Is This The Best Option For International Data?

There’s no doubt that staying connected while traveling abroad has gotten exponentially easier in the last few years. While options for local SIM cards and rentable My-Fi devices have expanded, U.S.-based cellular carriers have started offering competitive packages that allow you to use your phone as you would in the States, affordably.

Ben’s a fan of T-Mobile. Tiffany prefers her Google-Fi.

As for me, I’m a Sprint customer, and have been pretty delighted with Sprint’s international travel packages this past year. With Sprint’s Open World plan (which is free), voice and texting in the entirety of the Americas – North and South – is free, and 1GB of high-speed data is included (with overages charged at $30 per GB, billed in KB increments). In most of Europe, Australia, and parts of Africa and Asia, calls are just $0.20 per minute, texts are free, and high-speed data is billed at $30 per gig, in KB increments.

Sprint's Open World coverage
Sprint’s Open World coverage

That means that when I’m traveling to a country covered by Sprint’s Open World plan, I use my phone as I would in the U.S., at just a slight premium over what I would ordinarily pay were I at home. $30/GB of data is a fantastic deal.

However, I’ve got an upcoming trip planned to Asia, and I’ll be in a few countries where Sprint’s Open World plan does not apply. (By way of example, China, Myanmar and Vietnam are excluded from this plan.)

On past trips, I’ve rented devices from XCom Global and from TEP, on Ben’s advice. They’ve generally worked pretty well for me, although the rental process is both inconvenient and expensive.

Skyroam

In preparation for this upcoming trip, however, I discovered a new(ish) option: Skyroam, which makes its own My-Fi devices, will sell you a My-Fi device for $100. It’s yours to keep and comes loaded with three complimentary “day passes” of Wifi. Each additional day you use your device is $8, and there’s no need to swap out SIM cards (as many My-Fi devices require) since it uses a “virtual SIM” that, in theory at least, works automatically once you turn your gadget on.

What I love about this option is that the device has been shipped to me already, and I can use it when it makes sense for me to do so, at reasonable rates ($8 a day, for instance, is cheaper than Verizon’s $10/day international data plan, which is still capped to your existing data allotment). I don’t have to pay for extra days I don’t need (as I often find myself doing with a rental device), and I can use the device over and over again — and, frankly, I could see it coming in handy domestically, if I’m traveling or working in a place where Wifi is nonexistent and I need to hop on to my laptop.

Whether this is the best international data solution is perhaps up for debate, but what’s clear is that in 2016 international travelers have an abundance of affordable data options that simply weren’t available two years ago.

Count me in as a fan of the Skyroam hotspot, however (in concept, at least — I’ll report back from my travels and we can see how it performs in the field!). For a few dollars more than renting a device, you can own a hotspot that you can use at your convenience.

If you’re interested in purchasing the device, you can get a further $20 discount by clicking on this referral link, bringing the device to $80, which is a great value. (Feel free to leave your own referral codes in the comments if you like!)

Has anyone else purchased a Skyroam hotspot (or any other similar My-Fi device), and does anyone have any experiences to share?

Comments

  1. Got this last April for my Three week trip to Europe: Thankfully I did Verizon is very expensive and some areas I was in reception was terrible and this device worked everywhere… My wife and I were very happy with it..

  2. I have it and use it and love it. The device doesn’t like constant usage. So if you are like me and on the connection hard, expect to reboot the device every couple of hours.

  3. Their claims of “Global Coverage” are misleading. The coverage is pathetic. My top destinations are Uganda, Ethiopia, Somalia, Yemen, Libya, Malawi and Iraq – none of which are covered.

  4. Had this device two years now. I use it mainly in Europe and it has always worked.

    I ordered it online via Lufthansa and had it delivered to our gate while connecting in FRA.

    The only drawback I have encountered is once you activate a day pass, you are charged for that entire 24 hour period no matter if you use 1 hour or the entire 24 hour.

    Also, from my experience, the day pass is $8.00 per day if you buy in blocks of 5. Otherwise, they are $10.00 each.

  5. No, the best option for international data is to buy a cheap local SIM card. In most countries, those are $10-15 or less for 1-2GB. Plenty for even a 2-3 week stay.

    I can’t believe bloggers keep peddling overpriced gimmick devices or even mentioning options from the likes of Sprint/Verizon as a good value.

  6. I’ve been using a SIM from http://www.three.co.uk/ – For approx $20 you get a sim that works for 30 days with 10 gigs of data – No roaming charges – Its not LTE but it works well – I’ve used it in Europe and the Middle East – Love it – for the $$ it cant be beat

  7. I purchased Skyroam and used it on my recently trip to Italy.
    Pros: decent speed. great coverage. connected multiple devices
    Cons: not LTE (but decent), cannot go full day on its battery – pack an extra backup battery, 3G data capped at 350meg per day…slows down after that (it was actually not an issue for us).

    Note: when you travel, make sure you alter some of your phone settings – such as automatic app updates…this can suck down your data when you’re not expecting it to.

    Loved it overall, but if AT&T offered something like a plan similar to Verizon, then I would not need it. Glad I purchased it and will definitely use again on future trips.

  8. How ignorant you guys are and all these comments here are either FAKE or plain IGNORANT. I have Verizon travelpass and it works on high speed 4G LTE in all countries and Skyroam works on antiquated and slow 3G technology for the first 300MB and then it becomes slow crawling and you guys LOVE your service, come ON??????????? I used them and it’s disappointing when I can have it from my USA carrier for a fraction with no favors of a old device that doesn’t hold a charge.

  9. i been using for a year now, do careful some countries like UAE will not work. and after first 300 mb it throttles down to speed to 2g or lower till next 24 hrs. It really depends on what you using for , I mainly use it for google map for direction , hail an uber, google hangout/skype…the 300mb is enough for these. but if you’re social bee on social media then this is not for you

  10. We got one of these in April and have used it on multiple trips since (Japan, Iceland, US…). It pretty much works as advertised, which is to say that it works pretty well and is simple to use. Speed and coverage will vary depending on where you are. Surprisingly, we found the coverage to be very spotty in New York. Sometimes it would take a while to establish a connection upon start up, but always eventually does. The speeds are 3G, so not suitable for heavy media streaming, but just fine for maps, email and browsing while on the go. The battery life could be better. It’ll last about 2/3 of the day before needing an external battery pack. Build quality is okay but not great. The micro USB port on ours is already a little flaky.

    With all that said, we’ve really enjoyed using this device. The concept is great and the execution very good for the most part. We have rented similar mobile hotspot units in Asia for less per day, but there’s the hassle of having to rent it and return it. Overall, we’re very happy with Skyroam.

  11. Sean M. Can’t tell if you are being sarcastic or not. It doesn’t matter how good the service or device is. If the country doesn’t have the infrastructure or the towers to deliver a strong signal it’s not gonna. I don’t think countries like Iraq and Somalia are too concerned about 4g coverage. That being said places like Ethiopia you would think would have reliable coverage at least in Adis but again it depends on how rural you are going.

  12. “$30/GB of data is a fantastic deal.”
    You can’t be serious.

    I don’t think you’re cut out for this line of work, Nick.

  13. Travelpass absolutely does not get 4g in all countries. It’s horrible in many countries, and insanely expensive.

    Project FI is an option but at the end of the day if your own is unlocked and it should be buying a seperate sim card is always better. Even in expensive countries I would be $10 to 15 for an entire week. For seven days in England paying $70 for Verizon is ignorant. I have Project FI and I plan on checking the speeds and expect to get a local sim when I travel to Europe for 2 weeks next in a few months. I can’t even fathom paying $140 for crappy verizon.

  14. >Is This The Best Option For International Data?

    >Whether this is the best international data solution is perhaps up for debate

    >(in concept, at least — I’ll report back from my travels and we can see how it performs in the field!).

    Betteridge’s law of headlines strikes again.

    > For a few dollars more than renting a device, you can own a hotspot that you can use at your convenience

    @Nick: For a few more dollars than renting a device, you can buy a real MiFi—MiFi is the brand name for personal hotspots made by Novatel/TCL… not that you care—one that you have a choice of sticking in one of dozens of global roaming SIMs, a local SIM you can by on Amazon or eBay for significantly cheaper data, or even a Know Roaming SIM sticker—which incidentally also has $8/day plans.

    @Steven and Jake: Yeah, pretty sure we all know what’s going on here.

  15. I have the same problem as Sean M. when I’m in Mozambique or North Korea. Such a pain when you’re trying to get an Uber ride back to the airport.

  16. I’ve been using the GlocalMe G2 for about 9 months now, and I love it. It has a virtual SIM, which means the minute your wheels touch the ground in a foreign country you can get on wifi, no need to hunt down a SIM vendor. You can by data by region or global data. Also, if you want cheap local rates it has two physical SIM slots anyway. No going back for me.

  17. @Steven and @StevenL, I’m amused that you think there’s some grand plan or shilling going on, but am I shilling for Skyroam or am I shilling for Sprint (which, at $30/GB for data, is the best value of the “Big 3” U.S. cellular carriers)? I mean, if you’re subtly accusing me of getting some sort of payola, at least tell me if it’s Skyroam or Sprint who’s cutting me the check so I can collect it? 😉

    Or maybe I just discovered something that changed the way I approach staying connected while I travel, and wanted to share it?

    Anyway, the commentary is good. My intention was there to be a discussion of people’s tips and advice so that the best options could be shared with everyone. In my personal opinion, I did find a hotspot device with digital SIM priced at $80 to be a great value, and wanted to let readers know.

  18. @Coldagglutannin – You might be surprised with the quality of coverage in Somalia. Landlines are nonexistent so mobile is the primary communication network. The speeds on Hormuud network have improved dramatically the last few years and you can get genuine LTE in most parts of Mogadishu.

    Yemen and Libya have both been cut off from most international roaming partners since the conflicts started. We have to use Iridium lines there which are horrendously expensive for slow speeds. Local networks are also unreliable.

  19. I used keepgo for a trip that I went to 5 Asian countries. I don’t know why you would want to carry around another device to have to charge and maintain rather than just swapping out your sim for the same price.

    Local sims can be cheaper, but having to reseach them, where to buy them, etc. was a pain in the butt. I would go the T-Mobile route, Project Fi, or something like KeepGo.

  20. Project Fi really beats most options hands down except for quite specific heavy data users on short trips in which case a flat daily fee option might be superior. $10/GB is a steal and the fact you you can have up to 8 SIM cards on the same plan means you can outfit all your devices plus family and friends as well. Have used it in very places including Belarus and it has been a champ. I use ATT for domestic service since coverage with sprint/tmobile in my area is no good so i keep my Project Fi service on ice (paused) until h day I fly out. Works brilliantly and is similarly priced to local sim cards without the time or hassle.

  21. In an emergency (e.g. accident) do you think any local person (e.g. ambulance, doctor) in Myanmar will call intercontinental to your U.S. number if they need to reach you? Or will your Uber/Grab driver call or SMS you if they can’t find you? How about the restaurant who will cancel your reservation if you forget to reconfirm it?

    I mostly live in the U.S., a wealthy country, and can’t think of an Uber, restaurant, or EMS person who would not think twice before dialing a number from, let’s say, South Africa (and this assume that they even know how to do it, and a large number of people don’t).

    The best option for international data is to buy a cheap local SIM card, which comes with oodles of the fasted data a local number.

    > I can’t believe bloggers keep peddling overpriced gimmick devices or even mentioning options from the likes of Sprint/Verizon as a good value.

    Agree. Experts they’re not, just lazy.

  22. Nick–

    For the included Sprint plan, is the 1GB per month? Or over the lifetime of your plan/contract? And does high-speed mean 3G or LTE?

  23. I am sorry to disagree but the afore mentioned Sprint plan does NOT indeed give you coverage over all of the Americas: it didn’t work in Argentina, nor it did in Chile. In Peru I was able to use a local network but I had a surprise in my bill for that cycle. Only place where it really worked and on LTE was Mexico -as in no overcharge to my bill
    🙁

  24. Guess I am in the minority. Writing this from the Hyatt Regency in Kowloon before my flight back to the USA. I have tried Mi Fi with a local SIM card (even bought the model Tiffany suggested when she went to Thailand). I have used XCom Global three times. By far, the easiest is Verizon Travelpass. For $10 a day, less than the cost of most meals, I have unlimited minutes to speak with my family at home, unlimited texting (which we do a lot), and my full plan’s allotment of data, which includes tethering, all from my own phone with my own US phone number, reachable easily by anyone. If the country has LTE, I get it. Is that worth $10 to me? Answer is not even close.

  25. I am a Sprint customer and the plan I recently attached to my account is Sprint Global Roaming which covers more countries than Sprint Open World. Unfortunately, I had to cancel my overseas trip to Sicily, so have not yet had a chance to test it out. It offers free texting, and calls are $0.20/minute but it only offers free data at up to 2G speeds.

  26. You guys do have it tough.

    If I go to the US (from the UK) I pay £5 per day and for that I can use as much of my normal 10GB monthly allowance as I want (Vodafone). In countries in continental Europe it’s £3 per day. Other UK carriers are even cheaper than that.

  27. @stvr. Never said Verizon was the cheapest but I can get 4G in Asia and I think T Mobile offers 2G. The amount of money we are talking about for an occasional traveler is peanuts. To use your example, I’d gladly pay another $100 per trip for excellent speed. Compared to the cost of travel, that is a rounding error. Others may have different priorities and that is fine by me. Each to his own.

  28. You mentioned Sprint Open World but there’s also Sprint Global Roaming. I switch to that when traveling outside North America.
    Free unlimited 2G data and text. Depending on the network it’s good enough to look up directions and basic google searches.

  29. I bought mine in Feb. For 8$ a day I had no option as I am not on a US billing provider.
    Slow at times. Battery needs charging after 5-6 hours and no back-up battery for sale???
    Buying a pack of 20 days should be 6$ a day instead of $8.
    Good but awaiting faster and cheaper.

  30. Well one day too late on the post. Just ordered my skyroam and would have loved the discount. Look forward to trying it out on up coming trips to Canada, Thailand, & Cambodia.

  31. @Paul: I had initially heard about Sprint Global Roaming (free unlimited 2G data / text) and called Sprint about it when they turned me on to Open World.

    Both are free add-on options, but consider the differences:

    Global Roaming: free text, free 2G data, $0.20 minute phone calls in included countries; for high speed data you pay $15 for 100MB, $25 for 200MB, and $50 for 500MB

    Open World: free text, 1GB of high speed data, and free phone calls in Latin America, Canada and Mexico; free text, $0.20 minute phone calls and high speed data at $30/GB (prorated by KB) in all other included countries (same list of countries as Global Roaming)

    So if you’re traveling in North or South America, Open World makes sense; if you’re traveling elsewhere and don’t want to pay a dime for 2G then Global Roaming makes sense, but I’d rather pay a marginal surcharge for high speed data and go with Global Roaming.

  32. I will be very interested in your experiences using cell data in Myanmar. I have an upcoming trip to there to there as well.

  33. @Nick: Sorry for the misunderstanding, Nick, but I don’t think you’re shilling for anyone (some of the commenters, on the other hand…). I think you’re simply out of your element. You’re a travel blogger, not a tech blogger, and it shows.

    For starters, Sprint hasn’t been part of the Big 3 for well over a year; T-Mobile took their place either last August 2015, last Feburary 2015, or late 2014 depending on who you ask.

    Second, T-Mobile’s international high speed data passes are the exact same price as Sprint’s Global Roaming passes. Or rather, it’s the other way around since Sprint’s pricing decisions were in reaction to T-Mobile’s pricing.

    Third, even if Sprint’s Open World $30/GB were the least worst option (Project Fi, which runs on the combined networks of Sprint, T-Mobile, and various international networks at $10/GB puts that to bed), that hardly makes them—as you said—”fantastic”.

    Fourth, anyone on the T-Mobile One plan can pay an extra $25 for the month (not per gigabyte) and bumped to 3G speeds internationally (4G speeds depending on the country).

    I wouldn’t recommend T-Mobile to everyone, but to claim that Sprint offers outsized value is plain ludicrous.

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