How to Get a Foreign Prepaid SIM Card Before You Travel

Imagine being able to get an international SIM card, already topped up with credit and data, delivered to your mailbox before you even leave your house to travel. All you’d have to do is insert it into your phone and be on your way, ready to make calls and texts and access the internet as soon as you land in a foreign country.

No more daily global data passes for ridiculous rates (we’re looking at you, Verizon), no more missed connections or wrong directions due to not having cell service, and no more stressing about not being connected.

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Stay connected, no matter what country you’re visiting. Photo by @danholzphoto

Too good to be true? Nope! It exists, and it’s affordable, and you don’t have to switch carriers to get it, and, as long as your phone is SIM-capable and unlocked, you can use it.

Before you get too excited, check out this guide to using your phone overseas to understand why you would need a SIM card in the first place.

If you want one, proceed, as this is a perfectly good option and a great alternative to the hassle of switching your contracted phone plan to a new carrier, or dealing with exorbitant global data coverage rates, etc.

Prepaid International SIM Cards

An easy, trusted, one-stop-shop for international SIM cards is SimOptions. They offer pre-ordered and prepaid SIM cards so you can be ready to install and activate your foreign SIM before you travel.

prepaid SIM cards for travel
You can switch out the SIM cards while your phone is on. It’s super simple. Bring a paperclip to pop out your SIM.

Why getting a SIM card is a good idea:

  • It will allow you to use your phone just like you would at home as soon as you land in a foreign country.
  • Your current carrier might not provide service at all once you get overseas, OR it might charge you for international rates if you haven’t signed up for any additional global plans. Trust me; you don’t want to go that route.
  • It is cheaper than signing up for global plans (I mean, $10/day, are you kidding me? NO THANKS.)
  • You can forward your current phone number to it using their virtual number service. (You can’t do this if you freeze your account at home).
  • You know exactly how much you are spending, with no hidden charges.

Who should get a prepaid SIM card:

  • Frequent travelers who often need access to a fully-functioning phone overseas and do NOT already have it included (like, for zero extra charges) in your current plan.
  • Anyone who freezes their account at home and wants a phone number to use abroad. (It is unnecessary to freeze your account to use a prepaid SIM).
  • Those traveling through many countries on a single trip (i.e., your French SIM card will work in Italy, etc.
  • Those sick of paying ridiculous daily rates for global coverage on your regular carrier.
  • Anyone who only wants to pay for what they use, without contracts.

What kinds of SIM cards you can get:

These SIM cards are 100% prepaid, with no contracts. Pay and top up (add more credit/data) as you go; they come in all sizes (normal, micro, and nano – that’s iPhone size). BOOM.

Be sure to read the details and reviews (there are TONS of them) to ensure you are getting the right SIM card – for YOU. Keep an eye out for any special requirements or restrictions.

For example, some SIM cards’ top-up systems may restrict usage to certain countries (i.e., “THREE UK only accepts top up with credit cards registered to a UK address”). There are other options, so avoid the ones that won’t work optimally for your situation.

prepaid sim card
Yep, they even offer prepaid SIM cards for Chile. Patagonia, anyone?

What to do when you receive your SIM card:

  • You can pop it into your phone to test it, but take it out until you’ve landed in your destination country and are ready to begin using it.
  • If you’re going for a short trip (less than a month) no need to freeze your account at home. Refer to How to Use Your Phone Overseas for more info.
  • When you make the switch (use a paperclip for popping out your current card – push hard), be sure to keep your current SIM card in a very safe place as you travel, so you can easily find it and swap it back in when you go home.
  • You can still use iMessage through your Apple ID and WhatsApp through your original phone number, but your regular texting through your original phone number won’t work while you have this new SIM (new number) in your phone. Texts and calls will be sent from your new foreign number. Basically, the point of using one of these SIM cards is to access data, which you can use for other communication apps like Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp, and of course, map apps, lodging and transportation apps, etc. Data is the key figure here.
  • Make sure you have the top-up steps handy (to add more data on the road if you need it).
  • Make sure you have a travel adapter to plug in and charge your phone overseas. Better yet, grab an Anker charger.

If your phone is not SIM-compatible, don’t buy it from a specific carrier next time (i.e., Verizon). Only big carriers have the audacity to create phones that keep you trapped within their restrictive system. Good luck with those data roaming rates.

Related: I switched to T-Mobile and I’m Not Looking Back

If you try one of these prepaid global SIM cards, let us know how it goes in the comments!

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