11 Reasons To Get A Local SIM Card For Your Smartphone When You Travel

by Kerwin McKenzie on November 5, 2015

Vodafone Yes Optus Australia Local SimOne of the frequent questions I see being asked by Passriders is whether or not they should get a SIM card for their phone when they travel. As such, I had written this post with seven steps to follow when traveling so you can continue to communicate as if you are home.

It seems like its not enough, so I’ve now written the following 11 reasons why you should definitely get a local SIM card for your smartphone when you travel. Sure you can use local Wifi, but that’s not always available and it keeps you restricted to only one place at a time:

  1. You can text your friends and family using several free texting Apps
  2. International phone rates are really expensive, not to mention data rates
  3. You can call a local number to check flight loads and/or list for your flight
  4. You can use the mapping Apps to navigate your trip
  5. You can use the mapping Apps to get the schedule for local public transportation
  6. You can quickly re-list yourself if necessary when you get bumped
  7. You can research and book hotels when you arrive at your destination at the last minute
  8. You can check the standby list/loads while waiting to be cleared at the airport
  9. You can keep in touch with your friends and family from almost anywhere
  10. You can email or post on social media pictures of you enjoying your trip
  11. You can use mobile check-in for your flight


What would you like to add? Please leave a comment below. Plus share with your fellow Passriders.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Rave September 5, 2014 at 3:18 pm

You can call your newly made local conquests at local call rates (with a local caller ID) and, can give your new friends a local phone number to call you back on.  


avatar Kerwin McKenzie September 5, 2014 at 7:34 pm
avatar Charlotte September 5, 2014 at 6:44 pm

Can you buy sim cards for iPhone 4 or 5?


avatar Kerwin McKenzie September 5, 2014 at 7:25 pm

Hi Charlotte,

Thanks for your question. Yes. The iPhone 5 uses a nano-SIM and the iPhone 4 uses a micro-SIM card. You can see more details at http://support.apple.com/kb/HT5554. The agent selling you the card will typically take care of you here. Just ensure that your phone is unlocked first. If you call contact your phone provider before leaving home they will unlock it for you.



avatar Capt. Richard September 5, 2014 at 6:46 pm

Our phones are not Gsm phones which use SIM cards as only T-Mobile and some expensive smart phones in the USA have SIM cards and we are a CDMA country. However, we buy cheap GSM phones on the  internet that use SIM cards and are enabled to be used on any company’s system. Then we buy the cards when we get to our destination and buy more minutes as necessary. This way we have a phone even if it does not have the full functions of a smart phone. 


avatar Kerwin McKenzie September 5, 2014 at 7:27 pm

Capt. Richard,
The U.S. is not as advanced as it should be. But slowly the networks are being improved. Thanks for your tip; that is the alternate way to go if you are using an older phone indeed.
Thanks for piping in.



avatar Marjorie McClure September 13, 2014 at 3:08 pm

Wonderful information.  Thank you for the research and clear dissemination.  


avatar Kerwin McKenzie September 13, 2014 at 5:22 pm

Thank you for the compliment. I’m so glad you found the information useful.



avatar Tommy September 19, 2014 at 4:22 pm

perhaps 2 years ago this would have been accurate. T-Mobile offers free data worldwide, and calls are cheap. I use my phone worldwide as an airline pilot, and can finally stop worrying about sim cards. The data is slow, and I have not paid to upgrade to faster international service. Id say it is comparable to dial up speeds. so no network streaming of anything. That is where wifi comes in. The data is fast enough for emails, texts, and most importantly (to me), Maps!


avatar Kerwin McKenzie September 19, 2014 at 5:43 pm

Hi Tommy,
Thank you for your note and thanks for flying those long trips while I kickback usually in Economy class :-).

Points well taken about the T-Mobile plan, but here’s why I don’t use the T-Mobile plan (I’m a current T-Mobile customer BTW).
1). the calls are 20c/minute; I don’t want to pay that as people call me all the time, especially my mom :-).
2). My local friends have to call/text a U.S. number to reach me. They mostly text; I’m not sure of the international text rate with the t-Mobile International Plan.
3). I’m a creature of habits :-).
4). I can tether/Wifi hotspot my phone when I’m international, T-Mobile won’t let me do it unless I change my plan; although I need to check if the International plan allows it.

I’ve had mostly good experiences with data speeds internationally. Yes, some countries are terrible, but I’ve had great service in Norway, Jamaica, the U.K., Germany, Ireland to name a few. Note that T-Mobile will contract with these same local providers to provide you the international service. So sometimes you are as good as the provider they choose.

I’ll agree that it is uber convenient to not have to change SIM cards on arrival, but I’m so accustomed to it by now.

Yes, Maps are a biggie for me too, but having a local number is perhaps the biggest reason as its more convenient for my local friends and I have a Skype number so my U.S. number gets forwarded to that number and I’m good to go.

It’s really a matter of what works best for the individual and remember not everyone is on T-Mobile :-). Tommy, I truly appreciate the fact that you took the time to drop a note here and thanks for keeping me aloft and supporting the site.



avatar Sheri September 29, 2014 at 12:01 am

Hello, can you please tell me more about the free texting apps?


avatar Kerwin McKenzie October 1, 2014 at 10:23 pm

Hi Sheri,

Thanks for your note.
If you are referring to WhatsApp, download it your phone when in your country. Then once you initiated it, you can text everyone else who has it on their phone. I hope that helps.



avatar Kevin Hill December 2, 2015 at 8:39 pm

I would also add that phones that support the LTE connection can’t be locked by the carrier, so people with phones that are under contract should still be able to by a SIM internationally to use in their phone.


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