How do I…get a SIM card overseas?

Not all holidays are isolated jaunts in uncharted jungles. Sometimes you do want to stay in touch with your friends and family back home (shocking) and post a cheeky snap to Instagram. Maybe you even have a bit of work to do and and your boss only let you go on the trip because you said you could make it work? Either way, the fact is you sometimes need access to a working phone and data, and we ALL know how much international roaming costs, so buying a local SIM card is your best bet. But how? Here’s what you need to know…

Firstly, if you can, do a bit of research before you go and see who the big telephone companies are in your destination. For example, in the USA you might look at T-Mobile, AT&T, Sprint or Verizon. For the UK you can cast your eye over Vodafone, 3 Mobile, Virgin Mobile or O2. Europe travellers can look for Vodafone or Orange, as both cover most of Europe without additional country fees. If you’re coming to Australia or New Zealand, look for Vodafone, Optus or Virgin Mobile. Dedicated travel SIM cards are also an option and are designed for travellers hitting a few countries in one trip, just Google deals for your country before you leave.


Now, since you won’t be staying for too long, make sure you get a prepaid plan! You definitely don’t want to get stung signing your life away (especially if the instructions are in a foreign language) for a $40 a month phone plan. Besides finding someone to help you that speaks your language and can explain it properly, we’d say never give your bank or credit card info. That way they can’t charge you for ongoing payments. A prepaid SIM should be a single payment for the SIM card and some initial credit, then you recharge independently as needed.


You’re now ready to enjoy that sweet, sweet data and use Google Maps to your heart’s content! Picking up a SIM card varies from country to country though so be prepared. In Europe and the USA, you will likely need to show ID in the form of a valid passport (a drivers licence won’t cut it!) to be given a SIM. You can buy them in most malls, or sometimes as you leave the airport. In other countries like the UK, you can buy SIM cards from vending machines at airports or at supermarkets easy as anything. These may not be the best deal but great if you’re in a rush. Activate the SIM and pop it in your phone (most phones are automatically unlocked these days but good to triple check before you leave) and you’re good to go!


If all this still sounds like too much effort, relying on free WiFi is also an option, and you might have a great phone company that has reasonable international rates. If you are going right off the beaten track to say somewhere like Morocco, or South-East Asia, where WiFi is limited, a local SIM card that runs off their network will be invaluable. Always do as much research as you can so you don’t waste your holiday searching for the right option!