Both Verizon and Sprint have added new unlimited plans with benefits for international travel; we've updated this guide to reflect those changes. T-Mobile will increase the number of travel destinations covered by its Simple Global feature as of July 22. It also plans to add a new $5 daily data pass with 512MB of LTE data for travelers starting August 1.
A similar option to purchasing a phone abroad is to purchase a Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card to use in your own cell phone while you’re traveling internationally. A SIM card is the part of a cell phone that holds the identity information and other personal data; if you switch your own SIM card for one that you purchase in another country, you can have all the benefits of a local phone (such as low in-country calling rates and a local phone number) without having to buy a whole new phone.
Anyone who travels wants to be able to take decent photos on the move and the 16MP rear camera on the OnePlus 3T is a solid performer. It’s not the best out there, but if you’re taking photos mainly in daylight, you’ll have no complaints. The colors are accurate, details sharp and because of the 6GB of RAM, it’s easy to take multiple shots with no delays after the button press.
To make the decision easier, we’ve gone through each carriers’ plans to figure out which one is the best for your particular needs. Even after introducing a lower-cost, stripped-down plan, T-Mobile's T-Mobile One unlimited data offering is the best family plan; it offers better value than AT&T and Verizon (though bargain hunters may be tempted by Sprint's discounted family plan and AT&T includes a new streaming TV service with its unlimited plans). T-Mobile's $70 plan is also the best unlimited data plan for individuals, though you can now get a bare-bones unlimited data plan from the carrier for $10 less.
Among the basic-economy, entry-level versions of unlimited data, Sprint deserves some credit for requiring the fewest compromises beyond the streaming-video 480p resolution enforced by all four: Sprint’s Unlimited Basic, $60 for one line, still includes 500 MB of LTE hotspot use (more than I use in most months) and overseas roaming (though at slower speeds). T-Mobile Essentials, at $60, offers only free texting overseas—international voice and data are extra—and limits hotspot use to 3G speeds (although OpenSignal rated its 3G downloads highest among all four). Verizon’s $75 Go Unlimited caps hotspot use at a punitive 600 Kbps, while AT&T’s $75 Unlimited & More bans hotspot use outright.
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Cellular Abroad, Inc., based in Los Angeles, CA, provides affordable and reliable international cellular and mobile data services to travelers. All of our solutions are pay as you go - no contracts to sign and you stay in complete control of your costs. International roaming plans from Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile are expensive, difficult to understand, often offer poor service and limited options. In addition, most smaller carriers don't even offer international roaming plans.
Gem! Phone works great. Needs nano SD card, I had to get an adapter kit but once I put in my ATT sim card, no issues at all! I don't know why anyone would spend $700 on the S7 when you can get this for $220 and its virtually the same phone. I previously had the S6, and I see virtually no performance difference between the two. Buy this if you need a good US or international phone.
We focus on the Big Four because they dominate the market. But consumers looking for a good deal or great customer service should also check out smaller companies. Our ratings of 20 providers are based on the experiences of about 100,000 Consumer Reports members. The Big Four are all near the bottom of the chart, though T-Mobile rates somewhat higher than its competitors. (Ratings are available to members.)
Perhaps most impressive are Verizon’s data speeds. Verizon is on the forefront of new technology; it’s one of the first providers to adopt new 5G technology, which promises speeds in the 200 Mbps to 300 Mbps range. While this figure has yet to be corroborated by long-term experience in the real world, it’s safe to say it will mark a considerable step up from the 4G LTE network’s peak download speeds of 50 Mbps. Verizon claims that this technology works by combining multiple wireless connections together to create what amounts to a bigger, stronger channel piping data straight to your phone.
Other International Cell Phones DO NOT give the same crystal-clear call quality that the World Talk & Text Phone gives you! That's because the World Talk & Text Phone automatically uses whichever foreign network in the area has the strongest signal. You therefore get the best call quality available to humankind, wherever you travel, GUARANTEED. Amazingly, you get better coverage than most of the locals get! (How unfair!)
Buy a disposable phone — If you’re in a country for a while and all you need are calls, texts, and maybe some light web browsing, just buy the cheapest prepaid phone you can find at the local mobile store. Sure, it’ll probably be complete rubbish, but you can often pick these phones up with a bit of credit for next to nothing and they’ll do the job for a while. The upside? You really won’t care if you drop it in the hostel toilet. If it does survive the length of your trip, just pass it onto to somebody else when you leave.
Prepay accounts in the United States offer anonymity to criminals wishing to obtain telecommunications services. The phones cannot be easily traced to a specific individual. Without call patterns that can be correlated to placed or received calls, there are very few effective ways for law enforcement to monitor or intercept communications between unregistered phones. This becomes even more difficult if encrypted services are also utilized.
Our cost estimates assume 400 voice minutes and 500 texts used per month. Those numbers fall roughly in the middle of usage data we saw from the Federal Communications Commission (PDF) and a 2013 PwC study (PDF), among other resources, but are above the much lower averages that CTIA reported for 2017 (187 voice minutes and 143 texts). Unlike postpaid services, many prepaid and resold services still limit your text messages and phone calls, so the actual cost of a particular carrier may be slightly more or less if you use more or fewer minutes and texts, respectively.
Today's teens (and, admittedly, many of us) treat their smartphones like permanent appendages, texting, Facebooking, Instagramming, streaming and playing games like the outside world doesn't exist. If you're the parent of a data-hungry teen, unlimited plans can be the way to go, since they eliminate concerns about overages. Alternatively, you might consider a bare-bones "lifeline" cell phone plans that provides your teen with a means to make a calls, and not much else. 
Frequent travelers will find other bonuses in T-Mobile’s unlimited plan. It includes international roaming, and although One Plus limits that roaming to 256 Kbps speeds, I’ve found it to be more than adequate for email and basic browsing. You also get free texting, 25¢-per-minute calling, and the ability to use your phone in Canada or Mexico with no roaming charges, even for LTE.
Verizon has shuffled up its unlimited plans, and that has an impact on people who like to use their data plan while traveling. Go Unlimited and Beyond Unlimited subscribers both enjoy unlimited talk, text and data for no additional charge in Mexico and Canada. However, while calls and messages are truly unlimited, data will be throttled from LTE to 2G speeds after 512MB.
But speeds in other countries may range from 2G all the way to 4G—that could be the difference between downloading a web page in a few seconds (4G) to downloading a web page in three minutes (2G). depending on how much data you use or how much congestion there is. You can find out what data speeds to expect in AT&T’s comprehensive international coverage chart.

Right out of the gate there are some restrictions including limited streaming for gaming at 8Mbps and music streaming is limited to 1.5Mbps, but if you can handle those limitations, the Sprint plan is hard to beat on a nationwide network. The good news is that while you might have some data restrictions, you’ll also find unlimited calling, text, and data in Mexico and Canada as well as the United States.
It has everything what a traveler may wish for: iPhone SE is the most powerful 4‑inch phone ever, with impressive battery life, and a great camera. It has all the advantages of a smaller phone: easy to carry around, even in my pocket, lightweight, easy to operate with one hand, while it has all the great specs of the iPhone 6s and 6S Plus. SE is as powerful as 6S thanks to the advanced A9 chip, the M9 co-processor and 2GB of RAM, that makes the phone fast and responsive. Great battery life for Internet usage and video playback – the same modern battery as in the iPhone 6s lasts longer with a smaller screen. Smartphone’s display is one of the biggest power drainers, but SE is using a small and lower resolution LCD display, and that significantly increases the battery life. I love its camera. It’s an excellent 12‑megapixel camera (as in iPhone 6S) that makes vivid, sharp photos, iPhone SE allows me to shoot 4K video and edit multiple streams of 4K video in iMovie. Like the iPhone 6s, the SE can shoot super-smooth slow-motion video at 240fps (720p) and regular 120fps slow-motion (1080p). Despite these great technical features, there’s no camera bump on the iPhone SE, and that makes the device more comfortable to use. All these features are great for me as a traveler, filmmaker and mother. I travel a lot, in many different countries – and I’m not worried to carry around an expensive-looking, huge device or camera. At the same time I have a compact and powerful device that allows me to record a high quality 4K footage anytime at any exotic or remote place, edit it on the go, then use and submit even for professional purposes, work effectively, be connected wherever I am even during long hours of trips, and there’s always enough battery to make some photos and videos, run an educational app or online course with my homeschooler.
Buy a budget smartphone — While there’s a lot of junk at the bottom of the smartphone range, there are a few decent phones for travelers under $200. My current favorite is the Motorola Moto G — you’ll want to buy a microSD card for some extra storage, but other than that it’s a reasonably speedy smartphone, with a battery that lasts all day and a 5” screen you actually want to use. Tip: grab the “Global” version for maximum compatibility overseas. You’ll still need to buy local SIM cards to put in it.
Why we love it: If you're looking for an extra line for a data-hungry teen, Sprint's Unlimited Plus plan makes a lot of sense. One line is $60, 2 lines are $100, 3 lines are $120, and lines 4 and 5 are free. This makes it easy to tack your son or daughter onto your plan without much financial outlay. And since each line is entitled to unlimited data, you don't have to worry about your Netflix and Spotify-streaming teen using up all of your plan's shared data. 

I LOVE this phone. I previously had an HTC Desire Eye and I loved that one so much that I was hesitant to get a new one, but it finally conked out on me. First, let me address some of the other reviews who say this phone doesn't support 4G/LTE. I'm in the US and I use T-Mobile/Metro PCS service. IT WORKS. The moment they turned on the service on this phone, the service and data worked like a charm. The service and speed are exactly the same as in my previous phone which was 4G/LTE and using the same carrier/service. The only difference is that the data indicator icon on the screen has an "H/H+" icon, but I think it's because the phone itself was programmed to work in Asia/Europe, but that's just my theory. The speed/service itself is still running on 4G/LTE. As for the performance ... full review


OpenSignal’s network tests rely on crowdsourcing: Anyone can download the OpenSignal app and run tests. But that also means anyone can opt not to do so—and the majority of people don’t. As such, OpenSignal’s data skews heavily toward densely populated, urban areas. The upside is that in those regions, it has block-by-block information. If you live in a city, you can use OpenSignal’s data to check all the spots you frequent.

If you need a lot of data more than you need the widest coverage, the T-Mobile One unlimited plan, augmented by the $15 One Plus add-on to enable full-speed tethering, is a well-priced plan (even after recent T-Mobile price hikes for One Plus) on a network that still provides pretty good coverage. T-Mobile’s network isn’t quite as good as Verizon’s—you’ll likely encounter more places where you can’t get a signal—but it’s still good, and third-party studies (for example, ones from PCMag and OpenSignal) report that a few years of upgrades have boosted T-Mobile above AT&T and Sprint. T-Mobile also bests Verizon in terms of international-roaming plans, and a wider variety of phones work on T-Mobile’s GSM network than Verizon’s CDMA network (though the best phones are available for both).
Why we love it: Sprint's new Unlimited Plus plan improves upon the carrier's now-scrapped Unlimited Freedom plan with a 15GB hotspot, texting to 185 countries, 10GB of data in Mexico and Canada, and a Tidal subscription. This in addition to the perks of the previous plan, which include a Hulu subscription and unlimited HD streaming. When you bring your existing phone or buy one at full retail price from Sprint, you can all of this for an incredible $60—which is pretty great. 
The difficulties I encountered are instructive as to what a prepay customer should understand bout service limitations when travel outside of the United States is contemplated. My experience also pointed to a glaring security problem for tracing criminals, terrorists, stalkers or others that seek to use their phone to facilitate illegal activities.

Between traditional subscription plans on the big four carriers, prepaid services, and companies reselling those four networks, you have hundreds of options for family plans, but the two-line rates of Metro by T-Mobile and the four-line deals of Verizon’s prepaid service come out on top. These plans each use one of the top two networks, let you bring your own devices (the best way to save money while still getting a quality phone), and offer conveniences like the capability to use your phone as a mobile hotspot and roam overseas without paying painful-to-extortionate extra fees.
Sure, vacation should be the time to power down, disconnect, and focus on the people in front of you. But that doesn't mean giving up the option of getting directions from Google Maps or documenting your exotic meal on Instagram. Using your phone abroad used to be complicated, expensive, or both, but it's getting easier and easier. Here are a few options for bringing your smartphone abroad.
Inessa Kraft is an international traveler, iPhone SE advanced user, actress, who starred in various inspirational and travel films, videos, advertisement and TV series, including an award winning travel film Snowing Summer, besides traveling often for the shootings, she lives location independently and makes short educational films with her homeschooling kid.
To determine the best plans, we looked at the monthly plan price before taxes and fees, the price per gigabyte, and features such as unlimited video streaming or rollover data. We only considered national carriers, which ruled out regional providers like U.S. Cellular. For average users and prepaid users, we looked at plans with 2GB to 5GB. For families, we looked at plans with at least 6GB and calculated pricing for a family of four. Recommendations for heavy data users only factored in plans with at least 10GB of data.
Gem! Phone works great. Needs nano SD card, I had to get an adapter kit but once I put in my ATT sim card, no issues at all! I don't know why anyone would spend $700 on the S7 when you can get this for $220 and its virtually the same phone. I previously had the S6, and I see virtually no performance difference between the two. Buy this if you need a good US or international phone.
If you don’t want to go through the hassle of unlocking your phone and installing a local SIM, you can simply buy or rent a cell phone that will work abroad. Cellular Abroad sells and rents unlocked GSM phones and SIM cards that will work in dozens of countries around the world. The company also rents the National Geographic Talk Abroad Travel Phone, whichworks in more than 200 different countries. It’s the ideal solution for travelers visiting more than one country during the same trip. Most U.S.–based mobile carriers like AT&T and Verizon also have rental programs. Give them a call to find out what options are available to you.
If you can live with limited service during your trip, bring along your phone but be sure to turn off data usage and the “fetch new data” option. Those are two important ways to reduce your cell phone bill during an international trip. Also look for complimentary Wi-Fi “hot spots” in places like coffee shops and malls, and use voice and text messaging apps like Viber and LINE, which are free if both parties have accounts with the service. Skype is also an option (be sure your phone is subscribed to a free Wi-Fi hotspot first) as are Google Hangouts, WhatsApp, and WeChat. You can also buy a pre-paid phone card, which usually costs less per minute than your mobile carrier’s international roaming rates.
Why we love it: If you rely frequently on your phone to provide a WiFi signal to your other devices, Boost Mobile's Unlimited HD plan is worth a close look. In addition to allowing you to skip a credit check and worries about extra taxes and fees (they're baked into Boost's prices), the plan gives you a whopping 20GB of full-strength hotspot data a month. This is a dream if you do frequent tethering.  

Sign up for Google's Project Fi, and you need never worry about running out of data when you're overseas. The service costs $20 a month for talk and text, plus $10 for each gigabyte of data you use, with Google now capping monthly bills at $80 even if you need to use more data. Project Fi lets you draw from your regular high-speed data in more than 135 countries with no roaming charges. You just pay the same $10-per-gigabyte rate as before. (You're also credited on your next bill for any data you didn't use.) Unlimited international texting comes with every plan and calls cost just 20 cents a minute. The number of Project Fi-compatible phones is expanding: in addition to Google's Pixel devices, you can now use the Moto X4 and G6 in addition to LG's G7 ThinQ and V35 ThinQ.
Due to constantly shifting promotions and terms, family-plan pricing is difficult to sort through. Our Verizon single-line pick isn’t competitive here because all of the lines on a Verizon subscription share the same data bucket. Verizon’s largest capped-data option is 8 GB, so if that won’t cover your family’s usage, you have to upgrade to more expensive unlimited data plans: $130 for two lines of not-so-versatile Go Unlimited and its limits on mobile-hotspot and streaming-video use ($160 for Beyond Unlimited), or $160 for four lines of Go Unlimited ($200 for four lines of Beyond Unlimited).

Among services that let you bring your own phone, Verizon Prepaid provides the best deals for four lines, thanks to generous multiple-line discounts on its 3 and 7 GB (per line) plans that drop those four-line costs to $100 and $125, respectively. The only exception is the least appealing data amount: four lines with 1 GB each, where AT&T Prepaid is cheapest at $90 a month. Cricket offers more data in our medium-usage scenario—$110 buys you 5 GB per line—but that comes with an 8 Mbps speed limit and no hotspot support.
Verizon’s CDMA-based network (used when you don’t have LTE service) isn’t capable of simultaneous voice and data use. This means, for instance, that if you’re using your phone to navigate while you’re driving, and you get a voice call in an area without 4G service, you may lose the call. But the company’s far-flung LTE deployment has addressed this limitation in many areas.
We've some of our favorite cell phone plans in these categories already. Ready to start comparing yourself? Head over to WhistleOut's comparison engine, choose your text/talk/data preferences, type in your home address, and press "Search." For a more detailed breakdown, check out this step-by-step guide to using WhistleOut to find your next cell phone plan. 
iPhone Forever: Does not guarantee mo. payment amount, phone selection, or svc. plan rates. Upgrade after 12 payments as long as lease & early upgrade offered. Req. active line thru time of upgrade with min. 12 consecutive mo. svc. plan payments, new phone Lease Agreement, acct. in good standing, & give back of current eligible device in good & functional condition. After upgrade, remaining unbilled lease payments are waived. Upgrade does not incl. same generation model iPhone; must be next generation iPhone.
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