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The Absolute Best International Data and Roaming Options for Travelers: A Guide

Leaving the country shouldn’t be a punishment. Yet, it’s 2015 and so many U.S. wireless carriers still want to gouge their customers when it comes to pricing for international roaming — everyone except T-Mobile, anyway. Even worse, if you’re on a prepaid plan in the U.S., chances are you don’t have an option to roam internationally altogether.

Sure, you can always buy a local prepaid SIM card when you land and pop it into your unlocked phone, but if you’re someone who often travels internationally, especially to multiple countries, that isn’t always practical. It’s also quite the hassle having to get set up with a local phone number in each country. Yet, if you’re a Verizon or AT&T customer, their international roaming plans can get crazy costly real fast. That’s why we’ve done our research and have come up with the absolute best solutions for international travelers looking for the most value and convenience while traveling. Just keep in mind that for almost all of these options, you’ll need to have an unlocked phone. Don’t have an unlocked phone? We highly recommend the Moto G.


KnowRoaming: Best for Short Trips and Data Hogs

KnowRoaming’s roaming solution is quite unusual. The company sends you a sticker to be applied to your existing SIM card, essentially turning it into a dual-SIM card — perfect if you don’t have a phone with two SIM card slots. When you’re in your home country, your SIM card will function normally. Head abroad, and the KnowRoaming service will kick in, although you’ll still be given a U.S. number. Pricing depends on which country you travel to, but their base price of $7.99 for one day of unlimited data applies to 74 countries worldwide. That’s very expensive, but if you’re on a short trip, it might be worth it for the reliable service. KnowRoaming was one of our favorites at MWC 2015, and we can say that since then they’ve become our go-to company for international roaming.

Where we tested: We tested KnowRoaming in Spain, France, Austria, the Czech Republic, and Germany. We had some initial trouble getting the unlimited data package to work in Spain, but their customer service was very helpful and reliable.

The Good:

  • No need to swap out SIM cards
  • Can still use home phone number while abroad
  • Call forwarding (but not texts!) for your home phone number to your KnowRoaming number for an extra fee
  • Can purchase daily unlimited data plans in almost every country
  • Calling rates are pretty competitive
  • Calling from your home number to international numbers comes at a discount
  • Option to purchase an international number in 47 countries for between $3 and $12.50 per month
  • Great customer service

The Bad:

  • For longer trips, KnowRoaming’s per day costs can get pricey
  • Incoming calls are not free
  • Their app is not very intuitive, but you need to use it to buy more data
  • The setup process, though straightforward, lends itself to people who are more technically proficient with smartphones

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