SIM cards are a royal pain in the butt when travelling. Every time you land somewhere new, you have to do the same song and dance.
First, you land in the airport and then you either get ripped off buying a SIM card there or navigate to town without any connectivity. Once you’re in town, you have to navigate a foreign city sifting through local SIM providers, various plans, and also probably getting lost along the way.
After all that, you may end just up getting scammed anyway. Just ask India or Israel.
That’s where buying an international SIM card comes in! With a SIM card equipped for overseas travel, there’s no fuss. You’re always setup.
Now, to set the record straight, while there are cheaper travel SIM cards, they still aren’t exactly cheap. Nine times out of ten, a local SIM card is always going to be the cheaper option for budget backpackers.
But maybe that’s not you. Maybe you’re a digital nomad who always needs to be connected. Or maybe you’re a high-flying businessperson with fancy business attire who makes busy business calls while on holiday.
Either way, this is the list of the best international SIM cards on the market! I’ve done the leg-work and the research to deliver an international SIM cards review in full. That way, you can get back to business.
The Best International SIM Cards – Quick Jump
- The Overall Best International SIM Card – OneSim
- A Cheaper International SIM Card – TravelSim
- Best SIM Card for Travelling Specific Regions – GoSim
- A Worldwide SIM Card – WorldSIM
- Best Data SIM Card for International Travel – KeepGo
- A Simple Data SIM Card for Worldwide Travel – Surfroam
- The Cheap but Restrictive International SIM Card – GigSky
- Unlimited Data International SIM Card – KnowRoaming
- The Best International SIM Card for Europe – Orange Holiday Europe
What is an International SIM Card?
International SIMs, roaming SIMs, travel SIM Cards: a rose by any name can still order you a pizza when you don’t want to leave the guesthouse. That’s what an international SIM card is. A SIM card that will have you hooked up from “anywhere”.
Why did you put ‘anywhere’ in quotes?
Because it’s a highly variable anywhere. “Anywhere” really means from the countries that the international SIM covers. That said, some of these travel SIM providers cover over 200 countries.
That also said, there are only 195 countries in the world so I’m not sure how they mathed those numbers out.
So, how does an international SIM card work?
Without getting too technical, an international SIM card isn’t programmed to one specific network. It’s programmed to operate on a number of networks in a number of different geographical locations – specifically, networks using the GSM (Global Systems of Management Communications) framework.
That’s why to use your cell phone internationally with a travel SIM card it needs to be:
- GSM-compatible (many phones are).
- Unlocked, i.e. not tied to a provider.
Basically, your international SIM will plug into a local network from the country you’re travelling to… Consensually, of course.
That’s why coverage so strongly varies among the many international SIMs. Some SIM cards are for worldwide use and programmed accordingly. Some SIM cards are for roaming in certain regions like Asia, the USA, or Europe (usually, omitting a third of Europe in their coverage).
Who benefits from buying an international SIM card?
Well, like I said, not so much the longterm backpacker types. A local SIM card is pretty much always cheaper and much more practical (and reliable) for long stays in any country.
Country-hoppers, on the other hand, may want to consider buying some sort of prepaid international SIM card. Buying a local SIM for only 1-2 weeks of use eight times in a trip is nobody’s idea of fun.
People living the digital nomad lifestyle may also benefit from a travel SIM. Though a local SIM is much more equipped for longterm stays in a country, sometimes the options or service is crap and sometimes you’ll spend long stretches in transit which is a perfect time to crunch out a few hours. Besides, there is no rule that says you can’t have two SIMs.
Lastly, business people or people that take frequent short trips will benefit from a SIM card built for travelling. I might be stereotyping here but I kinda feel that these folk are less concerned with the costs associated. Plus, most SIM cards for overseas use tend to have 1-year validity for purchased credit, so it’s totally viable to park your SIM after a trip and then pop it back in for the next one.
The Best International SIM Cards Quick Look
This isn’t the whole roundup but it is my personal pick of the international SIM cards worth looking into, each serving a different niche.
|OneSimCard Universal/Expedition||VIEW ON ONESIM|
|TravelSim Worldwide Card||VIEW ON TRAVELSIM|
|KeepGo Lifetime World SIM Card||VIEW ON AMAZON|
|Surfroam SIM Card||VIEW ON SURFROAM|
|KnowRoaming Global SIM Card||VIEW ON AMAZON|
|Orange Holiday Europe Prepaid SIM Card||VIEW ON AMAZON|
The Best SIM Cards for International Travellers
Beginning the list are the top international SIM cards that do everything a SIM card should do: call, texts, and data. These SIMs have some pretty major coverage globally and for most travellers in the world, are more than sufficient.
Of course, there always needs to be a best-of-the-best. First up, the best travel SIM card!
The Overall Best International SIM Card – OneSim
Ok, so what makes OneSim the best travel SIM card? It’s a fine difference between the first few candidates but OneSim edges out on top for a combination of versatility, pricing, and reliability.
First up, they offer three different SIM cards each catering to different travelling needs:
- OneSimCard Universal ($29.95) – Coverage of over 200 countries but with a more limited data service (50+) countries.
- OneSimCard Europe & More ($19.95) – Offers a cheaper option for those travelling primarily to Europe.
- OneSimCard Expedition ($34.95) – Offers much the same coverage as the OneSim Universal travel SIM but with way more data coverage. It’s the choice for the explorers.
So, given that…
How it Works: You’ll get $10 bonus credit with any OneSIM roaming SIM card purchase but once that’s gone, you’ll have to buy credit. Rates vary wildly by both the choice of SIM you are using and the country you’re in so you’ll need to check these rates to see if they suit you.
You’ll receive two numbers: a European (Estonian) number and a choice of one from the USA, UK, Australia, or Canada. Incoming calls on the primary European number is free in a large coverage of countries or starting from $0.25/min otherwise. Outgoing calls also start from $0.25/min (dependent on locations) and receiving texts are free.
Casual data rates start at rather hefty $0.20/MB. However, what makes this such a good prepaid international SIM card is that there is a lot of choices to lower your costs. You can buy data bundles ranging from one/two weeks to a month divided by zone or region. There are also discount plans and bundles available for call rates.
Summary: Although not strictly the cheapest international SIM card on the market, the wealth of choices available means that with some planning, you can tailor your SIM card to your world travel needs and minimise costs. The added bonus is that OneSim has been kicking around for a while so they know the market well.
They provide a reliable service, as well as a bunch of neat extras, to keep their clients happy chappies!
A Cheaper International SIM Card – TravelSim
TravelSim gets a tentative recommendation. It doesn’t quite have the lofty reputation of OneSim, but it does work out as a cheaper travel SIM. Also, I like that there isn’t a whole range of SIMs to slog through; one choice, plain and simple.
How it Works: The initial fee for TravelSim’s universal SIM card is $10; already cheaper. You get coverage in 170+ countries with free incoming calls to more than 135 of them.
Much like OneSim, you can buy credit for a pay-as-you-go international SIM card setup, but the rates will be worse. For better rates, you’re better off purchasing one of their zonal/regional bundles.
TravelSim edges out the competition in this regard. A number of their bundles for Zone B countries (off-beat travel destinations) are cheaper than the competition. Not massively so, but enough to make some solid savings in the long run.
Outside of that, their rates tend to stand pretty toe-to-toe with OneSim.
Summary: It’s a cheaper travel SIM card overall given the lower purchase price. Furthermore, for those that enjoy the adventures in lesser-explored places in the world but still need to stay connected, TravelSim may be the better choice of SIM card for overseas use. The coverage isn’t quite as wide as some other competitors, but the extra savings are nice.
Oh, and as an added bonus, they have a Vietnam-specific bundle that’s really good! I don’t know why – it’s a bit weird – but I suppose that also makes this the best international SIM card for Vietnam!
Best SIM Card for Travelling Specific Regions – GoSim
GoSim, much like OneSim, provides a selection of different international SIM cards to allow you to be a bit more selective with your rates. The difference is GoSim divides this up more zonally and they all cost the same – $17.
GoSims travel SIM cards include:
- International SIM Card
- Europe SIM Card
- USA SIM Card
- Asia SIM Card
You can expect some added bonuses and cheaper rates on their region-specific SIMs, but let’s break down their international SIM card… because this is a ‘best international SIM cards’ guide.
How it Works: With the GoSim International SIM card, you get coverage in over 210 countries with free incoming calls in more than 135. The casual rates, again, don’t differ much from OneSim and the coverage for data services is comparable to OneSim’s Expedition card.
So how do the data bundles stack up? Well, they’re more expensive across the board… damn.
Summary: GoSim doesn’t excel past the other options of sim cards on this list. In fact, insofar, it is the most expensive entry on this list, at least in regards to data bundles.
However, while their international card doesn’t really stand out as the best travel SIM card on the market, it is worth taking a look at their region-specific roaming SIMs. If you’re travelling to a specific country or area, these SIMs come with some nice extra perks.
I mean, hell, the Asia Travel SIM Card even advertises being able to bypass the Great Firewall of China. If that’s true, then this it’s definitely the best SIM card for travelling to China. Probably for citizens of China too…
A Worldwide SIM Card – WorldSIM
WorldSIM gets a mention on this list because it’s another puller in the market with some comparatively awesome rates. It’s also got some really weirdly expensive outlying rates. As such, I certainly don’t feel like it’s a fit for the best roaming SIM card.
How it Works: The WorldSIM international SIM card has no purchasing fee- woo! Now, before you get too excited, it does require a top-up of credit at purchase.
That means that you’re paying a minimum of $27 plus shipping. For $68 of credit, shipping is free.
The casual rates for outgoing calls, texts, and data usage are the cheapest I’ve found so far with data coverage extending to countries missed out on by OneSim. Except, a lot of the rates in various countries for incoming calls are shockingly high.
As for the data bundles? I have no idea. Their website isn’t working for that page and is just stuck in an infinitely loading loop.
Summary: My gut says no. I mean, you do you. You shouldn’t base your decisions on buying an international SIM card off of the gut instincts of a stranger online. All the same though, my gut says no.
Between the mildly bait-and-switch-y “$0” SIM purchasing fee, the janky and unwieldy website, and the weird incoming call rates that could potentially trap an unwitting consumer, WorldSIM in review doesn’t feel like an international SIM card worth purchasing, especially in comparison to other choices on the market.
International Data SIM Cards for Digital Nomads, Social Media Addicts, and Tinder Aficionados
Are you turn-of-the-century generational that eschews actually phoning people online for commenting how much you miss them on their latest Insta post? What a coincidence – me too!
These are the best international data SIM cards for those of us that scoot by without the extras.
Best Data SIM Card for International Travel – KeepGo
KeepGo offers a prepaid international data SIM card that while not the cheapest, comes out on top in terms of reliability. To reiterate, this is a data-only travel SIM card but in the world of WhatsApp, Messenger, and a million-billion other services, an international data plan is more than sufficient to keep you covered in your travels.
Coverage is decent for the KeepGo World SIM. More than a hundred countries (here’s the list of coverage) with locations throughout Asia, the Americas, the Middle East, Europe, and others. However, coverage for less-frequented locations (Africa is largely absent) is weak so this may not be the best SIM for international travel for those who prefer their destinations rugged and untamed.
KeepGo advertises unthrottled 4G connections but this is only applicable in countries where 4G is available.
How it Works: The KeepGo worldwide SIM card costs $49 to purchase and comes with 1 GB of data loaded. The data has a “lifetime validity” provided that you top up at least once a year. That’s still pretty good all things considered.
Data can be topped up with a number of plans ranging from 500 MB up to a slammin’ 10 GB!
The prices of data top-ups are:
- 500 MB – $19
- 1 GB – $35
- 3 GB – $85
- 5 GB – $119
- 10 GB – $219
Summary: While this isn’t the cheapest international data SIM card, it is the best for the purpose of getting connected on the road. Reliability and the speed is strong in a large array of destinations and, depending on your usage, that 10 GB data pack could keep you set for 6 months to a year of travel.
A Simple Data SIM Card for Worldwide Travel – Surfroam
Yay! No prepaid data packages, no contractual mumbo-jumbo, no running out of data right when you settle in for a long Netflix and poop session: Surfroam keeps it Pura Vida!
It’s data-only with coverage of 200+ countries – even Afghanistan and Yemen are covered! So, what’s the go?
How it Works: Essentially, you top-up the credit (packs include €15, €25, €50, and €100) and you’re charged a pay-as-you-go rate per megabyte starting as low as €0.01/MB. So that’s way cheaper than the KeepGo data roaming sim card, right? Not quite…
Rates vary substantially by country so while this going to be a cheaper option across, say, Europe, it may not necessarily pan out that way in other places. That said, prices are still pretty cheap for most places and tend to beat out KeepGo.
Furthermore, for maximum coverage of location profiles (and thus, stability and speed), you will need to purchase a Surfroam PRO account for €100, HOWEVER, that also includes €100 credit.
As a final note, there is an eSIM (€20) and a physical travel SIM card (€15) available with both having the same data rates.
Summary: Ok, so ‘simple’ might be stretching it upon reflection, however, once you’re away, its streams ablaze! If you’re jet setting and changing countries a lot, you will need to stay keyed in as to the rates.
Otherwise, the coverage significantly beats out KeepGo, and in many cases, Surfroam will end up being the cheapest international data SIM card you can purchase. It’s the simplest choice for staying connected pretty much anywhere in the world.
The Cheap but Restrictive International Data SIM Card – GigSky
To be perfectly honest, trying to decode the GigSky international SIM card data plans does my head in which doesn’t bode well for its recommendation. It does, however, seemingly come out cheaper than KeepGo in a number of circumstances.
How it Works: Based on their site, the GigSky SIM card for world travel works for unlocked phones and devices that have eSIM support. This includes:
- The iPhone 11, XS, and XR
- Apple iPad Cellular
- Supporting Windows 10 devices
- Google Pixel 4, 3a, and 3
There is also support for a number of further devices including those running Android 10.
To utilise GigSky’s service, you’ll need to buy the international SIM card for $9.99. After the SIM is installed in your phone, you’ll need to download the GigSky app to set the SIM up for use.
Plans are purchased separately and divided amongst country-specific, region-specific (eg. North America, Europe, Asia Pacific), and global plans allowing you to tailor your international SIM card plan to your travels.
Prices vary by locale but noticeably come out cheaper than KeepGo throughout most scenarios.
Notably, a lot of regional data plans can net you 5 GB for 30 days for just $50 while global plans will give you 3 GB of data for 30 days for $60.
Summary: If you meet the device requirements, this a comparatively cheap SIM card for data. However, coverage of countries is nowhere near that of Surfroam while the restrictions may not work for everyone and all device types.
Overall, it doesn’t get a strong recommendation considering the difficulty I had deciphering their site and exact terms, but it is worth scoping out for anyone looking for a cheaper option for an international data roaming SIM.
Unlimited Data International SIM Card – KnowRoaming
The KnowRoaming Travel SIM Card does cover calls and texts but that isn’t the main selling point. The real draw of the KnowRoaming international SIM card is that it’s one of the few on the market that offers unlimited data (actually, it’s the only reputable choice I could find).
Coverage for unlimited data with KnowRoaming is available in more than 125 countries while the roaming SIM card itself extends to 200+ countries for voice, texts, and pay-as-you-go data.
How it Works: You’ve actually got three options for buying a KnowRoaming international SIM card:
- An eSIM which is the most limited option for plans.
- A physical travel SIM card for $10.
- A SIM sticker for $29.99 which actually sticks on your home SIM card thus removing the need for SIM swapping. (I don’t get it either; that’s some serious science.)
Rates for calls, texts, and data are on a pay-as-you-go system with said rates varying for each country. Rates vary pretty wildly – Australia vs. Jordan, for example, have starkly different prices – so it’s best to check these things.
How ‘bout that aforementioned unlimited international data plan? It’s $3.99 for one day or $9.99 for packs of three days.
Summary: So, while this may not strictly be the best international SIM card outright, it is the choice for unlimited data for those that need that service on the road. Furthermore, while the pricing for unlimited data is expensive (though, what else could you expect), I am a fan of the business model.
Buy a 1 or 3-day pack for your workdays, and skip the unlimited data costs on your days off! Not offering a cheaper 1-month pack is kinda wack though.
The Best International SIM Card for Europe – Orange Holiday Zen/Europe
Are you just doing a little banger holiday in Europe and need a SIM card for your travels? Orange has got you covered. Specifically:
- Orange Holiday Zen SIM Card
- Orange Holiday Europe SIM Card
How it Works: The Orange Holiday Zen is for light usage or a short trip. It’s a straight prepaid SIM card for travellers in Europe and it couldn’t be simpler.
For $28.90, you get 8 GB of data, 30 minutes of calls worldwide, 200 texts, all lasting for 14 days before it expires. The Holiday Zen covers 30 countries in Europe including all the heavy-hitters, but it certainly doesn’t cover all of Europe (my boy Serbia – forever underrepresented).
The Orange Holiday Europe takes all of that and just upgrades it: 20 GB in data, 120 minutes, and 1000 texts for $47.50. The same coverage of countries applies and it’s a 14-day expiry again.
Both cards are able to be topped up online for more credit.
Summary: Yeah, so I wouldn’t call ‘30 countries in Europe’ an internationally roaming SIM card, but it is a super simple choice for anyone just travelling to Europe for a holiday. It’ll keep you safe in an emergency and you can have a SIM ready from the moment you land.
Orange is a pretty major provider in France so you’ll have a consistent connection. There’s no constant checking of rates calculators either. It’s just a perfectly simple prepaid SIM card for any travellers heading to Europe.
A Review of the International SIM Cards
Woo – a table for a final sexy summary!
|SIM Card||Purchasing Fee||Rates||Calls and texts?||Coverage|
|OneSim||$20/$30/$35||Standard||Yay||200+ countries - fewer for data|
|TravelSim||$10||Slightly cheaper for Zone B destinations||Yay||170+ countries|
|GoSim||$17||More expensive||Yay||210+ countries - presumably fewer for data|
|WorldSIM||$27 minimum||Weird||Yay||190+ countries|
|KeepGo||$49||Not the cheapest but fair||Nay, data only||100+ countries|
|Surfroam||$15/$20||Mostly cheap but requires regular checking||Nay, data only||200+ countries|
|GigSky||$10||Cheaper||Nay, data only||190+ countries|
|KnowRoaming||$10/$30||Expensive||Yay with unlimited data||200+ countries - text and calls|
125+ unlimited data
|Orange Holiday Europe||$28/$47.50||Good||Yay||30 European countries|
Should You Buy an International SIM Card?
That depends on how you travel. If you’re adept at buying SIM cards locally when you hit the ground, then I wouldn’t worry.
However, for the people that an international SIM card suits the travelling style and needs of, then yes, definitely. I think if you’re that person, then you probably already know that you’re that person.
BUT, if you do so love to binge the streams, or your job simply requires it, KnowRoaming has the international SIM card with unlimited data AND texts and calls to boot!
Skip the lines and skip the painful errand days in a foreign city. Buy one of the best international SIM cards you can and have yourself connected before you even touchdown on the landing.
Support the site and learn how to travel the world on $10 a day – check out The Broke Backpacker’s bible!
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