Pros and Cons of Using a Local SIM Card While Traveling

Pros and Cons of Using a Local SIM Card While Traveling

Using a local SIM card has traditionally been one of the more feasible options for keeping costs down on phone calls while abroad.  The development of smart phone technology and the abundant ‘App’ market have revolutionized international calling for many, but there are still scenarios when using a local SIM can be beneficial.  Variables do need to be taken into account however, for example where you purchase the card and whether the calls you make are considered local or international.

Understanding SIM Cards and Network Chips

Whilst popular in the Asian market, new smartphones with a dual SIM card are still relatively rare in the West.  As such many people end up having 2 mobile/cell phones in order to toggle the right networks when travelling abroad.

We need to think of the fact that there are 2 different types of network chips used, depending on the market.  These are CDMA chips (popular in Asia) and GSM chips (popular in Europe and the West). In the US, Sprint & Verizon use CDMA while their competitors AT&T and T-Mobile use GSM.  So hopefully you are starting to see the problem.  Simply put, if your phone is locked to a certain network or a certain network chip then you will be unable to use it abroad on a different type of network.  As a result many regular international travelers look into purchasing a second, perhaps cheaper phone so they can then purchase the correct international SIM card when arriving to their desired location. This can add a hefty sum to the cost of the trip you have already paid for, and be a huge inconvenience as your contacts will not be available on your new phone.  Additionally you will have a new number to remember and will have to notify anyone trying to reach you of such.  So is it really worthwhile, bearing in mind the ease with which you can call abroad using a smartphone and one or more of the available calling apps?

Pros of Local SIM Cards

A local SIM card can mean calling home is cheap and easy, especially if you have a service for calling like Rebtel. Instead of paying expensive international rates to a traditional carrier, you can use local minutes and just pay Rebtel a small fee for the international part of the call. 

This can make calls to anyone back home much cheaper. Also, no matter what kind of SIM card you have, loved ones will be able to reach you via a number local to them if they are in a Rebtel supported country (similar to a collect call, with you paying the cheaper Rebtel rate), and those calling you locally in the area you are visiting can use the local SIM number.

Cons of Local SIM cards

Of course, anyone who needs to call you will have to have your new SIM card’s local number. This means making sure everyone has the correct international code too.

Purchasing a SIM in a foreign country and language with which you are not familiar can also be a challenge, although you can hopefully get some help in setting it up from a local.

Rebtel: The Alternative to International SIM Cards

One great alternative to International SIM Cards is Rebtel, a service that allows you to make calls to friends and family back home without having to purchase a new SIM card. There is a very simple setup process, with high call quality and low costs. You can avoid roaming charges by using Wi-Fi or activate the local call option in order to keep call prices down. As one of the market leaders for international calling, Rebtel also provides readily available customer support services in multiple languages and therefore provides a great safety net for your communication needs when travelling abroad.