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Is Texting Internationally Free?

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This is a question that a lot of people are going to have when they’re traveling. Is texting internationally free? There are plenty of things that you have to factor in that could actually change the answer. Are SMS texts or iMessage texts free? For SMS texts that would depend on where you’re traveling, and what your coverage looks like. For example if you’re a US resident traveling to Mexico or Canada you could get free texting opportunities to a certain degree. If you use the same approach when you travel to Europe, South America, Asia or virtually anywhere else in the world, and you want to text just like you would at home you could come home to a nasty bill. 

Another thing that you can do to potentially text for free is to take your conversations to apps or social media platforms. You would need of course to find a way to get free data, and in doing so both calls and texts through these apps will effectively be free. The problem is, if you’re using up your own data to send texts or make calls, then that activity will most definitely not be free! As you can see there are plenty of things to unpack here. What we’re going to try to do is to make sense of virtually everything that we’ve briefly discussed in these first two paragraphs. Is texting internationally free? Well, … the true answer is that it depends! 

Is Texting Internationally Free? – SMS Texting

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If there is one type of texting that isn’t going to be free internationally it’s SMS texting. This is one of the reasons why in most countries across the globe SMS texting has seemingly fallen out of favor. With most people choosing to text via apps like WhatsApp or Telegram. iMessage for example would qualify as an app, and not SMS texts. If you’re sending SMS texts then you could be incurring roaming fees. What’s worse is that you could be charged for the text itself as well as for the data that you’re using when you’re sending the text. SMS texts can only be sent using your phone data, and not an open Wi-Fi connection.  

As we mentioned before there are certain phone companies in the US that are going to allow you to use your phone virtually as normal when you travel to Mexico and Canada. If that’s the case you could very well be sending SMS texts just as you would locally, and they would effectively be free. In most cases though, this coverage that US users get in Mexico and Canada has a cap on it. So you want to make sure that you understand the limits of the coverage that is being offered. If you don’t, you run the risk of having to pay roaming fees per text, and for the data that you’re using as you send the text.  

It’s Potentially Easier To Text For Free Through Apps? 

The quick answer here is yes! The Thing is, you can actually get free Wi-Fi with which you can potentially send texts through apps if you wanted to. Where getting free data to be able to use on SMS texts isn’t necessarily realistic. As we just explained, if you forcefully have to use mobile data to be able to send a text we would have to consider that an SMS text. We clear this up because we know that some phones even have 2 pre-installed messaging “programs” if you will. These are only able to run, though, on mobile data. When you’re texting through WhatsApp, Telegram, or even DMs in Facebook and Instagram you could use a home Wi-Fi network, the network at a Starbucks, a restaurant, or your hotel. 

Now, there’s an argument to be made that you have to pay for the coffee or the hotel room, to be able to access that Wi-Fi network. So you could say that your texting isn’t free. However, in these situations you’re most likely talking about things that you would need to pay for anyone. At the same time there are actually plenty of public plazas across the globe that offer free Wi-Fi. We actually have a couple of articles on that if you want to swing by and get the app or the webpage where you can find all of the free Wi-Fi spots near you!    

Is It Safe To Text Through An Open Wi-Fi Network? 

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There’s been plenty of debate over the years about this. What we’ve always said is that you probably want to connect to a safer spot. At the same time though, if you’re abroad, and you want to be able to text for free then you’re not going to have a lot of options. What you can do to make sure that you stay safe out there is go on ahead and install a VPN on your phone. While doing that is not necessarily going to make you exempt from coming across any issues it is going to provide an extra layer of protection for you, and that could bring some well needed peace of mind. 

Using texting apps while being connected to an open Wi-Fi network isn’t the biggest deal of them all if you’re just texting someone socially. If you’re dealing with light things from work, and things of that nature, you’ll be just fine. Do you want to be processing payments through an open network or sending highly classified documents? Yeah, that would be a no. You have to be smart about the type of activities that you’re carrying out on these networks. Again if you want to be extra safe then you can go through the VPN route. There are options out there that are not that hard to install, and even come with a free trial. We’re not going to get too deep into this because unlike every other YouTube channel out there, they don’t sponsor us! 

Things That Could Lead To Roaming Fees

Number one you need to make sure that you understand how you’re getting charged when you’re abroad. Even in plans that include service in Mexico and Canada for US clients you have limits to that service. What they’ll most likely do is start cutting the speeds at which you can use your data. What they want to achieve with that is to have you buy a travel pass. T-Mobile for example is actually offering “free roaming”. Does that mean that the answer to the question “is texting internationally free” is a yes with T-Mobile? Kind of, the thing is if you go internationally with that plan you’ll have a speed cap on your data and essentially what they want to do is make you buy a travel pass. These passes are almost always 10 dollars a day for “unlimited” medium speed coverage. 

With all of the other service providers, particularly outside of Mexico and Canada if you didn’t buy a travel pass you should pretty much assume that you’re in the roaming pay scale. That can be really problematic when you’re texting. Depending on where you are in the world the cost per text can go from 20 cents to almost a dollar or more. Particularly if you’re sending pictures and videos. You’ll be paying that, plus the data that you’re using to be able to send and receive these texts. You want to be very careful with what pay scale you’re on at any given time.  

Texting With A Local SIM Card

If you want the answer to “is texting internationally free”, to be a “yes”, then using a local SIM card with unlimited texting is your top option. Of course, we’ve put quotes around the word free because you would have to pay for the coverage. However, there are options from Orange that allow you to have unlimited texts through their regional foreign SIM card. There are a couple of things though that would be a bit different. For one the text would be coming into and out of another phone number that is different from the one that you have locally. So just make sure that you give your contacts a heads-up and find a way to let them know it’s you and not a scammer.

Price wise this option can actually make quite a bit of sense if you’re going to be abroad for a while. However, texting is not going to be “free”. Depending on the option that you choose you’ll have unlimited texting within Europe for example, and only 200 or 100 texts to send outside of the EU. The other thing that you can do though is get a data only SIM card, and essentially send unlimited texts through apps. When it all comes down to it, the answer to is texting internationally free, is usually no! Sorry to burst your bubble, but we’ve talked about multiple ways to try and minimize the costs.    

Is Texting Internationally Free – The Price Can Depend On Where You Travel

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The price is always going to depend on where you travel. We have other articles on the site where we cover roaming fees. That’s why we’re not going into detail here. We’ve also already mentioned quite a few times that for US users Mexico and Canada operate under a completely different pay scale. That’s actually why most service providers have a page where you can plan your trip, and they’ll let you know how much it’s going to cost to use your regular plan abroad. Even with local SIM cards though the cost of these could vary. We usually recommend that you buy your local SIM card ahead of time for a couple of reasons.  

For starters, if you go on ahead, and you pick a local SIM card ahead of your trip you’re going to be able to have coverage the moment that you land. That’s something that wouldn’t happen in another scenario because you’d have to go get the SIM card. Another issue is that getting a SIM card from a local store can be a challenge particularly if you don’t speak the language. There are some store clerks that aren’t necessarily nice to travelers. You can find some of these folks seemingly in any country that you visit. Having said this though, we do have to admit that you may be able to get a local SIM card for a better price at a store than what you can find online. So you may want to weigh the pros and cons there to see what’s going to work best for you.    

Is Texting Internationally Free – Conclusion

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When you find that you are actually able to get free texting as you travel abroad you have to consider that more an expectation to the rule than the rule itself. For the most part, you are going to be charged for the texts that you make abroad. What we tell our readers all of the time is that you’re going to be better suited to get phone coverage abroad when you have a plan in place before you travel. Even if you’re traveling to a country where you can use your regular plan, know the limits that are going to be imposed on your coverage. That’s going to allow you to monitor your usage. 

When it comes to free international texting in the scenario that we just described where you can take your regular plan abroad and text there’s usually a cap on the number of texts that you can send for free. We wish we could go further into detail, it’s just that where you’re traveling and where your local plan is from dictates a lot of these answers. Trying to provide answers to every phone user from every country traveling to another place isn’t really doable. You should assume that when you travel abroad you’re either paying roaming there’s going to be a cap on your services or speed. If you want free texting the best thing that you can do is take your texting apps and find free Wi-Fi.