As a traveler, you have few options when it comes to staying connected with your friends and family on your next trip. Buying a local SIM is seen as the cheapest option. Some companies like WorldSIM offers convenient international SIM cards at a high price.

But, you will enjoy this offer if you are a T-mobile customer; you will have the privilege of doing free texting to your circle of friends and family in more than 140 countries. This is seen as a huge benefit for digital nomads, business travelers and frequent travelers. There are also other options for you if you are not a T-mobile user.

Alternatively, you can buy a local SIM. Buying a local SIM will give you better rates and access to local discounts. Unarguably, this is the best option if you don’t want to consign yourself to enduring scavenging free wifi, expensive phone calls or incurring exorbitant bills in your trip.

Research says that buying a local SIM is one of the easiest ways of having a trouble-free trip. It is the best way of informing your friends, family and colleagues that you have truly arrived in a new destination.

It will also enable you to enjoy the best possible mobile network available and find your destination using Google maps. Buying a local SIM makes it extremely easy for you to book a taxi, accommodation and coordinate your travel plans.

Furthermore, it is important to know that buying a local SIM comes with some challenges. Reading through this article will equip you with the tips you really need to know so that you will truly enjoy a hassle-free trip:

Pre-departure checks for your SIM Card

In some countries, tourists are not allowed to buy SIM cards, while others make it extremely difficult for foreigners to get it. For example, in Pakistan, foreigners are constrained to series of background checks before they can be allowed to buy and use a SIM, while Thailand and other foreigner-friendly countries will be happy welcoming you at the airport with the opportunity to buy their local SIM.

Some countries including foreigner-friendly countries forbid people from certain countries especially from developing nations from buying their local SIM. Therefore, if you are travelling to such countries, make sure your country is not blacklisted from buying a SIM upon your arrival.

If you are not allowed to buy a local SIM while holidaying in their country, then you might consider buying a recognized international SIM card. This means that you may consider becoming T-mobile customer on or before your trip.

International sim card

Is your Phone unlocked?

This is an important thing you really need to know before your next trip. If your phone is locked, it means that another SIM can never work in it. To know that your phone is not locked, what you need to do is to go to a nearby mobile store and ask their sales representative if you can try their SIM cards in your phone.

If you do this, and it works perfectly, it means your phone is unlocked. But if it didn’t work, it means your phone is locked. Keep in mind that some American carriers like AT & T and Verizon lock their phones so that their customers will not go to another provider.

If your phone is locked, then get in touch with the manufacturer and see if they can unlock it for you or alternatively buy a cheap unlocked phone for the travel.

Verify Your Phone compatibility

Make sure you verify your phone compatibility. Mobile networks around the world uses a variety of frequencies namely GSM and CDMA. If your phone doesn’t have the capacity to run on the system of the country you are travelling to, then it will never work.

So the phone you are using should be useful in the new country you are going to. For more information, travelers are encouraged to visit WillMyPhoneWork  website periodically so that they will check if their phones can work in their destination country.

Will my phone work webpage

Check destination coverage

As a traveler especially in Asian countries, you are strongly advised to choose a SIM card, not based on the cost of calls, but on the coverage the network offers. This is very important regardless of the country you are going to, even in the United States of America.

Buying a SIM card for your next trip

As a tourist, there are many places you can buy a local SIM card such as airport vending machines, newsstands, 7-11s, local stores etc. The best thing for you is to buy from a reliable, authorized network shop, instead of buying from a reseller. When you buy from an authentic network shop, you will be charged only the standard rate, and won’t fall prey to any scam.

The worst thing that may happen to you is to buy from an unofficial source, because they may even sell a faulty SIM card to you knowingly or unknowingly. Such SIM cards may stop working few days or few hours after activation.

There are many of such SIM cards around especially if you are in most developing nations, so be careful. You can avoid these risks by buying from a reputable reseller or directly from their official store.

What should I bring to qualify for a local SIM?

In some countries like India, you really need to meet certain requirements before you can buy their local SIM cards. Some will ask you to provide your passport and local address details.

Passaport and important documents for travel

Check if the new SIM card is working

Immediately you are given a SIM card, the first thing you should do is to check if it is working. Alternatively you can ask the vendor to check it for you, but make sure it is working before you leave the store.

Take note of your new local number

Once you get a new SIM card, take note of the new number by saving it on your phone or write it down somewhere, maybe in your jotter, so that you can easily remember or give it out when required.

Change the language options

Ensure you ask the attendant to change the language option to English or to your preferred language. This is very important if you are travelling to non-English speaking countries. Google translate will also help you in this regard.

steps to change the language in iphone

Keep your old SIM safe

Keep your old SIM in a safe place. You can ask the attendant to store it for you in the new SIM pack, so that it won’t get lost.

Add useful contacts

After buying a local SIM, make sure you acquaint yourself with some local emergency numbers, so that you will alert them if something unexpected happens. Browse through the internet to see a comprehensive list of local emergency phone numbers in the new destination.

What happens to the SIM when you are done?

When you have finished your business in the country and are ready to return to your home country, what will happen to the SIM? Do you leave of take it along with you? To many travelers, this is a million dollar question.

There are many options to this. Some SIMs will expire if you don’t top up, while a good number of them will attract some charges to remain active. Thus, it is important you check the terms and conditions of the SIM prior to purchase. Keeping the SIM will be ideal if you have plans to return to the country soon.

Another option will be to give the SIM to another traveler who may be coming to the country soon or who just arrived the country. Save the instructions and packaging options, so that the new traveler will know how to top up.

TL; DR

Buying and using a local SIM in your next trip is not a difficult task as some people think. If you are travelling to a new country, all you need to do is to abide by the following tips:

  • Make sure that foreigners are allowed to buy and use a local SIM,
  • Make sure the mobile network in the new country is compatible with your phone,
  • Unlock your phone, so that you can enjoy it without any hitches,
  • Watch out for scams, and ensure you buy the SIM from an authorized dealer,
  • Add local emergency numbers to your new SIM.

Enjoy your trip!