Phone Plans

The Ultimate Guide to International Plans for Cell Phones 2023

Kyle Reyes
March 14, 2023

When traveling out of the country, it is imperative to have a plan. How much are you going to use your phone on your trip? If the answer is not at all, you can proceed without further worries, but if you want to use your phone abroad, you have to pick out a plan or even switch to a new carrier, depending on how frequently you travel. Our guide to the best international plan for cell phones will, hopefully, answer all your questions regarding your perfect plan. There is no one-size-fits-all for this one. 

Before we jump into the three major international plans, let’s talk about the challenges and opportunities of international data use for your next vacation. 

Device Compatibility: What Obstacles are there to Using Data Abroad?

Almost all devices are compatible with networks in other countries. While you should double-check, this will probably be fine traveling abroad. The real problem is with roaming, fees, and deciding what plan is right for you. There are, in general, three different kinds of international plans. 

  • Pay-as-you-go add-ons charge you a flat fee for every text, call, and megabyte you use.
  • There are international day passes that, for a daily fee, give you access to a set number of texts, talk, and data on your time abroad. 
  • There are monthly international plans that, for a monthly fee, add a lot of data, talk, and text to your international plan

Before you pick out a plan, try to figure out how much time you will spend abroad, and how much data you foresee needing during that time. An alternative to international roaming is anytime you can spend in WiFi zones. Many apps allow access to texting and calling through WiFi, not through mobile data, letting you stay connected without having to worry about any additional charges to your plan. These options are all good, it depends on what you want out of your international package. 

How Much Data do You Need? 

The price for the best international plan for your cell phone comes down to how much data you need. If you can keep all your calling and texting to WiFi, then you don’t need an international plan on your trip. Extending that a little further, the fewer MBs you use, calls you to make, and texts you send open up less expensive steps on the international plan ladder to save you money at the end of the trip. 

Airplane mode is your best friend when you are limiting your data. Your phone does not connect to any mobile network so you don’t incur roaming charges and you have to deactivate it before you start using any, so if you reflexively open a social media app or try to send a text it will not let you! 

To some degree, there is always a cap on your data usage abroad because even some of the most expensive plans only give a few high-speed gigabytes and there are a lot of areas where there is no high-speed data. If you are in an area that does not have a 5G network, well, 5G speeds will not do you any good. Thinking about ways to limit your data, let’s get into pay-as-you-go options and when they make sense. 

Are you traveling for a vacation or for work? If you are working, you may have some way to get international data through your company. 


T-Mobile Magenta International

Quick Facts:

  • Talk: $.25 a minute
  • Text: Free
  • Data: Free

T-Mobile has robust international phone plans with unlimited data and texting in over 200 countries. Calling is $.25 a minute, but this lets you enjoy free roaming almost everywhere. Before you peruse the other pay-as-you-go options, we want to stress that using data and texting is free with T-Mobile’s Magenta plan. This gives T-Mobile a huge leg up on the competition. Their plans give users 5 GB of high-speed data in 11 countries and unlimited 256 Kbps roaming after that. Two-hundred fifty-six kilobits per second is quite slow, but it is good enough for emergencies. Likewise, the five GBs of high-speed data is enough to get you through an entire vacation if you spend it right. 

The tier above is their Magenta MAX plan, which offers 5 GB of high-speed data in over 200 countries. Five gigabytes is a little, but when you are abroad, it lets you use your phone if you ever misplan your day and have to use it. 

Verizon International

Quick Facts:

  • Talk: $1 - $3 per minute
  • Text: $.50 a text
  • Data: $2 per MB

Verizon’s pay-as-you-go rates are quite expensive. Have you ever heard about a horror story where someone went on vacation without planning their phone usage and came home to a monumental bill on their doorstep? Rates like these are often the culprit. We use our phones so much naturally during the day that it is easy to fall back into habits and boot up social media, check the news, or send out some texts whenever the mood strikes. Sending a few texts and doing your daily Wordle while roaming could cost you $20, and that’s almost without breaking a sweat. Fortunately, Verizon also has slow roaming data speeds, so you will (hopefully) notice your slow data speeds, but with prices that high, it might already be too late. 

If you are already a Verizon customer, you can choose one of their other options for consistent phone usage on your trip, but we do not recommend switching to Verizon for their international plan. If you are going abroad and using these rates we highly recommend planning out your days and keeping your phone on airplane mode so nothing accidentally starts chewing through your data or otherwise racking up charges. 

AT&T International

Quick Facts:

  • Talk: $1 - $3 per minute
  • Text: $.50 a text
  • Data: $2 per MB

AT&T’s pay-as-you-go rates are almost the same as Verizon’s. The day pass from AT&T is $10 a day so there’s a small window where these rates would save you money versus their day pass. As a traveler, if you decide to keep your phone active when you are out and about we would not recommend these rates as your primary form of purchasing your roaming data. 

Every AT&T unlimited plan has unlimited talk, text, and data in North America, and AT&T’s unlimited premium plans have that same talk, text, and data in 19 other Latin American countries. In this case, the unlimited data they offer is high-speed data, ensuring that you can use the fastest speeds on the network, wherever you are. There are locations where the network speed is capped at, say, 3G speeds and that will slow you down, but no plan would give you faster speeds in that location. 

There are tons of unbelievable vacation destinations all around the world, and having access to your phone at these places, while nice, is not always necessary. 

International Day Pass

T-Mobile Magenta

Quick Facts:

  • International 1-day pass: $5 a day. For that day, you receive unlimited calling and 512 MB of high-speed international data
  • 5 GB International Pass: $35 for 10 days. During those days, you receive unlimited calling and can use up to 5 GB of high-speed international data. 
  • 15 GB International Pass: $50 for 30 days. For the month, you receive unlimited calling and up to 15 GB of high-speed international data. 
  • Unlimited talk and text
  • Around half a GB of data per day for each plan
  • Smartphone mobile hotspot

T-Mobile’s data passes are competitive options for the best international phone plans. These three options are great ways to tack on some extra data if you know you will be in a place where you will use a lot during your trip. While we recommend working around your schedule to use as much WiFi data as you can abroad, getting one of these passes is an excellent way to stock up on an emergency supply of high-speed data you can use whenever you need. 

Verizon International Day Pass

  • Price (daily): $10 add-on
  • Unlimited international talk and text
  • 2 GB high-speed data then unlimited 3G data
  • Additional lines at $5 a day
  • Only pay for the days you use

Verizon’s travel pass is $10 a day, giving users unlimited talk and text in over 200 countries. When you have the travel pass active, you will only be charged on days when you use it, giving you a great incentive to try your best to limit calling, texting, and data usage to WiFi zones. 

Verizon’s travel pass gives users a bit of data to use, enough for fair use throughout the day. The best part about a day pass is that you won’t be surprised by extra charges at the end of the month because there are no limits to surpass. If you use all your high-speed data, the remainder of the roaming, while slow, is free. Ten dollars a day adds up quickly. If you are on a long vacation and don’t want to pay an extra $10 every day you are out and about, keep your phone on airplane mode and try to avoid using your phone at all off WiFi. 

At the end of the day, however, spending extra during your vacation for peace of mind and more comfortable phone usage is not a bad thing. 

AT&T International Day Pass

  • Price (daily): $10 add-on
  • Unlimited international talk and text
  • Additional lines at $5 a day
  • Only pay for the days you use

AT&T also has an international day pass at $10 a day. Their pass is nice, and while $10 is pricey, it gives you unlimited high-speed data, calling, and texting during that day. It only charges you for days when you use it, just like Verizon, but anything will activate it, so you have to be careful if you don’t want to pay for that day. International day passes like these are excellent for vacations, where you can spend a long weekend or a week, and while you have a pretty significant bill at the end, it lets you use your phone like you would in the United States. 

Finding the best international plan for cell phones is essential to enjoying your trip to the fullest. 

Monthly International Plans

T-Mobile Magenta International

Quick Facts:

  • Price (monthly): $75
  • 5 GB high-speed data and unlimited text in over 200 countries
  • Free wifi and text on flights
  • $.25/minute international phone calls

T-Mobile’s Magenta plan is one of the best international plans out there. At its core, it’s a great cell phone plan, and the added international benefits make it a great choice for casual travelers who don’t need to use their phones often on trips. The 5 GB of high-speed data (before your speeds fall to unlimited data at 256 Kbps) is enough to pop open maps, order an Uber, or search for the best restaurant in the area. Unlimited texting and good call rates mean you can keep in touch with everyone from home while you are away. 

In short, your phone works in just about every country. On top of that, they throw in one free hour of Wi-Fi and unlimited texting on any Gogo-enabled flight so you can stay in touch anywhere in the air. It bears mentioning that this comes free with every Magenta plan, so you don’t have to put an item on your to-do list to change your plan before the trip! 

Verizon International

Quick Facts:

  • Price (monthly): $100 per line 
  • 20GB of roaming data
  • 250 minutes of talk, 1,000 sent texts
  • Verizon’s plans automatically switch to “pay-as-you-go” if you don’t have the international monthly schedule and are traveling

Verizon’s International Monthly Plan comes at a steep price, but all of Verizon’s unlimited plans are relatively expensive. As a Verizon customer, you can switch from this plan to one of their less costly offerings when you know you’ll be in the states, but it gives you the flexibility to grab this plan whenever you need it. This plan is best for travelers who are going to be out of the states for a while, or want to use their phone a lot during their trip. The flip side of that is, if you are traveling to one country, you can grab a new mobile plan in that country. 

Mobile Plans from that Country

Last but not least: you can buy a mobile phone plan in the country you are traveling to! It requires some planning beforehand, but it is often quite easy to purchase a plan internationally for your stay. The plan will outline how much you can use your phone in talk, text, and minutes. Many plans in foreign countries are affordable compared to those in the United States but come with fewer data. You won’t want to go around streaming audio and video all day, but it should be sufficient phone data for light phone usage throughout the trip. Going through mobile plans from *that* country is, of course, impossible in this article. Before we go, let’s talk a bit about ways to limit your data usage abroad. 

Limit Your Data Usage While Traveling Abroad

There are a variety of ways to limit overall data usage abroad. The three pillars of a phone plan: data, talk, and text, can all be done using Wi-Fi. That, coupled with a variety of apps that don’t operate on data, can cut your daily data usage significantly, which lets you keep on the cheapest option for an international phone plan. Some of these apps are:

  • Skype, Zoom, and Facetime. Video call software is perfect for talking to friends and family in different countries. As long as you have a strong Wi-Fi connection, these apps allow users to connect worldwide. Best of all — since it’s on Wi-Fi, there’s no need to worry about data usage! To take extra caution, you can permanently disable your phone’s data during these calls.
  • GroupMe is a messaging app that relies on Wi-Fi to send texts, audio, and video. This free app works on just about any phone and is another excellent way to reduce your reliance on data. 
  • Wi-Fi calls and texts are available on various phones and are another excellent way to escape extra fees from your carrier. Find out how your phone can connect to WiFi to use those tasks. Some phones may need third-party apps whereas others have services like iMessage to communicate over WiFi. 

There are moments when you cannot rely on Wi-Fi to operate your phone, and that’s where international phone plans come in. It is essential to know that you can call Uber or Lyft when the time comes or boot up your GPS maps to figure out how to reach your destination.

Kyle Reyes
Kyles Reyes is a journalist from Pittsburgh, PA that specializes in the wireless industry, phone plan comparisons & advice.