Have you ever had a £2000 phone bill? That was a message we saw on facebook from a fellow Mongol Rallier after returning to England from Mongolia.

Cell phone companies are evil. They overcharge for roaming fees, make it impossible for your to keep in touch with your loved ones and watch their stocks grow as you see your wallets dwindle.

One of the most bothersome things for us while traveling (and even while at home) is not having a phone to be able to call friends and family. We haven’t had a regular number for two years. We pick up local SIM cards wherever we go and have a giant collection of the little suckers from all over the world. The first thing we do when we arrive in a country is b-line it to a Vodaphone Store or hey, did you know there’s a cell phone outlet in Kazakhstan and Russia called BeeLine? How appropriate. Anyway, it can be very annoying. It wastes time and it causes added stress when first entering a new country. It’s not like it’s huge stress or anything, just a little irritating tingle having to go to a store and figure out a new network each time that we land in a new place.

It would be so much easier to have a day or two to relax.

one-sim-card mongolia

Now that we have a OneSimCard, we don’t have to worry abut that so much anymore. It doesn’t replace a local SIM Card, but it does give a travel professional a little more freedom before having to seek out a cell phone provider.

We originally wanted to find a satellite phone sponsor for the Mongol Rally to be able to keep on top of our posts and social media with our readers. But after being shut down at every door, we searched out new ways to stay connected. I am so glad that we found OneSimCard.

We didn’t expect it to be so good. We thought that we’d carry it around and maybe make a local call with it here and there. But as it turned out, it was a great tool to have on the road and now it is going to stay in our travel repertoire for future trips.

Why Do We Love This New Piece of Travel Gear?

onesimcard-mongol-rally-sponsor

We have a phone anywhere in the world. When we land at an airport, we can call our hotel to arrange pick up or call a local guest house listed in our Lonely Planet to see if they have any space available. We only end up paying local charges and we never have to worry about roaming fees.

Just to give you an idea of the savings.

A OneSimCard costs about $30 to buy. That is comparable to any SimCard here in Canada. But unlike the monopoly of Bell or Rogers, we can use our OneSim anywhere. The people of OneSim were kind enough to put $250 of airtime on each of our cards and we were worried that they wouldn’t last us outside of England. (the country where the Mongol Rally started)

Well, let me tell you the ways we used it.

  1. We called roomorama in Singapore at least half a dozen times for 5 different countries.
  2. We had a half hour phone interview from Russia with Men’s Health Magazine in New York.
  3. We called a production company in Toronto and spoke for about 30 minutes
  4. We called several of our fellow Mongol Ralliers UK phone numbers whom we caravanned with every so often (yes, I’m afraid I contributed to the poor guy that had a £2000 phone bill upon his return to England)
  5. We called my parents from Mongolia and spoke for a good 20 minutes when I asked my dad if we were ok to drive on a broken shock for the final 600 km
  6. And finally we called ahead to nearly every apartment that we stayed in during the course of our 9,000 mile trip.

That’s not all Ladies and Gentlemen!

  • 7. For the travel blogger who is traveling through a remote destination, the onesimcard can be a saviour for keeping your social media alive. We could send out tweets via sms to keep our followers on Twitter informed. You can set up facebook updates as well, but we never figured that out in time. 

Oh, I forgot one more call that made me fume. I called TepWireless’ customer service while in England and must have been transfered to India because when I checked my balance after my call, I was charged 5 Pounds! That used up a good chunk of my airtime before even starting the rally. Tep, if you have customer service, you should have a toll free number. I never got my issue resolved either.

What did all this cost us you ask?

Well upon returning home to Canada, we still have $150 left on our OneSimCard. That includes that nearly $10 TepWireless call in London. Not bad eh!

We now have money left on our card and can call friends and family in Toronto. Sure, they’re a little confused when they see an Estonian number pop up on their call display, but at least we can set up appointments and let people know that we’ll call them once we reach town. It’s awesome!

We will still get ourselves a Canadian Sim card while we’re here, but at least we haven’t felt pressured to get ourselves to the mall to pick out a new pay as you go plan. We’ve actually been procrastinating and loving it!

So, what are the downsides?

Checking email is expensive. We checked our gmail before leaving Canada and it cost about $3 to take a look. We would never make a habit out of using data, but it is great for an emergency.

Twitter - Even though we can send tweets via SMS, we can’t access twitter. We send out a tweet and can’t reply to anyone. So while it is great for feeding information, it isn’t good for contributing. Twitter is all about sharing so you can’t use the OneSim for an extended period of time.

It is a bit of a pain making calls. You have to call the number in question, and then wait for your phone to call you back as it connects your international number to a local provider. Many times your phone won’t connect so you have to keep hitting redial until it connects, but it’s a small price to pay for the savings and convenience.

We never would have thought to use the OneSimCard before the Mongol Rally, but now that we have it, we’re keeping it baby!

To find out more about the OneSimCard you can visit their website for details. 

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18 Comments

  1. T-roy

    Interesting post! I’m normally not one who calls ever for anything, so much that if I can’t Facebook you on it, then it don’t matter. That being said what about people calling you? I would be up for such a chip if it let people call me without it being nuts for me on my bill. Having a constant phone number would be worth it somewhat I think.

  2. Kelly

    Oh man, that sounds so helpful! I’ve got to get me one of those! We spent a good day running around Thailand trying to get a phone, get a SIM and make it all work. Would’ve been handy!

  3. Alouise

    I can’t say I’ve had a phone bill that high. I hardly use my cell phone at home, and I’m always afraid of roaming charges so I don’t usually take my phone when I travel. This looks like a pretty solid option for travelling with a phone. Just curious do the minutes have an expiration date?

  4. Dami

    Thanks a lot for this interesting story. I am planning to do a world trip, and this make communication a lot easier/cheaper! Finally a way to not be afraid any more of looking to my phone bill after travelling! Greets from Holland.

    1. debndave Post author

      I hear you Dami. That is the worst part about going anywhere with your phone, getting the bill when you get home!

  5. Dani

    niec. i just found out i have the ONLY android phone Sprint (us compnay – doesnt have sim card slots in there phones) that IS NOT a world phone. so i cant even use my phone in emergencies. i need to try to find a cheap sim slotted phone (but no luck so far in venezuela…here’s hoping for colombia). I cant even connect to wif in this country (but i could at the Bogota airport on the way in)

    next trip, im getting an ATT Go PHONE (ONLY american company to have sim card slots in their phones) if i dont pick up such a phone in S America and i think i’ll try this sim card.

    if i can order it online i guess. not having a phone is free-ing but i think more stressful than not.

  6. Chris

    Great idea! I deactivate before I go overseas so I know there’s no possibility of me running up a huge bill. Using skype on a smartphone is still my favorite way to stay in touch while on the road though.

  7. Chris Haughey

    Haha, 2grand. That’s ridiculous.

    Contract phones are the work of the devil. I was sucked in by them for a few years. I kept going to get a simple phone but ended up being mesmerized by a magical sales pitch.

    I give vodafone the two fingers last month, 3 months from the end of a 24month contract, with my bank balance over a £1000 lighter and about £400 outstanding.

    It’s extortion. Plain and simple.

    1. debndave Post author

      Wow, You ended up spending quite a bit as well. These phone companies are totally getting rich off of us all. We used our ONE SIM CARD here in Canada and it hasn’t turned out to be the same deal that we had in Europe. We ate through ou $150 in no time. So it looks like we are stuck getting a Canadian pay as you go plan for the next couple of months. We hate doing it, but we have to be connected. At least we know the world sim works well in the less developed countries.

  8. Elise @ Positive World Travel

    Wow, that sounds like a really great idea. Anthony and I have actually relished not having a phone for 2 years. Although the calls we have had to make-for business etc-have been pretty painful via Skype when we have had crappy internet connection.

    This sim card looks like something we will have to think about in the future.

    1. debndave Post author

      Hi Elise, yes the sim card is a great card for an emergency. We’re going to keep it topped up at all times with about $50 worth of talk time for all our future travels just in case. It’s great to have a phone that you can rely on for business calls or even banking.

    1. debndave Post author

      It’s great for places overseas, but we have been using it here in Canada and find it to be very expensive. We went through $20 in just a few minutes. So, a word of caution. In different countries there are different rates. We had very cheap rates in Europe, Eastern Europe and Central Asia. But it seems once again, that the North American monopolies have their hand in play.

  9. James from OneSimCard

    Hi Deb and Dave,

    Yes, on our standard international SIM card (the one you have) our rates in North America are high. However, we have a newer version, OneSimCard Plus, that has free incoming calls and 45c/min outgoing in Canada and the U.S. (but no data in Canada or U.S.) The rates in all other countries are the same with either version.

    1. debndave Post author

      Thanks for the information Jame. Yes, Canada has just about the worst rates in the world. That rate would be perfect for my parents. They spend 6 months in Canada and 6 in the US and have a hard time with plans because they are in neither country for the entire year. They have just been getting pay as you go cards and relying on their home phones only. This is something for them to consider now as they just want to have a cell phone on them for emergencies and rarely use it otherwise. Cheers!

  10. Autumn Wiggins

    I will be traveling to a few countries over the next few weeks, Italy, Madrid, and France, will this one sim card work in all three countries or do I have to buy different sim cards in each country?

    1. debndave Post author

      We always buy different sim cards in each country, I’m not sure what the roaming rates are or if the prepaid work from country to country. Another great option is the TEP Wireless. It’s a personal hotspot wifi that you can use up to 5 devices on. No phone coverage, but great internet coverage throughout Europe.

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