We examine the best international SIM cards for teachers looking to save money abroad
One of the first things you will want to take care of when moving abroad to teach English is your phone situation. It is a reality in our modern era that much of our lives now revolve around our phone and this isn’t going to be any different when you move abroad, especially, if you move to a well-developed country where many services are now provided via mobile phone apps. Aside from making phone calls home and being in contact with your school, you will probably do tasks such as banking, finding new places such as restaurants or grocery stores, listening to music, and all the other things that you normally do with your phone. Many of the items on this list are going to require WiFi or data or use of a phone plan. So, taking into account that you may not always have access to WiFi, you are going to want to look into getting either a local SIM card or an international SIM card. Below, we’ll discuss the best international SIM card for TEFL teachers living abroad and what the pros and cons are to using one.
What are the options?
As far as SIM options there are really only two to choose from. The first is getting a local SIM card in the country that you are living in and the second is getting an international SIM card that can be used anywhere the card is supported. There are pros and cons to both.
Local SIM Card
Local SIM cards will be provided to you when you sign up for a phone plan with a wireless operator in the country you are living in. These can be a great option depending on the country and what you plan on doing with your phone. Some countries have extremely cheap phone plans compared to western countries and the services can be quite comparable to what you are used to in your home country if not better. In other cases, you might pay even more for a phone plan than in your home country and receive less. Lastly, there may be some developing nations where you may not pay much for a phone plan but the service you get is very poor and limited only to major metropolitan areas. For these reasons, a local SIM card may not always be the best option for you as a teacher.
International SIM Card
International SIM cards differ from local SIM cards in that they can be used in any country that is supported by that SIM card. Most international SIM card brands operate in a few hundred countries and piggyback on the local provider’s network. These cards range greatly in their price for individual services and can even vary greatly from country to country. For this reason, it is important that you shop around and look at the specific countries that you are going to be in to make sure you are getting the best rate for the country or countries that you plan on living and traveling in.
What is the best international SIM card?
After going through multiple different companies and comparing prices in specific countries where ESL teachers are most likely to be living (China, Thailand, Japan, South Korea, United Arab Emirates, etc.) I’ve narrowed the best international SIM. It has both advantages and disadvantages which we will discuss below.
One SIM Card is part of Belmont Telecom which is a United States based company. The company offers service in over 200 countries across six continents. All of the major locations for ESL teachers are covered by One SIM Card. They offer phone and text plans as well as data only plans.
In order to use One SIM card, you must first have a phone that is unlocked for use with any SIM card. If your current phone is not unlocked you can try and take it to your carrier to have them unlock it. If, however, this is not an option, then you can always purchase an unlocked cell phone. This will allow you to use the phone with One SIM card or if you move, a local SIM card in another country.
One SIM is by far the cheapest across the board for talk and text as well as data rates. They offer free delivery of the SIM card to the United States, Canada, and Japan, which means you should plan ahead if you are leaving from one of these countries to make sure you can qualify for free shipping. One of the major benefits of One SIM is that they offer free incoming calls in most countries which means you can schedule calls back home better in order to save you money.
They also offer low rates for text messages and data. If you know that you will be using significant amounts of data you can use this helpful guide to better plan how much you should purchase. The guide breaks down data usage estimates for different types of activities including streaming a video, streaming music, sending text messages, uploading posts and pictures to social media, etc.
One final point that we like about One SIM Card is that they have been reviewed as one of the best international SIM cards for iPhone users. Considering that the iPhone has a comfortable 15% of the total market share for smartphones worldwide that means a significant number of people can benefit using the One SIM card.
Though it is the cheapest option for calling, texting, and data rates that we came across, unlike some other international SIM card providers they don’t provide you with the SIM card for free. Instead, you pay for the SIM card which comes loaded with a specified amount of money (usually $10) and then you top up with whatever else amount you would like. Other international SIM card providers provide you with the card for free and then you just put whatever amount of money you would like into the top up.
Also, outside of the three countries listed above, you have to pay for shipping worldwide. There are some other international SIM card providers which provide free shipping worldwide with minimum order amounts. This can mean that you may be paying a little more to get started. While this will balance out over time with the lower rates it does provide a minor annoyance in the beginning.
Who should use an international SIM card?
Not everyone is going to need an international SIM card. As we discussed above, if you are going to be in a country that has a stable service at a comparable price then you will be fine just getting a local SIM card from a carrier in that country. However, this isn’t always an option. Even in countries that have great phone service, you may not be able to get a local SIM card. For example, in China, foreign national are increasingly finding it difficult to sign up for SIM cards. One way that people get around this is by having a Chinese national sign up for the SIM, however, it is just as good if not better having your own. Many countries around the world are beginning to follow this lead and making it difficult to obtain a local SIM. This is where an international SIM card can come in.
If you are going to be in a developing nation where you know the infrastructure is not up to par then having an international SIM card can be beneficial as well and may even be cheaper than just going with a local SIM. In countries like Cambodia, for example, you may find yourself paying higher than normal prices for cell service but not actually receiving a quality service. There may be frequent downtimes and the connections speeds you receive with the service can be slower than in a developed nation.
What are some final thoughts?
While it is true that you will most likely be able to get a local phone card in the country that you are traveling too, don’t assume this. Make sure that before you leave you research all of your options and verify that you will indeed be able to get a SIM card before you travel abroad. This will provide you with time to order a world SIM card if you do decide that it is the best option. Always make sure you are looking at your specific needs. If you know you will be making a lot of calls back home then it may be cheaper to use a world SIM card than having a local phone plan. If, however, you are only planning on using data then you might be able to get by with just a SIM card from a local carrier in the country you are moving to. Take into account your specific situation and look at all of the options and all of the prices to make sure that you are getting the best prices.