on the amount of data, minutes and texts, and the number of countries where you can use it. You can install it after you land by following instructions that are included with the card.

Another option is to buy a SIM card at your destination — such as from a mobile provider at the airport or a local department store. The upside of buying it when you arrive: A store employee can help you choose the right data plan, install the card and make sure it’s the right one for your phone. (Older iPhones, for example, have different SIM cards than newer iPhones, which might not have SIM cards.)

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4. Try an eSIM card in your phone

Most new phones have what’s called an  eSIM card . Unlike the physical SIM card that you can remove from a phone, an eSIM is a microchip embedded in the phone’s hardware. That eSIM can be useful when you’re traveling internationally. Instead of replacing a SIM card, you can add a plan to your eSIM from a local provider in the country you’re visiting, or purchase data through eSIM providers such as Airalo, Flexiroam, GigSky and Nomad. Apple maintains an  online list  of wireless carriers and service providers that offer eSIM service. You also can find information online about eSIMs in  iPhones  and  Android  phones (including which ones support eSIMs, since Android phones vary depending on the manufacturer).

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5. Mix and match options while traveling

It’s OK to choose more than one of these options. Seattle-based travel writer Mary Jo Manzanares, 68, uses Airalo for data but makes calls with WhatsApp. Andy Gibson, 54, an IT specialist in Virginia who recently traveled to Germany, used T-Mobile for its free data but also used WhatsApp for calls. A combination of strategies can help you save money.

Editor's note: This article was originally published on Aug. 20, 2019. It's been updated to reflect new information. 

Ken Budd has written for  National Geographic Traveler , Travel+Leisure , The Washington Post Magazine  and many more. He is the author of a memoir,  The Voluntourist.

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Best international phone plans in 2024 — what travelers need to know

Heading overseas? Find out what your cellphone provider charges if you use your phone

international travel and cell phone use

  • T-Mobile phone plans
  • Verizon phone plans
  • AT&T phone plans
  • Google Fi plans
  • Other options
  • Device compatibility and eSims
  • 5G coverage when traveling

Before your summer travels overseas, you should look into whether you've got one of the best international phone plans for staying connected during your upcoming adventures. In the U.S., all the major wireless carriers offer some kind of travel benefit with their best cell phone plans , but they also have supplementary packages for travelers to augment the data plan you already have in place. The trick is to make sure those options keep you covered around the globe.

1. T-Mobile : Best choice for travelers 2. Verizon : TravelPass options 3. AT&T : Best for travel in Latin and Central America 4. Google Fi : An underrated traveling companion 5. Other options : Other international phone plans to consider

The best international phone plans will let you make calls and browse the web when you're in another country (though there might be a fee on top of your normal monthly rate, depending on which carrier you use). Different plans might cover different countries, and how long you plan on traveling could also impact your choice of plans. Your method of travel — be it by plane or cruise ship — also affects which plan is best for you.

All of these are things for globetrotters to consider when shopping for wireless coverage. You're going to want one of the best unlimited data plans since they tend to offer the most travel-related perks. If you haven't travelled internationally in a while, it's smart to double-check what options are out there since the best phone carriers have overhauled their plans and packages available to travelers.

Here’s a look at the travel policies and perks for the three top U.S carriers along with information on Google Fi, which offers a plan that definitely appeals to frequent travelers.

T-Mobile international phone plans

best international phone plans: T-Mobile

T-Mobile offers an expanded array of plans, though most of its unlimited data plan options have some benefits for overseas travel. Subscribe to Magenta, Magenta Max, Go5G, Go5G Plus or Go5G Next, and you enjoy unlimited data and texting in more than 215 countries around the world. If you want to place or receive calls, you’ll be subject to the local rate depending on where you want to go. You don’t need to notify T-Mobile of your travel for your overseas benefits to kick in.

T-Mobile Go5G Plus Plan | Unlimited Data | $90/month

T-Mobile Go5G Plus Plan | Unlimited Data | $90/month T-Mobile's Go5G Plus plan has the edge over Magenta Max for world travelers, even if the latter plan is $5 cheaper for a single line. That's because Go5G Plus customers get more data when traveling in Mexico and Canada (15GB vs. 10GB for Magenta Max) and 10GB more hotspot data. Otherwise, the two plans are identical: You can use your data in 215-plus countries at no extra cost. The first 5GB of data you use use will be high-speed data (with 5G speeds supported where available). The cheaper Go5G and Magenta plans ($75/month and $70/month, respectively) also feature travel benefits, including high-speed data in 11 European countries. Otherwise, data speeds are capped at 256 kbps.

Travel perks in current plans: As part of T-Mobile's Beyond Connected program, data speeds now reach 256 kbps when you're overseas. If you subscribe to either the standard Magenta or Go5G plans and you're in one of 11 European countries, you can enjoy 5GB of high-speed data every month, thanks to a partnership with T-Mobile parent Deutsche Telecom.

The perk gets better when you upgrade to either Magenta Max or Go5G Plus, both of which cost $15 more a month than their respective base plans. In that case, you can benefit from 5GB of high-speed data in 215 countries.

Go5G Next, T-Mobile's most expensive plan at $100/month for a single line, has the same travel benefits as Go5G Plus, but adds the ability to upgrade your phone every year. If that's not important to you, stick with Go5G Plus and pay $10 less each month on your wireless bill.

T-Mobile customers can take advantage of free Wi-Fi on American, Delta, Alaska Airlines and United flights. Magenta Max and Go5G Plus subscribers get full texting and Wi-Fi with streaming during flights, where wireless is available. If you go with the standard Magenta or Go5G option, you're covered on four flights per year with full streaming, plus unlimited texting; after those four flights, you can stream one hour of video. Delta SkyMiles members also get free Wi-Fi on domestic U.S. flights courtesy of T-Mobile — even if they get their wireless service from another carrier.

In Mexico and Canada, T-Mobile allows you to use up to 5GB of data whether you've got Magenta or Magenta Max; speeds are slowed to 2G after that. Go5G customers get 10GB of data in those two countries, while Go5G Plus members enjoy 15GB.

T-Mobile includes travel benefits in two of its remaining senior plans, with identical travel perks between the $100 Go5G Plus 55 option and the $120 Go5G Next 55 plan. (Note that those monthly prices cover two lines of data; one line of either Plus or Next cost $70 and $80, respectively.) Travel perks include high-speed data and text when you travel abroad, plus unlimited in-flight connectivity. When you travel to Canada or Mexico, you get 15GB of high-speed data. Both plans also include a year's membership to AAA for road travel in the U.S.

If you opt for T-Mobile's lower cost Essentials unlimited plan, you'll get 2G roaming in Canada and Mexico, but have to pay for data elsewhere.

Trip-specific passes: T-Mobile offers International Pass options for travelers who want high-speed data during lengthier stays overseas. A 5GB International Pass gives you that much high-speed data along with unlimited calling for 10 days. It costs $35. T-Mobile's $50 International Pass increases high-speed data to 15GB and extends the length of the pass to 30 days. The carrier also offers a $5 daily pass that gives you 512MB of high-speed data, and unlimited calling between the 215 or so Simple Global destinations. 

Cruise rates: Pricing on cruises will vary according to which cruise you’re taking. You can check T-Mobile’s site to see what your pricing will be.

Verizon international phone plans

best international phone plan: Verizon

Verizon phones generally work all over the world, especially if you've got a phone built in the last few years. But where you travel significantly influences how much you’ll have to pay. As for which is the best Verizon phone plan for travelers, that all depends on how frequently you go overseas. There's a clear choice for regular globetrotters, but Verizon's less expensive offerings allow you to tack on travel benefits, too.

Verizon Unlimited Ultimate | Unlimited Data | $90/month

Verizon Unlimited Ultimate | Unlimited Data | $90/month Verizon's Unlimited Ultimate plan offers the most benefits for world travelers. Verizon promises "full international connectivity," meaning you'll be able to use talk and text for free when overseas; you also get 10GB of high-speed data every month that you can use in other countries. Unlimited Ultimate is Verizon's most expensive plan, so unless you take frequent trips, you may be better served by Unlimited Plus ($80/month for one line) or Unlimited Welcome ($65/month). Those two plans can add on a $10/month Travel Pass options that provides three days of talk, text and data when you're overseas. You can drop the Travel Pass add-on from your plan in months were you don't need it. Verizon lets family plans mix and match lines so one person can get Unlimited Ultimate, while the others subscribe to the cheaper options.

Travel perks in current plans: Of Verizon's three unlimited plans, the best for frequent travelers is the Unlimited Ultimate option, which lets you use talk and text in other countries just like you would in the U.S. You also get 10GB of high-speed data to use overseas every month.

Unfortunately, Unlimited Ultimate is Verizon's most expensive plan, costing $90 a month for one line. (And that's after a discount for enrolling autopay.) There are cheaper options — Unlimited Welcome and Unlimited Plus — that include travel perks. Both plans let you text internationally to 200-plus countries. You can also use LTE data when traveling in Mexico and Canada. You're limited to 0.5GB of data consumption per day in those two countries before your speeds are slowed to 2G, and you can't use more than half of your talk, text and data in those countries over a 60-day period.

In addition to the base Welcome Unlimited and Unlimited Plus packages, you can opt for $10 monthly add-ons for your Verizon plan — some covering streaming services, another providing hotspot data and so on. The relevant package is Verizon's $10/month 3 TravelPass Days add-on, which saves you $20 a month on travel benefits as you pick up three passes during monthly billing cycles. You can accrue up to 36 passes for using talk, text and data when traveling overseas.

Unlimited Welcome starts at $65/month for one line, while Unlimited Plus is $80. If you have a family plan, you can mix and match so that different lines of data subscribe to different plans — helpful if there's one person in the family who travels a lot and would benefit from the Unlimited Ultimate perks.

Trip-specific passes: Let's talk a little bit more about the TravelPass . It's Verizon's daily option for international coverage, and it’ll cost you $5 per day per device for each day you’re out of the country if you travel to Mexico or Canada and don't have an unlimited plan. In 185 other countries — including China, France and Germany — Verizon charges $10 per device per day. TravelPass gets you 2GB of 5G data, and unlimited data at 3G speeds after that; the passes also come with unlimited talk and text.

If you know you’ll be traveling for a bit more time, consider Verizon’s monthly option, which the carrier recommends for trips lasting at least 10 days. International Monthly Plans at Verizon cost $100/month, but in exchange, you get 250 minutes of talk, unlimited texts and 20GB of high-speed data. (Use that, and you get unlimited data at 3G speeds.)

Verizon also offers pay-as-you-go pricing for international travel. You’ll pay 99 cents per minute in Canada and Mexico, Guam and the Northern Marianas Islands. Rates go up to $1.79 in 130-plus countries and $2.99 in 80 other places. Each text message you send will cost you 50 cents, and each received text will set you back 5 cents. Your data will be charged at a rate of $2.05 per megabyte no matter where you are.

Cruise rates: Pay-as-you go rates on cruise ships cost $1.99 for each minute of talk and 50 cents for every sent text message. You’ll pay 5 cents per message received. Verizon has a data plan for cruise passengers, too, with $30/day giving you 500MB of data plus unlimited texting and 50 minutes of talk time. For in-flight connectivity, you can opt for the same pay-as-you-go rates for cruise trips or you can pay $20 per day for unlimited data.

AT&T international phone plans

best international phone plans: AT&T

AT&T also comes with varied international pricing depending on where you want to go. Canada and Mexico travel is covered in many top AT&T plans, and if you pay up for the Unlimited Premium option, you can use your plan in many Central and South American countries. Traveling elsewhere? Then you had best look into AT&T's travel passes.

AT&T Unlimited Premium| Unlimited Data | $85.99/month

AT&T Unlimited Premium| Unlimited Data | $85.99/month It's AT&T's most expensive unlimited plan, but Unlimited Premium has the best perk for travelers — you can use your talk, text and data at no extra cost in 20 Latin American countries.  As with other AT&T unlimited options, you also enjoy talk, text and data coverage when traveling in Canada and Mexico.

Travel perks in current plans: If you’re heading to Mexico or Canada, AT&T already covers all of your voice, data and text with its four different unlimited plans — Starter, Extra, Premium and the entry-level Value Plus option. AT&T offers a lone tiered data plan with 4GB of data that you can use in Canada and Mexico (though roaming may be at 2G speeds). Both unlimited and tiered data plans feature unlimited texting to 120-plus countries.

The Unlimited Premium plan is the best option for travelers headed to the Americas, as you'll be able to enjoy unlimited text, talk and data at no additional cost in 20 Central and South American countries. 

If you do a lot of international calling from home, AT&T offers unlimited calling to 85-plus countries from the U.S. for $15 per month for each line. Calls to another 140-plus countries get discounted rates under this plan.

Trip-specific passes: For anyone off to Europe, the Caribbean, Latin America or the Asia Pacific region on a short jaunt, AT&T recommends its $10-a-day International Day Pass, which comes with unlimited talk and text and data governed by your plan. (Note that each device you take overseas will need its own Day Pass.) That service is available in 210-plus countries, and you can add extra phones for just $5 a day.

You'll never have to pay for more than 10 days of day passes on any one bill, even if your trip lasts longer. International Day Passes also kick in automatically when you use your phone abroad — you get a text message letting you know you're covered.

Cruise rates: On cruises , AT&T offers a $60/month Cruise Basic plan that covers 100 minutes of talk and unlimited texting while also offering 100MB of data. Need more of everything? Then try the Cruise Plus plan ($100/month), which includes 1GB of data on top of unlimited talk and text. 

Google Fi international phone plans

best international phone plan: Google Fi

If you do a lot of international traveling, don't ignore Google Fi Wireless , the wireless service set up by Google that uses cellular towers of T-Mobile and US Cellular to provide coverage. International travel is built into two of Google Fi's plans — the Unlimited Plus and Flexible options.

Image

Google Unlimited Plus| Unlimited Data | $65/month The Unlimited Plus plan is the way to go with Google Fi, as you can use your data at no extra cost when traveling overseas. Google Fi customers who pay by the gigabyte of data used are also eligible for this perk.

Travel perks in current plans: You've got two options with Google Fi — tiered data through the company's Flexible plan or a pair of unlimited data options. Flexible coverage costs $20 a month for talk and text plus $10 for each GB of data you use. (Data usage is rounded off to the nearest megabyte so you only pay for the data you consume.) Google stops charging you after you use 6GB a month, meaning you'll never pay more than $80. 

If you find unlimited data plans more appealing, Google has you covered there, too — it also offers a $65 Unlimited Plus option that rolls in unlimited talk, text and data. Unlimited Plus subscribers now get a year of YouTube Premium as a perk. 

The real benefit to either Unlimited Plus or Flexible is that those plans cover you when you're traveling in 200-plus countries. When you're overseas, Google Fi charges the same rate for data usage, whether you're on an unlimited data plan or paying by the gigabyte. Voice calls cost 20 cents (though calls placed over Wi-Fi are free) and you get unlimited SMS messaging. 

Alas, Google's $50/month Simply Unlimited plan is not eligible for the free data perk when traveling. That said, all three of Google Fi's plans let you use talk, text and data in Mexico and Canada.

Google Fi is even more appealing now that Google has opened up service to all phones, including iPhones. Note that phones optimized for Google Fi — Google's Pixel phones (currently the Pixel 8 , Pixel 8 Pro , Pixel Fold and Pixel 7a )  along with a selection of Samsung phones and Motorola budget devices — can switch seamlessly between cellular networks and Google's Wi-Fi hotspots, while other phones cannot.

Trip-specific passes: Unlike the other carriers here, Google Fi doesn't offer travel passes for extended trips. Your only option is to get coverage through the Flexible and Unlimited Plus plans.

Cruise rates: Google Fi is not available when you're at sea — only when you're on land in one of the 200-plus countries covered by the carrier.

Other international phone plan options

Discount carriers typically don't provide much in the way of benefits for travelers, but there are some exceptions. The most noteworthy alternative is Visible , which has expanded the travel perks for subscribers to its $45/month Visible Plus plan .

Visible is owned by Verizon and uses its parent company's network for coverage. The Visible Plus plan features unlimited data, including access to Verizon's high-speed 5G network. Travelers will be particularly interested in the unlimited talk, text and 2GB of daily data available through Visible Plus when traveling in Canada and Mexico. Visible Plus customers are also eligible for one free Global Pass day per month, in which they can use talk, text and data at no charge in 140 countries. Globla Passes normally cost $10.

Best international phone plan: Device compatibility and eSims

Traveling overseas used to mean checking to see if your phone would be compatible once you set foot in another country. But those days are drawing to a close now that 3G networks are shutting down, eliminating much of the distinction between phones that work on either GSM and CDMA. If you've got a recent smartphone that connects to LTE, chances are strong it's going to work just fine in other countries. (You still might want to confirm that your phone works on the LTE bands available in the country you're heading to prior to your trip, just to avoid any unpleasant surprises.)

Many phones now support electronic SIM cards or eSIM technology, where you no longer need to swap in a local SIM card to make your smartphone work with an overseas network. (Since the iPhone 14 , Apple devices sold in the U.S. only feature eSIM support — that includes the newer iPhone 15 models.) One of our editors took an international trip using an eSIM for her phone and found it easy to setup and use with a local network — in fact, she plans to use the eSIM approach on all future travel. 

That said, not every country supports eSIM. And depending on your phone carrier in the U.S., you might already have options that cover your phone use in other countries.

International phone plans: What about 5G?

As noted above, many of the plans that offer international travel either have you connect at whatever speed is available locally or at a reduced speed in cases where you're drawing from your own data plan. But what if you've got a 5G phone that can connect to faster networks overseas?

For the most part, we'd expect your phone to operate as before, either at whatever speed the local network offers or a capped speed if that's part of your carrier's travel plans. However, in a few instances, U.S. phone carriers have started making deals with overseas wireless providers that allow their customers to access 5G speeds when roaming. You should check with your carrier for information about the country you're going to travel in.

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Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.

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international travel and cell phone use

Use eSIM while traveling internationally with your iPhone

Learn about the options and benefits for using eSIM while traveling abroad.

Learn about the benefits of traveling with eSIM

eSIM is more secure than a physical SIM because it can't be removed if your iPhone is lost or stolen.

With eSIM, you don't need to obtain, carry, and swap physical SIM cards (which can also be lost), or wait for them to arrive by mail.

You can have two eSIMs active on supported iPhone models at the same time. This could, for example, include one eSIM for your home and another eSIM for the place you're visiting.

You can swap which of your stored eSIMs are active simply by changing your selections in Settings. This might be helpful if you travel regularly to the same places.

What you need

An iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone XR, or later

A wireless carrier or worldwide service provider that supports eSIM

Your iPhone must be connected to a Wi-Fi network*

If your iPhone has a SIM tray, you can use both a physical SIM and an eSIM while traveling internationally

Learn more about eSIM on iPhone

eSIM on iPhone isn’t offered in China mainland. In Hong Kong and Macao, some iPhone models feature eSIM. Learn about using Dual SIM with two nano-SIM cards in China mainland, Hong Kong, and Macao . For travelers visiting China mainland who wish to use an eSIM for prepaid data plans, these are offered by many worldwide service providers .

Roam internationally with your existing carrier

Carriers might include international roaming on select data plans without additional fees.

Alternatively, your carrier might offer affordable travel passes or plans that you can purchase ahead of time to use at your destination.

International roaming with an eSIM works the same as roaming with a physical SIM.

Your carrier might offer the ability to digitally manage your eSIM plan and add more data as needed.

To learn more, contact your carrier.

Learn more about cellular data roaming options for traveling internationally

Purchase an eSIM from a local carrier in the country or region you're visiting

Find carriers around the world that support eSIM on iPhone .

If your iPhone is locked to a carrier, it can be used only by that carrier. You can add multiple eSIMs and plans through that carrier. To check if your iPhone is unlocked, go to Settings > General > About. If your iPhone is unlocked, "No SIM restrictions" appears next to Carrier Lock. Learn how to unlock iPhone for use with a different carrier .

Many carriers offer prepaid plan options that you can purchase from the carriers' websites or apps before you arrive, or in person after arrival, through a carrier kiosk at the airport, carrier store, or other location. Carriers will provide steps to activate your eSIM digitally, like with a QR code or carrier app. Depending on local regulations, you might be asked to show identification (like your passport) to purchase. These prepaid carrier options might offer more affordable local plans for data, voice, and text. Check with individual carriers for details.

In addition to purchasing a prepaid eSIM plan, you might wish to get a postpaid account if you plan to be in another place for an extended time.Carriers around the world that support eSIM offer postpaid plans. Depending on the country or region, you might need proof of local residency, an established local bank account, or credit card.

On your iPhone, you can store eight or more eSIMs, which can be used as needed. On supported iPhone models, you can use two eSIMs at the same time . Carrier fees might apply. Contact your carrier for information.

Purchase a prepaid data eSIM from a worldwide service provider

Many worldwide service providers offer prepaid data plans . These plans allow you to stay connected in over 190 countries and regions when you travel. Carriers offer plans that differ by the amount of data and duration. You can also purchase a plan before you travel.

Apps that offer data only eSIM plans are available on the App Store on your iPhone .

While you're abroad, you can use a data-only eSIM as your secondary line and have two active eSIM plans on supported iPhone models.

The capabilities on your primary line will continue to work when you add a data-only eSIM for cellular data. For example, you might keep your primary line for your home and set up a data-only eSIM plan as your secondary line while traveling.

To choose your data line, go to Settings > Cellular > Cellular Data. You can continue to use FaceTime, iMessage, and other apps to make VoIP calls or send messages while you're traveling.

You can also turn data roaming on and off on your home line in Settings > Cellular > Cellular Data. Carrier fees might apply.

If you purchased an iPhone 14 model or later in the United States but will use it while living in a different country or region

You can activate an unlocked iPhone 14 model or later that you purchased in the United States with over 400 carriers in 100 markets worldwide that support eSIM on iPhone . Contact your carrier to confirm that they support eSIM on your cellular plan. Also, check iPhone cellular band support for country compatibility.

Many worldwide service providers also offer prepaid eSIM data plans for long-term use in countries and regions across the world.

* iPhone 14 models and later that are eSIM-only can activate without a Wi-Fi network.

international travel and cell phone use

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How to Use Your Phone Internationally—Without Breaking the Bank

From the most cost-effective international cellphone plans, to wi-fi-enabled apps, hot spots, and esim cards, use these money-saving tips to stay connected while abroad..

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Woman with a backpack and typing on cellphone with a city scene in the background

Many of us would be lost without our smartphones when traveling.

Photo by Shutterstock

Let’s face it: Our phones have become an essential tool when traveling abroad. Much more than for sharing your experiences with friends and family back home (though that’s part of the fun), smartphones are crucial to be able to communicate with those in your travel group , to find hotels and restaurants, navigate new streets, and use translation apps .

Unfortunately, domestic cellphone plans don’t often include international talk, text, and data services with their monthly rates; if you aren’t prepared, you could end up spending a small fortune in added charges when using your phone abroad.

But all is not lost. Travelers have a wealth of options at their texting thumbs when it comes to staying connected while traveling internationally without having to dig deep into their savings.

From affordable international travel plans to pay-as-you-go options, downloadable secrets, and more, here are the best tips and hacks for using your phone on your next international vacation.

Consider a carrier with a free international plan

It does not have to be super complicated to get free data, calls, and texting when you travel internationally. Several wireless carriers bake free international plans right into their business model, including Google Fi Wireless and T-Mobile , to name a couple.

Google Fi Wireless allows its customers free cell, data, and text services because it partners with local cell providers in more than 200 countries. All you have to do is turn your phone on and use it exactly as you would at home. The only thing you’ll have to pay for is phone calls, which cost $0.20 per minute worldwide.

T-Mobile (which merged with Sprint in 2020) is also friendly to those who travel overseas. T-Mobile customers can get unlimited 2G data, unlimited texting, and calls starting at $0.25 per minute. The downside is that 2G connectivity won’t get you anywhere in a hurry. However, you can purchase a faster data roaming package.

Buy an international plan

Switching carriers is a huge hassle, especially for a single trip overseas. If you’ve already committed to another carrier like Verizon or AT&T , you can purchase one of their international travel plans.

Every Verizon plan includes free data, talk, and text in Mexico and Canada. If you’re going farther afield, you can use the Verizon TravelPass , which costs $10 a day for unlimited text, talk, and data in more than 185 countries. For longer trips, Verizon also offers an International Monthly Plan for $100 per month. This option is worth it if you plan to be abroad for more than 10 days.

AT&T has a similar package, called International Day Pass , which also costs $10 per day. AT&T offers a monthly option called Passport , which starts at $70 and includes 2GB of data, unlimited text, and talk for $0.35 per minute. For $140 per month, the data usage is raised to 6GB.

Both the TravelPass and International Day Pass will only charge you for the days you use them, so if you don’t need it every day, then leave your phone on airplane mode to avoid additional charges.

Phone screen showing app icons for WhatsApp and Instagram

WhatsApp is one of the most widely used Wi-Fi-enabled apps.

Use Wi-Fi communication apps

If you want to skip additional charges altogether, you can leave your phone on airplane mode for the entire trip. The good news is that today so many communication apps operate over Wi-Fi that you may not even miss having cellular data.

For iPhone users, iMessage operates on Wi-Fi anywhere in the world. But Android users fear not. There are plenty of Wi-Fi messaging apps that apply to all devices. WhatsApp is one of the most widely used messaging apps on the planet. But you also have apps like Facebook Messenger, Instagram DMs, and the ultra-encrypted Signal app .

Other free options include but are not limited to:

The downside to these is that they won’t work without a connection so if you’re on the road in between Wi-Fi hubs, you won’t receive any notifications.

Download before you go

But you won’t be completely cut off from the outside world on the road if you opt to work from Wi-Fi only. Downloading things you need while you’re on Wi-Fi can save you a lot of headaches for when Wi-Fi isn’t available.

You can download Google Maps to your phone so that you can navigate offline. Simply tap your profile picture in the app and go to Offline Maps. This will allow you to select the area you want to download and save the map to your phone. The downside is that it only provides driving directions, not walking directions, and it won’t reroute you if there is a slowdown or traffic.

Downloading podcasts and television shows to your phone can also be a lifesaver. Long train trip? Travel delay? Wi-Fi connectivity goes out? At least you’ll stay entertained.

If you’re headed to a country where you don’t speak the language, you can download that language to your phone on Google Translate . That way, even when you’re offline, you can still keep communication lines open to help you navigate more easily.

Overhead view of a hot spot device resting atop a laptop

Renting a local hot spot for internet access isn’t necessarily a bad idea, depending on the destination.

Rent a hot spot

This option tends to be less popular, but it has certain advantages. A rentable Wi-Fi hot spot is a small device, about the size of a cellphone itself, that creates a mobile Wi-Fi network for you and those in your travel party. You can connect everyone’s device to it when you need it and shut it off when you don’t. This is a much cheaper alternative than everyone getting their own international plan.

You can rent a mobile hot spot from most cellphone stores for as low as $7 per day. With this option, though, you’ll have to return the hot spot whenever you’re done with your travels, which means either bringing it back to wherever you got it or sending it back in the mail.

Purchase a local SIM card

Avid travelers will remember when SIM cards were a widespread thing for staying connected abroad. A SIM card was a small chip that would need to be activated and inserted into your phone in order to use it abroad with a local number and local rates. These days, it’s more common to purchase and download an eSIM in lieu of a physical SIM card. An eSIM is a downloadable digital chip that can be activated remotely.

You can find loads of eSIM providers online with a wide variety of pricing options depending on where you are going and for how long. If you’re headed to Europe, for example, Bouygues My European eSIM is a popular and cost-effective option. The eSIM costs $45 and offers 30GB of data and unlimited calls and texts within Europe. It’s also valid for 30 days, which is great if you’re doing a longer trip.

The downside to eSIMs is that you will be given a new local number depending on where the services are from. With Bouygues, you’ll receive a temporary French number.

A view of stone walls and lakes over Sky Road in Galway County

clock This article was published more than  1 year ago

How to keep your phone working while traveling abroad

Here are some of the best tips to stay connected during your next international holiday

international travel and cell phone use

After a rocky start to the summer travel season due to high prices and crowded skies, the prospect of relaxing in some far-flung locale seems just a little more attainable. Flights are getting cheaper, at least by a little . And for now at least, the dollar is on par with the euro , a feat that has some people thinking about ways to make the most of it abroad.

The euro is equal to the dollar. Here’s why it matters.

For some of our readers, dealing with this wanderlust has them wondering what they should do with their phones when traveling overseas. And unfortunately, finding the right answer can be trickier than people expect.

Why? Well, the “best” solution hinges at least a little on your travel style. And it doesn’t help that the roaming deals offered by U.S. wireless carriers aren’t always straightforward.

That’s where the Help Desk comes in. We put together a brief guide to walk you through the options for staying connected while living your best tourist life. If you have treasured technology travel tips of your own, share them with us at [email protected] .

In the meantime, here’s where you should start.

Check your wireless plan

If you have a plan with AT&T, Verizon or T-Mobile, and you passed a credit check when you signed up, you have the most options available to you. Other services, like Mint Mobile and Consumer Cellular , have roaming plans that charge you for every little thing. And some brands, like Tracfone, don’t have roaming features at all.

Once you know what you’re working with, take a moment to think about your travel style. Are you a loner, content to stay off your phone and live as the locals do? Or are you more of the travel influencer type, meticulously documenting each moment online?

Some of you may even want to disconnect entirely, which I can confirm is a wonderful way to spend a vacation. In that case, consider leaving your phone in airplane mode, disable data roaming and jump on WiFi networks when the need arises. (Just be careful about what you do while connected to them.)

Weigh your international options

Not all wireless plans are created equal, and the way they think about international roaming can differ pretty wildly. Here’s how different companies handle it.

AT&T and Verizon are pretty similar

If you get a monthly bill from AT&T or Verizon, you have access to day passes, a very convenient international roaming feature. AT&T lets you use your devices the same way you did at home for $10 a day for the first phone and $5 a day for each additional one. Verizon offers the same feature for $5 a day per phone in Mexico and Canada and $10 a day everywhere else .

The benefit? You can send and receive calls and text messages with your existing phone number, plus use your mobile data at reasonably fast speeds for online browsing and streaming.

The problem is that these can get expensive pretty fast, especially if you have a whole family that wants to stay connected. At least AT&T stops charging for day passes after 10 days — Verizon keeps you that daily rate as long as you keep using your phone, though some of its 5G plans let you earn and save day passes for use on your next trip.

These companies offer some alternatives, but they come with their own (frustrating) limitations.

For AT&T customers who want to go without day passes, their only choice is to pay for each text and each minute of a phone call at obscene rates . Verizon mostly works the same way, with one twist: It offers an “international calling” feature for $100 per line that gives you 250 voice minutes, 1000 text messages and 5 gigabytes of data. In a word, ouch.

T-Mobile is easier, but comes with a catch

T-Mobile customers have it a little easier, since most of their plans have some free international features built in. The Essentials plan gives you free unlimited texting while abroad and charges calls at 25 cents a minute. The Magenta plan offers the same thing but adds unlimited data at 2G speed. Meanwhile, customers on the most expensive Magenta Max plans get those same features but with slightly faster — but still pretty slow — data service.

Even then, expect some frustration if you want to do more than basic online browsing, since T-Mobile says the standard speeds on those Magenta Max plans are far less than 1 megabit per second.

What about Google?

More than a few Help Desk readers have recommended Google Fi, a phone service that offers a lot of flexibility overseas. Under the company’s “Flexible” plan, you pay a set amount per month for each phone line — for one person, it’s $20 — plus $10 for each gigabyte of data you use in a month.

A few things make Fi a tempting choice for international use. First, you pay that same $10/GB of data whether you’re at home or cycling the winding roads of Girona. Google will also stop charging you once you’ve used a certain amount of data — for individuals, the cap is 6GB, or $60. You also can pause your service for up to three months at a time.

The catch? Google really doesn’t want you to use Fi solely for international use.

The company’s support website says if "a majority of your usage occurs outside of the United States over a consecutive 90 day period, you may have your international capabilities suspended.” Google is cracking down on how frequently you can pause your Fi subscription, too: “repeated or extended pausing may result, at our option and sole discretion, suspension of your Google Fi account,” says the company’s terms of service.

If you were thinking about using Google’s phone service full-time anyway, its international flexibility is a great perk. Otherwise, you may want to skip it and take our next suggestion instead.

Consider local phone service

If none of your wireless carrier options feel like a great fit, I’d recommend buying a SIM card from a local cell service provider once you arrive. Do a little homework before you fly and you stand to save a lot of money.

In Hong Kong, a favorite haunt, $15 gets you 8 gigabytes of data to use for Web browsing and calls through apps like WhatsApp and Telegram over eight days . In France, Orange offers “holiday” SIM cards that give you unlimited calls and texts inside Europe and buckets of data you can still use if you head to another European country. If you can, buy these from a local carrier store instead of generic travel SIM cards at the airport.

The only real downside is that you have to use a different phone number while abroad. That could get confusing for people you try to contact, and you cannot easily access passcodes sent to your usual phone number via text.

Taking advantage of them requires some prep work. First, you have to make sure your phone is unlocked. That means it can accept SIM cards from different carriers and work on their networks properly. Most American wireless carriers do not sell unlocked phones, but if your account is in good standing, you can request that AT&T or T-Mobile unlock a phone you bought from them. Verizon phones, meanwhile, are automatically unlocked after 60 days.

Alternately, if your finances allow, you could buy a separate unlocked phone for use while traveling. If you use a prepaid phone service like the ones we mentioned earlier, you could also buy an unlocked phone for travel, after checking its compatibility with your provider, that is. Prefer to stick with your own phone? Your provider may agree to unlock it for you.

Mint Mobile will unlock a phone you purchased from them if you meet certain criteria . After a settlement with the Federal Communications Commission a few years ago, the parent company of Tracfone is mandated to do the same. Since that company runs other brands like Straight Talk Wireless, Simple Mobile and Net10, you can ask it to unlock a phone you bought from any of them.

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The Best International Phone and Data Plans: Everything You Need to Know to Use Your Cell Phone Abroad

Compare plans from AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint.

Having a working cell phone while traveling internationally can make a world of difference. Think of how often you use your GPS (Which way to the metro station?) , internet browser (What time does the museum close?) , messaging apps (Hey, are we still meeting at the restaurant later?) , and mobile apps (I'll grab an Uber to meet you!) — just in a single afternoon. You'll probably want data on your next trip abroad, and perhaps a lot of it.

Alas, roaming rates can be extremely expensive. Even if you don't call or text while abroad, background updates to apps can run up unexpected roaming fees. Here's how to avoid those hidden charges, plus everything else you need to know about international plans offered by major phone carriers.

Overview of International Phone Plans

Perhaps the easiest option for continuing to use your phone while abroad is to purchase an international plan through your current carrier. This can work out to be the most cost-effective choice, but it isn't always. International roaming plans are typically best if you use your phone sparingly while abroad. The longer you travel, the higher the bill in many cases.

Before we delve into the specifics of each plan, here are some important things to note:

  • With most plans — at least the ones mentioned here — you will be charged only once you begin using your phone internationally. However, if you have cellular data turned on (i.e., you're not in airplane mode), these international plans may be activated by background data from apps refreshing, email syncing, and device or software updates.
  • Add these international plans to each device you'll use them on before your trip.
  • Once you start using your phone in your destination, you should receive a text that the international plan is active.
  • Billing varies by carrier and plan; you could be billed immediately after you begin using data abroad or after an entire billing cycle passes. However, you wouldn't normally be charged more often than once per 24 hours, even if you travel to multiple countries in a day.

AT&T International Plan

AT&T is the third largest mobile phone service provider in the U.S. If you have AT&T, here are your options:

Pay per day: Add the International Day Pass to your current plan for $10 per day, per device, to call, text, and use data as you would at home in more than 200 destinations. Your data allowance and talk minutes will be the same as your current plan, but you'll get unlimited texts to any numbers in the world. Calls must be made to the U.S. or another country on the IDP list. You can only use the day pass for 10 days per monthly billing cycle.

For longer trips: Although AT&T used to offer Passport plans that would allow account holders to pay monthly for data, talk, and texting abroad, the plans were discontinued (for individual consumers only, not for businesses) in 2021. Now, the International Day Pass is your only AT&T option outside of North America.

Traveling to Canada or Mexico: All unlimited and some limited plans will get you unlimited talk and text plus access to your data plan at no extra charge within the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Customers on other plans can add the Roam North America feature to their existing plans to receive these benefits, too.

Verizon International Plan

Verizon has more subscribers than any other American mobile phone service provider. If you're one of them, here are your options:

Pay per day: For $10 per day, per line, Verizon's TravelPass lets you use your domestic talk, text, and data plan in more than 200 destinations outside of the U.S. Calls within the country you're visiting and calls back to the U.S. are included, but calls to another country will incur additional international long-distance rates, which vary depending on the country.

For longer trips: Verizon's International Monthly Plan costs $100 per line, per month, and gets you 250 minutes of talk, unlimited texting, and unlimited data including 20GB of high speed, then 3G speeds after that. Be mindful of your minutes on this plan — overages will cost you an additional $0.25 per minute.

Traveling to Canada or Mexico: All Verizon unlimited mobile plans allow you to use your usual talk, text, and data allowances in Canada and Mexico without additional charges. Those with other Verizon plans can buy the TravelPass for $5 per day to use in Canada or Mexico.

T-Mobile International Plan

T-Mobile offers a range of perks to international travelers, including:

Pay per day: T-Mobile's International Day Pass gives you 512MB of high-speed data and unlimited calling for $5 a day. The plan works in more than 200 countries and destinations, which T-Mobile calls "Simple Global" countries.

For longer trips: T-Mobile's Magenta and Magenta MAX plans give you unlimited texting and data in Simple Global destinations at no additional cost. With the standard Magenta plan, you get 5GB of high speed in just 11 European countries, then speeds of 128kbps after that and in other Simple Global regions. With Magenta MAX, you get high speed across T-Mobile's global range. With both, international calls cost $0.25 per minute.

Note that the Essentials plan, T-Mobile's most basic, includes unlimited international texting but no data, and prepaid plans do not include global coverage. Data speeds are slow with T-Mobile's included coverage, however, and if you want to use your phone for media streaming or just have faster data, you may want to purchase an International Pass.

The great benefit of T-Mobile international plans is that even after you've used up all your allotted data, you can still use unlimited data and texting at Simple Global speeds, unlike other carriers, which charge you for data overages.

Another perk for travelers: T-Mobile offers in-flight Wi-Fi through a partnership with Intelsat. Get one hour free with Magenta or unlimited in-flight Wi-Fi with Magenta Plus.

Traveling to Canada or Mexico: Unlimited texts and data are included at no extra cost. However, only Magenta and Magenta MAX plans will get you high-speed data in Canada and Mexico.

Sprint International Plan

Sprint merged with T-Mobile in 2020 but still offers its own mobile plans. Here are your options in terms of international coverage:

Pay per day: Sprint's day pass allows you to use high-speed data in more than 200 destinations. Depending on where you are, it costs $5 or $10 per day. You could also pay weekly — $25 or $50, respectively.

For longer trips: Global Roaming is included with all Sprint plans, providing free international texting and basic data of up to 2G speeds at no extra cost. International calls cost $0.25 per minute. If you have a need for faster data, you should purchase the high-speed data day pass.

T-Mobile and Sprint are doubly convenient as they require no activation prior to travel. Simply start using your phone while abroad and your included global coverage will kick in.

Traveling to Canada or Mexico: Texting and data at basic speeds are free on all plans. Additionally, those with unlimited data plans get a high-speed allowance while in Canada or Mexico — 5GB for Unlimited Basic subscribers, 10GB for Unlimited Plus subscribers, and unlimited high speed for Unlimited Premium subscribers. On other plans, you can buy high-speed data for $2 per day or $10 per week.

Purchasing a SIM Card Abroad

If you plan to be abroad for a longer period of time — say for a year to teach English, a two-month sabbatical, or even a month-long backpacking trip — it may make sense (and be more cost effective) to purchase a SIM card abroad. In order to use a local or international SIM card, your phone must be unlocked.

Having an "unlocked" phone typically means you own your phone outright — either you've paid all your installments or you bought the phone at full price to begin with — and have gone through the process of unlocking your phone with your carrier, often as simple as following a set of instructions online. If you bought your phone from Verizon, you might be able to avoid this process as the carrier automatically unlocks its phones after 60 days.

Local vs. International SIM Cards

Local SIM cards work only in the country where you buy them. This is often the cheapest option because you're effectively paying as a local. Local SIMs will also provide you with fast data as you'll be using local networks. You can purchase a local SIM card from a vendor when you arrive in your destination country — even at the airport, if you want.

If you plan to travel across borders, an international SIM card might be a better option as it will allow you to use one SIM in multiple countries. You can purchase and set up an international SIM before you travel, saving you the trouble of purchasing one abroad. Do your research, though, because international SIM rates can be even more expensive than your carrier's international plans. Companies such as WorldSIM , OneSimCard , Telestial , and Mobal offer international SIM cards that provide different coverage options and price points.

If you're traveling to Europe, you can purchase a SIM card that works throughout the EU. This is likely to be cheaper than purchasing an international SIM card.

How Does Using a SIM Card Work?

You can buy a local SIM card at most wireless stores and even at some airports or convenience stores. Some places may require certain documentation such as your passport. If you're nervous about putting the new SIM card into your phone, purchase it from an expert (as opposed to, say, a supermarket) so you can ask for help. Just make sure not to lose your original SIM so you can put it back into your phone when you go back home.

If you run out of minutes or data on the card, you can always go back to the store to top up or purchase more data and minutes online. Do some quick research to figure out which carriers offer the most bang for your buck in your destination.

Buying or Renting a Phone Abroad

If your current phone is still under contract, you can buy or rent a local phone in your destination (often for cheap) from a company like Mobal or Cellular Abroad , then purchase a SIM locally. Or, if you've still got an old phone tucked away somewhere, unlock that phone and use it instead for traveling.

Using a Third-party Data Provider

While a local SIM is certainly a great, cost-efficient option, most travelers aren't concerned with making calls and texting with a local phone number. If you just want to be able to have Internet access and use the apps on your phone, a third-party data-only provider is a great alternative.

GigSky , for example, is an international eSIM (no physical card required) that gives you mobile data in more than 190 destinations. It's super easy to purchase and activate — just download the app, pick a plan, download the eSIM, and you're good to go. GigSky offers four plans: seven days and 1GB of data for $8.99, 15 days and 3GB of data for $22.99, 30 days and 5GB of data for $34.99, and 30 days of 10GB of data for $68.99. If you run out, you can top up through the app.

Another option, Google Fi provides data through T-Mobile's network, and it uses Wi-Fi for calling and texting wherever available across more than 200 destinations. There are no contracts or activation fees, and rates range from $20 to $65 per line depending on how many lines you want to include. The most basic plan will get you unlimited international texting from the U.S. to other countries, unlimited data, calling, and texting in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, and 5GB of high-speed hotspot tethering; the Plus plan will get you all that plus international calling to more than 50 destinations, data in more than 200 destinations, and unlimited high-speed hotspot tethering. If your phone is compatible, you can use an eSIM instead of a physical SIM card.

Using a Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot

If you plan to do a lot of work while you're abroad and would like constant access to Wi-Fi on your laptop instead of just on your phone, you might want to look into getting a portable Wi-Fi device . These provide Wi-Fi access wherever you bring them, plus they can be accessed by multiple people and devices at the same time. One good option for international travel is the SIMO Solis Lite , available on Amazon. It's small enough to fit in your pocket, works in more than 135 countries, can connect to 10 devices at once, and provides the option of a VPN for extra security.

Traveling Without Data

Of course, if you don't want to spend any money at all to use your phone abroad, you can simply be on the lookout for a free Wi-Fi signal. In a perfect world, free, reliable Wi-Fi would be everywhere. But in reality, open Wi-Fi networks may be few and far between while you travel, and even when available, they often provide slow, spotty connection (or none at all). If you choose to wing it with open Wi-Fi networks, just make sure to leave your phone on airplane mode. You will still be able to connect to Wi-Fi, but this ensures that you won't be charged international roaming fees because of background data running. To be extra cautious, turn off cellular data in the settings of your phone.

Charging Your Phone Abroad

After investing time and money to be able to use your phone abroad, the last thing you want is to wind up in your destination with a phone charger that doesn't work with the local outlets. Make sure that you've got the proper travel adapter before you go.

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The Best International Cell Phone Plans For Travelers [Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T, Google Fi]

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James Larounis

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The Best International Cell Phone Plans For Travelers [Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T, Google Fi]

What Phones Can You Use Internationally?

Alternative choice: google fi, connect to wi-fi, use a hotspot, turn off your cellular data when you aren’t using it, final thoughts.

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Your phone is your map, source of information, and a translator. These modern conveniences have made international travel easier and safer. Whether you’re leaving for a year abroad, going off to become an expat, or are just heading for a long weekend in Mexico, you’ll need to sort out what you want to do for an international cell phone plan.

Similar to figuring out how international plugs work, making sure your passport is ready , and deciding on what to pack , your phone requires some preparation before you leave to travel internationally.

If you decide to stick to your current carrier or switch cell phone providers, the company you work with may charge you extra for your travels. Make sure you understand your plan carefully and know what it will cost to use your data, minutes, and texts — and what happens when you go over.

Which plans work the best, what do they offer, and what do they cost? These are some important questions you’ll need to consider when looking at what options will work best for you.

In this post, we’ll take a look at:

  • What a world phone is, and how to equip yourself for international travel
  • What international plans each of the major cell phone carriers offer
  • What the pros and cons of each service are
  • Who each cell phone plan service is best for

Once a few technical words get thrown around, many people think they won’t be able to understand how any of this works. Don’t worry, using a phone overseas isn’t as difficult as it can sometimes sound.

The first thing to understand is that different companies and countries all use their own technologies and frequencies. You need a phone that is compatible with these technologies.

Verizon uses a technology called CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access). Most other carriers and the world use what’s called GSM (Global System for Mobile Communication). There are phones on Verizon that also support GSM, but those that don’t won’t work as world phones.

iphone user

Rather than explain the technical differences between GSM and CDMA, which often confuses folks, it’s important to understand that carriers use different technologies, and different parts of the world use different systems — what is relevant for you is which plans and carriers you can use abroad.

Hot Tip: If you bought a phone advertised as “unlocked” or “SIM-free,” it should be designed to be ready to use on global GSM networks.

Every carrier offers a list of popular models of “world phones,” including such options as the iPhone XRS Max and Samsung Galaxy S10.

Many of the phones you get for free or discounted in exchange for signing up for a service contract are locked. This means they are locked to the network the contract is with. Your cell phone provider prevents your phone from using another network, and it may not be able to work internationally.

Hot Tip: If your phone is locked, try asking your cell phone company if they will unlock it for you.

The Best International Cell Phone Plans

Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all option for international cell phone plans. Below, you’ll find information on all the major carriers and their plan options, along with the pros and cons of each. Use this to sort out what will work best for you and go with your gut.

Be aware that your needs will be different if you are traveling short-term versus a month or more. Plans like Verizon’s Above Unlimited have restrictions when you use more than 50% of your talk, text, or data while you’re traveling internationally (meaning, you shouldn’t use a U.S.-based plan when abroad full-time). They sometimes severely limit (or even cancel) your cell phone service when this happens. Keep this in mind when you’re reviewing your options.

Cell phone credit card

Your first option on Verizon is its TravelPass plan , which gives you the option to take your regular talk, text, and data with you on your trip (meaning, you use whatever amount of talk, text and data speeds you regularly use within the United States).

You will be charged $5 a day (on every line) for days you use your service in Mexico and Canada. There is a list of 130 additional countries where you can use your phone at a rate of $10 per day. Most popular countries are included in this list, such as Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, the Netherlands, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and more.

Activating your TravelPass through the Verizon Wireless app is all you need to do to have coverage and it’s a simple add-on to your normal monthly bill.

When you arrive at an international location, your phone will automatically recognize where you are and will connect to the local signal. Once it does, your TravelPass kicks in and it won’t renew or use another pass until 24 hours (not a full calendar day) have elapsed. If you land in a foreign country at 2 p.m. on one day and leave at 11 a.m. the next day, you only use 1 TravelPass.

If you use a lot of data uploading photos and using maps while you’re traveling, then you should be aware that the 4G speeds you rely on with Verizon are only available for your first 512 MB on the TravelPass. Once you’ve passed 512 MB, Verizon will throttle your speed down to 2G.

The Verizon Wireless Above Unlimited plan will offer you unlimited data, no contract, for $95 per month. You can receive a $5 a month discount if you set your payments to auto-pay.

This plan isn’t an add-on, but is one that you can use when you’re on brief trips abroad when you feel like it. Essentially, instead of charging you separate per-use days like the TravelPass add-on, the passes are built-in to the plan itself.

Talk, text, and data are included while you’re in Mexico and Canada (no extra charge) and the plan comes with 5 TravelPasses every month. This means you can use a TravelPass for talk, text, and data in 130 countries for 5 days per month with no extra expense. If you exceed the 5 free days a month, then you’ll continue at the normal rate of $10 per additional day.

Again, once you’ve used 512 MB of 4G speeds, you’ll be throttled down to 2G.

For comparison, if you decide to pay as you go on Verizon while abroad, you’ll be charged top rates. It costs $.99 a minute for calling in Canada and Mexico, $1.79+ in most other countries, $.50 for every text you send, $.05 for every text you receive and $2.05 for every MB of data you use. A simple app download or directions on a map can cost you several hundreds of dollars, so keep this in mind if you decide to pay as you go.

For cruise ships, there’s a fairly basic plan that’s included with your basic service. It will cost $2.99 a minute for calling, $.50 to send a text, and $.05 to receive a text; no data capabilities are available while at sea.

cell phone selfie

  • You don’t have to worry about unlocking a phone because you’re still on the Verizon network.
  • It’s easy to add for short trips.
  • The Verizon U.S. LTE coverage has been great for a long time.
  • The unlimited plan includes the 5 TravelPasses, as well as free talk and text in Mexico and Canada.
  • Your personal number stays the same at no extra cost.
  • This option can be pricey. The $5-$10 a day TravelPasses add up quickly, especially with multiple lines and on long trips.
  • While there are many places covered in its 130 locations, there are also many that still aren’t, so you’ll want to check to be sure you’ll have coverage for your specific trip before signing up.

Bottom Line: This Plan Is Great For: People who already use Verizon and don’t want to have to call to add an international add-on. If you take frequent and short trips abroad in areas where it has service, the Above Unlimited is a great choice.

T-Mobile is a great option for international travel because its plans make things simple.

The T-Mobile One plan for unlimited data lets you keep your unlimited data and texting when you travel to 210 locations. However, it caps your data at a shockingly low 128 kbps. This means that even just browsing web pages (exclusive of video) you’ll be throttled down to 2G speeds. It also charges for international phone calls, so if you talk a lot on your phone this can become expensive quickly.

To combat these downsides, T-Mobile offers International Passes for faster data while you’re abroad. Its 5 GB pass keeps you on the 4G network for 10 days with unlimited calling at a cost of $35. It  also has an option for 15 GB for 30 full days at $50.

Another option is a $5 pass with 512 MB of high-speed data and unlimited calling. This is much more limited, but if you’re traveling for a short period and don’t believe you’ll be making many calls on FaceTime or another data-consuming app, this can be a simple add-on with enough to get online at faster speeds.

Cruise rates vary depending on the ship or destination you’re traveling to (you can check here for rates ), but as an example, if you choose to travel on the Royal Caribbean Voyager of the Seas which sails in the South Pacific, your at-home T-Mobile plan includes no data on the cruise ship, $.50 for sent texts, and $5.99 a minute for calls.

cell phone user in taxi

  • The 2G speed data is free with your regular plan.
  • Expansive coverage in 210 locations, which basically means almost everywhere.
  • While it covers a great many countries, when you get beyond major U.S. cities the coverage can be spotty.
  • International phone calls can become very expensive very fast since they are not included.

Bottom Line: This Plan Is Great For:  People who travel frequently and want international service included at no additional expense. This plan is cheapest when you don’t mind super slow 2G speeds when traveling abroad.

On both the Unlimited & More and the Unlimited & More Premium plans on AT&T , you will be able to travel to Mexico and Canada with all of your talk, data, and text already paid for. Its Mobile Share Plus plans allow you to use your talk, text, and data when you are in Mexico.

In 100+ other countries, AT&T offers an International Day Pass for $10 a day, offering the unlimited talk, text, and data already in your regular plan.

This charge can add up quickly when you’re on longer trips, though. The AT&T Passport plan lets you use your normal within-U.S. plan for 30 days while you’re out of the country. AT&T recently redid this plan, since the old AT&T passport option only offered 200 MB of data, which is just not enough for most people.

The Passport plan costs $60 for 30 days and offers 1 GB of data and unlimited texting. You can raise this to 3 GB of data for $120 for the month. At that point, you should never go any further if you value your budget, because it charges you $50 for every GB over the 3 GB. Phone calls are not included and you will be charged $.35 per minute.

If you’re headed onto a cruise , AT&T also has you covered with 2 plans. Its $100-a-month plan includes unlimited talk and text and 200 MB of data, with additional data costing $2 per MB. Its $50-a-month cruise package includes 50 minutes of talk (overages charged at $2 per minute), unlimited texting, and no data.

Data on cruising is expensive no matter which plan you choose, so if you can, subscribe to the onboard Wi-Fi that your cruise ship may offer.

For comparison, if you don’t choose one of these plans, you’re charged at insane rates: $3 per minute for talk, $.50 for each text sent and over $6 for every MB of data you use. Yikes!

  • It’s easy to use and add to your account.
  • You are staying on the AT&T network so you don’t need to find an unlocked phone.
  • There isn’t any data speed throttling, which is common on other networks.
  • You can take phone calls on your regular number without paying any extra fees.
  • If you’re on a share plan, you’ll need to monitor the data usage.
  • While there are many places that are covered (over 100), there are many that still aren’t.
  • The $10 fee every day for every line will add up very quickly. If you go on a family trip with 4 lines and are traveling for 5 days you could see an additional $200 on your monthly bill.

Looking for more information? See our detailed piece dedicated to AT&T International Phone Plans including countries, coverage rates, and more.

Bottom Line: This Plan Is Great For:  People who love data and texting, but aren’t big on making phone calls. It’s not the best if you are on a shared plan and going to be buying an International Day Pass for everyone in your group, but the 30-day plans with unlimited data are excellent for users who mostly need its phones for data or texting while on an extended trip.

Woman using phone in front of Eiffel Tower

Google Fi doesn’t come up as an option as a major carrier (yet). While it may not yet be a mainstream option, it is one that is becoming increasingly popular with frequent travelers.

Google Fi treats international data and domestic data the same. It uses the cell towers of T-Mobile and US Cellular and covers over 200 locations.

Internationally, your calls will cost $.20 , unless you are on Wi-Fi, which will be free. You still have unlimited text messages while traveling internationally.

Its plans cost $20 for a month of unlimited talk and text and every 1 GB of data is $10 a month. The data is rounded off to the nearest MB meaning you only pay for the data you actually use. If you are a heavy data user, it stops charging you at 6 GB. This means your bill will never be over $80 a month.

Google Fi offers a few phones, but it is also open to using most phones you’ve purchased elsewhere, including the iPhone. Buying one of its  phones (like the Google Pixel or some of the Moto and LG phones) makes it so that you can switch between cell networks and hotspots easier.

If you’re using Google Fi aboard a cruise ship, make sure to connect to the onboard Wi-Fi for free calls.

  • International data and domestic data are treated the same.
  • Google Fi covers 170+ destinations.
  • There is no contract; you pay monthly.
  • To sign up for Google-Fi, it sometimes offer great incentives such as high-dollar gift cards or freebies.
  • Even with the combination of T-Mobile and US Cellular cell phone towers, your coverage at home may vary.
  • Some users have found Google-Fi difficult to sign up for.

Bottom Line: This Plan Is Great For:  Frequent travelers and those who have an approved phone or who are interested in buying a Google Pixel (or other phone sold by Google). It’s important that the T-Mobile/US Cellular cell towers work well for you in your local area when you’re back at home.

Saving on International Rates

There’s no doubt that using your phone outside of the U.S. can be a bit pricey — most major plans cost more than you pay for your domestic service. To save on these costs while outside of the country, there are a few things you can do:

This may sound obvious, but it’s one of the biggest ways you can save money. Most phone plans can make calls over Wi-Fi for no extra cost , and you are able to download movies, music, or check emails without using cellular data.

Most branded hotels offer some type of complimentary Wi-Fi for a daily nominal rate. When you’re in your hotel, enable your phone to automatically connect to the hotel’s signal so that you won’t have to think about whether or not your phone is using international roaming rates. Outside of the hotel, many museums , restaurants, and even public spaces offer complimentary Wi-Fi.

There are several major hotspots designed for traveling. One of the largest brands is Skyroam . For as little as $9 a day, you can enjoy unlimited data. The hotspots offer a flat daily rate so you don’t have to worry about different charges for different areas or overages.

Since a hotspot usually provides unlimited data, it is more than likely cheaper than your traditional cell phone plan international service. You can connect your phone to this hotspot signal to make calls over Wi-Fi, download any necessary emails, and use your phone as a GPS, all without worrying about eating up precious data.

The only downside to using a hotspot is that it is an extra device you will have to carry with you when you are out. Some travelers clip the hotspot onto their belt, or stuff it in a backpack .

Many cell phone plans charge for every day you use talk, text, and data abroad — and the more days you use it, the higher your charges. There may be some days, however, where you don’t need data as much — for example, you might be inside all day where you can connect to Wi-Fi, or you may be flying between countries where you will be away from a cell signal.

Whatever the case, if you shut off your cellular signal (or turn your phone in Airplane Mode, as many people do), your phone won’t connect to a network and you won’t be charged for that day’s worth of usage.

computer in cafe

The best international cell phone plan will be an individual decision.

While Google Fi isn’t one of the major mainstream U.S. carriers, it shouldn’t be overlooked as it is one of the strongest options for international plans, especially those who rely heavily on data.

T-Mobile’s plans are a strong option for those who need great coverage at home and internationally for frequent trips. AT&T’s plan for travel is great for trips to Canada and Mexico since both are included in the most basic version.

Consider what your travel plans are — where you are going and how often, what your needs are at home, and whether voice, data, or texting is most important to you. When you know what your needs are, it’s easier to make a decision on which are the best plans to get you the most coverage for the best price.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can i use my cell phone in a different country.

Most modern cell phones are equipped to work internationally, however, to be able to actually talk, text or use data, you need to contact your wireless carrier to ensure that your phone can connect to a network abroad. Usually, this requires you to subscribe to your wireless carrier’s international cellular plan, which may cost a few dollars a day.

Does AT&T have an international plan?

AT&T offers 2 international plans – a day pass type plan that charges by the day, and a Passport plan that allows the user to use their phone abroad for a month for a set price.

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About James Larounis

James (Jamie) started The Forward Cabin blog to educate readers about points, miles, and loyalty programs. He’s spoken at Princeton University and The New York Times Travel Show and has been quoted in dozens of travel publications.

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What’s the best international phone plan right now?

Katie Genter

On my first trip to Japan, I decided to forgo international data on my cellphone. I figured I could rely on public Wi-Fi, but I regretted not having data on my phone when I became lost. From that experience, I learned to download offline maps and a translation app beforehand if I know I won't have data.

But now, I almost always have data when I travel via my international phone plan, or through a physical SIM I buy at my destination or an eSIM I purchase online.

There are many reasons why you may want to remain connected while abroad. In this guide, I'll compare the best international phone plans. Note that many plans function differently in Canada and Mexico from other international locations. This guide focuses on the best phone plans for U.S. residents who travel outside North America.

international travel and cell phone use

First things first: You might not need an international phone plan. If you primarily need data, using a different SIM on your trip may be the simplest and cheapest solution. Some apps even support text and voice communication over data connections.

If your device supports eSIM, you may be able to purchase a data plan for your destination through an app like Airalo . Over the past year, I've purchased and used the following Airalo eSIMs either to gain data in a destination not served by my primary international phone plan (Google Fi) or to get less-expensive data than what Google Fi provides:

  • Global (84 countries) : 20 GB over 180 days for $89
  • Japan : 20 GB over 30 days for $26
  • France : 20 GB over 30 days for $36
  • Fiji : Three GB over 30 days for $19.50
  • U.S. : One GB over seven days for $4.50

If your device doesn't support eSIM, you could still purchase a local SIM card at your destination. For example, I bought a monthlong SIM card with unlimited high-speed data in Vietnam for less than $10. But data is significantly more expensive in some destinations, and it can be difficult to determine exactly what you're getting when you purchase a physical SIM card. As such, I've mostly stuck with a physical Google Fi SIM card and Airalo eSIMs instead of using local SIM cards.

If you plan to use eSIM or a local SIM card, you should ensure your phone is unlocked. A locked phone won't be able to accept any other SIM cards until it is unlocked.

Related: How TPG's Zach Griff avoids the pesky $10 daily roaming charges when traveling

international travel and cell phone use

  • Cost for one line : $20 (plus taxes and fees) per month plus data usage costs for the Flexible plan or $65 (plus taxes and fees) per month for the Unlimited Plus plan
  • Data abroad : $10 per GB (with free data after six GBs per month but slower speeds after 15 GBs in a month) in more than 200 destinations for the Flexible plan or free (but with slower speeds after 50 GBs in a month) in more than 200 destinations for the Unlimited Plus plan
  • Voice abroad : 20 cents per minute from more than 200 destinations (and calls via Wi-Fi to the U.S., Canada and Mexico are free)
  • Text abroad : Free from more than 200 destinations

I've used Google Fi as my primary cellphone plan for most of the past six years. I've had a few connectivity issues in the U.S. — where Google Fi currently uses the T-Mobile network — including in Tampa, Austin and New York City. However, I keep Google Fi primarily because I usually get high-speed data as soon as I turn airplane mode off, and I can seamlessly receive calls and texts on my U.S. number while traveling internationally.

You might be tempted to only use Google Fi when traveling outside the U.S., but doing so isn't a good idea. After all, the Google Fi terms of service state:

The services are offered only to residents of the United States. The Services must be primarily used in the United States (territories not included) and are not intended for extended international use. Further, the services are designed for use predominantly within our network. If your usage outside our network is excessive, abnormally high, or causes us to incur too much cost, we may, at our option and sole discretion, suspend your Google Fi account, terminate your service, or limit your use of roaming.

Google Fi has shut down some U.S. residents who used Google Fi primarily outside the U.S. So, I recommend avoiding extended international use and using Google Fi more in the U.S. than abroad if you don't want to get shut down. I buy eSIMs to decrease my Google Fi usage in some destinations, especially when I can purchase a package through Airalo for significantly less than $10 per GB (the amount I pay Google Fi for data on my Flexible plan).

Google Fi is the best international phone plan for U.S.-based travelers who want fast data without hassle while traveling abroad. Plans become slightly cheaper as you add more members. In my travels with Google Fi since 2016, I've only failed to get any service in three locations: parts of Alaska, the all-inclusive resort I lived out of for a month in the Dominican Republic and Liberia .

Related: Can you use your cellphone on a cruise?

international travel and cell phone use

  • Cost for one line : $60 per month for the Essentials plan, $70 per month for the Magenta plan, $75 per month for the Go5G plan, $85 per month for the Magenta Max plan and $90 per month for the Go 5G Plus plan
  • Data abroad : Free for up to five GB of high-speed data (in 11 European countries for the Magenta and Go5G plans, and in more than 215 countries and destinations for the Magenta Max and Go5G Plus plans) and then free for up to 256 kilobits per second in more than 215 countries and destinations for Magenta, Go5G, Magenta Max and Go5G Plus plans (no data outside North America is included in the Essentials plan)
  • Voice abroad : 25 cents per minute from more than 215 countries and destinations for the Essentials, Magenta, Go5G, Magenta Max and Go5G Plus plans
  • Text abroad : Free from more than 215 countries and destinations for the Essentials, Magenta, Go5G, Magenta Max and Go5G Plus plans

Before using Google Fi in 2016, I relied on T-Mobile when traveling internationally until I grew tired of slow data speeds. However, the plans have improved, and many travelers swear by T-Mobile as their international phone and data plan . T-Mobile customers can avoid slow data by purchasing international passes to add to their existing plan as follows:

  • International 1-day pass : 512 MB of high-speed data and unlimited calling for 24 hours for $5
  • Five-GB international pass : Five GB of high-speed data and unlimited calling for 10 days for $35
  • 15-GB international pass : 15 GB of high-speed data and unlimited calling for 30 days for $50

Long-term and frequent international travelers should note that T-Mobile says the following about its plans:

Not for extended international use; you must reside in the US and primary usage must occur on our network. Device must register on our network before international use. Service may be terminated or restricted for excessive roaming.

Additionally, T-Mobile's terms and conditions state you are not permitted to use T-Mobile services if it "results in more than 50% of your voice and/or data usage being Off-Net (i.e., connected to another provider's network) for any 2 billing cycles within any 12-month period." There have been instances of T-Mobile shutting down travelers for roaming excessively . So, don't go with T-Mobile if your primary usage won't be domestically on T-Mobile's network.

Related: 6 reasons why Apple's entry-level iPhone 14s are great for travelers

Other international phone plans to consider

international travel and cell phone use

Finally, you may want to check your current provider's options if you only occasionally travel internationally. Here are some options that are available as optional add-ons for many AT&T and Verizon plans:

  • AT&T international day pass : Pay an extra $10 per 24 hours for unlimited high-speed data, talk and text in more than 210 destinations. You'll only be charged for days (as determined by your local U.S. time zone) you use data, make or receive a call or send a text message while in a destination covered by the international day pass.
  • Verizon TravelPass : Pay an extra $10 per day per line for unlimited calls, texts and data (data speeds decrease after two GBs in a day) in more than 210 countries. You'll only be charged for days you send or receive a call, send texts or use data while abroad.
  • Verizon international monthly plan : Pay an extra $100 per month for 250 minutes of talk, unlimited texts and unlimited data (data speeds decrease after 20 GBs in a month) in more than 210 countries.

You could also check out U.S. Mobile's plans. U.S. Mobile plans don't include calling or texting from outside the U.S. Still, the Unlimited Premium plan offers up to 10 GB of international data, and most plans let you buy eSIMs for more than 100 countries from within the U.S. Mobile app.

Mint Mobile could also be a viable solution if you're on a budget and don't travel abroad frequently. Although Mint Mobile doesn't offer any international data, text or voice on its plans, you can purchase international roaming credits and then use them to text, talk and use data in more than 210 countries and destinations. Rates for talk, text and data vary based on the country you're visiting; they usually cost about 25 cents per minute for talk, 5 cents per text and 20 cents per MB of data. If you don't plan to use much data — after all, you'd be paying a massive $205 per GB in many countries — Mint Mobile could be a feasible option.

Most cellphone plans allow you to pay as you go for international use, but these rates are almost always excessive. As such, frequent international travelers should find a different solution because pay-as-you-go costs will add up quickly.

Related: Credit cards that cover cellphone loss and damage

Bottom line

Having a functioning international phone plan when traveling abroad is important for travelers who want to stay connected. Traveling as a digital nomad , I've found Google Fi is by far my best option for fast data, modestly priced calling and free texting in most destinations. However, I supplement my Google Fi plan with eSIMs in some destinations to gain access to less-expensive data.

If you already have T-Mobile or a plan that offers international add-ons, you may want to stick with your plan. Otherwise, it's worth considering an eSIM or a local SIM card. You can buy eSIMs ahead of your trip, and it's usually possible to pick up local SIM cards at the airport when you land in a new country.

Nomadic Matt's Travel Site

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The Best Smart Phones to Use When You Travel

Smartphone photo of a sunset taken overseas with bright colors in the distance

In this post, Dave Dean from Too Many Adapters shares his best tips and advice on how to pick the best smartphone for when you travel.

As a travel tech writer, I get asked about using smartphones for travel all the time. The minute we head overseas with our phones, we’re hit with a confusing mess of technical jargon, expensive roaming agreements, conflicting advice, and nonworking gear. Trying to discuss the nuances of GSM frequency bands or iPhone unlock codes with a mobile vendor in a dusty Cambodian town isn’t my idea of fun, and I doubt it’s yours either.

Since we all want our smartphones to work when we travel, I’ve put together this guide covering everything you need to know to get your smartphone working overseas — as well as the best smartphones for travel. It’s detailed, but not too complicated, and will save you money, time, and plenty of frustration!

The Best Travel Smartphones

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Traveling with a Smartphone: Tips and Advice

Phone SIM cards and tools

This is an inexpensive way to stay connected with phone and data service while you travel. The downside is that you’ll have to change SIM cards every time you change countries, so you may end up carrying a stack of SIM cards around the world with you (though I like being reminded of all the places I’ve been!).

Here are some other tips for using your phone:

1. Only use Wi-Fi when possible – Your smartphone will still connect over Wi-Fi just fine, so replace calling with Skype or Google Voice, SMS with WhatsApp, and download a bunch of offline travel apps to use when you’re away from a signal. You’ll be surprised how well that approach can work, and not getting notifications all the time is quite refreshing.

You can download Google Maps and download the map of the city online then use it without Wi-Fi. Also, you can search for your destination in Google Maps and it still works when you don’t have Wi-Fi if your location is on. You can also take screenshots and save them.

Some cities even have free public Wi-Fi in parks and public spaces like airports and train stations. If you really need it, lots of international chains like McDonald’s and Starbucks have Wi-Fi if you buy something to eat or drink. Remember to be careful with your data on these open networks (a VPN is recommended).

2. Buy a budget smartphone – While there’s a lot of junk at the bottom of the smartphone range, there are a few decent phones for travelers under $200. My current favorite is the Motorola Moto G — you’ll want to buy a microSD card for some extra storage, but other than that it’s a reasonably speedy smartphone, with a battery that lasts all day. Tip: grab the “Global” version for maximum compatibility overseas. You’ll still need to buy local SIM cards to put in it.

3. Rent a phone – You can rent phones at airports and from various companies before you leave home, but I’d only consider it for a short trip to a specific country where my usual phone didn’t work. For anything other than that, it’s cheaper just to buy a new one.

4. Rent or buy a portable hotspot – Portable hotspots are small gadgets that create a wireless network and share a cellular data connection over it — you can typically connect 5 or 10 devices to the network you create. You can rent one for short trips at an inflated daily or weekly rate, or you can buy an unlocked hotspot and stick a local SIM card in it, just as if it were a phone. Your smartphone will treat this like any other Wi-Fi network.

Getting your smartphone to work overseas without coming home to a huge bill isn’t always a straightforward task. But with a bit of time and effort, you’ll know exactly what options you’ve got when you’re on the road and you’ll be able to use your phone overseas.

Do your research, avoid the rip-offs, buy one of the above best smartphones when you travel, and you’ll be able to stay in touch, stay connected, and stay Instagramming when you travel!

Dave runs Too Many Adapters , a site devoted to technology for travelers. A geek as long as he can remember, he worked in IT for 15 years. Now based out of a backpack long term, Dave writes about travel and tech from anywhere with half-decent Internet and a great view. You can also find him talking about the life of a long-term traveler at What’s Dave Doing?  

Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner . It’s my favorite search engine because it searches websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is being left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation You can book your hostel with Hostelworld . If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as it consistently returns the cheapest rates for guesthouses and hotels.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

  • SafetyWing (best for everyone)
  • Insure My Trip (for those 70 and over)
  • Medjet (for additional evacuation coverage)

Want to Travel for Free? Travel credit cards allow you to earn points that can be redeemed for free flights and accommodation — all without any extra spending. Check out my guide to picking the right card and my current favorites to get started and see the latest best deals.

Need Help Finding Activities for Your Trip? Get Your Guide is a huge online marketplace where you can find cool walking tours, fun excursions, skip-the-line tickets, private guides, and more.

Ready to Book Your Trip? Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use when I travel. They are the best in class and you can’t go wrong using them on your trip.

Got a comment on this article? Join the conversation on Facebook , Instagram , or Twitter and share your thoughts!

Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above may be affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase. I recommend only products and companies I use and the income goes to keeping the site community supported and ad free.

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5 of the Best International Cell Phone Plans 2024

Kelsey Sheehy

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You come home from vacation. You’re relaxed. You’re refreshed. Then you check your cell phone bill and find that you owe $800.

International roaming rates are nothing to mess around with, so it’s important to know what you’re on the hook for before you travel abroad. We surveyed the mobile landscape to find carriers and plans that are friendly to out-of-country travelers.

Some choices below are add-ons to an existing plan, paid either daily or monthly when needed, while others are monthly service plans that include good international access in their features.

international travel and cell phone use

International roaming plans: postpaid

Plan: International Day Pass.

Price: $10 per day for first line, $5 for additional lines used in the same 24-hour period, on top of your regular phone plan cost. Requires an AT&T unlimited, AT&T 4 GB, or Mobile Share plan.

At a glance: Calls from and between the U.S. and included countries are free.

Things to know: Once you have signed up, it activates automatically when you travel.

Plan: Go5G.

Price: $80 per month, $5 autopay discount available.

At a glance: Talk is at a flat 25 cents per minute in more than 215 countries. Unlimited texting and up to 5GB of high-speed data in Canada and Mexico. Unlimited data at 256Kbps speeds in more than 215 other countries.

Things to know: Price includes taxes and fees, but add-ons such as insurance or device payments are still assessed. You can upgrade to Go5G Plus for $15 per month, per line to get extra features, including 4K video streaming, 50GB of mobile hot spot data, faster data speeds in more than 215 countries and unlimited in-flight Wi-Fi on some flights.

Plan: International Monthly Plan.

Price: $100 per line per month.

At a glance: The plan includes unlimited data plus 250 minutes of talk and unlimited texts. It can be used in more than 210 countries.

Things to know: If you don’t opt in to the international plan, then you will be charged “pay as you go” rates when you travel overseas. Looking for options? Verizon also offers a cruise-specific plan for $20 a month or the Travel Pass for $10 per day, which comes with unlimited calls, texts and data.

» Learn more: What to know about electronics insurance

International roaming: prepaid

Google fi wireless.

Plan: Flexible.

Price: $20 per month, plus $10 per GB of data. Taxes and fees are extra.

At a glance: Unlimited talk and text in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Unlimited texting while abroad. High-speed data is a flat $10 per gigabyte, even when roaming internationally, but speeds are slower after 15GB of use.

Things to know: Texts and data in more than 200 countries for the same price you pay at home. Calls are an additional cost. The Flexible plan includes bill protection, where usage is free after you hit a certain monthly threshold — 6GB for one line, 10GB for two lines, 12GB for three lines, 14GB for four lines and 16GB for five lines. Google Fi uses the T-Mobile network and does not slow down speeds even when the network is busy.

Plan: International Connect and eSIM.

Price: For $10 additional per month on any Boost plan, International Connect adds calling to more than 120 countries and texting to more than 200. It requires using an eSIM card on an unlocked phone; once you have an eSIM you can add data for as low as $5 for 1GB over a seven-day timeframe. Use Boost’s country list to identify specific costs for data packages.

At a glance: An eSIM is a digital SIM card that allows you to activate roaming services without needing a physical SIM card. A Dual SIM option supports two numbers at the same time, such as separate numbers for personal and business use.

Things to know: ESIM cards only provide access to data; you will not be able to call or text unless you add International Connect or use internet-based apps or services like Skype or FaceTime.

METHODOLOGY

We surveyed major international roaming cell phone plans, checking the price of the international roaming option, data costs, and the price of international calls and texts.

Advice, staff picks, mythbusting, and more. Let us help you.

Dear Wirecutter: What’s a Good Burner Phone for International Travel?

Published May 4, 2017

Q: My mother-in-law is heading to Europe for six weeks and wants to get a burner phone. She currently uses AT&T. Is there a cheap phone you can recommend? Also, would it better to get a SIM card in the US or once she’s in Germany? Will calls be forwarded from her original number?

A: If your mother is in Germany for six weeks, she should definitely get a local SIM once she’s there rather than use AT&T’s international roaming, which costs $10 a day. ( Local SIMs are also a better deal than buying a world or travel SIM in the US.) If she were on T-Mobile or Google Fi, which have much better international roaming, she’d be fine just using her regular SIM. However, if she swaps SIM cards, calls to her US number (tied to her original SIM card) won’t be forwarded to her new international number (tied to her new SIM card) unless she sets up call forwarding through AT&T, which could be expensive.

To get around this, she could sign up for Google Voice while in the States and forward her US number to Google Voice . Then, when she’s on Wi-Fi or cellular data in Europe, she could at least get the voicemails and missed calls from her US number sent to her phone, and call people back using a VOIP app like Skype, Google Voice, or Viber that has a low cost per minute for international calls. (Unfortunately, Google Voice can’t forward calls from a US to an international number.)

international travel and cell phone use

Cheap, dual-SIM Android phone

An inexpensive Android phone with two SIM slots, so you can use both your original SIM and a local SIM from wherever you’re traveling to.

Buying Options

Because your mother-in-law is on AT&T, her phone will work in Germany if it’s unlocked or if she can get it unlocked . However, if she wants a smartphone she doesn’t have to worry about losing or breaking while she’s overseas, the Blu R1 HD , which you can get for $60 with Amazon ads if you’re an Amazon Prime member (and is now free of preinstalled spyware ), is the cheapest acceptable option. It actually has two SIM slots, which sounds convenient, because she could use a German SIM and still get calls on her AT&T number. But she’d have to pay international roaming fees if she actually picks up those calls, so it’s better to just use only the German SIM and use Google Voice for call forwarding.

The other option, if she can avoid using data or calling while in Germany, would be to bring her current phone and disable cellular features, relying solely on Wi-Fi and using Skype or similar for calls. However, given the security risks of public Wi-Fi, we recommend signing up for a good VPN if she goes this route.

If she doesn’t use a smartphone and doesn’t want to learn, PCMag’s lead mobile analyst Sascha Segan is one of the few people who still review feature phones and he gave the Blu Tank II an editor’s choice award back in 2015 . That’s probably what we’d get if we wanted a $20 feature phone. Going this route would eliminate the Google Voice option (without an additional computer or tablet), but unless she needs to be reachable from the US at any moment, she can just set her US voicemail greeting to let people know she’s out of the country.

The Wirecutter’s editors answer reader questions all the time (much more than once a week). Send an email to [email protected] , or talk to us on Twitter and Facebook . Published questions are edited for space and clarity.

Mentioned above

  • A virtual private network (VPN) is a useful way to improve security or privacy in certain situations, but it’s difficult to find one that’s trustworthy. The Best VPN Service  

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We cooked for months with portable induction burners and found that the Duxtop 9600LS has the best features and performance for everyday cooking.

international travel and cell phone use

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You don't have to be a digital nomad to travel like one. Here are a few gadgets and accessories to make travel as painless as possible.

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International phone use while traveling abroad: how to use your phone internationally

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You’ve prepared your passport, double-checked that you have the proper vaccinations and medical care, and converted some cash to the local currency — so why not take some extra measures to prepare your phone as well? 

Prior to setting foot in an airport, be sure to check with your carrier to ensure that your phone can be used outside the US, and look into Verizon’s current international travel plans, like TravelPass or an International Monthly Plan. This guide will provide advice on completing each of these steps, keeping you connected while you explore.

Adding an international travel plan

Speak to your cell service provider about the best way to stay in touch when travelling internationally. Different mobile providers offer varying degrees of coverage in different countries, and it’s important to determine whether your current plan and device will be compatible with the network wherever you’re going. In most cases, it’s best to have a plan on your own line or lines, as it offers the best value, allowing you to use your device without worrying about running up additional costs.

Choose the best plan for your trip.

International travel plans allow you to utilize your phone’s apps, texting, maps, and other features while abroad. An international plan is a service that lets you use your phone in other countries. For instance, while most Verizon phones are global devices, some are not. If you have a Verizon plan, you can use the international TripPlanner tool . The TripPlanner will recommend the plan that is best for your trip, allowing you to check to see if the country you are visiting is covered by any current international plan you can add.

International travel plans don’t have to be complicated, though. The process can be as simple as adding TravelPass– TravelPass is the easiest way to stay connected to everything that matters while traveling in 210+ countries and destinations with your 4G or 5G phone. Remember, roaming in Canada and Mexico, may already be included in your domestic plan.

Adding TravelPass.

TravelPass, Verizon’s go-to international plan, is the perfect option for customers who want to use their cell phone without worrying about added costs. For a set fee of just $10 a day per line, you can access your domestic voice, text and data allowance while traveling in over 210 countries and destinations worldwide. It’s only $5 per line in Mexico and Canada for customers whose domestic plans don't cover those countries. And either way, you’ll only be charged on the days you use your phone outside the US.

TravelPass is simple to activate. To add it to your line, simply text the word TRAVEL to 4004 or on My Verizon. You’ll then receive a welcome text message explaining the daily fee when you arrive in a TravelPass destination. The first time you use your phone to make a call, send a text or use data, the daily fee will begin. Use your phone as much as you want for the next 24 hours; you’ll only get another TravelPass charge if you use your device after the time elapses. You can add TravelPass to a 4G or 5G world device with a qualifying domestic plan. What’s more, TravelPass offers 2GB of high speed data and unlimited 3G data thereafter per 24 hour session in 210+ countries and destinations.

Just remember that your minutes, texts and data will count toward your regular plan. So if you have an unlimited plan - you also have unlimited talk, text, and data abroad.

Options for International monthly plans.

The $100 International Monthly Plan includes 250 minutes, unlimited texts and unlimited data for 30 days and is ideal for trips of 10 days or more.

You can also add a data plan on select cruise ships and airplanes for just $20 and get 50 MB of data for browsing the web or using your email. If service is available on board, Verizon will automatically send you a text message with the option to add the plan. 

Check the TripPlanner for participating cruise ships and contact your airline for details of on board service. 

Pay as you go.

We always recommend adding a plan if you’re traveling in one of the 210+ countries and destinations covered by TravelPass and the $100 International Monthly Plan. However, if your destination is not covered by these plans or you choose not to add a plan then you will be charged  pay-as-you-go rates by the minute, message or MB of data used.

You don’t need to worry about an international SIM card anymore

A SIM (subscriber identity module) card is a tiny memory chip that stores data about your cell phone use. A SIM card also stores data on its country of origin and the mobile carrier you use. Some people think that you still need to swap out your SIM card with a local card to use local services, but this is no longer necessary. In fact, most modern phones no longer have a removable SIM card anymore - they have embedded cards or eSIMs.  If you have a 4G or 5G phone, you can simply use it without opening up your phone or swapping a SIM. (Who wants to open up your phone or risk misplacing a SIM card while abroad anyway?) 

Keep your phone charged

Reliable access to the online information and tools you’ll need overseas requires more than just an adequate carrier plan; it also means keeping your phone in working condition. Even the most robust international data plan can be rendered useless if you don’t have methods to actually keep your mobile devices charged.

The first consideration at hand is finding the right electrical plug adapter for your travel destination. There are 15 different plug types , and different countries use varying combinations of these types. Invest in appropriate adapters so that you can reliably charge your mobile devices during your travels. You can find international wall charger kits that can make this a substantially easier process.

Another point to consider is the possibility of bringing an external battery pack to keep your phone charged when you don’t have access to an electrical outlet. Battery accessories come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, including portable power banks and even phone cases with built-in batteries. Keeping one of these on hand can be a lifesaver during your travels.

In case of an emergency

A phone emergency may not be as urgent as a medical emergency, but it can certainly put a damper on your travel plans all the same. There are measures you can take to mitigate your chances of experiencing a phone emergency, as well as to be prepared to react quickly when one occurs.

What to do if you lose your cell phone while traveling abroad

Know what to do if your phone is lost or stolen while traveling outside of your country. If this situation happens to you, do the following:

Use Your Device’s “Find My Phone” Feature:  Many devices now come with features that leverage GPS technology to help you find your phone from another device, should it be misplaced or stolen. If your phone is still on, this may be an effective way of quickly locating it.

Call or Text your Phone From Another Line:  If another person has your phone, they may respond to a call or text. If you forgot your phone in the hotel lobby, for instance, this tactic may help hotel staff return your property to you. If the person with your phone answers your calls or texts by making demands, report the situation to the local authorities.

Contact Your Mobile Carrier:  A representative from your service provider may be able to guide you through the process of getting your phone back — or at least locking down your device and account so that it cannot be used for unauthorized purposes.

Check Your Financial Accounts & Change Passwords: If you no longer have access to your phone, someone else might. Your phone might be used to access your accounts, from social media profiles to online banking. Take time to change the passwords for each of your accounts. Further, review your financial accounts to determine if your phone has been used to conduct any fraudulent purchases. While this is a time-intensive step, it is a vital method of preventing identity theft.

Remotely Erase Your Phone: Another common feature of modern smartphones is the ability to remotely erase your phone’s memory. This is a last resort, as erasing your phone prevents you from tracking it down through some of the other methods listed above. If you won’t be able to get your smartphone back, doing this step will at least prevent your personal information from being accessed by unscrupulous individuals.

To prevent your phone from being lost or stolen in the first place, be sure to take the following actions before you set off on your travels:

Be sure to secure your phone with a lock code. You can access the security settings of your phone to add this. Your lock options and the process for applying them differ from device to device, so it’s important to take some time to familiarize yourself with this process. Doing so can prevent thieves from accessing your personal information.

Update your settings to make full use of any “find my phone” or “lost mode” options. While it’s easy to overlook the usefulness of these features, they can be a great help during a phone emergency of this nature.

Don’t forget to back up your phone. You may be able to back up your phone’s data on your desktop computer or back up your phone on the cloud .

Invest in a wireless phone protection plan . These can help you get a new device quickly and affordably. Contact your mobile carrier to explore your options in this regard.

Who to call during an emergency while traveling abroad

One preparatory step you absolutely can’t skip is putting together a list of emergency contacts. Each contact should be saved in your phone’s address book, but you should also keep a physical copy of this list in case you are left without access to your own phone.

This list should include family members, friends, your house sitter, and more. If you need guidance when crafting your list of emergency contacts, consider including the following as a minimum:

Emergency lines — “911” won’t work abroad, and many countries have unique numbers for different types of emergency services. You can find a list of emergency numbers for different countries online ;

Your nearest U.S. Embassy ;

The local police’s phone number;

Your doctor — if you experience urgent medical needs or lose vital medications, you must be able to quickly get in touch with your healthcare provider.

Note that your phone may not be able to make calls to every number on this list. In some instances, you may need to use a local SIM card to make calls to essential contacts. If this is true for you, strongly consider investing in a second line for local use during your travels.

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Other related terms: International plan, wireless international plan, international travel plans, travel cell phone plans, traveling data plan

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international travel and cell phone use

Choosing the Best Cell Phone Company for Your International Adventures

Last Updated on April 29, 2024

When jet-setting across the globe, staying connected is crucial. Whether you’re uploading your latest travel pics or checking maps for the nearest café, the right cell phone company can make all the difference. This guide will walk you through selecting the best service provider based on coverage, cost, customer service, and roaming charges, ensuring your international escapades are seamless.

Why Coverage Matters Most

The Breadth of Service When considering a cell phone company for your travels, first and foremost, evaluate their global coverage. The last thing you want is spotty service as you trek through the Andes or sail the Greek islands. Research which companies provide extensive coverage in your target destinations. Some providers have partnerships with local carriers around the world, ensuring better connectivity. Additionally, check for the availability of satellite connectivity options that some providers might offer, ideal for adventurers heading to regions where traditional mobile service is unreliable.

Impact on Your Travel Experience Coverage isn’t just about making calls—it affects your ability to use maps , search for attractions, and even summon emergency services. A company that offers widespread global coverage can significantly enhance your travel experience by keeping you connected and safe. Enhanced coverage can also provide faster internet speeds, reducing the frustration of slow-loading maps or travel guides, crucial when you’re trying to navigate unfamiliar locations.

Cost Considerations

When planning for international travel, budgeting for communication costs is as important as planning for flights and accommodations. This section explains how to navigate the complex landscape of roaming charges and highlights strategies to find the most cost-effective solutions.

Understanding Roaming Charges Cost is a major factor when traveling abroad. Roaming charges can be exorbitant, so it’s crucial to understand how different companies structure these fees. Look for plans specifically designed for travelers, which might offer flat rates for data usage or reduced charges for calls and texts. Some cell phone companies also offer roaming packages that can be activated on the day you travel, which might include a set amount of data and calling minutes, making it easier to manage costs and avoid unexpected charges.

Finding the Best Deals Don’t just settle for the first plan you find. Compare costs among leading cell phone companies and consider prepaid international SIM cards as a budget-friendly alternative. These can often be a more economical choice, especially for longer trips or if you’re visiting multiple countries. Additionally, look into joining international calling plans that some cell phone companies provide, which could offer better rates and features tailored to frequent international travelers. This proactive approach can save substantial money, allowing you to spend more on your travels rather than on connectivity issues.

Prioritizing Customer Service

Effective customer service is crucial when you’re dealing with cell phone companies, especially for travelers who might encounter issues while abroad. This section focuses on the importance of having reliable and accessible support, and how it can significantly enhance your travel experience by providing peace of mind.

Accessibility and Support Abroad Imagine losing your phone in a foreign country or facing technical issues. You’ll want a provider with a robust customer service system that’s accessible internationally. Check if they offer 24/7 support and in multiple languages. Many top cell phone companies now utilize social media and chatbots to provide instant assistance, ensuring help is just a message away, no matter where you are in the world.

Real-World Assistance Good customer service also includes helping travelers understand their plans and manage their accounts remotely. The ability to adjust your plan on-the-go or troubleshoot issues without delay can make a significant difference, especially when you’re in different time zones. Some companies also offer dedicated travel assistance teams that can guide you through setting up international services or dealing with travel-specific challenges like lost or stolen phones.

Comparing International Plans

Choosing the right international plan requires a thoughtful approach as it must align with your travel habits and destinations. This section explains how to tailor plans to individual needs and utilize comparison tools to make informed decisions about which cell phone company to choose.

Tailoring Plans to Your Needs Each traveler’s needs are unique, so find a cell phone company that offers customizable international plans. Whether you need more data or fewer calls, there should be flexibility to adapt your plan to your travel style. Some providers also offer modular plans where you can pick and choose features like international texting or data packs, allowing for a more personalized approach that matches your specific travel itinerary.

Tools for Comparison Use online comparison tools to evaluate different international plans. These can help you visually breakdown what each company offers and at what cost, making it easier to decide which is best suited for your travel needs. Websites like WhistleOut or Wirefly offer detailed comparisons and user reviews, providing a comprehensive overview of plans from various cell phone companies, helping you pinpoint which offers the best value and coverage for your adventures abroad.

Choosing the right cell phone company for international travel involves careful consideration of coverage, cost, customer service, and the specifics of roaming charges. By prioritizing these factors and comparing available plans, you can ensure seamless connectivity on your adventures abroad, enhancing both your safety and enjoyment. Remember, the best choice is one that aligns closely with your travel habits and destination needs. Keep exploring, stay connected, and travel smart!

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When jet-setting across the globe, staying connected is crucial. Whether you’re uploading your latest travel pics or checking maps for the nearest café, the right cell phone company can make all the difference. This guide will walk you through selecting the best service provider based on coverage, cost, customer service, and roaming charges, ensuring your international escapades are seamless. Why Coverage Matters Most Understanding the global coverage of cell phone companies is pivotal for travelers who rely heavily on mobile connectivity. This section delves into why choosing a provider with broad international service is critical for anyone planning to explore …

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US man returns from Europe to $143,000 T-Mobile bill for using phone overseas

Gigantic bill apparently reflected using 9.5 gigabytes of data on a phone that had not been set up for international roaming

A Florida man was stunned to come back from a European trip and – upon checking his phone bill – realize that he had been charged a staggering $143,000 by his phone company for using his device while overseas.

ABC Action News reported that Rene Remund and his wife had toured Switzerland last September and had even gone to a T-Mobile store to share his travel plan with his phone provider before leaving.

But the gigantic bill apparently reflected using some 9.5 gigabytes of data while overseas on a phone that had not been set up for international roaming.

Remund told ABC that he called T-Mobile and waited on hold while the charges were examined and the person he spoke with informed him that the bill was not a mistake and that he was liable for it.

Remund replied: “You’re kidding me?”

He then hired a lawyer, who contacted ABC for help. Shortly after T-Mobile were contacted by ABC, the company offered to credit Remund’s account.

T-Mobile told ABC : “We recommend our customers check the travel features of their plan, such as international data roaming, before departing … if a customer is on an older plan that doesn’t include international roaming for data and calling, they’ll need to make sure they’re using airplane mode and wifi when using data to be certain the device doesn’t connect to an international network.”

  • Mobile phones (Technology)
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COMMENTS

  1. The 10 Best Tips For Using A Cell Phone During International Travel

    Confirm International Texting, Calling, And Data Fees. T-Mobile. By far the most-important thing you need to do before traveling abroad is to check with your service provider about their current policies relating to international cell phone use and what your current contract already allows.

  2. The Ultimate Guide to International Smartphone Use

    Skyroam, for example, offers a compact mobile hotspot for about $150. Once you have it, you can pay $9 per day or $99 per month for unlimited global data in over 120 countries to use on up to five devices simultaneously (phones, tablets, laptops, smartwatches).

  3. 5 Ways to Use Your Phone When Traveling Abroad

    2. Get free overseas data using T-Mobile and Sprint. The budget option for staying connected while overseas is to use T-Mobile or Sprint as your cell phone provider. Many plans offered by these ...

  4. How to Use Your Existing Phone Overseas

    That will be $5 to $10 a day. Most companies offer a month's worth of data at a slight discount off the day-pass rate. AT&T, for example, will sell you 1 gigabyte of international roaming data ...

  5. How to Use a Phone Internationally With Minimal Charges

    1. Put your phone in airplane mode to avoid charges. Aside from features such as the camera, only use the phone when you can connect to Wi-Fi. Some phones and apps automatically download data when the phone is on and connected, leading to charges — even if you aren't using the phone for calls. To make calls, use apps such as WhatsApp (which ...

  6. Best International Phone Plans: What Travelers Need to Know

    T-Mobile: Best choice for travelers 2. Verizon: TravelPass options 3. AT&T: Best for travel in Latin and Central America 4. Google Fi: An underrated traveling companion 5.Other options: Other ...

  7. Using Your Phone While Traveling Abroad: Tips to Avoid Roaming Fees

    AT&T offers the International Day Pass for $10 a day, allowing travelers to use their phones much as they would in the United States. AT&T automatically adds a day pass when customers with ...

  8. Use eSIM while traveling internationally with your iPhone

    To choose your data line, go to Settings > Cellular > Cellular Data. You can continue to use FaceTime, iMessage, and other apps to make VoIP calls or send messages while you're traveling. You can also turn data roaming on and off on your home line in Settings > Cellular > Cellular Data. Carrier fees might apply.

  9. How to Use Your Phone When Traveling Internationally

    For $140 per month, the data usage is raised to 6GB. Both the TravelPass and International Day Pass will only charge you for the days you use them, so if you don't need it every day, then leave your phone on airplane mode to avoid additional charges. WhatsApp is one of the most widely used Wi-Fi-enabled apps. Photo by Shutterstock.

  10. International Roaming: Using Your Mobile Phone in Other Countries

    Before you travel, ask your carrier about: International roaming arrangements with the service providers in the country you are visiting and whether your mobile phone will work there. ... Find out if your cell phone has an embedded SIM card, or eSIM. If it does, you may be able to select from available service providers for the country you are ...

  11. How to Use Your Cell Phone Internationally

    1. AT&T International Day Pass® ($10/day) AT&T customers with an unlimited plan will get a great value overseas. AT&T International Day Pass lets you use your phone as you do at home for $10 per day, giving you unlimited data*, talk and text with your eligible AT&T unlimited plan. Plus, International Day Pass covers more than 210 destinations.

  12. How to keep your phone working while traveling abroad

    T-Mobile customers have it a little easier, since most of their plans have some free international features built in. The Essentials plan gives you free unlimited texting while abroad and charges ...

  13. The Best International Phone and Data Plans

    For longer trips: Verizon's International Monthly Plan costs $100 per line, per month, and gets you 250 minutes of talk, unlimited texting, and unlimited data including 20GB of high speed, then 3G ...

  14. Best International Phone Plans for Travel in 2024

    The Google Fi Unlimited Plus plan is the best phone plan for international travel. This prepaid unlimited plan costs just $65/month and includes tons of great travel perks, such as: Unlimited 4G LTE data in 200+ countries. Unlimited texts in 200+ countries. Calls for $.20/minute.

  15. The Best International Cell Phone Plans For Travelers [2023]

    Its Mobile Share Plus plans allow you to use your talk, text, and data when you are in Mexico. In 100+ other countries, AT&T offers an International Day Pass for $10 a day, offering the unlimited talk, text, and data already in your regular plan. This charge can add up quickly when you're on longer trips, though.

  16. Best international phone plans for travel

    Verizon international monthly plan: Pay an extra $100 per month for 250 minutes of talk, unlimited texts and unlimited data (data speeds decrease after 20 GBs in a month) in more than 210 countries. You could also check out U.S. Mobile's plans. U.S. Mobile plans don't include calling or texting from outside the U.S.

  17. International Travel FAQs

    Connect with us on Messenger. Visit Community. 24/7 automated phone system: call *611 from your mobile. Traveling to Mexico, Canada or overseas? Learn how to add a Verizon international plan, about roaming, making calls and the rates charged for data usage.

  18. The Best Smart Phones to Use When You Travel

    If you're looking to get a smartphone, here are the best ones for travel right now: 1. Samsung Galaxy S23 - Samsung's latest phone has a range of features including a 200MP camera, an S PEN, Night Mode, and long battery life. The camera on this phone has the highest resolution possible and great video options. Weight: 168g.

  19. How to Use Your Cell Phone Internationally

    Verizon offers something called Travel Pass that lets you take your domestic talk, text, and data allowance overseas. It costs $2 per day in Mexico and Canada and $10 per day in more than 100 ...

  20. 5 of the Best International Cell Phone Plans 2024

    AT&T. Plan: International Day Pass. Price: $10 per day for first line, $5 for additional lines used in the same 24-hour period, on top of your regular phone plan cost. Requires an AT&T unlimited ...

  21. International phone plans and travel services

    International services support. While in the US: (800) 711-8300. Travelling outside the US: 1 (908) 559-4899. If your device is lost, stolen or broken, or you experience a device issue while you are traveling outside the US, please use the below. instructions to reach the International Support Team from a landline phone:

  22. What's a Good Burner Phone for International Travel?

    Blu R1 HD. Cheap, dual-SIM Android phone. An inexpensive Android phone with two SIM slots, so you can use both your original SIM and a local SIM from wherever you're traveling to. Buy from ...

  23. How To Pick An International Plan For Your Phone

    International travel plans allow you to utilize your phone's apps, texting, maps, and other features while abroad. An international plan is a service that lets you use your phone in other countries. For instance, while most Verizon phones are global devices, some are not. If you have a Verizon plan, you can use the international TripPlanner ...

  24. Choosing the Best Cell Phone Company for Your International ...

    Choosing the right cell phone company for international travel involves careful consideration of coverage, cost, customer service, and the specifics of roaming charges. By prioritizing these ...

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    General travel info for visiting Japan What is mobile phone etiquette in Japan? When in Japan, you definitely don't want to use your mobile phone the same way you do at home. In general, using your cell phone in a public space is a bad idea. It's considered rude to have private conversations in public, especially if you're on the train.

  26. Canada & Mexico Unlimited Talk, Text and Data in CA & MX

    Receive up to 40% off available accommodation bookings in the U.S. including AK, HI, Puerto Rico & U.S. Virgin Islands and bookings for international travel. Discount is applied to price of room before taxes and any fees, including additional fees collected by the property at check-in. Reservations can only be made up to eleven months in ...

  27. US man returns from Europe to $143,000 T-Mobile bill for using phone

    Gigantic bill apparently reflected using 9.5 gigabytes of data on a phone that had not been set up for international roaming A Florida man was stunned to come back from a European trip and ...