Traveling abroad? Here’s how to find the right international phone plan for you.

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In a Nutshell

Temporary international phone plans can allow you to use maps, send texts and access your apps while you’re abroad, all without paying extra-high roaming rates. Each of the major cellphone providers — Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and U.S. Cellular — offers some choices for travelers.

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When you’re leaving the country, you know you need to pack your suitcase, grab your passport and bring your wallet. But there’s something else you’ll probably want to have — an international phone plan.

If you’re planning a trip abroad, it’s a good idea to consider a temporary international phone plan that will allow you to use your phone like you do at home. If you don’t plan ahead, you could end up lost in an unfamiliar city without any sense of how close you really are to that restaurant your friend recommended.

Plus, if you don’t have a plan in place before you leave and end up needing to use your phone, you could get stuck paying much more for exactly the same service you could have gotten beforehand for less.

Here’s the good news: Major cellphone providers in the United States offers international phone plans. These plans feature different prices and options — and while those differences might seem small, they can actually be significant.

If you’re going on vacation in just a few days, you probably don’t want to spend valuable planning time searching through pages of info. So here’s a quick overview of international phone plan options for Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and U.S. Cellular to help make your decision a little easier.


Jump to the available plans for …


Verizon

Verizon offers a few international phone plans that can cover as little as one day or a full month, so the length of your trip will figure into which could be best for you.

TravelPass: Good for quick trips

Verizon’s TravelPass allows you to pay per day while you’re away. If you want to use your phone just as you do at home, then this is a great option for trips that are less than one week. The pricing is straightforward: $5 per day in Canada and Mexico or $10 per day in 130+ other countries around the world. Just be sure to confirm that the country you’re visiting is included in this TravelPass list.

And make sure to select the plan before you leave for your trip. Even though you can add the TravelPass on Verizon’s website, it might also be a good idea to check the My Verizon app to select an international plan and make sure your phone is ready to use when you arrive.

It’s also important to note that the data, talk and text you use abroad counts toward your regular plan. For example, if you get 5GB of data per month and use 4GB during a five-day trip, you’ll only have 1GB of data left for the rest of the month.

Month-to-month plans: Good for trips longer than one week

In addition to TravelPass, Verizon offers two month-to-month plans with slightly different offerings for coverage in more than 150 countries.

$70 per month $130 per month
Talk 100 minutes 250 minutes
Text 100 sent and unlimited received 1,000 sent and unlimited received
Data ½ GB 2GB

Unless you’re visiting Canada or Mexico, or need more than the allotted data, it makes financial sense to opt for a month-to-month plan instead of TravelPass when you’re abroad for longer than a week. This is because the month-to-month plan costs $70 or $130 per month, whereas the TravelPass is $10 per day in most countries. With TravelPass, two weeks of coverage in most countries would cost $140, which is more than the most expensive monthly plan.

FAST FACTS

Pay-as-you-go plans: Best for rare emergencies, or when a traveling companion already has a plan

Some cellphone providers offer pay-as-you-go pricing. This means that you do not need to select an international phone plan prior to departure. Instead, you can start using your phone when you’re abroad and pay only for the calls you make, texts you send and data you use.

But paying as you go tends to cost more — it can sometimes run double or triple the price of other options on the same carrier. Because of this, the pay-as-you-go model is best for people who do not plan to talk or text or use data while abroad, or for people whose traveling companions have already picked out a plan and can access data when necessary.

AT&T

Like Verizon, AT&T has a few different international phone plan options with varying prices. In some cases, though, you may not need to add an extra plan if you’re traveling to Canada or Mexico.

For example, if you have an AT&T Unlimited & More Premium or an AT&T Unlimited & More plan, you get unlimited talk and text between the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Plus, you’ll get access to your usual data plan in Canada and Mexico with no roaming charges. If you’re traveling to a country that isn’t Canada or Mexico, you’ll need to add an international phone plan for service.

International Day Pass: A straightforward option

AT&T’s International Day Pass costs $10 per day and provides unlimited talk and text in more than 100 countries. (Just be sure to confirm that the country you’re visiting is on the list.)

You’ll also have access to the same data plan you have at home. So your data phone usage does count toward your regular plan.

AT&T Passport: Good for uncovered locations

AT&T Passport is a month-to-month plan with two different offerings based on your talk, text and data needs. AT&T Passport provides cellphone coverage in more than 200 countries, nearly double the amount covered with the International Day Pass.

One note: While it’s cheaper to make phone calls with Passport than it is if you pay as you go, there’s still an additional fee per minute.

$60 per month $120 per month
Talk $0.35 per minute $0.35 per minute
Text Unlimited text Unlimited text
Data 1 GB 3 GB

Sprint

If you have a service with Sprint, then your international phone use should be straightforward and user-friendly. Every customer with an LTE/GSM smartphone has automatic access to Sprint Global Roaming data and text in many international locations. (Phone calls cost extra.)

Plus, it’s easy to search for your travel destination and find the exact availability and cost of each service listed below.

Sprint Global Roaming: A solution for most customers

Sprint Global Roaming makes getting data during international travel relatively simple. Customers automatically get free text and free basic data (though only up to 2G speeds) in most locations. Talk starts at $0.20 per minute.

More than 200 total countries and destinations have coverage. But the cost of phone calls can vary by location, so it’s important to check your specific travel destination before you go abroad. But other than confirming that you’re covered, there’s nothing else you need to do. Customers with LTE/GSM smartphones have automatic access when abroad.

High-speed data passes: Good for frequent users

If you need faster data for your trip, you can buy high-speed data passes with speeds up to LTE, which is necessary if you want data speeds that are comparable to what you have at home. Costs vary depending on the location you’re visiting, and you can upgrade by responding to a link in an automatic welcome text from Sprint when you get to your destination.

Per day Per week
Canada and Mexico $2.00 $10.00
Most other destinations $5.00 $25.00
China $10.00 $50.00

T-Mobile

Many T-Mobile phone plans — T-Mobile ONE, Simple Choice, New Classic and Select Choice plans — include unlimited texting, $0.25 per-minute calling and up to 2G data speeds in more than 200 countries and destinations for no extra cost. The T-Mobile Essentials plan provides unlimited text and calling for $0.25 per minute, but no data. However, the carrier’s pay-in-advance plans and No Credit Check plans do not include an international phone plan.

It’s a good idea to confirm that your travel destination is on T-Mobile’s list before you leave the country. If you are traveling outside of the approved countries, pricing will vary.

International Pass: Good for higher data speeds

If you want faster data, you can buy an International Pass for $5 per day. International Passes provide 512MB of data at up to 4G LTE speeds and unlimited calling for 24 hours.

For trips to Mexico and Canada, the T-Mobile ONE will give you unlimited calling, texting and data up to 5GB at 4G LTE speeds.

U.S. Cellular

U.S. Cellular’s prices for talk, text and data vary based on the area of the world you’re visiting. Be careful about phone usage while you’re abroad, because these fees add up quickly.

U.S. Cellular rates

Canada Mexico Europe Latin America Middle East and Africa Asia Pacific
Talk $0.80 per minute $1.20 per minute $1.20 per minute $2.00 per minute $2.40 per minute $2.40 per minute
Text

$0.40 to send

 

$0.25 to receive

$0.40 to send

 

$0.25 to receive

$0.40 to send

 

$0.25 to receive

$0.40 to send

 

$0.25 to receive

$0.40 to send

 

$0.25 to receive

$0.40 to send

 

$0.25 to receive

Data $1 per MB $1 per MB $2 per MB $2 per MB $2 per MB $2 per MB

U.S. Cellular data packages

You can also add a monthly data package if you think you’ll need more data while you’re away. However, data packages are only available for certain parts of the world.

Canada Mexico Europe Latin America
$35 per month for 125 MB $35 per month for 125 MB $35 per month for 50 MB $35 per month for 50 MB

Bottom line

Traveling is exciting — but it can also be stressful visiting an unfamiliar place. That’s why it’s smart to have an international phone plan in place before you go. Whether you plan to use your phone for emergencies or daily directions, it’s a good idea to have access to your phone while you’re abroad.

When selecting your plan, make sure you’re picking the option that’s best for your trip. Not everyone will need the fastest data speeds available, just as some people might only need to use a relatively small amount of data over the full length of their vacation.