Author Topic: SIM card for travel  (Read 992 times)

FiguringItOut

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SIM card for travel
« on: November 20, 2019, 08:24:48 AM »
What do you use for data service while abroad?

I am traveling to Rome, Italy in December for 8 days.  I need to be able to use my apps like maps and bus/metro and to be able to send/receive message via Facebook to communicate and coordinate with friends while there.  I do not need talk minutes or SMS message or a phone number for that matter.
However, I cannot rely only on WiFi and I need to get some data to use these apps.  I don't think I would need more than 1GB, possible less.

Currently, my phone plan is through MyFamilyMobile which is through Walmart and uses Tmobile network.  MyFamilyMobile however does not provide international data at all.  So I need to find some other solution for this.  I have Samsung S9 unlocked phone and it does not have dual SIM slots, so I'd need remove my current card to use a second card.  Ideally, I would want to get a SIM card or something that would have international data on prepaid basis and work in Europe and South America that I can keep for future travels as well.   

Is this even possible? Any suggestions on how to accomplish this for not a lot of money?





neo von retorch

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Re: SIM card for travel
« Reply #1 on: November 20, 2019, 08:33:59 AM »
https://fi.google.com/compatibility
It looks like an Unlocked Samsung S9 is compatible with Google Fi.

For two phones used for ~8 days of international travel and just under 2GB of data, it cost us about $40. I imagine for 1 phone you could keep it around $25. It worked everywhere we went in Singapore, and worked while we were in the Hamad airport in Qatar.
More details:
https://fi.google.com/about/international-rates/

We were lucky - we already have Pixels with eSIMs so we didn't have to remove our physical Consumer Cellular SIM cards. We got new numbers since the main thing we were going for was the data plan.

FiguringItOut

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Re: SIM card for travel
« Reply #2 on: November 20, 2019, 08:44:35 AM »
https://fi.google.com/compatibility
It looks like an Unlocked Samsung S9 is compatible with Google Fi.

For two phones used for ~8 days of international travel and just under 2GB of data, it cost us about $40. I imagine for 1 phone you could keep it around $25. It worked everywhere we went in Singapore, and worked while we were in the Hamad airport in Qatar.
More details:
https://fi.google.com/about/international-rates/

We were lucky - we already have Pixels with eSIMs so we didn't have to remove our physical Consumer Cellular SIM cards. We got new numbers since the main thing we were going for was the data plan.

Did you have to switch you regular number to their SIM?  Did you switch it back afterwards?  I don't want to lose my number, but I also don't want to interrupt my current service as I have two other lines on it and I am the main account holder.
Thanks

FiguringItOut

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Re: SIM card for travel
« Reply #3 on: November 20, 2019, 08:49:11 AM »
I've been looking more at their service and they seem like it may work for me.  Thank you for the suggestion.

neo von retorch

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Re: SIM card for travel
« Reply #4 on: November 20, 2019, 08:53:10 AM »
We left our regular plan and our numbers untouched. We gave out our temporary Google Fi numbers to a handful of relevant parties. (No one bothered us on vacation without our express consent 😉). When we landed back in the U.S. we switched our phones back to the regular plan / numbers.

reeshau

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Re: SIM card for travel
« Reply #5 on: November 20, 2019, 08:57:45 AM »
Your other option is to get a prepaid plan when you're there.  They should be available relatively cheaply.  And you can generally roam in the EU.

Example:  we have Tesco Mobile, unlimited access in Ireland, with 9 GB free monthly roaming across the EU for $20 / mo.  It's on a low-end phone that we give out to visitors.  I just reactivated the account after being dormant for a year, with no issues--same number, same cost.

We are getting Pixel 3a's with eSIM, in preparation for returning the the US, but with a need for EU access / visiting for another 2 years or so.  They are $100 off for Black Friday.

PoutineLover

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Re: SIM card for travel
« Reply #6 on: November 20, 2019, 08:59:15 AM »
When I went to Italy last year I bought a cheap SIM card from a local provider and put it in my unlocked Samsung phone. I needed it for three weeks and another country, and the deal gave us something like 10 gigs and threw in another card for free. Text and calls were included, but we barely used them. You can probably get cheaper if you get a smaller plan, I think we paid about $30 and it could be reloaded, but I think only used in Europe.

Daley

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Re: SIM card for travel
« Reply #7 on: November 20, 2019, 09:08:19 AM »
First, make sure your phone is carrier unlocked first, or else nothing will work.

Second, look into KnowRoaming, which will save you the hassle of switching carriers.

https://www.knowroaming.co/

A 30 day/1GB Europe data plan is $10 on it's own, however the SIM cards and stickers cost money. This said, the SIM card with a seven day "unlimited" data credit can be had for $23, and the SIM sticker (overlays your existing SIM so you can just toggle between local and international roaming without a SIM juggle) is $35 with the same deal. Once you have it though (excuse the sticker if you ever change domestic providers), you always have the service available for trips.

This said, your cheapest option is just to pick up a local prepaid SIM with data kit on the ground in Italy. TIM seems to be the easiest solution for the money, and far less out of pocket than KnowRoaming as it'd be a one-off deal. The pricing hasn't been updated in two years, but this link will show you some options.

https://www.finder.com/best-prepaid-sim-card-italy

Remember, SIM cards are going to cost money, so always factor those in the total cost. Safe travels.

aloevera

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Re: SIM card for travel
« Reply #8 on: November 20, 2019, 10:42:11 AM »
I've used Fi and that's a decent option if your phone supports it, but it's usually cheaper to buy a lcoal SIM, in my experience (Jamaica, various countries in SE Asia). Get it  when you arrive at the airport (tho generally cheaper away from there if you can wait). Tuck your SIM away somewhere safe, use the local prepaid, swap when you get home. (I have a dual SIM phone which is nice, my main one stays in).

I also use a Google Voice number when I travel since my cell provider (prepaid) doesn't work abroad.  With that I can call and text US #s on wifi or local data connection. I give that # to friends and family, clients, whoever may need to reach me.

MaaS

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Re: SIM card for travel
« Reply #9 on: November 20, 2019, 11:20:38 AM »
I just buy the SIM card when I get there. They are generally very accessible and inexpensive.

neo von retorch

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Re: SIM card for travel
« Reply #10 on: November 20, 2019, 11:46:14 AM »
I just buy the SIM card when I get there. They are generally very accessible and inexpensive.

Is there a good way to determine what will be a good deal on the ground? A cursory internet search for Italy comes up with these options, which give you "lots" of data but at a higher price than what you'd probably end up paying total for having Google Fi for 8 days.

https://www.simoptions.com/best-prepaid-sim-card-italy/

Arian

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Re: SIM card for travel
« Reply #11 on: November 20, 2019, 03:30:38 PM »
I'm from the UK and have recently returned from a one-week trip to Italy (Naples). I bought a 2 GB data SIM card from EE for £8 (just giving this info as an example of price because I don't think EE is a big brand in Italy) which was suitable for use in the EU for a period of one month (from first use). I simply removed my normal SIM card and put the data card in my phone and used that. When I arrived home, I put my normal SIM back in my phone.

I was quite careful with the data and I only used about a quarter of the data on the card. I switched off mobile data when I wasn't actively searching for anything to prevent the data from being used for updates and stuff. I used Whatsapp to message family at home and generally used the data to plan my days and read Tripadvisor reviews.

I'm guessing you could probably buy something similar when you get to Italy. There seemed to be plenty of mobile phone shops around; maybe you could research what you need, write down the name of the data SIM card that you want, and buy one when you arrive.

Alternatively, if you are meeting friends who live in Italy or are coming from anywhere in the EU/UK, perhaps they could buy one for you.

FiguringItOut

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Re: SIM card for travel
« Reply #12 on: November 22, 2019, 08:25:34 AM »
I'm from the UK and have recently returned from a one-week trip to Italy (Naples). I bought a 2 GB data SIM card from EE for £8 (just giving this info as an example of price because I don't think EE is a big brand in Italy) which was suitable for use in the EU for a period of one month (from first use). I simply removed my normal SIM card and put the data card in my phone and used that. When I arrived home, I put my normal SIM back in my phone.

I was quite careful with the data and I only used about a quarter of the data on the card. I switched off mobile data when I wasn't actively searching for anything to prevent the data from being used for updates and stuff. I used Whatsapp to message family at home and generally used the data to plan my days and read Tripadvisor reviews.

I'm guessing you could probably buy something similar when you get to Italy. There seemed to be plenty of mobile phone shops around; maybe you could research what you need, write down the name of the data SIM card that you want, and buy one when you arrive.

Alternatively, if you are meeting friends who live in Italy or are coming from anywhere in the EU/UK, perhaps they could buy one for you.

Thank you @Arian for letting me know about EE.  I'll see what I can find out about it and where to look for it in Rome.  2GB of data would be plenty for me, I currently have 4GB per month on my regular phone plan and never run out.
Unfortunately, my friends can't help me.  They are coming over from Ukraine just to meet up with me, we haven't see each other in decades and this is very exciting.  And none of us speak any Italian, so I am hoping we will be able to get by with English alone.

On a separate note, how did you like Naples?  I keep hearing conflicting reviews, but mostly I hear negative things in terms of crime, dirty city, etc. 

Arian

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Re: SIM card for travel
« Reply #13 on: November 22, 2019, 04:23:36 PM »
Hi FiguringItOut, unfortunately I bought that SIM in the UK before my trip. Here it is: https://www.argos.co.uk/product/2994695. I was just giving an example of the sort of prices you may expect to pay in the EU for a similar card and how they work. I don't think EE have any shops in Italy, but Vodafone is a similar network provider, which does have shops in Rome. "Three" is another mobile network provider that sells similar cards in the UK (like this https://www.argos.co.uk/product/5858374) and also has a presence in Italy with shops in Rome https://www.tre.it/assistenza/negozi-3?city=roma. I am so sorry if I confused you, I'm terrible at explaining myself sometimes.

I can't really speak much Italian (only please/ thank you/ two beers, for example), but I found the google translate app helpful. If you download the Italian part of the app on to your phone before you leave, you can type what you want to translate into the app and use it offline. You can also 'read' signs in English using the app/camera.

We loved Naples. It is a hectic and gritty city though. There's a lot of homelessness, graffiti (everywhere), and some litter. It's not picture perfect in places, but I thought it was beautiful underneath and I loved the people, history and architecture. We didn't experience any crime, and we were out until about 9-10 pm most nights (with two young-ish kids); however, we did take sensible precautions as you would in any major city. I felt we could have stayed much longer than a week. There's loads to see in the area and it's cheap and easy to get to Pompeii and other places of interest. If you ever stay there, I'd recommend getting the Campania Artecard or Naples Artecard. https://www.campaniartecard.it/?lang=en.

I hope you have a fantastic time in Rome with your friends. How exciting! Let us know how you enjoy.

worms

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Re: SIM card for travel
« Reply #14 on: November 23, 2019, 06:53:49 AM »
I suspect that mobile phone deals in UK operate in some parallel universe that doesnít apply elsewhere!  Last summer, before going on vacation to Canada, I went into the O2 shop and asked for their advice.  Ten minutes later, I came out the shop with a new deal, £5/month cheaper than I was paying, a huge uplift in data, unlimited call minutes and with Canada/US roaming included.  It all worked seamlessly during the vacation, just like roaming from UK across Europe and with no additional charges levied during the vacation.

GHG7F0

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Re: SIM card for travel
« Reply #15 on: November 23, 2019, 07:03:01 AM »
Just buy the SIM card when you get there. You just need a unlocked phone. Iím in Asia right now and thatís exactly what I did, Using SIM cards is the norm in many international locations.
« Last Edit: November 23, 2019, 07:05:10 AM by GHG7F0 »