SIM cards abroad

One of the more extraordinary things in life is the amount you can be charged by your mobile carrier on ‘international roaming’. It’s completely extraordinary with amazing stories of people downloading serious amounts of data – eg for a movie and getting back to find bills for $60,000. I travelled to the UK and Paris a couple of years ago and used my phone sparingly. Probably spent about ten or fifteen minutes a day on it – making various calls back home and or organising things.  About 8-9 days useage cost $400.

Anyway, you’d think that this would be easy enough to bypass. You’d think you could buy SIM cards here for overseas. When the VirginMobile Australian site tells you that

Another option worth considering..

Is using a local Pre-Paid SIM card that they have purchased overseas, you’d think they might offer to sell you one – after all, that’s just more money to be made. But alas no.

So Oh Troppodillians, I’m heading to Washington DC next week and my son Alexander is going to Paris the next week (this is pretty normal for us – we’re very cool people – very very cool).

Now you can say ‘just head to your country of choice and buy a SIM card there.  Well yes, you can, but it’s surprisingly difficult.  In the US, the land of the free and the home of the brave, there’s a special committee which arose in the wake of the House Unamerican Activities Committee called the House SIM Card (Protection against easy access) Committee.  Since it is implausible that no newsagent in any American airport would have heard of it, I presume this committee has prohibited SIM cards being sold in airports (after all it would just fuel terrorism, and making the terrorists go down to the local AT&T store has pretty much fixed (domestic) terrorism and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

In fact when I was last in Washington, I did go to a local AT&T shop and bought a SIM card, but it was a poxy SIM card with I think US$25 or perhaps US$50 on it which charged about 30-40 cents a minute including incoming calls, which was a bit – well Unamerican.

So, oh Tropposphere, I’m all ears for your suggestions.

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8 Responses to SIM cards abroad

  1. meika says:


    Brochures can be found in post offices.

    There are others marketed at non-Aus based travellers. I’ve not used any as yet.

  2. Well it’s a nice fantasy, but the cost to and from the US is about the same as international roaming on my carrier. Nearly $4 a minute.

  3. Patrick says:

    Use an ipod touch / i-phone with wifi and use gmail voice (set your gmail settings to US English). See if you can get a google voice number for people to call you on. you’ll miss a call or two, but you’ll live with that.

    Otherwise, yea, American mobile telephony seems to pretty much suck completely.

    France I am 90% sure your son can just buy a pre-paid sim.

  4. CRaig says:

    I got lumped with an $800 bill from Vodafone for similar sparing use on the yearly trip to St Louis. I managed to tally that up during about 4 days. I complained on the basis that I could never have reasonably expected such a charge – sort of like if I was billed $30k to have a car tire repaired – even if I didn’t ask, there’s no way a reasonable person could expect such a charge. Happily, once you file the complaint with the Ombudsman, you get a file number and another number you can call at Vodafone with dedicated staff. Who kindly reduced my bill to something I thought I could reasonable have expected. Along the way I learned that Vodafone sell an international roaming pre-pay bundle, that staff helpfully pointed out on my first call “would have saved me heaps”. I think it would have served my purposes (US) for about $50.

  5. ken n says:

    You’ll have no trouble buying a US SIM Card downtown in NYC or any major city.
    I haven’t looked but would be surprised if electronics store at airports did not have them.
    Paris is also easy. News-stands, PMU everywhere.

  6. Duncan Riley says:

    I’ve just ordered a sim card for a trip to the US in October. $99 for 30 days, unlimited data and US calls.

    Yeah, I know this sounds spammy, and nothing to do with me (found the site via Whirlpool) but you did ask: MrSimCard has a variety of options.

  7. jose jones says:

    Pretty interesting that the cost of using that travel SIM in the US is over three times the cost of using it in China.

  8. Nick Dunin says:

    I’ve used these guys AussieSim who are easier one of the best options for a business person travelling that needs their Aussie calls directed to their international number at the cost of a local call. Their forwarding option is the way to go :)

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