Local SIM Cards vs. Carrier International Plans


If you are planning a trip abroad, one of the major factors to consider is how to communicate through your mobile phone once you get there. The roaming fees for international travel are ridiculously expensive and one way to avoid them is by obtaining an international travel SIM card.

It will help you talk to your loved ones and update the how you are doing during your trip. Travel SIM cards allow you to make calls and browse the web at a low cost than. Alternatively, the local SIM card operator in the foreign country can provide you with a plan that includes international calls and data usage. You need to research on how to get the best rates to enjoy your holiday without spending too much to call home.


Local SIM Cards

If you opt to purchase a SIM card from a local store after reaching your destination, in India for instance, you will be required to give proof of residency. The main advantage is you will enjoy good rates since you pay like a local. For your phone to work with the local SIM cards in India it has to be unlocked. Before travelling, ensure that your phone is unlocked by your local network service provider.

India has wide availability of 4G data therefore, purchasing a local SIM card is a must if you want to stay connected and enjoy digital services such as web browsing, money transfers and payments. Airtel is the leading network service provider in the country with a strong connectivity for LTE, 3G and calls. To obtain an Airtel SIM at a local store, you will be required to give a copy of your passport, visa and photograph. Alternatively, you can use an online service called Sim Raj that provides prepaid Indian sim cards for tourists and handles all the paper work for you.

Airtel has very affordable tariffs but not all plans are available countrywide. To solve this problem, choose a plan that provides you with 3GB of LTE data and unlimited calls for as low as 300 rupees, with a validity of twenty eight days. Another network service provider is Jio, which requires you to provide details of a local reference and residence details. They are all readily available from authorized dealers.


International SIM Cards

The second option is to purchase an international SIM card that is easy to use in many countries across the globe. International SIM cards are flexible and convenient as they allow you to receive free calls in 95 of the most popular countries. It is also handy for multi country trips and you can operate your online account and top up without any language barrier. The rates for talk, texts and data are quite low. Since international SIM cards are designed for travelling, you are allowed to share the predefined phone number as you travel to other countries.

Ensure that your phone is unlocked and that its GSM bandwidth is compatible to those of your host country.

In India it’s actually preferable to use a local sim card because of the superior coverage local carriers provide and the restrictive bureaucracy involved in using foreign sim cards, as detailed in many of the answers in this Quora page.

The compatible GSM bands available in India are: 2G capabilities: GSM 900, GSM 1800, 3G capabilities: UMTS 900, UMTS 2100, 4G capabilities: LTE 850 (5), LTE 1800 (3), LTE 2100 (1), LTE 2300 (40), LTE 2500 (41). Bandwidth compatibility has the following benefits:  the low frequency network bands give a higher coverage, higher frequency networks yield higher data speeds and proper bands are needed for volte services since it is a requirement for high- speed mobile phone and data terminal wireless communication.

The main goal is to reduce roaming rates when you travel abroad; save as much as can while making sure you are comfortable. Both local and international SIM cards will help you achieve this goal.