We’ve all grown accustomed to readily having internet access on our mobile devices anywhere and everywhere that it can be especially difficult when you travel abroad. Sure, you won’t need the majority of your apps but you would like to be able to access Google Maps to conveniently find your way around, use Yelp to make sure no one posted a picture of a cockroach in the food at the restaurant you’re about to eat at, and, you know, Instagram your travels because it basically didn’t happen if it’s not on Instagram.
Travel tip: SIM cards only work in GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) phones that are unlocked.
If you want to avoid being hit with a massive bill for roaming charges, you have two options for staying connected when you’re traveling overseas: 1) You can buy an international data plan through your mobile carrier, or 2) you can buy a SIM card in country.
If you have Verizon, you can check out travel packages through their Travel Planner link on their website. You enter the country you’ll be traveling to, the make and model of your phone, and it provides the bundle packages available to purchase. The only package available for my trip to Germany was:
I wasn’t impressed. $40 for 100 MB of data? Yeah, no thanks. I wasn’t sure exactly how much a SIM card would cost me in Germany but I figured it would be cheaper than the package. I called Verizon and confirmed my phone was factory unlocked before flying out of the country.
I was really glad I didn’t purchase the data plan through Verizon because you can buy SIM cards anywhere in Germany as soon as you step out of the airport. There are a number of electronics stores that sell them and you can even purchase them in supermarkets. I saw a 100 MB of data SIM card for 10€ at REWE Center.
I went into a Vodafone retailer in Munich and they were able to quickly set me up with a new SIM card for my phone. I’ve read on a few travel forums that you need to be a German citizen to buy a SIM card from a German mobile operator. I don’t know if this is the case with a German based mobile operator but I did not need a German ID at Vodafone.
A 500 MB data plan with 200 minutes of talk and 200 messages cost me 10€ and 15€ to install, paid either through cash or a German credit card. They’ll quickly set everything up for you, switch out your SIM, ask you to wait in the store till you receive a confirmation text message, and then you’re good to go. The entire process took me less than 10 minutes.
Conclusion? Buying a SIM card in country is hands down always a better option than purchasing an expensive data package from your mobile carrier.