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Cheapest Way to Use Your Phone Overseas

Updated: Apr 25

First time traveling overseas? Traveling abroad is an exciting adventure, but maintaining connectivity can be daunting, especially for American travelers. One of the best advancements in technology for this traveling female has been the smart phone. Gone are the days of studying in London when I had to dial-up Skype with shotty Wifi to call my parents. Gone are the days when I used Rebtel (does anyone know what that is??) to generate a local number and call across the pond. While Google Voice still offers local numbers, it’s much easier today to stay connected on your own phone. The rise of e-Sim technology has made staying connected globally even easier. So, let’s explore the top e-Sim options for American travelers, as well as compare them to conventional American phone carriers.

 

man holding his phone up for connectivity while traveling abroad

Best International Cell Phone Plans

 

If you are traveling for a few days or weeks, American phone plans now make it easy for international travel – Verizon and AT&T charge $10/day (usually up to $100/month) for free international use. It’s as simple as that. Keep using your phone as normal. Depending on your plan, you may even earn a free international day per month!  

 

When I decided to take my #adultgapyear I knew I wanted to keep my American phone number, but I didn’t want to be hit with a $200/month phone bill to do so. I started asking around and learned that T-Mobile offered the best option (compared to AT&T and Verizon). With them, I could drop to a lower plan and get 5 GB monthly for any use – including international travel. I sat with a patient sales agent for almost an hour double checking that all the countries I planned to visit were included. They were! So, for $60/month I was able to keep my U.S. phone number, making me accessible for various business back home, AND travel the world. For me, long-term, it was the best international cell phone plan for major carriers in the U.S.

 

BUT, while 5 GB may be enough in the States with endless Wi-Fi around, when traveling through the small villages of Vietnam or Brazil, it ran out quickly. T-Mobile will drop you down to slower speeds (300 MB) after you use your allotted data, which means your phone will continue to work, but as a #solofemaletraveler I never wanted to be in a back alley at night waiting for my phone to load the Google map route home. To travel solo safely (and alleviate my parent’s worries), I add an e-Sim!



What’s an E-Sim?

 

An e-Sim is a digital sim card that can be loaded to your phone remotely. It is not a physical chip, but rather an “embedded” card that can be added for various telecom carriers around the world. E-sims enable users to switch between mobile carriers seamlessly, eliminating the need for physical SIM car swaps. Travelers can now connect on the go hassle-free.  

 

If you have an iPhone 13 or newer, Google Pixel or Samsung Galaxy, your phone is already built with e-Sim technology. However, if you have a phone plan in the States with a major carrier, you need to make sure you have an unlocked phone in order to activate other carriers.

 

My Favorite E-Sims for International Travel

 

When I started planning my international travel, I was inundated with options. To save you time and energy, I have narrowed it down to my top 3 e-Sim picks for American travelers:

 

Flexiroam

Flexiroam provides coverage in over 150 countries, with different data packages for frequent travelers. When I first started traveling, Flexiroam offered an amazing e-Sim package that included phone calls on the data plan! It was wonderful, allowing me to connect with my U.S. insurance provider, call friends without What’s App and schedule international appointments via phone. However, they quickly realized the phone calls are the major expense and in March 2023 they cut the phone calls from the regular data plan. However, Flexiroam regularly offers up to 80% plans, so I continue to monitor the site for cheap deals for the countries I’ll be visiting. Adding their e-Sim via the app is straight forward and easy to activate.



Google Fi

Google Fi offers high-speed date in over 200 countries and territories, with no additional fees for roaming. They usually have competitive pricing and the ability to pause a plan when not in use, making it an ideal option for intermittent travelers.

 

Airalo

My favorite e-Sim currently is Airalo. They offer country, region or global plans for a week to a year. You can buy a plan on sale, saving it for future use; just be sure you don’t activate it until you’re ready for the clock to start. They offer great regional plans for larger data and more days at a cheap price. I was able to get 20 GB to use throughout South America for 180 days for just $50.

 

These e-Sims help supplement my regular U.S. data plan. You can set up your phone to turn both your e-Sim AND your traditional phone line on at the same time. You can even toggle back and forth depending on which signal is stronger. Simply create an account with Airalo and follow their easy guide for downloading the e-Sim and activating your phone.

 

Final Summary on Best Methods to Stay Connected When Traveling Abroad

 

While American phone carriers typically require an unlocked device and activation procedures for international roaming, an e-Sim can be directly downloaded via an app, purchasing data packages as needed and eliminating roaming charges. If you are traveling for a short timeframe, it may be easier to activate your phone carrier’s international plan. However, if you want to reduce costs over the long term, e-Sim technology provides unparalleled flexibility and coverage.  Hope these ideas help you understand the cheapest ways to use your phone overseas, as well as the best international phone plans.


 

Some content may contain affiliate or referral links. When you click on and/or make a purchase through an affiliate link placed on Lifetime Tidbits, I may receive a small commission or other form of compensation at no additional cost to you. Please see my Disclaimers Page for more information. Thank you for reading!

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Guest
Mar 27
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

So much GREAT information!! Thank you!

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Mar 26
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.
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