Should You Use International SIM Cards When Abroad?
International SIM cards can save you big money when you are traveling and need to call home. However, the difference in cost per minute can vary widely depending on where you purchase the card and whether the ensuing call is considered local or international.
International SIM Cards and Network Chips
Some people end up having 2 different cell phone for travel in different parts of the world. The reason for this is that there are 2 main different types of network chips; Asia uses CDMA and Europe uses GSM. GSM is the most popular for international travel, as it is available in nearly all developed nations. In the U.S., Sprint and Verizon depend on CDMA and AT&T and T-Mobile require GSM. You can swap the chip in your phone, but only if your phone is unlocked. AT&T and Verizon will not help you unlock your phone, so you may have to buy a cheap phone with the correct chip if you are traveling, then purchase the correct international SIM card when you get there along with the right amount of prepaid minutes.
International SIM cards and TruPhone
The TruePhone app can be used in conjunction with international SIM cards and works well for traveling and calling locally or staying connected with loved ones back home. Simply give your family and friends a local U.S. number (that works with Google Voice) to call while you’re traveling. No matter what international SIM card you have, they will still be able to reach you via the U.S. number, and those calling you locally in the international location you are at can use the local SIM number. This doesn’t use your local pre-paid minutes if you’re calling within a Wi-Fi hotspot, but the hotspots are far and few between.
Tips for Using International SIM cards
- Abroad, you almost always pay a different price for calling a landline as opposed to a mobile phone. If you have the option, call a landline phone, as it is almost always cheaper.
- If you purchase a local SIM, especially in a country where you don’t speak the language, have the store staffer you purchased the SIM from set up the phone for you and add additional minutes, as you won’t be able to follow the voice menu. Tip the salesperson well!
Rebtel: The Alternative to International SIM Cards
Rebtel allows you to make calls to friends and family back home without the nuisance of purchasing SIM cards and prepaying for minutes. Simply make sure everyone you need to call back home has Rebtel on their mobile or PC, and you can call each other for free using the Rebtel app which converts all international calls to local ones. With Rebtel apps one can avoid roaming charges and stay on the same SIM by just connecting to WiFi, and app to app calls are also free so you can call any Rebtel user on any device. It’s a perfect solution!