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Come Home With Memories, Not a Shocking Phone Bill

Did you know that SIM stands for subscriber identity module? Today’s New York Times article covers the use of your cell phones overseas. It covers options from AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile as well as buying a foreign SIM card. Years back I was a T-Mobile subscriber and my iPhone worked seamlessly. In the last 10-12 years I’ve opted for a local SIM card. I travel to Italy 🇮🇹 a lot and strongly recommend the TIM Tourist card which always worked beautifully, even when I ended a trip in France.

Posted by
960 posts

Apple iPhones recent models no longer have SIM card slots.

I'm at a loss as to why you decided to go from a seamless use T-Mobile plan to local SIMs. When I travel with the T-Mobile plan, my US contacts needn't even be told I'm out of the country. Everything works like home which was a welcome relief from buying the SIM as a disruptive first necessary stop in a foreign country.

Posted by
939 posts

If you can manage without your regular telephone number, buying local sims in Europe can be a lot more economical, especially if you are a heavy data user.

Posted by
7728 posts

Depends on your phone plan. I prefer just using my Google Fi, seamless. I have my phone number, data costs are manageable since the cost, if I use more than 10 Gig a month, maxes out.

A SIM would be attractive if you have dual SIM capability and purchase one for data, and maybe some calls, retaining your original plan and number, especially if you are on an extended trip. Many US carriers will cut your data off or apply new charges if you use data overseas for more than some amount of time, usually about 90 days.

Posted by
7033 posts

I will probably use an eSIM data plan as a back up for my T-Mobile plan when I am in England for six weeks in the spring. But I don’t need a phone number so I don’t understand the need to get a SIM card. If I have an emergency and need it, T-Mobile’s prices are ridiculously low for a phone call. I just think it’s so much easier.

When I was in Scotland earlier this year, I used the T-Mobile plan. I was there for three weeks, and the high speed data finally ran out about three days before I left. I could’ve gotten an eSim, but for three days it really wasn’t worth it. And cell phone coverage was so good that the only thing that happened is Google maps was very slow to load.

Posted by
2507 posts

Another vote for Google Fi. It works great and is economical. But you must buy it in while in the US and not use it as a temporary phone service overseas. This is our primary cell service in the US and costs about $25 a month including taxes. We don’t use a lot of data here or abroad.

Posted by
1990 posts

I have Spectrum Mobile and it worked beautifully while overseas.

It is part of my plan and because I have Spectrum internet at home, my monthly bill is only $14 for my mobile plan.

Overseas, text messages were free to receive and to send. Calls in London were 5 cents a minute and calls in Portugal were 7 cents a minute.

I text messaged just like I do at home.

Posted by
1912 posts

I remember everything I need to for traveling to Europe every summer, except I always forget what I did with my phone.

This last year I think I used a mobile data-only virtual SIM? It's a popular one that works well. Does anyone know the name?

I used WhatsApp with it, so had no problem communicating with my family texting and calling with that.

And then I left my physical SIM in my phone in case I decided I wanted to text or make a phone call. In 6 weeks I think I use the physical SIM for two texts.

But this method worked flawlessly and was cheap! Pity. I can't remember the virtual data only SIM's brand name ....

Posted by
177 posts

Agree that it depends on your phone plan. Verizon Wireless's Travel Pass plan charges $10 a day ($5 for Canada or Mexico) for international use. Meanwhile, for last year's 6-day trip to Edinburgh, I used a Giffgaff SIM card with a 25 GB "goody bag" that cost £12 and was more than sufficient for my data needs.

Posted by
7033 posts

Pity. I can't remember the virtual data only SIM's brand name

Hank, are you talking about Airalo eSIM data plans? Airalo has been used a lot here by forum members.

Posted by
1912 posts

Yes Mardee thanks! Airalo - that's my team now :)

The Airalo eSIM worked flawlessly from one country to the next for high speed mobile data, both in my Pixel and my daughter's iPhone. We both just left our regular SIMs in, but virtually never used them.

Posted by
3212 posts

I'm at a loss as to why you decided to go from a seamless use T-Mobile plan to local SIMs.

Years ago, my daughter gave me a new iPhone as a Christmas gift and it was linked to AT&T. She also graciously paid my phone bill for years! Great girl, proud dad.

Posted by
199 posts

Downloading maps while traveling can use a lot of data and result in roaming charges. We have downloaded them before leaving for our destinations using apps such as Organic Maps https://organicmaps.app/, and/or OsmAnd https://osmand.net/ that are free. They use data from the open source project known as OpenStreetMaps. Once the maps are downloaded no data connection is need to access them again. They work totally offline so no roaming charges are applied when you travel abroad

Posted by
434 posts

"Apple iPhones recent models no longer have SIM card slots."

Only those sold in the US. Outside the US market the newest iPhone still have SIM card slots. While I know most travellers here are from the US, its worth mentioning.

And increasingly users are realising they don't need to keep their phone number - there's been a general shift away from the switched phone network to data only, with voice and messaging via apps like WhatsApp. Almost all my calls even at home are via WhatsApp, for instance. This is even more.the case for younger users who tend to message more on platforms like Instagram. Hence the emergence of data-only eSIMs for travel.

Posted by
1 posts

I live in Hong Kong. Correct, the Apple iPhone 14 in Hong Kong has a slot for 2 sim cards. I have my local HK sim card and my USA AT&T sim card. Works flawlessly. In the US, the exact same phone has only 1 sim card slot and 1 virtual sim. I checked when I was there, and when I returned to HK, bought my iPhone 14 here. Thoroughly dislike the loss of control, and the dominance, that US carriers exert over the consumer in the US. Asia in general is WAY ahead of the US in this regard. They realize all the money is made in the sim card and don't care what phone you put it in, or how you want to decorate it, etc. This is just pure greed. Phones in Asia are always unlocked, because of this. The cost is about the same.

Posted by
15 posts

I purchase unlock iPhones and purchase a local SIM (data and voice) when traveling which allows me to make local calls which some eSIMs only allow data. My family has iPhones so FaceTime calls and iMessages are free using data. I add Rick Steves tour guide’s phone number as a contact in case needed. Use Wi-Fi calling for my US phone number to receive any text messages for bank or others since text messages will stayed queued for 72 hours.

Posted by
33339 posts

Apple iPhones recent models no longer have SIM card slots.

my 13 has a slot

I bought it in England