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International SIM cards

Heading overseas? Picking up a local prepaid SIM card is often the cheapest option for connecting.

Using your mobile phone plan on holiday just doesn’t make sense: calls are expensive and roaming rates can reach astronomical levels. While travel SIM cards can be convenient to use, they’re also not the cheapest option for most travellers.

A top tip for keeping down costs is to switch your mobile phone provider to a local SIM card to take advantage of local tariffs, plans and deals. Switching to a local mobile phone plan could save you vast sums of money. Local prepaid SIM cards will allow you to surf the Internet, access social media and talk to family and friends at a much cheaper rate.

Why use an international SIM card?

  • Inexpensive option, especially compared to roaming on your own SIM
  • Every country has a mobile network, so you can generally make it work
  • Finding a place to buy a local SIM in a new country might take up precious holiday time
  • Only works in the country where you purchased it (unless you are willing to pay for expensive roaming)

International or local SIM cards are the most cost-effective, efficient and hassle-free way to use your phone while travelling abroad. While there are other methods of using your phone internationally, local prepaid SIM cards are the best and most affordable option for most travellers.

Local SIM cards are easy to buy from most airports, electronic stores, department stores and directly from phone providers. As long as your phone is unlocked, you should be able to pick one up wherever you land.

Local SIM cards come with a variety of options and plans depending on the country. Many plans come with big data inclusions and unlimited local talk and text, and almost all plans have no contracts and low monthly costs.

Keep in mind, with a local SIM card you will get a local number which will make calling locally easier but can make it more difficult for people back home to get in touch. We recommend asking family and friends to download your choice of texting app, like Viber or WhatsApp, before you leave to make communication as easy as possible.

Compare international SIMs around the world

The cost, type and process of buying local SIM cards vary greatly from country to country. Check out some important information for the following commonly travelled locations. For guides on other travel destinations, head to the bottom of the page.

European Union

  • 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE plans available.
  • Unlocked GSM phones only.
  • The EU has abolished roaming charges for SIM cards purchased within the EU. That means if you land in Paris and buy a French SIM card, you won’t have to pay higher roaming rates if you head to Bruges for a day trip.
  • ID and registration are required in most countries.
  • No devices are offered with SIM card packages.

United Kingdom

  • 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE plans available.
  • Unlocked GSM phones only.
  • Coverage is generally good in England, especially in and around London, and less reliable in more rural areas of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
  • A passport is not required to purchase a SIM card.
  • The UK is part of the EU roaming pact.

United States

  • 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE plans available.
  • CDMA and GSM platforms.
  • Both prepaid and “pay as you go” plans available.
  • Good coverage over most of the country but the signal can suffer in the desert.
  • Most providers only offer prepaid SIM cards with devices, which increases the price.

Compare local SIMs in the United States

New Zealand

  • 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE plans available.
  • Unlocked GSM phones only.
  • Only three major phone networks; all provide 4G/LTE coverage.
  • 30-day prepaid SIM with 200 minutes, 200 texts, 1GB of data for AUD$26.46.
  • Some deals are only available for NZ residents.

Compare local SIMs in New Zealand


  • 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE plans available in most countries.
  • Unlocked GSM phones only.
  • Some of the cheapest SIM cards in the world.
  • Strict regulations and complicated rules in countries like India, China, and Bangladesh can slow down the process and make it difficult and time-intensive to purchase a SIM.
  • Some areas suffer poor coverage.
  • Some countries including Cambodia and Malaysia require you to register your SIM after purchase.
  • Countries like China and Indonesia charge roaming rates when travelling to different provinces.

Tips for using your phone overseas

Alternatives to international SIM cards

Global/international roaming

  • Can be easy to use
  • Instantaneous
  • Most expensive
  • Local provider may not support global roaming

Using global roaming on your current phone can be a quick and easy option for very short trips if your phone is unlocked and compatible with local networks, and your local provider supports global roaming. Unfortunately, it is also the most expensive way to use your phone while travelling.

Australian phone networks work on GSM technology. While many countries around the world also use GSM technology, including the US and UK, other countries use a mix of technologies, so it is crucial to check if your phone is compatible with your chosen destination prior to departure.

Travel SIM cards

  • Cheaper than roaming
  • You can use the same SIM card in multiple countries
  • More expensive than local SIM cards
  • Not available in every country

While local SIM cards are usually the cheapest option for international travellers, travel SIM cards can come in handy if you plan to visit many countries on the same trip. As long as your travel SIM is compatible in every country you are travelling to, you won’t have to get a new SIM card every time you cross a border.

Also, a travel SIM can come in handy if you want to be able to use your phone the second you get off the plane to order an Uber or call your hotel.

Companies like WorldSIM, GigSky, TravelSIM and even Woolworths offer a range of data, text and call options for Australian travellers all over the world.

Compare travel SIM cards in the table below

1 - 4 of 4
Name Product Number of countries Data Range Shipment Time
airalo Yes Go
airalo Yes Go
Instant (eSIM)
SimCorner Travel Sim Cards
SimCorner Travel Sim Cards
1-12 business days
Flexiroam X
Flexiroam X
3-7 business days
Australia Post $5 International Roaming Plan
Australia Post $5 International Roaming Plan
2+ business days

Free Wi-Fi

  • Free
  • Your phone doesn’t need to be unlocked
  • Not always available
  • Often slow and unreliable

free wifi

If you really want the cheapest possible option when using your phone abroad you can always rely on the free public Wi-Fi available in hotels, restaurants, museums and city centres. Unless you are travelling to a remote area, you can usually find at least one place with free Wi-Fi wherever you go.

By using apps like Skype and WhatsApp you can make calls and send and receive texts, but the quality of the connection can be unreliable.

Public Wi-Fi spots usually have strict limits on the amount of data you can use, creating an extra hassle when you have to find another location just to continue a conversation or upload that perfect travel selfie.

Frequently asked questions

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Bottom line

No matter where you are travelling, you should consider buying a local SIM card to make your trip as easy and inexpensive as possible. The importance of having a direct link to friends, family or even local services should never be underestimated.

Your phone is your lifeline, especially when travelling to the far reaches of the globe. Whether you’re a student on a gap year, a group of friends making the trip you’ve always dreamed of, going it alone or travelling with family, local mobile phone plans will leave you with extra cash to splash while on holiday or to simply save.

All local mobile phone plans will require you to have a SIM-unlocked GSM compatible international phone. Contact your service provider before you set off on your travels to double check you have this option.

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14 Responses

    Default Gravatar
    KevinMay 28, 2023

    Heh whats the best simcard to buy in Australia to use in Europe

      CameronJune 8, 2023Finder

      Hey hey Kevin,

      Thanks for reaching out!

      When it comes to choosing the best SIM card it will vary greatly depending on how you use it. But if you’re travelling to Europe, there’s plenty of options to choose from including international roaming add-ons with your current provider if they have it, or getting a travel SIM. All options explained on

      Safe travels,

    Default Gravatar
    SteveJanuary 21, 2019

    What is the best SIM card to buy for a 30 day trip to Canada, departing February 5?

      JeniJanuary 22, 2019Finder

      Hi Steve,

      Thank you for getting in touch with Finder.

      There are four main telco providers in Canada. There are phone kiosks in every mall if you want to buy a SIM card. I suggest that you seek help from some locals on which telco provider to go with as well as to find a great promotion or deal to use for 30 days in Canada.

      I hope this helps.

      Thank you and have a wonderful day!


    Default Gravatar
    LarryJanuary 4, 2019

    Travelling to Jordan and Egypt.
    Is there one cost effective sim card that I can buy to cover data and calls in these 2 countries for a 30 day period?

      JeniJanuary 6, 2019Finder

      Hi Larry,

      Thank you for getting in touch with Finder.

      According to our review, Egypt has three main operators. They are Vodafone, Orange, and Etisalat. While Jordan has Zain, Umniah, and Orange. They have various deals that would suit your needs so it is best to seek help from the locals on which provider to go with.

      I hope this helps.

      Please feel free to reach out to us if you have any other enquiries.

      Thank you and have a wonderful day!


    Default Gravatar
    NinaDecember 8, 2018

    Where in Hobart, Tasmania can I buy a sim card

      JohnDecember 12, 2018Finder

      Hi Nina,

      Thank you for leaving a question.

      You can buy SIM cards at many retail outlets. There are 3 major providers, Telstra (biggest and best coverage, also most expensive), Optus and Vodaphone. You’ll need to have photo ID showing your address to get your new SIM. Generally a Drivers License will do but it might not hurt to have your passport too. Sim cards are also available in the Airport. Hope this helps!


    Default Gravatar
    DeborahNovember 19, 2018

    I am travelling to Italy and Malta. What is the most cost effective way to be able to ring back to Australia, apart from Whatsapp.

      Default Gravatar
      NikkiNovember 19, 2018

      Hi Deborah,

      Thanks for getting in touch!

      You may refer to our guide on prepaid EU SIM cards. The page shows sim cards that allow international phone calls. To get the cheapest plan, check out the website of your chosen sim card provider in Europe and review their prepaid plans that allow international calls. You may purchase the sim cards at the airport when you arrive and a sales personnel can help you with the plans applicable for your trip at the best savings.

      Hope this was helpful. Don’t hesitate to message us back if you have more questions.


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