Cellular device for international travel


I am facing the possibility of international travel in the coming year. This will be for work and I am looking for opinions on the best options for basic calling, messaging via an app, and email through a web portal. Is it better to take along a cheap unlocked phone and purchase SIM cards locally or to purchase what we consider to be burner phones here in the USA once in my destination? A third option would be a cellular based wifi hotspot. Time in any one country would not exceed two weeks. Any experiences or opinions would be appreciated.
Edit to ask if it would be easier/more useful to purchase a phone in the USA and use an international plan with it.
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Active member
I have a dual sim unlocked phone and buy sim cards in whatever country I´m in. So far it´s worked worked well in Spain,Portugal,Morocco and central/south America. My wife uses eSIM on her single sim phone with no problems.


ditto for Google FI - I've used it for work travel all over the world. Places like: So. Korea, Japan, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand, India, Singapore, Indonesia, Mexico, Brazil, England, Germany, Portugal, France I'm sure there are several places I have missed since 2016 when I switched to FI from AT&T. It is around $65 / per month for basically unlimited international use with data. I can remember years back when on AT&T with an unobtanium today unlimited international plan my monthly would sometimes be $800 for the same as FI service. You would need to bring an unlocked GMS phone to the service or buy one from Google. A Moto g 5G (2023) from them is $29 with activation. My current daily phone is the 2022 version of this and its been a flawless phone.
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Pacific Northwest yetti

Expedition Medic
Well, the countries you will be visiting make a difference. As well as the work/and requirements for that.

I have an unlocked dual sim phone, and Verizon US/Mexico/Canada plan. That has worked well for me, then a SIM in country. (Colombia, Argentina, Chile) And my InReach Mini and unlimited txt and I have secure coms anywhere in the world.

If you are using public WiFi a lot, use a VPN. Depending on your work, they may have a requirement set up for this already.

However, at this point. GoogleFi and be done. It works well, and is simple. And no fuss. One of these days I will probably make the jump. But they don’t have as good of service in the small American town I live in, right now.


Kodiak Buckaroo
And a 3rd for Google Fi. I get better connections in all countries in Europe (28) than at home in semi-rural Oregon. And billing stays pretty much the same with data being the same per gig rate. I used to get local country sim cards, but a real plus with Google Fi is having a phone number to give to hotels, rental cars, etc prior to arrival. Also depending on the country, in some countries it is a couple of minutes to get a sim, others have much stricter anti-terror/smuggling rules, so still not a problem to get the sim, just takes longer. Another 'hot-tip' with Google Fi, is you can get a data-only sim card for $10 with zero monthly charges (just paying for the data that phone usage). An easy way to carry a 'second' phone at no extra monthly charges. So if you were to lose your primary phone, you still can communicate via text, email, and internet. I also use the 'second' phone for navigation, leaving it in the car, so not having to remove my phone at every POI. I used the Moto phones (#1 & #2) Google Fi sells as sub-$50 can not be beaten.


Well-known member
I've had a lot of great results with an app called AirAlo.
Essentially, this allows you to purchase an Electronic SIM (so no physical SIM required) with a data package - 2 gigs up to 30 gigs. I almost never use SMS texting or cellular calls, and in any case incoming calls and texts are free with my carrier, and this allows me to use my data plan to message or call people back (i.e. via FaceTime or Signal). They are also easy to reload or top up.

I've used the product in Peru and Ireland with an iPhone 13 Pro and an iPhone 15 Pro, and it worked flawlessly.



Well-known member
For many years I've used a Vodafone SIM whenever away from home and it's good in most countries. At home I use Claro, and the only reason I haven't switched to Movistar (which is a better service) is that we have one phone with each and coverage varies, so with both we get better coverage.

So, when travelling outside our home country we put the Vodafone SIM in my phone and buy local SIMS for the other.

WhatsApp gives good messaging and calling when there's a cellular signal or wireless network (the home number is the same whether on the Claro SIM or the Vodafine SIM).
dito for GoggleFi, using it now in Canada, about to be using it in Europe. Have used it in Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala. No fuss, no muss. I drive across a border it works with out me doing a thing...

I also keep an unlocked phone as backup for a sim or esim in case Google kicks me off the plan in 2-6 months?


New member
I see a couple of posts recommending Google Fi. I have had this service for many years and I love it, and I travel a lot and it works great when outside the United States. But, please be aware that even if you purchase the "Unlimited Plus" plan, which gives you free data roaming in 200+ countries, there is some fine print in the agreement. Just go to Google Fi's website (https://fi.google.com/about/international-rates), scroll down to the bottom of the page and refer to the note number 2, which states, "Not intended for international use over 90 consecutive days. See Help Center for details."

Basically, if you are not in the US on a regular basis, they will turn off data roaming. They have turned off my data roaming on multiple occasions. On the positive side, once back in the United States, data roaming is re-enabled, and works again once when leave the United States.


thank you to everyone for the responses. Google Fi sounds interesting, but this would not be replacing my normal phone. As mentioned above the fine print says that primary use outside of the USA violates their policies.


Well-known member
While on the subject, has anyone had any experience with e sims?
I don’t travel extensively but am in England/Europe a few weeks to a month at a time several times a year and same for the wife in the USA.


I’ve used Google Fi trouble free in about ten different countries. Easy, no messing around with SIM cards and people just call the same number as if you were still in the States and it works.
Google Fi is also great when you live overseas but want to keep a US number for all those old fashioned 2-Factor Authentications by text message.


T-Mobile USA has great international rates/coverage (free data, albeit throttled in many countries), pair that with a dual SIM phone to buy locally (or buy an esim) you're good to go.

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