Being a location-independent worker, I like to stay connected on the road. And sometimes, just relying on Wi-Fi at hostels or cafes just isn’t enough. I often rely on apps to provide recommendations or help me navigate when I don’t have the luxury of getting lost, and I also find a local phone number useful when I’m staying in one place for an extended period of time. In fact, having a local data connection was a lifesaver when my laptop broke down and I had to work and do research on my smartphone.
If being connected to the Internet when you’re traveling is important to you, the most sensible option is to get a local prepaid SIM card since it’s much cheaper than the overseas roaming services offered by local telcos or any “global” SIM cards. For instance:
- Australia Amaysim: 1GB/AUD 9.90/month, SIM card at AUD 5.00
- Norway Netcom: 100MB/10 NOK/day, SIM card at 29 NOK (30 NOK preloaded)
- Germany ALDITalk: 1.5GB/€9.99/month, SIM card at €12.99 (€10 preloaded)
Most of these prepaid data services allow tethering to your laptop, and even though your bandwidth gets throttled when you exceed the data usage limit, you don’t get cut off completely.
Should I get call and SMS credit on my prepaid SIM card?
Personally, I’ve only used whatever included call and SMS/texting credit provided in the SIM card without the need for more. Just as with Wi-Fi, the 3G network you get on the SIM card allows you to call and text over the Internet for free or much cheaper than even the local rate. In fact, I’ve found that my Skype and imo calls were of better quality over a 3G connection, even though surfing on WiFi is faster.
How to get an overseas prepaid SIM card with data
First off, I recommend checking out the Prepaid SIM with data Wiki and the APN Changer and Data Sim Guide. These are frequently updated with information on the prepaid SIM cards and data packages available in each country. More importantly, they’ll prepare you for language barriers and any red tape you may face: in Turkey and Norway, for example, registration is required before you can use the local network.
When things don’t work
Even if you arrive in your new destination prepared to surf Facebook or Instagram photos of the amazing sights, sometimes the SIM card doesn’t work as it should. The prepaid data may cost more than expected, or your phone may simply refuse to connect. In which case, don’t panic. You won’t die without an Internet connection, and you can always still use WiFi.