A SIM card (which stands for "Subscriber Identification Module") is a small circuit board inserted into a mobile phone which allows it to communicate with the cell towers of local carriers, and getting a locally based SIM card allows travelers to use their phones without outragenous roaming charges. Of course, when it comes to Europe, the world's most popular destination, the "roam-like at home" rule of the European Union became operational in June of 2017, according to which service providers are prohibited from charging customers roaming fees - meaning getting a local SIM card has become somewhat less attractive. In addition, many carriers in the United States and other countries now offer international plans at competitive rates.

But still, you'll want to compare the rates of you carrier's plan with those of companies offering overseas SIM cards, and you may find getting one - and with it a local phone number - is a good idea for various reasons. For instance, several local card providers have sought exceptions or have discontinued selling international roaming services for their customers. And in Europe, service providers located in countries that aren't members of the EU, such as those in Switzerland and Iceland, fall outside the regulations. Calls made within the country or the region will cost between 2 and 20 cents per minute and the cost of sending a text message within the EU will range between five and 15 cents.Take note that dpeending on how much you plan to use your phone, it may be more cost effective to buya prepaid travel sim card from a mobile phone retailer than a local network.


Leisure-traveler-oriented SIM cards are available in many European countries, which may be used in multiple countries but limit the number of times you can call or text home. Sometimes if you are going to a maximum of two countries, the first country won’t be offering you SIM cards with free EU roaming. In that case, you should consider getting a global SIM card instead of a local one to save money. Are you only travelling to one or multiple countries but would save money instead of having greater freedom? If yes, purchasing local cards is the preferable option for you (especially if you use large amounts of data). Additional benefits include having access to Google Maps without the need to remember to download an offline version of your local area, as well as other services using GPS, such as ridesharing and food delivery apps.

And finally, keep in mind that in order to use a new SIM card in your phone, you need to "unlock" it, and your carrier can provide instructions on how to do so.

Whichever route you choose, happy traveling, calling, and surfing!

(And for a good menu of SIM card options, check out SimsDirect.)



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  • A pretty good overview and explanation, thanks.

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