Google first introduced its Google Fi cell service for U.S. residents in 2015 with industry-leading perks to make staying connected during international travel more seamless.
While other major telecom companies charge exorbitant fees for international use, Google charges the same low rates for data anywhere in the world. Or at least, in the 200+ destinations that service is included.
I’ve been using Google Fi for over a year now and find it to be the most seamless option to stay connected while traveling. In fact, most friends who travel frequently all swear by Google Fi. There’s simply no better option if you need to stay connected easily while abroad. Here’s what you need to know.
The Basics: Google Fi’s 3 Plan Options
Google Fi offers three primary plan options with discounts for multiple lines. All of the plans include unlimited call & text but the details shift after that.
Google Fi’s Flexible plan costs a base $20 a month with data used charged at $10/gb. But Google also includes “Bill Protection.” After 6 GB on the Flexible plan, your data is free so your bill is capped at $80 a month. International texting and calling while traveling are included (and the charge for data doesn’t change).
The Simply Unlimited plan costs $60 a month. It includes unlimited data in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Notably, it does not include data during international travel. It also does not include calling and texting when outside the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.
The Unlimited Plus plan, on the other hand, stands out for including virtually every feature a frequent traveler would want. For $70 a month, subscribers get unlimited data in the United States and in over 200+ destinations included while traveling. Mobile hotspot tethering is included. And so is calling to over 50 popular destinations.
All of the plans throttle your data use after a certain amount of usage. That starts at 22 GB for Simply Unlimited and Unlimited Plus and 15 GB for the Flexible plan. For most of us, the Unlimited Plus plan offers the most value with all of its inclusions.
6 Key Benefits on Google Fi for Travelers
1. Free International Texting
There’s nothing more frustrating than not being able to easily text your friends and family, or getting hit with a surprise bill after exchanging a few messages. That’s why Google Fi offers free international texting both for texting other countries and texting while in other countries. For Americans who rely on iMessage and sms rather than WhatsApp, being able to text over 200 destinations is key. While texting to other countries is included for all subscribers, texting at no charge while traveling is included for subscribers on the Flexible or Unlimited Plus plans.
2. You Can Pause Your Service
3. Ridiculously Cheap Voice Calls
For most calls, there’s no additional charge but Fi does charge for calling foreign numbers. The good news is that calling foreign numbers on Google Fi is ridiculously cheap. In the vast majority of cases, I’ve found that calls cost $0.01 or $0.02 a minute. Fi is very transparent: the cost of the call is noted when you place it or you can look up rates here.
4. Easily Sign Up With eSim
If you have an eSim enabled phone, getting up and running on Google Fi is easy. Google Fi is fully eSim compatible. Simply sign up for Google Fi and select your phone model when prompted. The onboarding will walk you through the steps and get you going in no time. It took me about 15 minutes to get my service activated on my iPhone. If you don’t have an eSim-compatible phone, you can buy a physical sim from Amazon.
5. Built-In Security
Google Fi takes your security on the go seriously. Aside from basic features like blocking spam calls and allowing you to block specific numbers, Google Fi includes a built-in VPN. That means that you’re able to stream, browse, and download on an encrypted, private connection on cell service or wifi. In my experience, Google’s VPN works far better than alternatives. It also shows a location in the U.S. wherever you are in the world and allows you to naturally stream Netflix and other sites as if you were in the U.S.
6. Fast, Free Internet Globally
This is the most important feature: Google Fi offers fast data affordably around the world. It doesn’t matter if you’re in Manhattan, Bariloche, Madrid, or Western Sahara — you’re paying the same low rates for data usage (on the Flexible or Unlimited Plus plans). This is obviously the key feature. In our connected world, we rely on numerous internet-dependent apps to explore, navigate, and share our travels. Whether we’re there for a few weeks or just a quick stopover, Google Fi lets us use our phones for all the things we would do at home without worrying about data passes or additional fees.
Things to keep in mind
While Google Fi offers the best service to use internationally, it’s important to note that the service must be activated in the United States (not including territories). Once you’ve activated, you’ll be able to use your phone around the world without updating any settings.
5G is available in the United States but hasn’t rolled out to all international destinations. In many destinations, you’ll be on an LTE/4G connection. 5G service is (as of January 2022) available in Austria, Bahrain, Canada, Finland, France, Hong Kong, Ireland, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, and Thailand.
For many professionals, staying connected on the go is crucial. We don’t have time to be looking for a local shop to buy a local sim and the hassle of changing numbers in every country is unacceptable. Google Fi offers travelers an option to ensure connectivity starting the moment they land in a new country. Better yet, it delivers the service seamlessly and easily. Learn more and sign up for Google Fi here.
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