Frequently travel international? Here’s why you should switch your phone service to Google Fi

by Giovanni

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.

Related: SoFi Money – the best “bank account” for international travelers

a screenshot of a website

Google Fi plans breakdown (provided by Google)

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

Don’t need Google Fi for a month or traveling to one of the (very few) destinations not covered? You can easily pause your service at no cost for up to 3 months! If you pause your service, you won’t be charged while your service is paused and you’ll keep your number but won’t be able to make any calls, send texts, or use data. Google One benefits will also continue. Note that Google warns that repeatedly pausing service is a violation of terms of use (not sure how that’s defined).

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.

Related: Planning travel? Here’s what should be on your packing list

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.

Related: 10 Hotel Chains With the Worst Bed Bug Infestations

The Upshot

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.

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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Boardingareaflukie January 27, 2022 - 12:04 pm

I tried Google Fi on my last trip to Italy in November, 2021 in and around Naples. It was a disaster. It simply wouldn’t connect to the local networks. After over an hour troubleshooting with a Google Fi phone rep, it still wouldn’t work. It would take calls (sometimes), but internet connection was nonexistent. The connection display never left “LTE” mode. I had to spend over 35 euro to get an Italian SIM card which was in addition to what I paid to Google. Google Fi was bad bad bad.

Giovanni January 27, 2022 - 2:05 pm

That’s strange. I just used Google Fi on a trip around the Amalfi Coast/Naples/Rome/Milan last summer and didn’t run into any issues. Definitely would make sure it was fully activated in the states before heading abroad if you’re planning to use.

Boardingareaflukie January 27, 2022 - 3:15 pm

Absolutely did activate it in the US. I should clarify that it was data that was non-functional. I kept trying different local providers (TIM, Vodafone, etc.) but nothing worked.

AzRat January 27, 2022 - 1:05 pm

I have been using Google Fi since 2018 internationally. Voice and text no problem, data varies by location provider. Unfortunately for iPhone users like myself the phone will not find the ‘best’ local provider, only the least expensive contracted by Google. In many locations data is 3g and slower, ie: virtually useless for web browsing. Owners of Google Fi approved phones (no Apple’s) can toggle between local networks for stronger signal and tether other devices. Note also when using the SIM card you normally must change the APN cellular network settings on iPhones manually in settings if you switch for international travel as I do (not using in USA – Consumers Cellular much less expensive). Another plus of Google Fi is you can retain the same number by activating every 90 days (for one day only – prorated) for non-travel periods.

Giovanni January 27, 2022 - 2:01 pm

You can also toggle between local networks on iPhone (I’m an iPhone user). Just go into carrier settings and you’ll see “Network Selection” set to automatic — switch it off and it’ll populate carriers to choose from.

LKSMWR January 27, 2022 - 1:53 pm

I have traveled to many places using Google Fi – S. Africa, New Zealand, Asia, and Europe. I find that if using a ‘phone designed for Fi’ as noted on their website and purchased directly from them, the service has been great and pretty seamless. Using an unlocked Iphone XS Max purchased direct from Apple however was a complete disaster. Never was able to get working service or data whether with a physical sim or the esim. Customer service was frustratingly unhelpful and just made the same suggestions to try over and over. Upon my return I researched and found that iphones tend to be more problematic with Fi, and that Fi even recommends their own ‘phones designed for Fi’ over unlocked Androids as well for best experience.

Ted January 27, 2022 - 10:57 pm

Try tmobile. Better value.

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Gabe March 2, 2022 - 11:45 pm

I heard some things about Google interrupting Data for international extended use. Is that still a thing? I travel for long periods of time, and wouldn’t like to get my service interrupted because of that.


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