One of the first questions we asked ourselves when we decided we were going to travel fulltime was "How the heck do we get cellphone coverage when we travel to a new country every month!"
If you're only traveling for a short period of time, this post isn't for you. But if you're making travel a lifestyle (or at least traveling for long periods of time) then you'll find this helpful.
Chronic travelers have a few options when it comes to overseas data:
Buy a sim card in every country you visit
This can work well if you're going to be spending a lot of time in a single country. You can usually get 2-5GB of data for around $30-$50, and that will usually last 2-4 weeks if you're data conscious.
We thought about giving this strategy a try, but ultimately decided it wouldn't work for us. The main reason being that we planned on moving around quite a bit, never spending more than a few weeks in single country. We didn't really want sim cards piling up with unused data.
We actually did this for the first months of traveling, mainly because we hadn't yet figured out what the heck to do about cell phone coverage. This strategy works, but damn is it annoying. We were constantly searching for wi-fi and trying to leech off of restaurants and hotels. We just weren't able to stay connected enough throughout the day.
Get a European cell phone plan
After a bit of research, I found a company called Go Sim which offered sim cards specifically for data while traveling in European countries. In fact, it actually works in a whopping 100 countries! It sounded too good to be true! Well, it sort of was.
1GB of data will cost you around 110 EUR. We had budgeted around $100 USD total for our monthly data costs, so that just wasn't going to work.
There are a bunch of other companies like Go Sim, but we just couldn't find one that offered data for a low enough cost.
T-mobile international plan
Finally, we decided to see what the more well known carriers could offer. AT&T's international plans were a joke, so we pulled up T-mobile to see if they have any good plans.
Turns out they have a "Simple Choice" plan which gives you unlimited data (switches to 2G once you run out of your monthly allotment) in 140 countries. 140! And they even had a special offer running, 6 GB of monthly high-speed data for $50 per line. That put us right at the $100 mark for 2 lines, hooray!
Best of all, there's no contract. So if we ever want to cancel and go back to AT&T (God forbid) we can do that in an instant.
We ordered our sim package, popped them in our unlocked phones, activated them online and BAM, we we're back in the beautiful world of data. We've been on this plan since May and really don't have many complaints. Naturally, the speeds can be a bit slow depending on which country you're coverage is pretty spotty back in the states, but it's better than nothing and much better than worrying about buying a new sim card each time we land.
I definitely understand that this cell phone plan isn't for every traveler, and you should definitely do your research before starting any contracts! But if you travel to a new country every 1-3 weeks, it really is the perfect plan.