How to stay connected while traveling around the World (2023 Edition)
It’s been almost 9 years since my last post on this topic and how the landscape has changed… While traveling around the world we now have access to better coverage, faster data speeds and cheaper options than in 2014 🙂
Adding an International roaming option to your existing wireless phone plan:
AT&T International Day Pass – $10/day for unlimited text, calls and 2GB of 5G/LTE data
Verizon TravelPass – $10/day for unlimited text, calls and 2GB of 5G/LTE data (After the first 2GB of daily session enjoy unlimited 3G data)
*Note: Prior to November 17th, 2022, it only included 0.5GB/day. This was a major upgrade to 2GB/day 🙂
T-Mobile – Included on Magenta MAX & Plus plans (include up to 5GB of high-speed data, then unlimited data at up to 256 Kbps in 215+ countries and destinations plus unlimited texting and calling at $.25 per minute) or $5/day for a data pass which includes 0.5GB of data and unlimited texting
Using a MiFi (portable WiFi hotspot):
For data hungry users this is the best option available if they offer them for rent in the country you are visiting. Or you can purchase an unlocked MiFi and obtain a local data SIM upon arrival. If you don’t want to deal with it on arrival you can use GlocalMe, but plans can be expensive.
Make sure you have an unlocked phone if you are going to go this method. If you have an iPhone, go to Settings-> General -> About -> Carrier Lock and ensure it says No SIM restrictions. You are able to purchase a local SIM card in each country you visit to provide you with the cheapest rates available. You won’t know your local phone number until you purchase the SIM card at the airport or local store.
eSIM’s (embedded SIM) are the newest method to add a SIM card electronically to your phone. Airalo is an excellent option to obtain an eSIM for a specific country or region at a low cost. Most countries will offer data-only plans. It worked very well for me recently in Qatar and Maldives. You can purchase the eSIM and install it to your phone prior to arrival into the county so you can be ready upon landing. Activation starts once you connect in the destination country. In the Maldives, I was able to get 5G coverage which was super fast.
*Note: you must have an iPhone 13 or newer to use two active eSIM’s. If you use an eSIM for your primary carrier, you can’t keep it active while using Airalo if you use an iPhone 12 or older.
Best low cost solution for the heavy data usage iPhone user on a 7+ day multi-country trip: Rent a MiFi or use a local SIM/eSIM in an unlocked iPhone (Settings-> General -> About -> Carrier Lock: No SIM restrictions). You can still iMessage or WhatsApp anywhere in the world if you have WiFi as it uses data and not SMS.
Best solution for the lite data usage iPhone user on a short single country trip: Activate your international roaming option or purchasing a country specific SIM/eSIM.
Best solution if costs don’t matter and you want simplicity: Activate your international roaming option
Want to know the best option for your trip? Comment below with your requirements (destination(s), length of trip, voice/data usage while abroad, your US wireless carrier, etc.) and expect a prompt reply.
Most places offer WiFi at no charge, but I’d only use this option if the cellular-based options fail to work due to privacy concerns. You should expect no security or privacy on the connection unless using a VPN. The speed of your connection might vary as well.
Emergency SOS via satellite:
Apple now offers Emergency SOS via satellite on iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro models. I’m sure this will eventually evolve into allowing normal (non-SOS) texting, but for now it’s for emergencies only. You can share your location via satellite in the Find My app so friends can see where you are even if you don’t have cellular service.
Most airline carriers now utilize satellite-based systems for inflight WiFi which can offer coverage globally. Prices typically range from $8 to $30/flight for unlimited usage. Starlink is the new cutting-edge option which offers up to 350Mbps down to the plane and JSX is now offering it for free to their passengers as of December 8th, 2022. JSX will have it rolled out to all of their planes by March 2023.