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7 Questions to Help You Decide Which SIM Card to Get For Your Travels

The different factors to consider.

· 6 min read

Traveling is an exhilarating experience, but staying connected while exploring new destinations is crucial. With so many different travel SIM card providers out there, deciding which SIM card to get could get rather intimidating. If you can't decide which SIM card to get, here are some questions that you can ask yourself to help you make a decision!


1. Are there any restrictions with your device?

When choosing what SIM card to use, you will first need to understand if your device has any restrictions, as this could limit the options that you have.

  • Is your device carrier-locked? If it is, then unfortunately, your options are heavily limited. You wouldn't be able to use any other SIM card that is not provided by your primary carrier, and you will likely have to opt for roaming instead. Or you can call your provider and check if you can unlock your device.
  • Is your device eSIM-compatible? If your device is eSIM-compatible, then you can include eSIMs in your comparison of options. In fact, you might want to prioritise using travel eSIMs over physical SIM cards due to the benefits it brings about.
  • Does your device have a physical SIM slot? Conversely, if your device does not have a physical SIM slot (basically, if you are using a iPhone 14 or later from the US), then you don't really have a choice but to look for eSIMs. This could limit your options as not all local telcos provide eSIM options for tourist or prepaid plans.

2. Where are you going?

This sounds like an obvious question, but it is an important one. This question will set the foundations of your decision. After all, the SIM card that you eventually choose should provide you with connectivity at your destination.

If you will be visiting just a single country, this is a little more straightforward - whatever your choice, it will need to ensure there is coverage in that country. Your options in this case are typically:

  • Get a local SIM or eSIM from a local provider
  • Get a travel SIM or eSIM for that specific country

If you will be visiting multiple countries, then you will have a few more factors to consider: Are there options that can cover all the countries you are traveling to, or would it be better to get multiple SIM cards for each country?

  • Check for regional plans that are offered by travel SIM or eSIM providers, and confirm if the plans include the country that you travel to
  • Check for single country plans offered by the SIM or eSIM providers for each country that you travel to
  • Check if local telcos at your first destination offer tourist SIM options that also include roaming in the other destinations that you will be traveling to

If you are not sure where you will be going yet, then what will be important to you will be that whatever option you choose, you will have the flexibility to change plans and add new destinations.

  • In this case, you will typically look for global plans that offer coverage in most major destinations that you might likely visit

3. How much data do you need?

The next question is a bit more difficult, and is the one that people most commonly struggle with.

If you don't have the habit of tracking your daily data usage, you might find that it is not easy to estimate how much data you might need when traveling.

The easiest solution to this is to not think about it at all, and get an 'unlimited' plan instead, where the plans are based on duration rather than usage. It is important to note that unlimited plans typically only offer high-speed data up to a certain usage volume, and the speed gets throttled to a lower speed after that; though the cap is typically more than sufficient for a typical user.

However, unlimited plans are not always the most cost-effective. There are a few ways which you can use to estimate how much data you might need:

  • Most devices today have an in-built data tracking feature. Check your past usage and consider your usage habits to get an estimate of how much data you might need on a daily basis.
  • Use Nomad's data calculator feature to help you estimate how much data you will need for your trip.

4. How long is your trip?

In addition to how much data you might need, the duration of your trip is also an important factor to consider.

The length of your trip could influence the amount of data that you need. But, that's not the only reason.

Most options have a validity tied to it, so you will want to make sure that the SIM card option that you have selected is valid throughout the duration of your trip.

In the case where your trip might be longer than the validity of the plans available, check whether the plan allows you to purchase add-ons or top-up to extend its validity. It is important to note that this is not always allowed, so make sure to double-check before you make your purchase. Otherwise, you might need to get multiple SIM cards after one has expired.

5. Do you need any other features?

If you are primarily getting a SIM card to get internet connectivity and data, you typically have more options.

But, there are some additional features that you might want to consider if you will need:

  • Do you need a local phone number? Most people tend to think that having a local phone number is very important when traveling, but it is actually not very common for a typical traveler to make local calls or send messages. Another use case for having a local phone number might be to receive OTPs or SMSes, but if your primary line allows you to still receive messages when overseas, then you might not really need that local phone number either.
  • Do you need to keep your primary line active? Modern devices today are mostly equipped with dual-SIM or dual-eSIM functionalities. So you will be able to keep your primary SIM or eSIM in your device while using a second SIM or eSIM for connectivity. However, some providers of SIM or eSIM might require that their SIM or eSIM be the only SIM card in your device - in which case, you will not be able to keep your primary line active if you want to use their eSIM. Remember to check the terms and usage details.
  • Do you need an option that allows you to hotspot? If you foresee having to use your device as a hotspot to share your data with other travelers or to use other devices like your laptop, then you will want to look for an option that allows you to hotspot. It is important to note that not all providers allow you to hotspot, so check the terms of use when deciding which option to go for.

6. Do you have a preferred network? Do you need 5G?

Another factor to consider will be whether you have a preferred network, and whether 5G is required. Not all providers offer 5G connectivity for tourist or travel plans, so if this is important to you, you should keep a look out for that.

Not everyone will know about the local networks and operators that are available in a destination. But, it might be a good idea to do some research to confirm which network or operator provides the best coverage. While most operators will provide decent coverage when you are in the city center, this could make a difference if you will be traveling to the more rural areas.

If you have a preferred network you want to connect to when at a destination, factor that in when making a decision of which SIM card to get. You can choose to get it directly from the local telcos (assuming they provide one). Or, if you are looking for travel SIM or eSIM options, check the networks that they will be using.

7. Read reviews, compare prices.

Now that you have shortlisted all your different options for which SIM cards you can get, you can compare the prices of the various options to find the most cost-effective one for you.

But if you still can't decide which one is best for you, check reviews on forums and blogs. Read about other people's experiences to help you make a decision.

Aside from the reliability of the different options, some other factors that you can consider and look out for in these reviews are:

  • Customer service and support
  • Ease of use
  • Promotions and Discounts
  • Ancillary Services and Bundles

Get a Nomad eSIM for your next trip

If you have an eSIM-compatible phone, consider getting a Nomad eSIM for your next trip.

Nomad offers data plans in over 165 countries, and you can be sure to find one that is suitable for your travel needs. And if you will be traveling across multiple countries, there are also regional plans available so you can stay seamlessly connected as you hop between countries. Data plans are available from as low as $1.50/GB.

Nomad offers both regular volume-based plans as well as unlimited plans for certain destinations; and there are also regional plans available if you will be traveling across multiple destinations. Nomad also allows you to keep your primary eSIM active, and tethering is allowed.

Create an account with Nomad to keep up to date with the different promotions that Nomad offers, or simply keep a look out for such deals on Nomad's social media accounts. You can also get a friend's referral code to enjoy a discount off your first eSIM purchase with Nomad!