International SIM Cards vs Local SIM Cards

When you travel internationally, using your existing SIM card is usually a bad idea. The vast majority of service providers follow the controversial decision of applying extraordinary roaming fees with very few exceptions.  Rather than pay excessive roaming charges there are other solutions; grab an international SIM card or get a local SIM in the country you are travelling to.  Let’s discuss the pros and cons of these two options in a bit more detail….


International SIM cards va local SIMs

Local SIM Cards

The first option is to buy a SIM from a local store when you arrive in the country that you will be visiting. This isn’t possible in all countries though as many countries require you to provide proof of residency in order to purchase one.  Some of these countries include Japan and India to name a few.   For those countries that you can purchase a local SIM card in the plus points are good rates as you will pay like a local.  Unfortunately local SIM cards come with a lot of cons…

  1. If your friends and family want to call or message you, they will be paying to contact an international number so it will be expensive for them
  2. You have to try and find a shop that sells one and if in a country that speaks a foreign language, you need to be able to ask for one
  3. Topping up in a different language can be almost impossible of you don’t know the language
  4. You don’t know the number before you travel so your family and friends have to wait for you to contact them before they know you have arrived safely
  5. If you are travelling to more than one country, you will quickly gain a lot of different SIM cards which can be annoying and it’s difficult to remember what one is for which country

Man on phone abroad

International SIM Cards

The second option is to obtain an international SIM card that you can use in most countries in the world. While the former option may prove to be marginally cheaper if you are staying in one country for extended periods of time, an international SIM is a far more flexible option.  International SIM cards are all about convenience. Here are some of the perks of an international SIM…

  1. Rather than pay to answer calls when you travel to other countries, an international SIM card will enable you to receive calls for free in many countries (for example our International SIM gives you free incoming calls in 95 of the most popular countries).
  2. Having one SIM for multi country trips is so much less hassle
  3. You can manage all your spend in an online account and top up without any language barriers
  4. You get low rates for talk, texts and data worldwide
  5. You get more coverage than the average SIM as international SIM cards are designed specifically for travelling
  6. Having a predefined phone number before you even leave the country will allow you to share it with the people who matter the most


What else you should look out for:

What country is the phone number on your international SIM? 

Some companies give you an Eastern European number, others a US number (FYI we give you a UK and USA number, plus to option to add numbers from over 50 other countries)

Can you roam on your existing number?

Forwarding your existing number to a virtual number means you can be contacted on your regular number with no roaming charges (but you will pay for the call).  Find out more here.

How long does credit last?

Ideally you don’t want to be forced to top up when you don’t want to.  Although credit on a WorldSIM international SIM card never expires (as long as you use the SIM once a year) many other companies will terminate your SIM if you don’t top up every 30 days.  Ideally you want to keep your international SIM for life so you always have the same number when you travel.


Not all international SIM cards are the same as some require you to top up every month in order to keep the SIM active (we don’t, just so you know).  If you need help selecting an international SIM card you can read this blog post on how to select the best international sim card for your needs.