Most of us travel and use our US carrier to roam while we are in another country or buy a local SIM. There are benefits to both methods, so let’s take a look at the options.
Buy A Local SIM
If you buy a local SIM, you are essentially getting a local number in the country you are in. Most of us don’t care about the local number; we value the high speed data package that comes with the local SIM. This presents a small problem though; if you value making toll free calls to the US or receiving calls on your local number, you won’t be able to do that with a local SIM. You also will not be able to send or receive any text messages from your local US number.
Use Your US Carrier To Roam In Another Country
If you use this method, for example with T-Mobile, depending on your plan, you can likely receive text messages for free on your US number. This can be useful for several reasons: phone calls generally cost a small amount and data is free. The disadvantage to using this setup is the data is usually severely throttled by the foreign carrier and some people find it useless because it is so slow.
My Hybrid Method
On my last trip to Asia, I bought a local SIM which gave me a large amount of high speed data. Of course, it provided a local number I can use for calling and texting friends in Asia, but that has limited use. Using T-Mobile DIGITS, I was able to have my local US phone number on my phone even though I was using a local SIM. Here’s how it works.
You simply download the DIGITS app on your Android or iPhone and log in with your T-Mobile credentials. Now you have a phone dialer and messages screen within the app. The app uses the high speed data you bought with your SIM package or WiFi, if you are in a hotel and use their network. Think of it as Skype, but for your US cell phone number. All your calls and text messages are delivered to you through the DIGITS app, and if you want to make a call to someone in the US, you can just use the dialer in the app. There are no roaming charges and now you essentially have two phones in one. The obvious advantage to this setup is you also have high speed data while you are in a foreign country. This is not the way T-Mobile is advertising the DIGITS service, but it certainly works seamlessly for international travelers. Here is the promotional video for T-Mobile DIGITS:
Let me know if you have any questions. Safe travels!