The Best Travel Phone Plans For Digital Nomads in 2021

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.

My Recommendation:

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).

If you do need to make/receive frequent calls with your U.S. phone number then I recommend using Google Fi or T-Mobile which both offer free international options.

How To Switch To Google Voice & Use Local SIM Cards:

  1. Make sure you have an unlocked phone
    1. Without an unlocked phone, you won’t be able to use SIM cards from international carriers.
  2. Buy a SIM card when you arrive in each country
    1. 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.
  3. Maintain access to your U.S. number for $20 with Google Voice
    1. 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.
    2. Full details on how to execute this.
  4. Use Gmail or Skype to make calls back to your home country
    1. 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.

Note: Click here if you want to read our travel cell phone guide for Canadians.

Keep Reading: Click here to read Chapter 7: Credit Card and Banking Recommendations For Digital Nomads

Cam Woodsum
I've been building digital businesses, wandering the world, and writing about optimizing life for freedom since early 2017. My mission is to lower the barrier for people who want to live with more freedom: whether that be as an entrepreneur, a digital nomad, an early retiree, or just as someone who wants to live a happiness-driven life.