Generally speaking, the most expensive way for you to have a cell phone with you on your international travels is simply to use your existing cell phone. It may be the easiest way too, but those roaming charges can get very spendy, very quickly. If I took my Canadian phone and used it in the United States to call home, I could expect to pay over $2.00 a minute. That's outlandish.
And so, many people will tell you to use your unlocked phone and get a prepaid SIM in your destination country. This way, you're paying the local prepaid rates. That's fine if you're only going to be in one place and you have the time to set up the service, but what if you plan on visiting more than one country? For both the sake of convenience and cost-savings, the Truphone global prepaid SIM service could be your golden ticket.
What Is Truphone?
For my recent trip through Europe, this was the solution that we used along with the Tep Wireless Pocket WiFi hotspot rental. That worked out cheaper and more convenient for data, but the rates for voice and text through Truphone were very competitive in Amsterdam, France and Italy.
The prepaid SIM package sells for $30 and comes preloaded with $15 worth of credit. You can then top it up on an as-needed basis with the credit card that you put on file. Truphone says that they may terminate accounts that have been inactive for more than 180 days, so you will need to use it at least once every six months. For an additional fee, you can even have multiple phone numbers associated with that single SIM, picking up as the appropriate "local" number depending on where you are in the world.
Registration, Setup and Account Management
I ran into some initial difficulties when I tried to first register my TruSIM. The online registration process kept throwing me into an endless loop when it asked for either the SIM number or my credit card information. I'd click to submit the data and it would either hang or return a blank page. After some brief back-and-forth with customer support, it seemed that my account was successfully activated; it just didn't display it properly.
And so, I managed to log into my account and view the various details. The user dashboard is remarkably straightforward, giving you quick access to your SIM(s), your payment details, your usage history and so forth. It is also here that you can set up automatic refills and such if that's what you want to do.
While the TruSIM will work in a large number of countries around the world, you will generally have to power cycle your phone when crossing borders. This allows the SIM to latch onto the (new) local network and provide you with wireless service again.
Truphone SIM Rates
The rates will depend on where you are, where you're from and where you want to call. Thankfully, there is a handy rate checker on the Truphone website for that purpose.
Truphone has coverage is nearly everywhere in the world, but the cheapest rates will be enjoyed in what they call Tru Countries. These include the United States, United Kingdom, Netherlands and Australia. Calls are generally 15 cents per minute and outbound texts are 10 cents each. Data is $0.15/MB.
Expanding beyond the Tru Countries, you find the Tru Network. This covers nearly the rest of the globe, with very few exceptions. You won't get service in Bangladesh or Somalia, for instance. That being said, even the rates in the Tru Network can vary considerably.
While I was in France, for example, outbound local calls were 51 cents per minute, inbound local calls were 21 cents and data was $2.17/MB. If I were to take the same TruSIM over to Taiwan, I would have to pay quite a bit more.
While the data rate is similar, you can see how phone calls are over a buck per minute in Taiwan. That's hardly the "local" rate I enjoyed when we were in Taipei for Computex, but it's still cheaper than what my home provider would charge me in roaming fees. Given this, you can see why it is important to check the rates for your preferred destinations before signing up with Truphone.
MEGATechie Truly Tremendous or MEGATechie Phony Baloney?
It really depends on your particular needs and how much you value the convenience factor. If you're going on an extended trip in a single country, it's usually a better idea to get a local prepaid SIM if you can. That's what I did in Australia, but not without my share of headaches. Up until early this year, I also had a prepaid SIM for my travels through the US.
If you want a simpler solution that will work across multiple countries in a nearly seamless fashion though, Truphone is well worth considering. They have near complete global coverage and the rates, which not necessarily as great as true local rates, are still affordable enough to make the service worthwhile, especially when compared to typical roaming charges. I can see how this would be utterly fantastic for globetrotting business travelers who simply can't be bothered to carry around 10 different SIM cards for 10 different countries.