If you need to connect to the internet when traveling abroad, look no further than an international prepaid data SIM card. Forget all about contracts, subscriptions, and hefty fees, and connect to the internet with one simple purchase.
We’ll explain how they work, where to get them, and compare them with other ways of connecting, such as Pocket WiFi and eSIMs.
You’ll learn about their advantages and disadvantages, and we’ll give you recommendations for making and receiving calls abroad.
What is an international SIM card?
An international SIM card allows you to use internet services, text messaging, and call in several countries. The international SIM card works for specific areas, continents, or regions.
They work by agreements reached between the company issuing the card and the local operators in each country.
Why do I need a global data SIM card?
Why buy an international SIM card? Well, the only other options are much more expensive. You can pay for data roaming from your current network provider, but doing this might mean a surprise bill when you get back.
So let’s take a look at why an international data SIM card is the best option:
- Cheaper than roaming – this is the most cost-efficient option. Don’t get ripped off.
- The best connection – international data SIM cards only use the best network providers in each country.
- Unlimited data – in some countries, you can get unlimited internet so you’ll never be left unconnected.
- Share data – you can share internet between multiple devices, making this the perfect option if traveling in a group.
- No contracts or subscriptions – buy your SIM card online with one upfront fee, and there are no hidden costs.
How to get a prepaid international data SIM card to travel around the world?
If you live in Spain, Austria, France, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, or Luxembourg, you can buy international SIM cards online, and they will be shipped to your home within a period of 2 business days up to a week. Free international shipping can take up to 7 days.
You can buy an international SIM card in Germany, Switzerland, or Austria in online stores. If you live in France, Belgique, or Luxembourg can buy a universal SIM card in online stores. You will get unlimited data plans and calls for some destinations like the USA, Japan, Mexico, and Canada. For China, you will find a prepaid SIM card with VPN included. In case you are outside these countries, don’t worry. You can buy an eSIM or international virtual SIM and receive it in your email through a QR code. Find more information about the international eSIM card.
The international eSIM can also be purchased by travelers from Latin America, Asia, Australia, Europe, Africa, the UK, or the US. It does not require physical shipping; you need a compatible phone. Please check with Holafly’s 24/7 support team, who will get back to you in seconds with any questions. International eSIM is mostly compatible with all last gen-devices.
If you are still undecided and want to know more about International SIM cards, read on to find out how they work, their advantages, disadvantages, and other features.
Is my mobile phone compatible with international SIM cards?
Before leaving for your trip, ensure your phone will work in your destination country. Remember that there are different versions of mobiles, such as a Global Version, American Version, China, etc. If you buy your mobile phone online from shops like Amazon, you can also find out which version you have on the Holafly customer chat and if it will work in the destination country such as the United States, Mexico, Japan, China, and many more countries around the world.
Can I avoid roaming charges with the international data SIM cards?
Roaming is expensive, regardless of which mobile operator you use. Using data roaming when traveling is not recommended. If you travel from the United States to Europe, you can buy an international eSIM card and avoid paying for roaming.
Buying an international SIM card will help you avoid paying expensive roaming charges no matter where you travel. Remember that each operator has classified countries by zone, and you will be charged a different rate depending on where you travel.
You can use data roaming for additional charges if you’re from an EU country and staying within the European Economic Area. You will be able to continue with your minutes, data, and text messages just like at home.
However, this only applies to countries within the European Union, so if you travel to the Balkans, for example, you might be charged an expensive rate. This applies to making calls as well as connecting to the Internet.
The rates charged by networks to access the internet abroad are usually between $6.05 (USD) and $18. The most common price is $10 per megabyte.
For calls, prices are lower but also expensive. When traveling to countries, you are charged approximately $1 per minute. On the other hand, when traveling to destinations in Zone 3 or 4, you can be charged up to $6 per minute pe. These rates usually apply to both making and receiving calls.
As you can see, roaming when you travel abroad is expensive, and an international SIM card will help you avoid these costs. The best thing is that with an international SIM card, there are no contracts or subscriptions. Buy it, use it, and recycle it – it’s as simple as that!
Advantages of an international SIM card for traveling abroad
To show you just how valuable international prepaid SIM cards can be, here are some of the benefits they offer:
1. Use the card in multiple countries
This is perhaps the main advantage of international SIM cards. They allow you to travel to several countries without having to change your number. Unlike a local SIM card, where you have to change the chip when you land or maybe look for it in shops, with an international SIM card, you land, and you’re already connected to the internet.
2. Internet without contracts or signatures
The goal is clear. You want to access the internet when traveling and to return home with peace of mind, and you already have a data plan in your country. There’s no need to fill out long forms or contracts with an international SIM card. In contrast, with a local SIM card, you might be asked for personal data, signatures, or your passport to activate your SIM.
3. Avoid surprise bills after returning from your trip.
You pay one up-front fee. Use your SIM card without fear. You are in control of your data.
Disadvantages of an international data SIM card for traveling abroad
Nothing is perfect, and neither are international SIM cards. Here are the disadvantages of using an international SIM card.
1. You have to report your new number
When you travel abroad and need to communicate with your family and friends, you must inform them of your new number so that you can receive calls. You can consult your operator and redirect incoming calls to your new number to solve this problem.
However, you can keep your mobile number for your WhatsApp and stay in touch with your contacts. WhatsApp is also free for both receiver and call, unlike traditional calls.
2. You won’t receive local SMS messages
You won’t have an international phone number with a data SIM card. So we recommend international data SIM cards when you’re looking for an internet connection rather than calls and messages.
International SIM cards comparison
Several companies offer international SIM cards. In the table below, we compare four cards that cover various European countries. The cards have a duration of 30 days and 12GB.
|International SIM cards provider||Card Price (USD)||Data cost (USD)||Shipping cost (USD)||Fixed-price (USD)|
You can see that the TravelSIM card appears to be the cheapest. However, it has an additional shipping cost, making the unlimited data virtual SIM card from Holafly the cheapest option if we compare it with the amount of data.
Make sure to check the delivery costs for each card. They usually increase the total cost significantly.
International data SIM card vs. Data Roaming
Roaming and an international data SIM card have the same job: they allow you to connect to the internet when traveling abroad. To see which best suits your needs, here is a handy comparison table:
|INTERNATIONAL SIM CARD||ROAMING|
|Unlimited data||Some countries||No|
|Calling service||Some countries||yes|
|Data plan options||Yes||No|
|Coverage quality||Depends on the provider||Depends on the provider|
Based on this comparison, while both a SIM card and data roaming allow you to connect, international data SIM cards for overseas cost less, and you can choose the right package for your needs.
Which option is best for you depends on your needs. If you want to send SMS abroad, using the roaming service of your local operator might be the best option.
But if you prioritize Google searching, using social media, or renting an Uber, an international SIM card will save you money.
International data SIM cards vs. Pocket WIFI
Pocket Wifi is another option to connect to the internet on your travels. it allows you to share data between multiple devices, and, most importantly, unlimited.
But make sure to read the terms or conditions and small print on any restrictions. Sometimes, there are restrictions even if providers claim to offer the longed-for unlimited internet.
Look closely at the daily limit they offer. It is usually around half a gigabyte or 1GB. If you start watching a Netflix movie or series, you’ll be halfway through the movie and then left in the middle of the street without the Internet.
One limitation of Pocket WiFi is the number of devices you can connect to the internet. If you’re traveling in a group, it’s possible that someone will be left without data.
Be aware of these limits when using Pocket WiFi. Firstly, battery life will be extremely low (you can rent a new battery for around €10). Also, remember to review the conditions in case of loss or theft. The price of the penalty can be €150 with immediate effect.
Sometimes sellers of pocket WiFi hide the shipping price, which could be between €8-10. You may also have to pay to return the device once your rental period is over.
Here is a comparison of international SIM cards and Pocket WiFi.
|ITEM||INTERNATIONAL SIM CARD||POCKET WIFI|
|Price per month||$34 (note 1)||$124 (note 2)|
|Penalty for loss or theft||No||Yes|
Note 1: Holafly Japan virtual SIM Card price for 10 days.
Note 2: the price of Pocket Wifi Japan RailPass
After looking at the table, we can see that SIM card technologies have replaced pocket wifi. In previous years they were a good option for connecting abroad. Today, smartphones have evolved by leaps and bounds and have surpassed them.
With your international data SIM cards, you can also share data with other devices, so you don’t have to rent anything. Nor do you need to receive or return any device. In short, you are worry-free.
Do you know the best SIM cards in the USA don’t provide you with domestic calls but international SIM cards like these provide you with incoming calls for free? You can always make calls with WhatsApp with unlimited data.
Prepaid international SIM card vs. free WiFi
You probably know that many hotels, airports, and restaurants offer free WiFi – so why do you need an international SIM card for data? Well, let’s take a look at the disadvantages of relying on free WiFi.
Problems with relying on free WiFi for your trip:
- No connection when you need it most – more remote areas are unlikely to have nearby free WiFi, meaning that you could be left stranded with no way of getting help
- Limited coverage in some countries – in less developed countries, it is harder to find free WiFi
- Your personal information may be vulnerable – there have been many cases of personal information being stolen from free WiFi services, so it is not a safe option.
Buying an international data SIM avoids these problems and gives you a fast internet connection wherever you are. You don’t need to rely on faulty and temperamental free WiFi.
International eSIM card (virtual SIM) vs. International data SIM cards
At the end of 2018, a revolution occurred, which many people haven’t noticed. In that year, Apple launched the iPhone XR and XS, the first devices which incorporated a new technology: the eSIM.
Although Google has implemented this technology in some of its Pixel devices, Apple has taken the lead in implementing and expanding the evolution of the traditional SIM.
Nowadays, there are international eSIM cards that can activate anywhere and anytime online, the only requirement is that you need is a compatible phone.
Before you buy, check if your mobile phone is compatible. If it does not, it will be to find a cheap phone compatible with eSIM.
Here’s a comparison of international data SIM cards and eSIM.
|Feature||International SIM Card||International eSIM card|
|Compatible devices||Majority||Latest phones only|
|Transfer between mobiles||Yes||No|
GSMA announced in 2016 that the eSIM is the future of internet connection overseas, and it’s probably the case.
As for the comparison, we can see that both the physical international and digital SIM can accompany you on your trips abroad.
Prepaid virtual SIM cards for traveling to North and South America
Traveling around several countries in North America, Central America, or South America? You can use just one card to connect across the continent – isn’t that a great idea?
Latin America virtual SIM card
Latin America has a lot to offer for your travels. Home of the Amazon rainforest (“The lungs of the world”) and vibrant cities like Buenos Aires and Rio De Janeiro, you won’t have to worry about an internet connection with an international SIM card.
You will be able to travel to several Latin American countries without having to look for local SIM cards or change your phone number.
One of the main benefits of a Latin America virtual SIM card is that it connects automatically to the best network providers each time you arrive in a new country.
Countries included in Latin America virtual SIM card:
Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Puerto Rico and Uruguay.
North America digital SIM card (USA, Canada, Mexico)
Visit Niagara Falls in Canada, New York City or end up on the Cancun beaches in Mexico. And do it all without worrying about your connection.
With an international SIM card for North America, you can travel without limits. It doesn’t matter if you’re on the border or in the center. The card will connect to the highest quality provider across the continent.
Countries included North America virtual SIM card:
International data SIM card for traveling to Europe
After the agreement reached by the European Union and the countries belonging to the European Economic Area can take advantage of roaming at home with their local operator.
But if you’re from outside the EU and visiting several European countries, we suggest the data international SIM card for Europe.
Destinations included in Europe virtual SIM card:
The United Kingdom, Åland Islands, Austria, Azores, Balearic Islands, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canary Islands, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, French Guiana, Malta, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Guadeloupe, Guernsey, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Isle of Man, Italy, Jersey, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madeira, Martinique, Mayotte, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Reunion, Saint Martin, Romania, Saint Barthélemy, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Netherlands and Vatican City.
You may have noticed that this card does not include major countries such as Switzerland, Turkey and Andorra. Don’t worry, if you travel to Switzerland, Turkey or Andorra you can get a virtual SIM card in the Holafly store, use the search engine on their website.
Virtual SIM card for traveling to Asia
Being able to connect in Asian countries will be a challenge. Remember that support might not be available in English. So if you have a problem, it might be harder to solve it than in your native language.
The virtual SIM card makes your life easier as you won’t need to do anything, as it will connect you to data regardless of the place or language.
Countries included in Asia digital SIM card:
China, South Korea, Japan, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Hong Kong and Macao and Laos.
If you only travel to China and you want to use Apps like WhatsApp, Skype, and your social networks like Facebook, Twitter, etc, then we recommend you buy a SIM card for China with VPN included.
Prepaid digital SIM card for traveling to Australia
Oceania is another continent you can visit with a good Internet connection. On this continent, you can explore New Zealand and Australia without fear of running out of data in the middle of your trip.
Prepaid digital SIM card for traveling to Africa
You can buy data for Africa with individual country cards, like the International SIM card for Egypt.
Another interesting destination to travel in Africa is Morocco. For this country there is also an international Moroccan SIM card that includes a local number.
Key take-aways about international data SIM cards
- International SIM cards are an excellent option to avoid roaming charges and access the internet on your travels.
- Holafly has several valuable travel destinations available for you to surf the web abroad. Look at their online store for a full list of destinations.
- You can buy an international data SIM card easily and it will be delivered to your house quickly. The activation is easy
- Several international data cards allow you to share data between multiple devices – this makes it perfect for a group trip
- Multi-country cards are available for several regions
FAQs about international data SIM cards
Yes, depending on the country you travel to, you can enjoy unlimited data. Holafly offers unlimited data in several countries.
Data SIM cards are usually easy to set up, but if you have any problems just contact Holafly’s 24-hour customer support team.
As long as your cell phone is unlocked (i.e. SIM free), it will work with an international data SIM card.
No, it will only work in the countries specified. Some cards offer multiple-country options, which include several countries in one continent.
This is not possible at the moment. The SIM cards will have their number assigned individually.