Phone being held up in front of beach

SIM cards for overseas travel

Any trip overseas, whether it’s for a few days or a couple of weeks, requires careful planning. With your passports ready and suitcases packed, it can be easy to forget something many of us take for granted each day: using your phone.

Mobile usage and international trips often mean navigating certain issues, from your phone overheating in hot weather to charging while travelling. Perhaps the biggest consideration when using mobile phones abroad is keeping costs as low as possible, especially if faced with ambiguous roaming conditions. 

That’s where choosing the right SIM card comes in.

In this guide, we’ll look at the things you should be aware of before purchasing SIM cards for overseas travel, such as the debate between local and international SIMs, how different rates and roaming charges work abroad, and how you can navigate these to use your mobile cost-effectively across the globe.

What are local SIM cards for overseas travel?

If you come across the term ‘local SIM card’ when travelling abroad, this means that the SIM itself is serviced by a mobile provider local to the foreign country you are visiting.

It may be the case that this type of SIM card works out cheaper than others because it provides you with a local number from which to make and receive calls, as well as using an allocated data allowance without incurring any hidden charges.

Do keep in mind that local SIM cards for overseas travel are normally restricted to one country, so you won’t be able to use them if you plan on visiting another destination. Likewise, if you don’t speak the local language or are tight for time, getting these set up could add a great deal of hassle to your trip.


How do international SIMs compare?

Some would argue that international SIM cards are designed for overseas travel first and foremost. Whereas local SIMs are tied to one provider in a specific country, international SIM cards permit you to use your phone wherever you are travelling in the world.

Still, keeping in mind that the cost of getting international SIM cards for overseas travel can be quite expensive, you should do plenty of research in advance to make sure that you’re getting the best value for your money.

International SIMs are ideal for the following situations when travelling overseas:

  • Business trips - in the business world, time is money. An international SIM card offers convenient, cost-effective travel for customers dipping in and out of different countries for work, no matter where they need to go in the world
  • Frequent holidays - some people like to take more than one or two vacations per year. International SIMs save you the fuss of buying and setting up local SIMs each time you travel, plus some providers allow you to retain leftover credit for use on your next trip
  • Visiting multiple countries - purchasing a local SIM in every new country you visit not only negates the money-saving aspect, but also means you’re destined for the nearest mobile phone retailer before you even touch down. An international SIM card stops that from happening, so you’re free to make the most of all the countries in your itinerary.
  • Long-stay travel - you may find delays in obtaining your local SIM, by which time its cost-effectiveness will have been lost. On a long-stay trip, having an international SIM that already works when you arrive means you can concentrate on enjoying the extended holiday you’ve been dreaming of.


How can data roaming charges impact your mobile use abroad?

When using your phone abroad, you will automatically be data roaming. As soon as an overseas network detects your phone, ‘roaming’ begins, and this often means you end up paying a much higher rate for calls, texts and data usage.

Although times have mostly changed since the horror news headlines detailing people’s experiences of paying hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds in roaming charges, many of us are still being caught out depending on the terms and conditions of our contracts. 

It used to be the case that EU roaming regulations applied to British citizens, meaning most people’s calls, texts and data - as per their contracts - were the same across 28 European Union destinations, at no extra charge. 

However, since Brexit, these regulations have stopped applying, so roaming charges could be added to your bill the next time you travel overseas. This is why it’s important to choose a local/international SIM card for overseas travel, or switch over to a network that provides you with the right data roaming package. 

Asda mobile, for example, offers data roaming and international calling bundles where you can use your phone as you would at home; these provide you with unlimited minutes and texts alongside a generous data allowance for use in many popular European countries, which is especially important to post-Brexit travel plans.


Where do you buy SIM cards for overseas travel?

If you want an international SIM card for your next trip abroad, you will need to purchase this online. Remember to compare rates from at least several providers to make sure you’re getting the best deal for your needs.

Local SIM cards, on the other hand, can be purchased in-store as well as via the internet. A key factor to bear in mind though is that airport SIM card retailers are usually more expensive than other shops, so don’t fall into the trap and panic buy immediately after getting off the plane.

Also, with any local SIM, you will need to activate it yourself. Make sure you allow extra time for this and do not rush or risk damaging your new card with clumsy setup while on the move.


What are some of the best SIM cards for overseas travel?

Depending on your needs, it may be worth purchasing a separate local or international SIM card for overseas travel, independent of your main network provider. Of course, you will need to do your own research into different packages and choose the one that suits you best.

Don’t forget that with Asda mobile you could be roaming like you’re at home in 36 European Destinations. We also offer competitive rates when using your phone abroad around the world, meaning you’re never caught out before your next big trip.

Take a look at our great value SIM only deals and find your perfect bundle today!

Our monthly bundles just got bigger!

Go Pay As You Go

The easy way to get more from your mobile

Mobile phone illustration

Say hello to handsets

No commitment, no limits
No commitment, no limits

With no commitment you have the freedom to flex your usage whenever you need to.

Powered by Vodafone
Powered by Vodafone

Powered by Vodafone with up to 99% UK population coverage.

Cap your spend
Cap your spend

Put a limit on how much you spend every month so you don't need to worry about getting a big bill.

Always easy to get through and speak to real people. Problems easily sorted & resolved with good cheap realistic prices. Very happy with Asda Mobile!


I love ASDA mobile for me it's great and I love having my phone on the ASDA mobile network also good bundles without any contract commitments


Never had a problem with Asda mobile. Always efficient service. Customer service is always friendly and helpful.


Consistently helpful customer services team, good network coverage, no contract commitments, excellent value for money.


Asda Stores Limited (registered address: Great Wilson Street, Leeds, LS11 5AD) trading as Asda Money, acts as a credit broker not a lender, and is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Asda Stores Limited only offers finance from a restricted range of finance providers. Finance provided by PayPal Credit. Terms and conditions apply. Credit subject to status, UK residents only. ASDA Stores Limited acts as a broker and offers finance from a restricted range of finance providers. PayPal Credit is a trading name of PayPal (Europe) S.à r.l. et Cie, S.C.A. 22-24 Boulevard Royal L-2449 Luxembourg.