International roaming charges can be exceptionally expensive. ChatSIM is a good deal to to have when you are travelling globally. It costs only $40 for the SIM Card plus a year of unlimited international messaging (and $20 a year after that if you want to re-up). You need an unlocked phone, of course, just as you do with any new SIM.
The other option for cheap data is to buy a local SIM card when you arrive at your destination. But even that can be expensive if you’re on a tight budget (or crossing borders regularly). Most travel SIM cards, however, are a rip-off.
ChatSIM only lets you message using WhatsApp, Messenger, WeChat, Telegram, and a few other services. There’s no web surfing, no photo uploads, just text-based messages.
It’s important to be clear that ChatSIM is TO BE USED FOR checking in and chatting with your family and organizing meet-ups with new international friends, but NOT TO BE USED FOR browsing Facebook or uploading Snapchats (you’ll have to find WiFi for that). Many of the negative reviews I’ve read about ChatSIM seem confused by this basic premise.
You also need an Internet connection to set up your account before you start traveling. A computer is preferred. Once you’ve setup your account, you can add data, if you want. This add-on lets you send photos and videos, surf the web, etc. Usually, when you buy a SIM, travel or otherwise, you buy a certain amount of data (i.e. 1 GB). A menu on the website sort of helps, letting you choose what country you’re visiting and supplying an estimate in how many photos and videos you can send. To me, it comes across as them purposefully hiding how much data you’re buying.
Since they’ve gone so far as to have the option to see how many photos etc. you can send, this really should just be simplified to “50 MB in U.K.” or whatever.
Once set up and installed in my phone, the only additional setup was adding an Access Point Name (APN) in my phone’s settings, which is easy even if you’ve never done it before (instructions are supplied to do so in both Google Android and Apple iOS).
I messaged friends on Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Line, which all worked. That covers about 2 billion people who could use this. It’s slow but it works.
Let’s pause here and say that if you’re looking for the cheapest way to message internationally, to let your family know you’re OK, talk with friends, and so on, then yes, this works. $30 for a year is pretty fantastic. It’s bare-bones, but in that, it’s core mission, it works.
But it’s important to remember the limitations. This is not like using your phone at home. So why not just add the data and get a fully working SIM? Well, best I can figure, it’s pretty expensive. Adding data credits to ChatSIM is way overpriced compared to buying a local SIM, or even some travel SIMs like KnowRoaming Global SIM Card. You’re able to track your data usage online. In the UK, I sent a 5.02 MB image for about 4.7 credits per megabyte. So that’s somewhere between $0.03 and $0.11 per MB. That lower end is pretty good, the upper end is higher than most local SIMs you’d buy.