How do you deal with getting data on your mobile while travelling?

I wondered how everybody deals with getting data on their phone in each country they travel. Is there a way around it? It is always such a pain having to buy and activate sim cards everywhere. I have tried the company “worldsim” and had an international sim for a while, but they where terrible and ended up to be super expensive.

sim cards are the best way at this point taking into account cost and speed.

I buy local SIMs wherever I can, and do a bit of research to see who has the best value/MB. Three has “Three Like Home” which is pretty terrible, but it’s at least 2G internet while I hunt for a local option.

Siminn in Iceland has the best footprint and price for the country.
Edeka Mobil in Germany was cheapest.
Three Mobile in Ireland (20 EUR/mo unlimited)

My friend just visited me in Thailand while using Project Fi. It worked for him here in Bangkok and in Singapore, but not HK for some reason. His data rate speeds were around 256 kbps, but he also got some wifi coverage automatically. You need particular phones for this as well, but maybe it’s something worth considering?

For short term travel, ie moving between countries often, Google Project Fi has usually been very convenient for me, because typically I experience a pretty seamless transition.

However, if my Nexus 6p & Fi SIM doesn’t automatically connect, or finds voice but doesn’t automatically get on mobile data, sometimes I needed to manually try connecting to each local provider until I found the right partner. This was a pain in HK… until I found out there are (unofficial) dial codes to “repair” the network connection, force a switch attempt to the next network, or go back to auto-switching.
Even more convenient the app Signal Spy Pro helps monitor your current network and stats, plus has a quick interface for the dial codes - you still have to paste them in the dialer, but when you click one it auto-copies and takes you straight to the dialer.

This all made HK very doable with Project Fi.

However, keep in mind you’ll have a USA phone number and it will be synonymous with your google voice number - Fi actually replaces Google Voice on the account you associate, so be mindful of that. This all is a double edged sword:
Nice to have your calls, txt & voicemail seamless across devices (eg phone, tablet, laptop via browser).
Mostly great for those of us who communicate with the US quite a lot. However, it is inconvenient for local or other non-US numbers to call you due to their long-distance (WhatsApp, Line, Wechat, etc is fine). So if you are in one location for a while I’d get a local SIM (cheaper data in some regions) and pause your Fi service…
Which means your “former Google voice number” will be unavailable while you pause service - SO if you currently have a Google voice number you actively use, I’d recommend keeping it on a separate Google account from your Project Fi, and keeping a separate Fi number. I’ve learned this the hard way and need to make the transition.
If in the future Fi offers additional low-cost forwarding numbers in different nations, ala Skype, that would be epic! Would also be wonderful if there was a dual SIM mobile device that fully works with Project Fi.

All n all, I’d say that it’s nice for people who spend a lot of time in the USA.

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Easiest & cheapest so far was to buy a SIM card in every country.
Pay-as-you-go are pretty much everywhere these days.

Choosing the mobile network:

Some other tips:


I have T-Mobile in the US and it is awesome. Only 2G speeds but good enough for Google maps and stuff like that. Highly recommend it.

Different sims is the best way. I keep a plastic SD card holder with me at all times containing my 5 odd sim cards. It’s really handy and stores quite a few. I keep the sims active as much as possible, mostly because I have 2-factor authentication set-up for a bunch of services, e.g my Australian bank account sends a confirmation code to my mobile when I make money transfers etc. Same with my UK bank account and my NZ bank account.

It’s really annoying to keep changing my number on my different services, so I just keep it connected to the mobile number local to that country.

It was really hard making the switch from fast fibre optic to mobile data, I wrote a post about it over here:

I was just going to add the same tip. I use Google Fi a lot, but as you change countries, and sometimes even cities, it is often necessary to manually choose the correct service provider in order to enable data (or to get the best data speed). Having sorted that out, Google Fi has been awesome for me.

If it were possible to override the geo-location of my number, or assign local numbers in other countries, it would be awesome. Now, the recipients of my calls find it confusing that their caller ID box says I am calling from California and saying I will be there in a few minutes.

Truphone out of the UK is ideal for mobile nomads. You get numbers in up to eight countries, and in 66 countries it’s just like being in any of the eight. Cost is a bit higher but you get to keep your local numbers and when your local, you’re also hitting local pops so throughput is the same as if you were using a local SIM card.

Gigsky offers a global sim for data only.

Another great option is to have a dual SIM card phone like the OnePlus2 or 3 that just came out. Keep your local number from home set up to deal with those calls for authorization of charges and to have your friends or family back home reach you on…and use a Local SIM country by country.

As I live on iPhones buy the world edition, not simply an unlocked one in your country of choice. The world edition has all the frequencies for LTE.

Another tip is to look at the deployment of new network technology. Many countries are still 4G in USA terms vs. LTE, meaning its HSDPA or HSDPA+, which are older technologies. For example, I was in Amsterdam and conventional wisdom was to go with T-Mobile, but really Vodafone had the faster network. In Prague it was the same way. In Portugal, it used to be PT was the best for Voice in the Lisbon area while Optimum (they have both changed names) was far better on data (LTE). But Vodafone invested millions in upgrading their network and was last year the better choice, and the network wasn’t as crowded, and offered better coverage in Lisbon proper.

Over in the UK, Three is the best because beyond their own towers/masts/antennaes they have half of the capacity of Orange which is now merged with T-Mobile to be EE, so in essence 3 has the most complete coverage in the UK and the fastest in the ground network.

In Spain I love Yoigo because they are the most cost effective, but Orange offers better speeds. In France Bouygues is best, but I do enjoy the ease and efficiency of Orange, where it used to be SFR which has gone to crap on iPhones and has a problem with Gmail for some reason.

In Austria last year there wasn’t any prepaid LTE so I went with T-Mobile voice and data on one phone, A+ on the other and my iPad. I had coverage “most of the time” out in Wine country.

Hope this helps.

I second this. Very good list. Usually if it’s more than a couple of days I get a SIM (depends on the hassle level).

Remember that now Vodafone has free roaming in Europe!

If you’re an American traveling abroad, then the best option is T-Mobile’s Simple Choice North America plan paired with an iPhone or Android that covers the most wireless bands. That plan from T-Mobile gives you unlimited 2G data in over 120 countries, and costs about $50 USD per month. It’s magical to touch down in a new country, turn on your phone, and have data before you even step off the plane - all without hunting for a new SIM card. I covered it more here:

@amyleannewagner you could get a multi SIM card phone. I think the max I saw is a phone for 4 SIM cards. That way you can receive and make calls (roaming costs!) and also receive SMS text messages (usually free)

@brian3 - that is a great idea. Even more if you can put the SIM in a 3G router. Than you can even share the WiFi and still use a local SIM in you iPhone/Android phone.

I use a product called “Knowroaming” its actually a sticker you place on your home sim card, and it acts as a local sim card wherever you go, and acts as your home sim card when you are home. It’s pretty cool.

It’s not as cheap as local prices, It’s about 50USD for 7 days of unlimited data in 100+ countries I think, not sure if it includes 4G, but it’s nice because it swaps around networks depending on best reception, for e.g. I was on 02-UK this morning, now I am on EE. It has features like being able to call your original number and it’ll forward it onto your new number, and also allows you to be reached via any local numbers you were using throughout your travels (it’s an add-on of course).

It’s SUPER convenient, especially if your travelling in countries where getting a Sim card is not as simple as buying it over the counter and popping it into your phone (like Australia for e.g.) or a country where sims aren’t readily easy to find / buy.

Nothing beats a true local sim card though, you get full 4G speeds, cheapest possible data etc.