Global SIM cards, also known as travel SIM cards, are a low-cost way to stay connected while travelling. Forget the days of calling cards or outrageous fees. Many phone and now offer SIM cards that allow you to make calls, send texts and upload pictures while in a foreign country.

If you are considering purchasing a global SIM card for your next holiday, be mindful of these specific considerations.

Locations, compared

Travelling from Australia, you don’t need a global SIM everywhere—more like just about everywhere. See where you will and won’t need to purchase a travel SIM card.

Australia

No surprises here—you don’t need a new SIM card to travel domestically. We almost feel silly writing this, but we get this question more than you can imagine…and, hey, if you don’t ask, you’ll never know.

New Zealand

For short-term stays in New Zealand, it may be possible to get away with using your everyday phone plan and phone number. You may incur international roaming fees, but these are small for short periods of time. For longer stays, though, you should have an international SIM card.

Elsewhere

For travel around the rest of the world, do purchase a global SIM card if you plan to stay in regular touch with loved ones or upload pictures as you go. Most phones will allow you to dial emergency numbers (download the Global 000 app to make sure you dial the correct emergency number, of course), so go global SIM-free if you plan on being completely alone.

Phones, compared

Unlocking your phone is one way to work around purchasing a global SIM card. Simply put, if your cell phone is unlocked, it can be used with more than one wireless carrier. This means you can begin using a local carrier when you enter a new country, which is especially helpful if you plan to stay for a long period of time. The ease with which your phone can be unlocked is determined by what phone types you own:

GSM phones

The way to tell if you have a GSM phone is by opening it up and seeing if there is a SIM card inside. (For those of you who haven’t opened your phones, a SIM card is a small piece of plastic with a chip on one side.) When a GSM phone is unlocked, it will work with any active SIM card, from local country SIM cards to global SIM cards. In general, most Australian phone companies use GSM phones; unless you have purchased your phone in the US or Japan, you probably have a GSM carrier.

CDMA phones

These phones do not have a tangible SIM card and must be programmed to another carrier in order to work. This generally requires a bit more technical brain power and money—that is, if you can find someone with the know-how to do the job right. For all intents and purposes, though, you can generally assume that CDMA phones cannot be unlocked.

Travel SIM cards, compared

Travel SIMs aren’t the perfect option for everyone, but for many they provide a service that’s hard to beat. If you want a simple solution to the overseas communication barrier, consider a global SIM card from one of these providers:

SIM card companies

While there are many dedicated global SIM companies out there, they often charge you for the SIM card as well as the credits and can also be quite hit-or-miss. Dedicated travel SIM companies are only good if you have used the brand before and trust its service and reliability.

Travel companies

Many travel and travel insurance companies offer global SIM as an add-on item, which subsidizes the price a bit. Others, like Cover-More, include a free global SIM card with each international policy. In our *unbiased* opinion, this is the best way to go, especially if you haven’t used global SIM before, as we offer 24/7 support for all of your insurance and global SIM concerns.

With Cover-More global SIM, you will save on calls, text and data. We offer low data rates for mobile and tablet SIM options and the card is prepaid, so you’ll never have to worry about sky high bills. There is no contract and global SIM works in more than 190 countries, which means you never have to stop exploring. Find out more about Cover-More global SIM today.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Garry Knight; cropped from original