I am currently planning a 3 month trip to the USA (Pittsburgh, PA). As I have never been in the US and only rarely abroad and I was never alone abroad before I really want to make sure that I have internet access when I arrive. I have heard that many coffee shops have internet, but I don't want to rely on that. I would like to make sure that I have mobile internet.

To avoid unwanted high costs I want a prepaid solution just like simyo.de in Germany.

If I could use that simcard to make phone calls that would be nice, but internet is more important to me.

I have seen How to access the internet during a road trip in the USA?. However, as I am going to Pittsburgh I think I will have service.

I have seen AT/T, but one the one hand I'm not sure if they ship their simcard to Germany and I saw

Data (att.com/dataplans): If usage exceeds your monthly data allowance, you will automatically be charged overage for additional data provided.

When I use simyo, I get about 500MB of highspeed internet and afterwards free internet which is incredible slow, but I don't costs I don't want. Is there something similar in the US?

  • Most US providers won't ship abroad. Their sim is for US usage. Is there no free roaming plans in Germany?
    – Vagish
    Apr 29, 2014 at 9:48
  • @Vagish No. In fact, I am yet to hear about a free roaming plan in Europe (do you have something like that in the UK?).
    – Relaxed
    Apr 29, 2014 at 9:49
  • 3
    @Annoyed I get free roaming on the network EE in all of Europe, India, China, and North America. Unlimited calls and texts but there is a charge for data e.g. £25 for 1gb of data abroad for 30 days. The network Three also does it in the UK but for different countries, I have a Dutch friend who said she has a similar plan in the Netherlands. Also my girlfriend gets free roaming texts and data on T-Mobile USA in over 100 countries.
    – Vagish
    Apr 29, 2014 at 9:56
  • @Vagish Not sure I follow, is that free roaming or 25 GBP for 1GB? And on a prepaid plan? For the Netherlands, I would be curious to know what operator offers free roaming (or even a decently-priced data bundle like the one you mentioned). The prices I could find are more like 10 € for 100 MB in the EU (which is already a big discount over the per-MB roaming price but far from free) and much more elsewhere (and that's on top of a monthly plan, not a sim-only prepaid operator). Calls aren't free either.
    – Relaxed
    Apr 29, 2014 at 10:13
  • 1
    @Annoyed It is pay monthly with EE. Calls and texts are free while roaming. I can call any roaming country while outside the UK for free. But data is charged at a fixed upfront rate, they have multiple price packages for different amounts of data. I know o2 in the UK have this Tu Go app which allows people to make and receive calls and texts over the net. But I don't know if they have reasonable data roaming packages.
    – Vagish
    Apr 29, 2014 at 10:18

3 Answers 3


Your best bet is to visit an AT&T Shop or a T-Mobile Shop upon arrival. These are the two providers that actually sell SIM cards, as far as I know. The US cell phone providers focus on selling cell phones with a SIM-card-in-software that they tie to the phone. It is less common for AT&T to sell a SIM card, but you might have luck there. T-Mobile shops sell SIM cards regularly.

Note that getting a SIM card is a bit easier than in Germany, as you don't actually need ID when buying a pre-paid SIM card - just bring some cash to the shop, tell them what pay-as-you-go plan you want, and 10 minutes later things work. I only tried T-Mobile for that in the past. Available plans are hidden somewhat on the web page: http://prepaid-phones.t-mobile.com/prepaid-plans

Having some experience with both the US Cell Phone "system" and the German one, please be prepared to pay more for Internet on the cell phone than you would in Germany.

Note that some airports have "tech gadget" vending machines. If you tranfer in Philadelphia or Newark, you should find one. As it is not legally required to provide your ID for registering a phone/SIM card, you might have luck finding a SIM card (or a cheap phone with internet) there.

  • 1
    I've bought plenty of T-Mobile SIM cards on eBay and then activated them online at the very same link you gave. This might make it a viable option. May 9, 2014 at 3:20
  • Since this answer is more than 8 years old by now, I wonder if the answer is still correct or if the situation has changed in the meantime? Jun 6, 2022 at 14:03
  • @user5415068 Good question. It may make sense to ask a new question if you don't find any moderately recent one with the search function. I should add that I tried getting a SIM card at a T-Mobile shop after 2014 (the year of the answer) in the US. After waiting for one hour because one other customer got help with his iPhone, the clerk told me that they don't sell them anymore because he claimed that they make a loss on the cards because they are discarded after one month. Given that T-Mobile still shipped them, that explanation was nonsense. I personally wouldn't try that anymore.
    – DCTLib
    Jun 6, 2022 at 16:06

If you have a friend in the US, you can order a SIM card on the internet and have it shipped to their house.

Alternatively, you could try ordering one from Amazon, such as this one, and see if they'll ship internationally. I recommend using Ptel (Platinum Telecom), which runs on the T-Mobile network and has the cheapest rates for internet data that I've found.


Another poster here introduced me to Simporium, which offers information about and purchase of prepaid SIM cards for many countries, including the USA. They have two USA prepaid SIMs available, one on AT&T for $50-$60, one on UltraMobile (with worse coverage) from just $19. They will ship to Germany for $7, but it takes two weeks:

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