Travel SIM cardsWhen travelling internationally using your cell phone is usually quite expensive because of international roaming charges your provider adds on to your bill. In some cases carriers could charge $4.99/minute depending on the country you are visiting (yes $4.99 for a regular cell phone connection and not a satellite call). You might have seen so called "International", "Global" or "Travel SIM cards" and are wondering if they are worthwhile.

Should I get one of these Travel SIM cards?

My short answer would be NO. The long answer is it depends on your needs and there might be some situations where Travel SIM cards do make sense though the next best option is to just get a local SIM card in the country you are visiting.

Even though these SIM cards generally offer better rates compared to your cell phone carrier there are some head-aches that make me avoid these cards. I actually used them a few years ago or better I tried to use them but at some point was just too frustrated and stopped using them. This experience actually made me look into the fine print for these cards and realized their limitations. One scenario where I'd maybe consider an international SIM is if you are travelling to multiple countries and don't want to deal with the hassle of getting multiple local SIM cards in every country. Nevertheless when adding data roaming into the mix the International SIM card offers are usually not very attractive.

High level pros and cons:

Can be purchased prior to leaving for your trip
Most likely still cheaper then your current cell phone carrier
If you are visiting multiple countries you might be able to use the same card
Some cards offer free incoming calls and text messages in up to 75 countries
Rates for phone, data and text messages are usually more expensive then local SIM cards
Some cards are deactivated within 90 days if not used
You might get a phone number in a country that's expensive for your friends back home to call (e. g. UK or Estonian phone number)
Additional local numbers usually cost extra
Even if a card allows free incoming calls it might not work if your card balance is $0
Data speeds are often limited to GRPS or 2G
Data rates usually still quite high making it less attractive to even go on Facebook

If you are still considering to get an International SIM card I'd caution you to make sure you are familiar with their limitations to avoid you any frustration. Below a list of the most common international SIM cards available right now.

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