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General Travel

Buy sim cards (data) before travel or at the location? Preferred companies?

Hi! Trying to figure out the best system for obtaining sim cards for internet access while on a fast rtw trip. Only spending 3 days each in several major cities... Tokyo, Hong Kong, Mumbai, Tel Aviv, Europe. What would you do?

I was planning to buy locally or rent after arriving, but my travel companions would rather have sim cards in hand before we take off. 

I'm on a verizon iphone here in the US and was also planning on getting a Huawai hotspot.

Thank you for any advice!

9 Answers

top answer by
Rebecca from Manchester

Hey in Japan you can't just simply buy a sim card. You usually have to buy a phone with the sim in it, and you need at least a working holiday visa to do that. Japan is also pretty slim on the free wifi front. However, if you sign up on the Japan Starbucks website you can then use their free wifi which I did all the time. You can just stand outside the store and they never turn it off.

3 thankscomments (2)

answered by
Vidhya from Atlanta

I have done it both ways and my experience is that buying locally is usually cheap. I have done this mostly in Asia and Latin America. If you google your airport, you should find something at the airport. That would be the best place to get the local SIM card

1 thanks

answered by
Arpit from Jaipur, Rajasthan

Better to hire the sim car once you reach there, as last month I visited Hong kong Macau, I buy a sim from Hongkong and they tell me that this sim will work in Macau too but it was not true and I spend around 150 hong kong dollar on it

1 thanks

answered by
Nicole from Etobicoke, Ontario

There is actually a new product by know roaming that eliminates the need to buy several sim cards while travelling. It is global SIM sticker that you just apply to your current SIM. 

1 thanks

answered by
Steve from Honolulu, Hawaii

I switched to T-Mobile which has free roaming in 128 countries.  It worked well in Bali, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand.  Plus, you should be able to make free Wi-Fi calls anywhere there is Wi-Fi with What's App or similar apps.  Finally, if your only going to make a few calls, just check with Verizon for international rates...and keep the calls short.  We're leaving in March  on an around the world 2 year long trip to both developed and undeveloped countries on almost every continent and will use T-Mobile and Wi-Fi calling when necessary.  They days of buying Sim cards country by country are unnecessary.

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answered first by
Carolyn from Centreville, Md

I usually buy them when I first get there to save the cost of shipping which is often as much as the sim card itself. There are also international sim cards you could purchase. I did that once, but it was a bit wonky making a call - you had to call another number first, then you call was connected. (only had a flip phone at the time, so can't address data).

There is a lot of free Wifi these days, so I think purchasing once you get there makes more sense. How connected do you have to be?

I had a recent trip to Thailand & Vietnam. In Thailand I bought a sim the first day, in Vietnam I didn't have one at all - and I didn't miss it one bit. I could stay connected in hotels if need be.

1 thanks

answered by
Michael from San Jose

It depends on your destination. It is best to contact your local carrier first; usually, they have international plans conveniently catering to your need. Airports also have communication stores for you to check out. It is quite cheaper to buy SIM cards locally. In the Philippines, I paid $0.50 for a card to use for my Iphone 5. 

Switching SIM cards may affect your phone's SIM card once you swap it back. My card acted funny when I came back stateside, but it is free to replace with your carrier anyway.

answered by

Buy the SIM card there -- much cheaper.  Just find a cell phone store or kiosk anywhere (but ideally not the airport as it can be a bit more expensive); I've gone to ones in grocery stores, little shops on the street as I'm walking around, etc.   Just make sure your phone is unlocked & can take 3rd party SIM cards beforehand.   We usually buy pre-paid minutes and top them off if needed.  

answered by
Michael from Leavenworth, Kansas

International Travel for personal reason is awesome.  If you have a smartphone. Wait til you get in the country you are traveling too.  See how much your local providers for internet are going to charge for a SIM card.  Usually it will be a lot cheaper that buy one from the US.  Also, check your phone when you travel.  So US carriers have frequencies turned off in the phone itself.  Just if your phone has been step properly.

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