Best American phone carrier for nomads

I’m surprised this isn’t anywhere on the forum yet. But just a pro tip for Americans about to start a nomad adventure. T-mobile offers unlimited SMS & data in 120 countries for FREE with any of their (already pretty cheap) plans. It’s ideal if you plan to be back in the US for any part of the year, but I honestly would consider it even if you’re going to be entirely out of the country.

You get bumped down to much slower 3G speeds, but it’s free and works as soon as you land. Can be super helpful before you’ve sorted yourself out with a local SIM. I usually keep my T-mobile SIM in my iPhone all the time and then buy a local SIM and drop it in my pocket wifi for both laptop and iPhone when needed. I keep my local US number and just use it (it’s like $0.05/min in most places) for important clients calls so they don’t have to bother with Skype.

I’m not affiliated at all, just a happy customer. Anybody found a better deal worth mentioning?


Wife and I have been using T-Mobile as well. Like you, we’ll pick up a local SIM a lot of the time, but you can’t beat the flexibility and ease of turning your phone on and having service immediately upon arrival!

I guess it depends on how long you’ll be out of the USA. I have Tmobile pre-paid so I can keep my US number, but I find local carriers have better plan and I definitely don’t want 3G.

I’ve tried the T-Mobile thing and to be honest, the data bump made my phone almost unusable. (I think it was closer to 2G speeds, and you can forget about tethering.) I’m currently using local SIM cards with my unlocked phone for day-to-day data and local calls, and Google Voice with my old phone number transferred in to make and receive VOIP calls back home (via Hangouts). It’s not perfect, but it works pretty well for me.

T-Mobile started that deal the month after we cancelled our T-Mobile plans after several years and left the U.S.

So I haven’t had a chance to try it, but a friend visited us for a couple of weeks in Thailand a while back, and he never had to do anything. He just kept using it and it worked just fine.

Hi Tyler!
I’ve found this carrier very accessible: Lycamobile. My family have two SIM cards, one from local carrier, the second one from Lyca and we can call each other for free, wherever we are, no roaming fees.
Hope you’ll find this useful.

I use Google Fi, its incredible. Wherever I am, my phone just works and always a flat cost. So fricken good, I love it.

Oh, and btw you don’t have to be American to get it. I setup a fake address there and then used a VPN to turn it on from overseas. Once on, it just works.


We just got googlefi. It does not work in Denver, Colorado very well. I’m hoping that changes as we start our traveling. This is encouraging.

GoogleFi just uses the local networks, and they have deals with most of them. My guess is that your area must be one of the crumby networks they are aligned with.

Don’t worry, I’ve used mine in:

and that’s just in the last 6 months!

Hey joshstraw
I was trying to reply to your thread about Isla mujeres but the thread seems closed.
I’ve visited once and love it also. I was only there for about two days but had a blast.
I’ll try reaching out when I’m next traveling. Heading to Buenos Aires for three months in July so perhaps near October if you’re home?

Hey rfs45,

Yeah it got reported for SPAM, which really annoys me. I am going to try again now, but if its reported twice it is banned permanently.

Let me know when you are coming this way. We’ll be here in October. From then until December 20th the island is quiet and beautiful. You have the beach clubs to yourself… so good!

I recommend passing through the UK and getting a Three SIM there - no need to be a resident.

For just ~$15-20/month you get ~20Gb of data in most countries around the world + unlimited Netflix/Snapchat/Soundcloud/Deezer/Apple Music streaming.

We have been using googlefi and it works great in hong kong and bali so far!