Cheapest Way to Use Your Cell Phone (Internet) While Abroad

Traveling should allow you to disconnect from your day-to-day life and leave all those emails and phone calls waiting for you at home. Having access to the internet while traveling can still be pretty useful though!

The majority of our great flight deals are for destinations outside the country. Having access to the World Wide Web can be pretty useful while abroad, for many reasons. If you want to use any of the best free travel apps, stay connected but you don’t want to pay a ton of roaming charges and always be on the lookout for WiFi spots… you’ll definitely need an alternative.

Here are your options to stay connected while traveling.

 

Options to get online abroad

There are basically 2 options for you if you want to use your phone while in another country:

  1. Add an international bundle from your local provider
  2. Get a local SIM card

 

1. International Bundles

I’ve never used this option and I strongly recommend against it. It is almost always the most expensive choice, except maybe for very short trips to the US.

This option consists of adding, for a fee of usually $7 to $12 per day, the ability to use your phone the same way as if you were back home (for Rogers and Telus, Bell seems to limit your data). But as you’ll see in the next option, it adds up to way more.

It’s not the best choice, especially if you are traveling to a country where local telecommunications are cheaper than here, which would be almost every country… like with plane tickets, Canada has some of the highest telecom prices in the world.

Some providers available in some parts of Canada (Freedom Mobile is one of them) have great plans for North America, but are limited to those 2 countries. US providers do have good unlimited international plans that can be advantageous if you have a US mailing address, like T-Mobile which has a good plan that experienced travelers enjoy.

FreedomPop (in the US) also claims to have a “100% Free Basic Plan – 500 texts, 200 minutes, and 500 MB each month” it does work, we tested it, but make sure to cancel the bigger (not free) plan in which they will automatically enroll you for free, but for the first month only! It is easy to forget it and have to pay the $30 fees for this one at the end of the month! But if you do cancel it before, it is pretty useful and really free.

 

2. Local SIM Card

The best option, in my opinion, is the local prepaid SIM card. It is usually much cheaper than back home, here are some example from a few of my recent trips:

  • Thailand SIM card: Unlimited internet for 15 days for 600 bath ($22 CAD)
  • Turkey SIM card: 2 GB for 30 days for 70 TL ($23 CAD)
  • Colombia SIM card: 2 GB for 30 days for 45000 COP ($19 CAD)
  • Ecuador SIM card: 2 GB for 30 days for $10 USD ($13 CAD)
  • Peru SIM card: 2 GB for 30 days for 35 soles ($14 CAD)
  • Cambodia SIM card: 40 GB for 30 days for $15 USD ($20 CAD)
  • Sri Lanka SIM card: 24 GB* for 30 days for 7$ (*12 GB daytime)
  • France SIM card : 100 GB for 30 days for 19 EUR ($29 CAD)
    this one is my everyday card because it allows 25 GB / month when roaming in 71 countries, including Canada

As you can see, most of these data plans will cost the same price as 1 or 2 days of a Canadian travel bundle… but for an entire month and a lot more data!

Here is a great site to check the plans available at your destination and see which company is the cheapest in that country.

All of them are pretty far from the 2 GB for $45 plan I had back home in Canada, so it’s a very affordable option! You’ll have to make sure that your phone is unlocked to use the new SIM card’s network. You can usually unlock any phone by calling your carrier and it is free since December 2017 by law in Canada. You can also buy an unlocked phone. I bought this cheap Elephone P9000 and it worked really well in all countries listed above as well as in Canada. Amazon has many more options to choose from.

This option is great if you plan on visiting only one country or 2 countries during a same month, otherwise the fees can add up quickly. Some companies are starting to offer international SIM card that you can use in multiple countries. They tend to be more expensive than most single-country SIM cards obviously.

 

There is also a third option for longer trips or as a cheap phone alternative

There is also a third alternative if you want to keep your phone number and have it ring on any local number in the world. As I recently left for an undetermined-length trip around the globe, I studied this quite a bit and decided to go this way. I ported my phone number to an online company, voip.ms in my case, and now receive my text messages and voicemail in my email inbox.

I also have the option to forward it to any local number that I have at the moment without it costing any extra for anyone calling me from Canada. As far as the people calling me are concerned, it is still on my Canadian number and therefore a local call on their log. Since there are not many data only plan in Canada, you can always use a tablet plan, which is usually cheaper when you go back.

This option can be quite complicated to set up but was worth it in my case. Let me know in the comments if anyone is interested on a more complete blog post on the subject.

 

Bottom Line

It is possible to stay connected while traveling and not break the bank with international roaming fees. You can either add a travel bundle to your existing phone plan or get a local SIM card in the country you are traveling to.

Do you usually use your phone while traveling? How do you use it? Let us know in the comments!

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Kevin Gagnon

Kevin is the co-founder of Flytrippers. A former structural engineer, he is now following his true passion, traveling! With the website, he also wants to share this passion with you and allow you to travel more than you would have thought possible. His goal is to visit all the countries in the world. Current count: 42/193!

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Thank you for the suggestions and the links! My current carrier keeps charging me way to much when I go abroad – been looking for solutions that don’t require me to change companies.

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