When you go abroad, it can be hard to ensure you won’t get stuck without service in another country. International travel has always been complicated, but there are ways you can make your experience easier.
Most phone plan providers offer a variety of international travel plans that you can use to safely and confidently book your next trip. Some of these cell phone plans are more all-encompassing than others, so here is a rundown of the best plans for your next international journey.
Why Should I Consider a Different Phone Plan When Traveling?
It can be frustrating to realize that we cannot leave the country with just our basic phone plan after paying our monthly fees. The plans we have in the U.S. are tied directly to the cell tower infrastructure of the country itself, something that is not shared with other countries.
Every country has a unique system, so you need to find plans that work with those countries' infrastructures. You need to consider many specific things, depending on where you go. Some places will allow you to have call and text functionality but not an internet connection, while others will only allow other basic features.
It is essential to contact your carrier before going anywhere to ensure you are adequately prepared.
One of the biggest hurdles to getting a phone plan set up in another country is that roaming rates abroad tend to be much more expensive than domestic rates. This is because, in many countries, you will be saddled with extra travel fees compared to what you would usually be paying.
On top of that, every carrier will have different solutions to this issue. Some carriers offer limited international roaming in certain countries with specialized domestic plans, while others create separate systems for international travel.
Your chosen plan will most likely depend on the country you are traveling to, how long you plan to be there, and what your domestic provider already offers.
In the old days, you would need to completely change to a local SIM card if you wanted to take your phone to another country — unless you didn’t care about high-speed data and unlimited calls and wanted to communicate solely with free Wi-Fi and messaging apps like WhatsApp or Skype.
Since your SIM card is the hardware you use to connect to your network provider, going to a country with a different set of providers requires new hardware.
If you have a phone with an old-school SIM card, this remains the method you need to use to get connected. However, many modern phones have eSIM capabilities, which can be adapted and reprogrammed without changing your phone number.
On an iPhone, for example, you can set up to eight eSIMs on your phone. This means that you can store the necessary SIM information to use your existing hardware and add on eSIMs to help you access flexible international data (from 2G speeds up to 4G LTE and 5G speeds) with ease.
Samsung and other Android phones also offer similar eSIM capabilities.
With LTE support, many countries will have cellular networks with bands compatible with your phone. All you need to do is set up your international phone plan, and you are all set.
What Are the Best International Phone Plans?
Every carrier has various plans you can utilize to stay connected while abroad. Here are some of the best cell phone plans that let you send SMS text messages, make phone calls, and leverage high-speed data worldwide.
Verizon’s big-ticket item is called the Verizon TravelPass. You can acquire the Travel Pass individually or through one of Verizon’s many phone plans by subscribers.
The TravelPass gets you 2GB of 5G and unlimited data at 3G speeds. In Canada and Mexico, this costs $5 per device per day, while in 185 other countries, it comes to $10.
Verizon currently has six different unlimited plans, allowing limited texting to over 200 countries. Arguably the best plan that Verizon offers is the Do More plan.
For $80 per month, the Do More plan will let you accumulate a TravelPass day every month, and they expire after 12 months. You could get up to 12 days of TravelPass Data if you time your trip right.
The Get More plan, which costs $90 per month for a line, also gives you this same benefit.
If you are not interested in utilizing one of these unlimited plans, consider a monthly option instead. The monthly international plans offered by Verizon are pricey, coming out to $100 per month, but you get 250 minutes of talk, unlimited texts, and 20GB of 5G data.
This is a much more significant amount of international connectivity than you get with the other options, given the high price point.
Finally, you can opt for pay-as-you-go pricing. In Canada and Mexico, you can spend 99 cents per minute for service and up to $2.99 in some other countries. Every text sent costs 50 cents, and every text received costs five cents. Data costs $2.05 per megabyte in all countries outside the United States.
Verizon offers various options at various price points so that you can choose what avenue you want to go down when it comes to international connection.
AT&T’s Starter, Extra, Premium, and Value Plus all offer international voice, data usage, and text in Mexico and Canada by default. These plans also provide unlimited text in over 12 countries.
The Unlimited Premium monthly plan costs $85, which is the best for people looking to travel within North or South America. Under this plan, users get unlimited talk, text, and data in many countries in South America.
Few plans offer this much freedom in countries outside Canada or Mexico, so this is a great deal.
Similar to the TravelPass from Verizon, AT&T has a feature called the AT&T International Day Pass. This cell service day pass functions in over 200 countries and costs $10 daily. The Day Passes begin working as soon as you travel across the border to a different country.
If all you need is international calling, AT&T does offer unlimited global voice calls for only $15 per month per line.
AT&T has modest, affordable international options that are not overly extensive but can get the job done.
T-Mobile, of the big three cell carriers, makes it easiest to travel internationally. As part of the T-Mobile Magenta and Magenta Max plans, customers automatically have access to unlimited data and text in over 210 countries.
This is a much simpler solution than the services provided by Verizon and AT&T, making T-Mobile the most accessible option for people looking for international service.
You do not need to contact T-Mobile to set this up. All you need to remember is that calls will still be subject to local rates, so check before you travel.
It is also worth noting that the Magenta Max plan is a significant upgrade in international travel. The regular magenta plan offers 256 kb of data for most of the countries in the world.
The Magenta Max plan, on the other hand, offers 5GB of data in all 210+ countries, making it the best option despite the higher price point. The Magenta Max plan costs $85 per month for a line, which is relatively high, but it comes with the best international travel plan of any primary carrier.
Which Phone Plan Is the Best for International Travel?
While all three carriers have solid international cell phone plans, the Magenta Max is the best, most all-encompassing option. It does not require too much extra setup, and it gives you access to a considerable number of countries.
The Magenta Max plan significantly improved over the regular Magenta Plan and has the most reach of any of the three major carriers.
That said, it does cost a lot. At $85 per month, this plan would be best for people who intend to travel regularly and are prepared to spend that money.
If you travel only sometimes, consider looking into a more specific option. For example, you could look into a postpaid plan offered by Verizon or AT&T.
Even though international travel is a hassle, there are ways to make the process easier. Verizon and AT&T both have various types of international roaming plans that allow you to travel almost anywhere in the world while retaining some connectivity.
However, it is T-Mobile that has the most straightforward options. Instead of setting up a new plan, T-Mobile is compatible with most countries worldwide if you are connected to their Magenta or Magenta Max plans.
Since you do not have to set everything up, this is the easiest way to get service in a country outside the United States through one of the big three carriers.
That said, plans are constantly shifting to keep companies competitive. Use Navi to keep track of the best international plans out there.
Navi has a finger on the mobile industry’s pulse at all times, and they use that to keep you informed. Navi can help you sort through your preferences to find the best possible plan for you.
Use Navi today to figure out which international plan you should pick.
International Roaming: Using Your Mobile Phone in Other Countries | Federal Communications Commission
Use eSIM while traveling internationally with your iPhone | Apple Support
Choose Your Phone Plan | Verizon
International Calling, Roaming & Data Plans | AT&T