International Sim Cards: When Do You Choose Them Over Local or Roaming Bundles?

International Sim Cards

There’s been a constant debate about the cheapest mobile plans when travelling abroad. Some claim that local or roaming bundles are the most viable options, while others swear by international sim card providers. So, this article will break down everything related to that argument to determine which plan works best for you. Why not just give you a direct answer, you wonder? Well, first, that wouldn’t lay the debate to rest, and second, it wouldn’t justify the point of this piece. Now, let’s dive right in!

International Vs Local Sim Cards

Examining the pros, cons and requirements of each plan type is crucial before drawing conclusions. So, without further ado, here are the requirements for international, local and roaming bundles:

Going International

The two critical conditions for an international sim card are GSM compatibility and an ‘unlocked’ phone, while the former is now present in most mobile devices. However, for network ‘locks’, you must request your service provider to untether that connection so you can leverage other services in foreign countries. Typically, such requests take some time to process. So, you may need to submit an application at least a month before your trip. However, you only need to do this once per network, with the service continuing regardless of where you go. 

Finally, these plans often cover a longer service period than local sims, which usually expire after six months.

Staying Local

Local sims cater to prolonged stays in a foreign country. The rates are slightly cheaper, and you don’t need to ‘unlock’ your phone if you stick to your current network provider.

Appealing as that may sound, those two elements also prove problematic with such plans. Essentially, if you are on a business trip, which usually lasts two to four weeks, you can’t leverage the full scope of the service. In addition, if the country you are visiting doesn’t have coverage for your network provider, a local sim is out of the question.

And with roaming bundles, however, you don’t need to worry about any of those things. The drawback? They are the most expensive option here, even more so than international plans.

Settling the Argument One Final Time

Frankly, local and international sims have their place in the grander scheme. And to help explain this, here’s when you should consider a local card:

  • If you plan on staying in a foreign country for more than a month.
  • If your network provider doesn’t offer its services in the visiting country.
  • If your phone isn’t GSM-compatible or you have trouble getting it unlocked by the mobile carrier.

Conversely, you should opt for an international sim card if:

  • You are on a shorter business trip.
  • You have to travel frequently to multiple countries.
  • You want an extended service duration for mobile communications when abroad.

Now that the primary debate is settled, here’s a tip on when to opt for roaming bundles: Pretty much never. As mentioned earlier, these plans are costly and do not justify what you get in return for your money. 

Boarding Planes, Making Calls

Besides roaming bundles, there are advantages to both the mentioned mobile plans. However, international variants may have a slight edge considering people don’t usually stay in foreign countries for extended periods. At least not if they don’t have a working or study visa. And in those cases, a local sim will be the only suitable option. Meanwhile, if you’re still confused about it, remember this: international for weeks two to four, local for anything more!


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