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Your Guide to the Best Phone Plans for International Travel

a person sitting in a chair at an airport looking at a phone

When you travel abroad, it can be hard to ensure you won’t get stuck without service in another country. International travel has always involved a lot of logistics, but there are ways you can make your travel experience easier.

One of the best ways to do this is by looking into international travel plans that you can use to safely and confidently book your next trip. But not all cell phone plans are created equal, and depending on your needs, some phone plans may be a better fit than others. Not sure where to start your research? Here is a rundown of the best plans for your next international journey.

If you're curious about finding the best wireless phone plans on the market, you can use our free, unbiased Plan Finder below as a phone plan comparison tool to quickly search through hundreds of plan options from the top carriers to find you a cell phone plan that fits your needs, including travel needs.

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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.

Best Phone Plan for International Travel in North America: Verizon

Not interested in getting a whole plan just for travel? Verizon's solution might work for you in that case. Rather than requiring you to subscribe to a plan that includes travel perks, you can instead opt in to the Verizon TravelPass. The TravelPass offers unlimited talk, text, and data in 210+ countries for an extra $10 a day per line.

For example, if your plan normally costs $65 per month, and you spend a week in Croatia, you would pay a total of $65 for your monthly cell phone plan, plus $70 for the TravelPass, plus taxes and fees. The only limitation is that your data speeds are reduced to 3G speeds after the first 2GB you use per day.

It's worth noting that all Verizon unlimited data plans include unlimited texting from US to 200+ countries, plus talk, text, and unlimited data in Mexico and Canada as a baseline, too, so if you're staying in North America, you're already covered.

Finally, you can opt for pay-as-you-go pricing. Calls can cost up to $2.99 per minute 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. This can rack up quickly, so keep an eye on your data use if you opt for this method of travel coverage.

Interested in exploring Verizon's cell phone plans? Read more about each plan below:

Best Phone Plan for International Travel With Families: AT&T

AT&T's unlimited cell phone plans all offer international voice, data usage, and text in Mexico and Canada by default. These plans also provide unlimited texting from US to 200+ countries.

If you're planning on leaving North America, AT&T has a feature called the AT&T International Day Pass, similar to the TravelPass from Verizon. 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, granting you access to all the unlimited talk, text, and data of your current plan, with no limit on data speed other than the premium data limit on your existing plan. Once that runs out, you'll be stuck on 128 Kbps, which is extremely slow.

The real benefit of AT&T's travel perks is that it's $10 for the first line, but only an additional $5/line after that. So if you're on a plan with a big family, you can save a lot of money on your group international trip.

Interested in reading more about AT&T's unlimited data plans? Here are our guides:

Best Phone Plan for International Travel Without Limits: T-Mobile

T-Mobile, of the big three cell carriers, has the most comprehensive travel perks. All plans include unlimited talk, text, and data at 2G speeds in Mexico and Canada, plus unlimited texting in 210+ countries as a baseline. Just keep in mind that 2G speeds are very slow.

However, one step up, T-Mobile Go5G includes far more travel perks, including unlimited texting, and data with up to 10GB at 4G LTE speeds in Mexico and Canada, 5GB of high-speed data followed by unlimited data at 2G speeds in 11 European countries, and unlimited data at 2G speeds when you travel to 210+ countries. Note that calls do cost $0.25/minute.

If you're on one of T-Mobile's more premium plans, like Go5G Plus or Go5G Next, you get 5GB of high-speed data in 215+ countries & destinations. All Go5G plans also include inflight WiFi on 4 full flights per year, where it's available on certain US airlines.

This all comes included in the cost of your plan, with no additional purchase necessary. If this amount of data isn't quite enough, or you'd prefer faster speeds, you have the choice to purchase a 1-Day, 10-Day, or 30-Day Travel Pass. These passes include a set amount of data for you to use in the specified time frame.

All in all, you have more options with T-Mobile than with either of the other two carriers we've mentioned. There's no need to purchase a pass; your perks are simply included in your plan.

Want to find out more about T-Mobile's unlimited data plans? Here's the rundown:

Which Phone Plan Is the Best for International Travel?

It's hard to pick one cell phone plan as the "best," because it depends on how often you travel, where you travel, and how much data you think you'll need. Not only that, but each plan comes with separate perks to consider, too. For example, T-Mobile's Go5G Plus also includes a Hulu subscription. Verizon's plans allow you to bundle a variety of perks at a discount.

Before choosing a plan for international travel, carefully consider your data needs, whether the country is already covered in your plan, and how much money you'd save by upgrading to a plan with better travel perks, versus paying extra per day you travel with a travel pass.

Why Should I Consider a Different Phone Plan When Traveling?

You take your phone everywhere, so it can come as a bit of a surprise when 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.

Roaming Rates

Why not simply roam and use the native coverage? 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.

International Compatibility

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.

If you're not afraid to do a little legwork, your phone is unlocked, and you don't mind having a different phone number for the length of your stay, it's not a bad idea to purchase a local prepaid SIM card at the airport and travel that way, instead. That being said, many people prefer the convenience of simply having a phone that works internationally as soon as the plane lands, with no extra setup required.

The Bottom Line

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. T-Mobile offers a wide range of plan options, as well as a set of travel passes that range from one day to thirty days.

Since you do not have to set everything up, the easiest way to get service in a country outside the United States is through one of the big three carriers.

That said, plans are constantly shifting to keep companies competitive. If you want to get a complete, up-to-date picture of all the cell phone plans available to you, our free, unbiased Plan Finder can help to figure out which international plan you should pick.

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