If you're a traveler, then you've probably have heard of an international SIM card, which contains your subscriber profile. What you may not know, however, is that an international SIM card can help greatly reduce your cell phone bills, even though international traveling with your current mobile phone may be more convenient by comparison.
Well, in this article, you'll learn more about the international SIM card, including the definition of a SIM card, why an international SIM card is useful when traveling abroad or contacting people internationally, what type of people should use international SIM cards, and what you'll need to use your SIM card internationally.
Hopefully, by the time you finish reading this article, you'll have a better idea of what an international SIM card is and how you can take advantage of one.
In This Guide
What Is a SIM Card?
The SIM card, which stands for subscriber identity module card, contains your mobile phone profile and other information, including text messages, contacts, and more. It also allows you to communicate with a tower, allowing you to connect with said tower so you can make phone calls, send text messages, etc.
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There are also three different sizes of SIM cards - the Standard SIM card, Micro-SIM card, and Nano SIM card, but they can be further explained in our SIM Card Size Guide.
What's the difference between a global SIM card and a local SIM card? Well, a global SIM card allows you phone usages in most countries in the world. An international SIM card is just a more flexible option compared to a local SIM card.
A local SIM card can be purchased in the country in you're visiting, but more often than not they can only be applied to the country you're visiting. With the local SIM card, you'll be paying fees and rates as if you were a local. Unfortunately, if your family and friends want to call or message you, they may have to pay to contact an international number, so it will be more expensive for them.
Overall, if you don't want to be slapped with expensive international roaming fees - and trust me, the international roaming fees, depending on the carrier, can hit you hard - your best option is to purchase a travel SIM card of some sort.
Why Is an International SIM Card Useful?
There are several reasons as to why an international SIM card is a fantastic option for travelers.
- While an international SIM card is more expensive for your cell phone compared to a local SIM card, an international SIM card is cheaper compared to the international roaming fees you could face with your provider.
- An international SIM card allows you to receive phone calls free of charge in many countries (depending on the phone SIM card, anyway).
- It's less complicated if you travel to multiple countries over a short period of time (e.g. a year).
- No language barriers are featured if you purchase your own international SIM card, unlike a local SIM card. For example, you can use the same international SIM card whether you're in Hong Kong, the United Kingdom, Dominican Republic, or even Costa Rica.
- You receive low rates for text messages, talk, and data from all over the world.
- The international SIM card acts as a prepaid SIM card. In other words, you pay for it, and you'll already have a predefined phone number before you even leave the country. That way, you can share the phone number with friends and family before your travels so they can make international calls to you.
- You have more coverage with an international SIM card. For instance, you could receive coverage in both Hong Kong and the United Kingdom with the same international SIM card.
Do I Need an International SIM Card?
Are you a non-stop traveling machine? Do you travel to multiple countries for work or for fun? How many countries do you travel to in a year? Or perhaps you're an international student looking to go home for the holidays. Or you could be a long-term study abroad student who plans to spend one semester in France and another in Russia.
If any of the above apply to you, then you're probably in need of a travel SIM card. Travelers who venture often out of their home country would save themselves a lot of money just by purchasing an international SIM card.
What Do I Need in Order to Use an International SIM Card?
First, to use a travel SIM card with your GSM phone, you'll need to ensure that your phone is unlocked. To learn more about unlocking your cell phone, please be sure to refer to our guide to unlocking your cell phone. Typically, you can have the phone unlocked by your carrier, as long as the phone is paid off.
Second, you'll need to ensure that your phone is compatible with the GSM network. That's why I mentioned GSM phone earlier. After all, GSM is most globally adopted network, even though the United States relies on both GSM and CDMA. You can learn more about the differences between GSM and CDMA with our guide here.
To put it simply, you'll need an unlocked GSM phone before you can use an international SIM card.
If you're a traveler who wants to make international calls for fairly cheap, then you'll definitely want to use an international SIM card. An international SIM card can bring you lower rates for text messages, phone calls, and data. Not to mention, you can avoid those pesky roaming fees.
SIM cards have a host of uses beyond giving data to your smartphone or tablet. With the right card, you can actually give network service to devices such as GPS trackers, smart watches, alarm systems, and even more. For more information, reviews, and comparisons on those products take a look at our connected devices directory.