This is chapter 6 of a 15 part series about digital nomading and location independence. To see all of the other chapters, click here!
There are two phone plan options when you’re traveling: use a home country plan abroad or buy a new plan in every country.
If you don’t need to make/receive frequent calls with your U.S. phone number then I recommend ditching your home country plan, porting your phone number to Google Voice (so you can make calls/texts with your existing number using data), and buying a local SIM card in each country that you visit.
This will save you a lot of money, give you faster data, and a local number (expect to pay $10-45 USD per month with local SIM cards).
How To Switch To Google Voice & Use Local SIM Cards:
- Make sure you have an unlocked phone
- Without an unlocked phone, you won’t be able to use SIM cards from international carriers.
- Buy a SIM card when you arrive in each country
- I always Google which provider to use and how to buy a SIM card before arriving in a country. You can usually buy a SIM card at the airport – but not always.
- Maintain access to your U.S. number for $20 with Google Voice
- You can port your existing phone number to Google Voice for a one-time fee of $20. This enables you to text over Wifi or data for free using your current number.
- Full details on how to execute this.
- Use Gmail or Skype to make calls back to your home country
- With Google Voice, you can call American numbers for free via Gmail. And with Skype, you can call any number at a low rate.
Thoughts On American vs. Local SIM Cards
Using a home plan abroad will be significantly more expensive (and provide slower data) than buying local SIM cards. But if you want to keep a domestic plan, Google Fi and T-Mobile (Americans Only) are the most popular options.
From my experience, data in most developing countries is 5-10x cheaper than in the United States. Plus, if you’re using T-Mobile, you will frequently experience 2G or 3G speeds.
Also, if you’re in Europe you can find EU-wide coverage so that you won’t have to constantly switch SIM cards.