The best phone plans for digital nomads
Staying connected while exploring the world
If you’re a digital nomad or thinking about becoming one, you know that having a reliable phone plan is essential. But with so many options out there, it can be hard to know which one is right for you. That’s why we’ve put together a list of the best phone plans for digital nomads, so you can stay connected no matter where you are in the world.
Change your current phone plan
There are a few reasons why traditional phone plans can be bad for those who travel a lot. First, traditional phone plans typically have:
- higher rates for international calls
- higher roaming charges
- higher monthly fees
When I recently traveled to Europe, Verizon was going to charge me $2 per MB for roaming data which turns out to be $2,000 per GB of data.
For these reasons, it is most likely better to ditch your current phone plan and look into alternative options if you’re going to be traveling for a long period of time.
Make Sure Your Phone Is “Unlocked”
The first major thing to consider when deciding between international phone plans is if your phone is unlocked. An unlocked phone is a phone that is not tied to any specific carrier. This means that you can use it with any carrier that offers service in your area. An unlocked phone is important for digital nomads because it gives you the freedom to change carriers as you travel. This is important because not all carriers have coverage in all areas. By having an unlocked phone, you can simply switch to a new carrier when you enter a new area.
How do I check if my phone is locked?
To check if your phone is locked, simply insert a SIM card from another carrier into your phone. If your phone is locked, you will see a message that says “SIM not supported.” If your phone is locked, you will need to contact your carrier to have it unlocked, which may require paying a fee. Once your phone is unlocked, you can use sim cards & global data plans from other companies when you’re traveling.
International SIM Cards & eSIM
You can now purchase “global” or “international” SIM cards that allow you to use your cell phone at reduced rates around the world. Some examples of this include:
These services have special agreements with cell service providers around the world, charging $2–10 per GB of data. This is a good option for people who don’t want to mess with buying a separate local sim card in each country they travel to.
Global prepaid SIM cards are best for travelers who are visiting a country (or many countries) for a short period of time.
In addition to physical SIM cards for international travel, there’s a brand new option called “eSIM”. With the new eSIM technology, there's no physical card that needs to be inserted into your phone. In order to use an eSIM card, you’ll need to have a device that supports eSIM technology and an active data plan from a carrier that offers eSIM service. Once you have those two things, you can activate your eSIM card by scanning a QR code or by entering in a code provided by your carrier. Once your eSIM is activated, you can use it just like a regular SIM card and your device will automatically connect to the internet using the eSIM data plan.
Local SIM Cards
Another option is that you can buy a local SIM card when you arrive at your destination and use a local prepaid cell phone plan. Often, you can buy these local SIM cards and plans at the destination’s airport. This can be cheaper than using your home carrier’s plan, and the data speeds can be very fast with 4G LTE where available. Depending on the country, service can be pretty cheap. Usually, 5GB of data costs about $20 — $50 USD.
Other Ways To Stay In Touch
If you don’t plan on needing your phone 24/7 when you’re traveling, you can also stay connected to family and friends using video calling programs like Google Voice, WhatsApp, Signal, and SecureMeeting. Keep in mind that to use video calling programs, your phone or computer must be connected to WiFi. Maybe at your hotel or a coffee shop, or by using mobile data from your cell provider.