Can’t leave home without your iPhone?

It is possible to use your iPhone in some countries without incurring high roaming fees by purchasing a sim card with a local phone number. See how…

We frequently used our iPhones on the world trip for research, communication, and navigation. To avoid high roaming charges and service issues, we purchased local SIM cards when possible. We’ve compiled a list of tips for obtaining SIM cards for your iPhone when traveling abroad.

How to Get a Local SIM Card Abroad

Where to get a SIM Card
We found that the best place to get a SIM is at the airport after landing. Although, we did find many mobile phone offices in city centers.

Bring ID
You will need to show your passport and provide your local address to buy a SIM card.

Size Matters
Be aware that SIM cards come in various sizes. The iPhone takes a smaller card than other phones. If you can’t find a micro or nano SIM, get a larger card and carefully trim it to fit your phone’s SIM card holder.

Save all Information
Important – keep the information that comes with the SIM. You will need the four digit SIM PIN number and eight digit PUK number. Every time you completely power down your phone, the SIM will lock up and you must enter the PIN to unlock it. Warning – you only get three attempts. If you do not get it correct on the third attempt, the SIM will lock and you will need to enter the eight-digit PUK or call the carrier to unlock it. The SIM does not lock up when the phone is in standby mode.

Save your Original SIM
When you return home, remove the international SIM and put your original one in. The iPhone will pick up the CDMA signal and automatically switch back to the original phone number. Save the international SIM card for your next trip.

Recharging your Phone
Ask about the options to recharge your card when you run low on air time. In some countries there are convenient options like recharging at convenience stores and kiosks.

Service Areas
Each country has its own mobile network, so with a few exceptions, be prepared to get a new SIM in each country. Here are a few examples.

  • Europe: Even though Vodafone is a common carrier throughout the EU and other continents, you must get a new SIM in each country. The Vodafone SIM from Germany did not work in Spain.
  • Africa: Here’s an exception… The MTN Uganda card also works in Tanzania and upon arrival in South Africa, we were able to use the balance of the data plan surfing the Internet.

Best International Mobile Phone Carriers

This is purely opinion, based on our experiences with the carriers we found.

  • Thailand – DTAC or 1-2-Call (AIS)
  • Singapore -Singtel
  • Uganda – MTN Uganda
  • South Africa – Vodafone SA
  • Germany – Vodafone DE
  • Spain – Vodafone ES
  • Turkey – Vodafone TR (Go early – the stores only get a small quantity of SIMs each day. After several tries, we gave up.)

International SIM Cards

We did look into international SIM cards and found that at the time we left the United States, February 2013, they were not the most economical option. However, in recent months, some carriers, like T-Mobile began offering new international plans that look pretty cool.

For a trip to one or two countries, local SIM cards would probably be the best option. For an extended trip to multiple countries, like an around-the-world adventure, an international SIM could be the best way to go.