International Data SIM For Digital Nomads: Google Fi

November 8, 2018

For families who travel overseas often, having reliable internet is a must in order to stay connected. My husband, Clint Bush, shares some of his thoughts on how the international data SIM from Google Fi is changing the game when it comes to nomad life and staying connected with folks back home.

We've been using Google Fi for over a year. For our nomadic family, Google Fi has been helpful for ensuring we have WiFi and internet access during our overseas travel. For families looking to travel internationally for an extended period of time, Google Fi is a great option for ensuring access to data while on the road.

This post was updated on May 18, 2020.

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What is Google Fi?

Google Fi is a phone service with voice, text, data. Like other phone plans they have coverage while outside the United States (although less than T-Mobile at 170+ countries). And their international data SIM makes it easy to access the internet even while overseas.

One major advantage Google Fi has over other networks is they partner with both LTE 4G cell networks (including T-Mobile) as well as WiFi hotspot carriers around the world. This allows them to provide the best possible high speed experience by connecting to the fastest available connection, whether it is LTE 4G or WiFi.

Another valuable feature of Google Fi on the security end of things is they route your traffic through a VPN automatically if you are connected to Public WiFi. That means you have encrypted traffic when on Public WiFi keeping you safe from potential spying eyes.

Using a smart phone with an international data SIM for traveling overseas

A simple pricing model for your international data SIM and plan

In my opinion though, seemingly the best part of Google Fi is their simple pricing model. You pay for the phone or international data SIM card upfront, which costs $10 each. For text and voice, you pay $20 per month. And for data up to 6GB per month, the cost is $10 per 1GB per month up to $60. For usage over 6GB, the cost is free as part of their unlimited data feature.

There is a cap at 15GB at which point you may experience throttled service. But unless you are doing constant streaming that might not be a problem. Additional users can share data but does increase the monthly cap of $60.

For our two Google Fi phones, we averaged around $152-$160 per month. While this may seem expensive, it's actually comparable to phone plans we had when we were not traveling full time. The benefit is that we can use the international data SIM and cell phone plan virtually anywhere in the world.

Coverage limitations for Google Fi

Google Fi is technically only available in the US. If you're planning on using Google Fi, you will need to have the international data SIM shipped and activated in the US. Once activated, you are free to take it and use it overseas.

When compared to cell phone providers such as T-Mobile, Google Fi does not have as much international coverage. However, Google Fi does work in over 200 countries, though the coverage quality is dependent on the quality of the local data and phone.

In North America, the speeds seem to be better overall since they are partnered with T-Mobile’s network, as well as other cell networks around the world. For countries outside of North America, we have had varied luck with accessing fast internet speeds with our international data SIM.

Another thing to note is that if your family is planning to spend an extended period of time outside of the United States, Google Fi may decide to cancel your data. Your international data SIM will essentially be useless, even though you will still have access to the text and voice plan. This may not be an issue for families traveling outside of the United States for three months at the most. But for permanently nomadic families, this situation may not be ideal.

A smart phone with an international data sim for overseas travel

Additional considerations for using Google Fi international data SIM

There are other considerations to keep in mind when planning on using Google Fi as an international data SIM option for your family. Google Fi only works “out-of-the-box” with the specific Android phones they list on their website. The Moto X4 Android One Edition is one phone that works well with Google Fi, as is the LG Nexus 5x.

If you have a different Android phone or iPhone, there are work-arounds (see resource list below). But the “seamless” WiFi/LTE 4G swapping doesn’t work very well according to some reports.

We experienced this problem when we traveled in Italy and France. While the Google Fi data worked well on our iPhones, we were not able to use our iPhones as a WiFi hotspot. This essentially limited our capabilities to do work, as the WiFi at our Airbnb was not as strong as we preferred. If you're a family that uses iPhones, it might be worth just carrying Google Fi as an additional line of service and using it on an approved Android phone.

Another consideration to keep in mind is that Google Fi may throttle your data usage at 15GB per month. This is fine for me, but if it were my oldest son he would burn through that pretty quickly. Depending on your data use, your mileage may vary. In our year of using Google Fi, this has only happened to us a few times, usually when the WiFi at our Airbnb was weak.

A laptop capable of accessing WiFi from a phone using an international data SIM

Resources to learn more about Google Fi

Of course prices and plan details may change over time. So make sure you do your homework before taking the plunge. Here are some additional resources that might be helpful:

Making nomad life even easier!

Despite some of the drawbacks of using Google Fi during our travels, Google Fi has been a game changer for us! Having an international data SIM that works almost everywhere in the world means that we don't have to worry about scrambling to find a local SIM card right away when we get to a destination.

And being able to have an international data SIM tied to a phone plan means that we don't have to lose our US numbers. We are able to do business as if we are still in the United States!

Do you have experience with using Google Fi for your phone and international data SIM? Share them in the comments.

International Data SIM For Digital Nomads: Google Fi | The Wandering Daughter

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