International SIM cards as an alternative to mobile plans
You wouldn't expect phoning home while you're vacationing in another country to be fraught with monetary peril, but it is. For those traveling long term or frequently, buying a local SIM card can save you money on your international calls over your mobile carrier's plan. You must make sure you have an unlocked phone, however.
There are also global SIM cards which are handy for people traveling through several countries. You have the choice of buying them online or once you get to your destination. Here are three options for buying SIM cards online for your international travel. All rates quoted below are for calling the UK from Germany, and they will vary some for calling the UK from other countries.
1. 0044.co.uk offers a Pay Monthly Sim Card for £9.99 per month, with a 6 month minimum and any unlocked handset. You get a free German SIM, English voicemail and customer support, and a German mobile phone number. Calling inside Germany costs 15p per minute, while calling the UK costs 35p per minute, and elsewhere in the EU costs 40p per minute. Calls elsewhere cost 90p per minute, and international texts cost 25p each. 0044 also has a global pay-as-you-go SIM card that costs £19.99 (includes VAT) that gives you a £6.00 starter credit, a UK and a US phone number, and it covers 140 countries. In 60 countries (including the US) you get free incoming calls. Calls cost from 30p per minute, with 42p texts. Oh, and if you accidentally type in 00-44.com rather than 0044.co.uk, you'll get a naughty London escort service's website. Just FYI.
2. Story Telecom's Travel Talk SIM card costs £30.00 and includes a £25.00 starter credit and auto top-up activation, which will add money once you're down to £3.00 of talk time. If you're in Germany on O2, calls to the UK will cost 22p per minute (2p per minute incoming). If you're on Germany on T-Mobile, you'll pay 21p per minute (1p per minute incoming), and if you're in Germany on Vodafone, calls to the UK cost 20p per minute (free incoming).
3.SIM4travel.com has travel SIM cards for "occasional," "regular," and "frequent" travelers. With each, you get free incoming calls, receive text messages free, and make calls for 25p per minute plus a daily network service fee of 39p. The "occasional" traveler card costs £15.99, which includes a £10 credit and £5.99 for the SIM card itself. The "regular" travel card costs £32.99 and includes a £30 credit plus £2.99 for the SIM itself. The "frequent" traveler card costs £50.00, which gives you a £50 credit and the SIM card for free.
With the availability of international and global SIM cards and the occasional travel bundle offered by the mobile carriers, you shouldn't have to pay the "rack rates" when you call home from vacation. A little plannning ahead can save you the horror of opening a thick, fee-laden mobile bill once you get back home.