Travel Tips

Using your phone overseas

In this day and age, your life is online. Whether you want to call home, call the restaurant, or share the latest snaps on your travels, traditional phone services will charge you a fortune to roam outside your own country.

These days it's just as simple to grab a SIM card from a local provider and plug it into your phone, giving you cheaper local rates on calls, SMS and data while travelling.

Will my phone work?

Unfortunately there are differences between phone networks worldwide. Many providers these days offer a GSM phone service which is generally considered to be the universal phone standard, but you can run into hassles with providers operating on the wrong frequencies, or worse only offering other technologies like CDMA.

If your phone takes a SIM card then it's considered a GSM phone, and most cards should work in it to some degree. If your phone is a quad-band phone (such as the iPhone 4 and 5) then you'll be able to use it on any GSM-based network in the world without problems.

Many Android and BlackBerry phones are not quad-band, and therefore might have issues connecting to or fully utilising some cell networks. For these phones it's best you research your phone capabilities and then check our compatibility tables to see which providers you can use.

More information on mobile technologies.

Picking up a local sim card

Picking a local SIM card isn't the simplest task, you need to consider things like price, coverage, data speeds (or availability), international roaming, and compatibility.

Generally you should consider the most popular provider first because it's the one that most people swear by, but other providers may offer better value for money. Check out the comments on the country you plan to visit to see what people have to say about the various providers, as experience is often the best guide.

Once you know which provider you're going to use you can usually pick one a SIM card at newsagencies, grocery stores, carrier outlets, and most likely at the airport. Some countries require identification and registration of mobile services, and other countries may not allow foreigners to purchase a mobile service at all, so make sure you've checked the relevant country page.

iPhone micro and nano-SIM overseas

Micro and Nano-SIM cards are reatively new, so you may have difficulty finding a compatible SIM card for your phone. If you're not sure, you should check your phone before you leave so that you know what to look for when you arrive.

Evolution of the SIM card CC BY SA based on Cvdr & Justin Ormont's work
SIM Micro SIM Nano SIM
Normal sized SIM. Used in most phones. Medium sized SIM. used in the iPhone 4. Smallest SIM. Used in the iPhone 5.

Many countries now offer Micro and Nano-SIM cards off the shelf so you can walk into a store and purchase the right card for your phone or iPad. Many providers will also convert or provide the appropriate SIM card upon request but if you know you're going to have issues you may consider purchasing a SIM card cutter, which can cut a regular sim down to fit in smaller devices.


Sim cards overseas

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