Using Local SIM cards when Travelling

SIM card swapping on the go


Do they use mobile phones in Panama?

Does taking an overseas trip mean it will be difficult to stay in touch with our loved ones back home? This was probably true back in the 1990s but if we fast forward to- oh let’s say the twenty-first century, we’d find that mobile phone usage in many parts of the world are high. For example, there are twice as many mobile phones as there are people in the country of Panama. Chances are, using your mobile will not be a problem when you go travelling.

Why consider getting a SIM card?

Planning for a trip to a brand new country is exciting. If a different language is spoken there, it can also be daunting to learn how to communicate. We needn’t compound this by not being able to use our mobile phones to call for help should the need arise. When I travel to a new country for more than a day, I generally pick up a local SIM card. The simple ability to make a call whenever I want, puts my mind at ease that help is just a phone call away. If I cannot get the tuk tuk driver to understand where I want to go,  I can call the receptionist at my hotel and have them translate the directions for me- easy as that.

How Easy are they to Buy?

Pop out the SIM card in full or micro size cut out

Getting a local SIM card is easy. There have been only been a handful of countries that I’ve travelled to where getting a SIM card was expensive or otherwise difficult to obtain (MyanmarJapan). My mobile phone is unlocked and uses international bands; this means it accepts most SIM cards in most countries. The SIM cards are generally quite affordable, costing as little as few dollars. You can add credits to most SIM cards by purchasing prepaid cards.

Prepaid Credit Cards
Prepaid Credit

Mobile Internet

Sometimes it takes a bit of doing to get the mobile internet to work on my phone. That’s why I try to buy my SIM card from a vendor who is willing to take the time to help me set up, activate, and test it out before I leave the store. It’s great to be able to use travel apps that require a mobile internet connection to properly run.

So, what do I need to prepare for using a local SIM?

Well, here you may need to do just a bit of research. The three things you need to know is whether your phone is SIM locked, what bands your phone operates on, and what bands are generally used in the country you plan to visit.

Step 1

If you’ve bought your phone on a post-paid plan, there’s a chance it will be locked. No problem- many providers will unlock your phone for you so that you can pop in any other vendor’s SIM card. If they refuse to unlock the phone, there are some other ways to get the phone unlocked, though you should be careful and consider that it may void the warranty on your phone.

Step 2

If you’ve already bought a quad-band phone (a.k.a. International Phone), the phone will probably work in the majority of the countries of the world. You can again try to contact the vendor of your phone and ask them what bands your phone will operate on. Alternately, you can look it up yourself online (Phone Bands)

Step 3

Now, you need to figure out what bands the country(s) you plan to visit operate in. Check out my growing list of Country Tech Guides to see if your country is listed.

Some Uses
Try To


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