Best prepaid international data SIM cards for travelers in 2021

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If you need to connect to the internet when travelling 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 purhase.

We’ll explain how they work and 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.

  • High speed connection without surprise bills.
  • Receive your QR code immediately.
  • Connect to the best network.
  • Forget about roaming and searching for WiFi.
  • Keep your WhatsApp number.
  • Easy to set up: you’ll receive an email with your eSIM in seconds, no matter where you are.
  • Get 5% OFF. Code: roaming5

Contents

What is an international SIM card? 

An international SIM card allows you to use internet services, text messaging and calling 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 – just buy your SIM card online with one upfront fee, there are no hidden costs.

How to get an 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 it 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.

In Germany, Switzerland or Austria you can buy an international SIM card in this store. If you live in France, Belgique or Luxembourg can buy an universal SIM card in this store. For some destinations like the USA, Japan, Mexico and Canada you will get unlimited data plan and calls. 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, as it does not require physical shipping; you just 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 iPhone XR, SE, XS, 11, 12 and its variants Pro and Pro Max.

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 you leave for your trip, make sure your phone will work in your destination country. You can easily check by chatting with Holafly Customer Service, which is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

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 travelling 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. Bear in mind that each operator has classified countries by zones and you will be charged a different rate depending on where you travel.

If you’re from an EU country and staying within the European Economic Area, you can use data roaming within additional charges. You will be able to continue with your minutes, data and text messages just like 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.

Roaming rates

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 travelling to countries you are charged approximately $1 per minute. On the other hand, when travelling 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 travelling 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 travelling 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 travelling 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. To solve this problem, you can consult your operator and redirect incoming calls to your new number.

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 the international data SIM cards when you’re looking for 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 providerCard price (USD)Data cost (USD)Shipping cost (USD)Fixed-price (USD)
Holafly$0$52$0 $52
TravelSIM$12 $47$18 $77
OneSIMcard$21$45$66
WorldSIM$14$41$3$58
Table 1. Comparison of international SIM cards from Holafly, TravelSIM, OneSimCard, WorldSIM, Flexiroam y Surfroam

You can see that the TravelSIM card appears to be the cheapest. However, it has an additional shipping cost, making Holafly the cheapest option.

Make sure to check delivery costs for each card. They usually increase the total cost significantly. But the Holafly international SIM card has free delivery.

International data SIM card vs Data Roaming

international sim cards to doesn't 
 pay roaming
Antennas needed for roaming to work. Source: LEEROY Agency on Pixabay

Roaming and an international data SIM card have the same job: they allow you to connect to the internet when travelling abroad. To see which best suits your needs, here is a handy comparison table:

INTERNATIONAL SIM CARDROAMING
PriceLowHigh
Extra-benefitsYesYes
Unlimited dataSome countriesNo
Calling serviceSome countriesyes
SMSsome countriesYes
Data plan optionsYesNo
Coverage qualityDepends on the providerDepends on the provider
Table 2. Comparison of International SIM cards vs carrier Roaming

Based on this comparison, while both a SIM card and data roaming allow you to connect, the 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 prioritise 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 comparison international sim cards
Pocket Wifi for Internet on your travels. Source: Huawei

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: it’s 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 travelling 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 renting period is over.

Comparison table

Here is a comparison of international SIM cards and Pocket WiFi.

ITEMINTERNATIONAL SIM CARDPOCKET WIFI
Price per month$74 (note 1)$124 (note 2)
Shipping costNoYes
Data sharingSometimesYes
Unlimited dataYesYes
Requires returnNoYes
Penalty for loss or theftNoYes
External batteryNoYes
Table 3. Comparison between International SIM Card and Data SIM Card

Note 1: the price of Holafly Japan SIM Card

Note 2: the price of Pocket Wifi Japan RailPass

After looking at the table, we can see that pocket wifi has replaced by SIM cards technologies. 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, 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 that 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 fast internet connection wherever you are. You don’t need to rely on faulty and temperamental free WiFi.

International eSIM card for iPhone (virtual SIM) vs International data SIM cards

At the end of 2018, a revolution occurred which many people haven’t noticed. In that year, Appel launched the iPhone XR and XS, the first devices which incorporate 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.

esim international travel holafly

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.

Comparison table

Here’s a comparison for international data SIM cards and eSIM.

FeatureInternational SIM Card International eSIM card
DataYesYes
CallsSome destinationsNo
Immediate deliveryNoYes
Compatible devicesMajorityLatest phones only
Transfer between mobiles YesNot
Table 4. International SIM cards vs international virtual SIMs

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 SIM and the digital SIM can accompany you on your trips abroad.

Prepaid data SIM cards for travelling to North and South America

Travelling 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 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 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. 

latin america sim card holafly international
Latin America SIM card. Source: Holafly

One of the main benefits of a Latin America 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 SIM card:

Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Puerto Rico and Uruguay.

North America 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 centre, the card will connect to the highest quality provider across the continent.

Countries included North America SIM card:

  • USA
  • Mexico
  • Canada
north america sim card holafly international
North America SIM card. Source: Holafly

International data SIM card for travelling 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 your 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 SIM card:

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.

sim card for europe holafly international
Europe SIM card. Source: Holafly

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 prepaid SIM card in the Holafly store, use the search engine on their website.

Data SIM card for travelling 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.

sim card for asia holafly international
Asia SIM card multi-country. Source: Holafly

The international 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 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 data SIM card for travelling 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.

sim card international for australia holafly
Australia SIM card. Source: Holafly

Prepaid data SIM card for travelling to Africa

You can buy data for Africa with individual country cards, like the International SIM card for Egypt.

sim card for egypt international holafly
Egypt SIM card. Source: Holafly

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

Can I get unlimited data with an international prepaid SIM card?

Yes, depending on the country you travel to, you can enjoy unlimited data. Holafly offers unlimited data in several countries.

What do I do if the international data SIM card doesn’t work in a country?

Data SIM cards usually easy to set up, but if you have any problems just contact Holafly’s 24-hour customer support team.

Does an international data SIM card work with any cell phone?

As long as your cell phone is unlocked (i.e. SIM free), it will work with an international data SIM card.

Will my mobile work in any country 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.

Can I transfer my local number to an international data SIM card?

This is not possible at the moment. The SIM cards will have their number assigned individually.


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