Google Fi is the Best Phone Plan for International Travelers
I’m frequently asked what’s the best cellular service for international travel. Google Fi is the cheapest (and easiest) international phone plan you can buy, period. If you need to be connected when you’re abroad, you can’t beat their cheap $20 flat phone & $10 per GB data plan. If you only use 1 GB of data in a month, your plan is only $30. Even if you never leave the United States, Google Fi is worth a look. Let’s cover the basics.
How Much It Costs
- $20 per month for unlimited talk and text
- $10 per GB of data (When not on Wi-Fi in US & 135+ countries)
- Calls are 20 cents per minute abroad (Free via Wi-Fi calling)
- Phones start at $249
How It Works
Google Fi offers unlimited talk and text in the United States. The service is based on Sprint, T-Mobile, and US Cellular’s networks. Google Fi will automatically connect to the best signal. With three networks I’ve gotten excellent service nationwide. There is no contract and everything is done online, even canceling the service. Google has developed a slick website and it makes handling your account incredibly easy.
Data is $10 per GB, regardless of where you are in the world. There are no outrageous international roaming charges that you will find with other plans, and the service works in 135+ countries. When you land in a foreign country, the 4G data works right away. There is no need to call in to set anything up. I’ve tested it in Singapore, Qatar, Spain, Italy, Ireland, UK, Iceland, Croatia, Bosnia, and Slovenia over the last few months, and it always works. If you need to make a phone call abroad, then connect to Wi-Fi and your phone call is free (otherwise 20 cents/min). To say I’m a bit of a fanboy of Google Fi is an understatement.
If you already have a Nexus or Pixel Android phone, then upgrading to Google Fi will be easy. I picked up the base model Nexus 5x phone for $249. The phone is nothing fancy but it works great. You can tether up to 6 devices to your phone, and it works just like a wireless hotspot.
Thrifty Tip: Buy a used Nexus or Pixel phone on craigslist or eBay to save.
If you’re an iPhone user, you’ll likely have to switch over to one of Google’s Android phones. It is possible to activate Google Fi for an Apple device, but Wi-Fi calling and tethering will not work. I would not recommend using an iPhone on the Google Fi network.
How I Use It
I’m deep into the Apple ecosystem, so switching to an Android phone was not an option for me. I currently have two phones; a Nexus 5x phone on the Google Fi network and an iPhone 7 on the T-Mobile network. T-Mobile offers unlimited free 3G coverage worldwide, and I love my plan, but it was just not fast enough to remain connected for anything other than a quick search or using Google Maps.
The beauty of having two phones abroad is I can tether my T-Mobile iPhone to the Google Fi phone and use Wi-Fi calling, which costs nothing to make free Wi-Fi calls via T-Mobile’s Wi-Fi calling. This way I can make phone calls anywhere in the world with my iPhone and also have cheap 4G data at only $10 per GB. It really is a game changer. I can be hiking out in rural Iceland and seconds later be working on my laptop at 4G speeds. Tethering with my MacBook via the Google Fi is just as fast as broadband in most places worldwide.
Gone are the days of searching for an international SIM card, paying extra to buy an unlocked phone, or hassling with your carrier’s expensive international phone plans. Google Fi won’t work for everyone, but they have a solid network and plenty of fancy new phones, which should meet the needs of most phone users. If you’re tired of being nickeled and dimed by your current plan, then I’d give Google Fi a look and crunch the numbers. There is no better international phone solution for the Thrifty Traveler. Use my referral code for $20 off your first statement 🙂