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International SIM Cards: Benefits, Prices, Offers in 2019
Whether you frequently travel to the end of the world for business meetings or if you’re planning to backpack across another continent, one important thing to consider will be how to get access to the internet without blowing up your budget and having to worry about getting a new SIM every time you cross a new border. Arguably, the best solution will be to invest in an international SIM card, an easy, hassle-free way to get online abroad which often works out a lot cheaper than what one may imagine. Find out all the details below.
What is an International SIM Card?
An international SIM card is a SIM card that enables to get access to the internet abroad, on any local network. Depending on the brand of the SIM, it can either be charged up by purchasing credit, or bought with a plan and a fixed number of gigabytes to be used. Thanks to this system, you can go online in over 200 countries with just one unique SIM card in your phone.
International SIM card or local SIM card?
While it is usually easy to get access to free wifi abroad in cafes, hotels and restaurants, it is can be a little risky to rely on it, plus it is rarely of good quality. To put your mind to ease, is thus recommended to arrive to destination with an already planned out internet solution.
Opting for an international SIM card or purchasing a local SIM card in the country you are visiting will largely depend on your reason of travelling and how long you need access to the internet in said country. Below is a guide to which SIM will be the best adapted to you, depending on your situation.
|International SIM card||French phone plan with international allowance||Local SIM card|
|I’m a businessperson||An international SIM card can be a good option if you stay abroad long enough (a few weeks at a time for instance). But in other cases, for short business trips, a French plan with international allowances will be better suited to your situation||Some of the major French providers, such as Orange, SFR, Bouygues or Free offer a wide range of international options in their phone plans, so as to get internet abroad at no extra cost. To find out more about the different options and phone deals available to you in France, just contact 09 77 55 72 27 or ask for a free callback.||This isn’t a well suited option for you. On a business trip, you rarely have the time and opportunity to purchase a local SIM card, plus you won’t be able to get access to the internet straight out of the plane.|
|I’m an expat||An international SIM card is first and foremost dedicated to people wanting to get online in over 200 countries, with sometimes special deals for a given country, but it may not be the best long term solution for an expat. It will indeed work out a lot more expensive, especially if you can only access the internet without being able to call.||This won’t be an ideal solution in the long run either, as using a French phone plan abroad for over 4 months, as you will end up paying extra roaming fees after that. These fees were set up as a way to prevent people from abusing the system by using their regular phone deal abroad. In this case, you’ll receive a message from your provider informing you of their intention to start charging you extra fees. After that, you will have 15 days to regulate your situation.||For expatriates, a local SIM card will definitely turn out to be the best solution for you if you are living abroad permanently. Having a local phone number is also very handy and will make administrative matters a lot easier.|
|I'm a backpacker||The international SIM card is ideal for you! It will be very handy if you’re planning to travel across several countries over a month or more, as you will be able to change country without having to change your SIM card.||Using your French phone during your travels is another option, especially if you have subscribed to an advantageous international option. This could however work out quite expensive - beware of going over your allowance! While roaming fees have been scrapped in Europe and the DOM territories since 2017, this isn’t the case elsewhere, so keep that in mind depending on which countries you are visiting.||A local SIM card can be an option, however it will likely become a hassle to organise, since you will have to change phone number and SIM card every time you enter a new country.|
As demonstrated in these different cases, getting an international SIM card is more advantageous in some cases than others, it all depends on your situation. If you feel like this is the way you want to go, below are a few of the international SIM card providers available to purchase in 2019.
Flexiroam, a microchip for international data roaming
Founded in 2011, Flexiroam is an worldwide virtual operator which offers roaming services that can be used in over 130 countries. A great and simple way to stay connected during your trips or holidays, without being concerned about going over your allowance or running out of data.
Flexiroam is a very thin microchip that works by being stuck to an original SIM card. It then gives access to over 580 networks worldwide, and the microchip will automatically connect to the most efficient network in every location.
Using this microchip requires to download the Flexiroam app, through which you will be able to select which of the Flexiroam SIM card or your own you want to use at any given time. The app also enables you to keep track of your allowance and recharge it if needed.
Flexiroam offers a selection of Starter Packs, with various gigabytes allowances.
|Number of gigabytes||1Gb||2Gb||3Gb||5Gb||7Gb|
|Period of validity (in days)||90||100||150||180||360|
|Number of countries||120||120||120||120||120|
|Price (in $)||29.99||59.99||79.99||129.99||199.99|
To give you a better idea of prices, $1 is equivalent to €0.87. Meaning that the 1Gb package costs €26,13, and the 7Gb one will be priced at €179,24.
You can then easily charge your international SIM card by purchasing Xtra data at any time:
- 100Mb for $5,99, available for 10 days
- 500Mb for $20, available for 30 days
- 1Gb for $29,99, available for 90 days
- 5Gb for $149,99, available for 360 days
- 7Gb for $199,99, available for 360 days
- 11Gb for $319,99, available for 360 days
- The USA SIM card: 1Gb for $9 or 5Gb for $15 to use over 14 days / 10Gb for $24.60 or 100Gb for $99 to use over 30 days.
- The Japan SIM card: 1Gb for $9 or 3Gb for $24 to use over 15 days.
- The Thailand SIM card: 1Gb for $6 to use over 10 days, or 4Gb for $9 to use over 15 days.
Note that these local packages are only available to people who have already subscribed for 90 days at minimum.
Other International SIM Card Providers
There are a fair number of international SIM card providers to choose from in addition to Flexiroam. Here is a selection of some of them.
The Explod SIM card gives access to a US phone number that can be used in 194 countries. It is available to order and delivered anywhere worldwide, contract-free, and can be recharged at anytime using a credit card or PayPal. Note that the SIM card will already be activated when you receive it, so it is best to order it a few days before your trip.
Once you wish to start using it, simply insert it in your phone (make sure it’s unlocked and switched-off ) Then, just turn your device on and wait until it picks up a signal (Explod will automatically register on the best network available at any given location)
The Explod app gives access to real-time data consumption and helps you track your data usage, and also allows you to make VOIP calls.
For trips to Canada, Japan or South Korea, your phone will have to be compatible with 3G in order to support the Explod SIM, so make sure this is the case before placing an order.
Explod offers 4 different packages, which all come with a SIM card:
|What the package includes||International SIM card + €15 of credit||International SIM card + €35 of credit||International SIM card + €65 of credit||International SIM card + €95 of credit|
|Price (in €)||€35||€50||€75||€95|
The Explod website has a fee calculator which helps you find out how much you will be charged depending on which countries you plan to visit. Simply select the country you will be visiting and the country you will want to contact - for instance, you will be in Thailand and will want to call a French number - to find out how much calls, texts and data will cost you.
The international SIM card offered by SIMplicITI allows to use a phone and get online on over 200 countries, for no extra roaming fees and without being bound to a contract.
A strong selling point of SIMplicITI is that unlike others, it doesn’t have a use-by-date, meaning there is no pressure to use up its credit over a restricted period. The SIM can be recharged via PayPal in chucks of $5 to $25. Alternatively, you can also purchase ready-made plans, with 4 to choose from:
- $25: unlimited calls, 100 SMS, no data
- $35: unlimited calls and SMS, no data
- $40: unlimited calls, 100 SMS, 1Gb data
- $60: unlimited calls and SMS, 2Gb data
The WORLDSIM card is used as a regular SIM, and works in and to over 200 countries, and receiving calls is free in over 118 countries. To activate the SIM, simply insert in the phone, wait until it picks up the local network and then it’s ready to be used.
WORLDSIM offers packages prices at $30, $45, $75 and $150 as credit to be used at leisure, depending on which countries you are visiting and contacting. Like the other SIM providers, WORLDSIM offers country-specific packages, for places such as the United States, Thailand or Japan.
The Telestial international SIM card allows you to use data in over 200 countries, with prices starting at $14.95. It also offers additional data packages covering different geographical zones:
- Zone A: 1Gb of data costing $19.95, that can be used in over 60 countries (across Europe, Australia, Brazil, China, Thailand, the US…)
- Zone B: 150Mb to 2Gb to be used in 110 countries (across Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Vietnam…) with prices ranging from $15 to $99.90.
- Zone C: 5Gb priced at $45, to be used in 30 countries (the UK, Germany, Greece, Guadeloupe, Ireland…)
Telestial also offers an international SIM card which includes calls, SMS and data. The card alone costs $19.95 and comes with $5 credit, with the option to purchase more allowance if needed (in packages of $30, $50 or $100).
International SIM cards: which should I choose?
With so many offers on the market, choosing the international SIM card right for your needs and budget can seem like an overwhelming task. It all depends on your data consumption and how much you are willing to spend for it. Each provider and plan will have its own advantages, so it’s just a matter of identifying which will suit you best:
- The Flexiroam system has the advantage of allowing you to freely and instantly switch between the international and the regular SIM. The packages are pricier than the average on the market, but also come with higher data allowances. Flexiroam also offers discounts for long term subscriptions.
- Explod comes with the perk of allowing to make VOIP calls through WiFi
- As for SIMplicITI, its prices are cheaper than the average but the allowances are lower than the average too, and might not be enough for people who plan on browsing the web extensively while abroad.
- WORLDSIM is particularly interesting for making calls abroad, as with it it is free to receive calls in over 118 countries.
- Telestial is interesting in that it offers a big variety of plans and country packages, meaning you can easily find a plan personalised to your data needs and destination.
Here is a comparison of all the international SIM cards mentioned above:
|Number of available countries||130||194||200||200||200|
|Possibility to recharge|
|Price (in $)||From $29.99 to $199.99||From $40 to $108||From $5 to $60||From $30 to $150||From $14.95 to $99.90|