People who read this site know that I don’t leave home without my unlocked iPhone as I mentioned in my 11 Must Have Travel Apps article. When I first went on my 5 month around the world trip in 2011, I was roaming on AT&T and ran up an $800 bill during my first month due to high data usage. While prices have gone down since then, up until recently it made more sense to get a foreign SIM card from the local area and buy an inexpensive prepaid data package locally. However with the launch of the T-Mobile Simple Choice plans about a year ago all of this changed. My current trip to Ibiza, Spain was my first big trip to try out their service but I wanted to report back my experiences.
T-Mobile’s simple choice plans provide varying amounts of data combined with unlimited talk and text domestically. As you can see from the chart above for $50, you can get up to 1G of 4G LTE data after which is drops down to 3G speeds for the remainder of the month. But the real value for a traveler is that these plans include unlimited international data and texts in up to 120 countries!
In the past you had to buy an expensive data roaming package on top of your monthly plan or install a foreign SIM card which gave you cheaper data. You would often lose the ability to get calls and texts on your original number with a foreign SIM (in particular iMessages for iPhone users) which was a hassle.
I am now coming up on a week with this plan and have used it in Zurich, Frankfurt and Ibiza. While the data is slow (limited to a paltry 128kbps), I have found it to be quite usable for general surfing and googling, maps usage, and checking and updating Facebook or Instagram with a pic here and there (Make sure to check out our Instagram feed for our latest pics). Videos and music streaming don’t work without a lot of buffering but for day to day checkins it works perfectly for my needs. The rest of my heavy data usage and FB browsing I can wait until I am on wifi at a cafe or restaurant.
While texts and data are included and unlimited, voice usage is not. In Spain where I am now, it costs $0.20 a minute to call local spanish numbers which isn’t too bad.
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