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Why Full Time Travelers Should Sign Up For Google Fi

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When I first heard about it I thought Google Fi was a stupid idea.  I was primarily basing this decision off of the cost for data; why would anyone traveling pay $10 USD a GB for data, when I can get it for so much cheaper elsewhere?

Use our Share the Fi Love referral code to sign up for Google Fi.  You’ll get $20 credit and so will we.

What is Google Fi?

Google Fi is a cell phone plan by Google.  The plan connects to most major cell service providers in the US and internationally.  Unfortunately, Google Fi is a little more complicated for people outside the US, though it is possible.  

The plan is $20/month – only for months that you use it.  That means you can turn your Google Fi off and not pay a thing for as long as you want, and then turn your plan back on from your phone.

The plan gets you unlimited US calls, US texts, and international texts.  For an additional $1 per 0.1 GB, you can get data for up to 6 GB.  Data used after that – free.  Your bill is capped at $80, no matter how much data you use above 6GB.  However, at 15 GB the data is slowed down unless you want to continue to pay $10/GB over 15 GB.

You can also get a free second data-only SIM card for the same data plan.  This allows you to use a Wi-Fi router like we have.

Why Should You Use It?

The answer is convenience.  You can turn your monthly Google Fi plan on and off whenever you want without having to go into a store, although it must be activated online before you can use it.  If you are traveling for short periods in different countries, it’s much easier and cheaper to get a plan with Google Fi than it is to collect SIM cards in every country.

For example, in September 2018 we left Starry Horizons in Lombok to travel back to the states for 10 days.  We had two layovers in Tokyo and our time in the states was spent mostly around places with wifi*.  Plus, we flew into Denver, which does not have many international flights and we could not find a cell phone provider kiosk to buy a SIM.  If you are only in a country for a day or so and need connectivity, it’s a real waste to stand in line and wait for your new SIM to be activated.  I’ve waited for a few hours to get a SIM a handful of times.  Plus, the SIM cards often have a one time fee.  For longer stays, it makes sense as the fee is spread out over a longer time period.

In February 2019 we left Starry Horizons in Thailand to head home for 12 days.  We used Google Fi for our time in the US, and when we returned to Thailand there was no point in getting a Thai SIM card for the few remaining days we had left.  Our one month plan was still good, and we even used it when we first got to Sri Lanka so we didn’t have to rush to buy a sim card.

Costs V Convenience

Yes, most of the time buying a local sim card is significantly cheaper, but if connectivity is more important for you than costs, Google Fi is the way to go.  Usually, a local data card is cheaper…

…enter Seychelles!  Seychelles is the first country we’ve come to where the local data plan is significantly more expensive than any other country we’ve been to.  In fact, if you factor in that with Google Fi you pretty much get unlimited data for a cap of $80, Google Fi is a much cheaper alternative to local service in Seychelles.  (Cable & Wireless prepaid data-only packages:  $12.5/GB, Airtel $9.8/GB).

Our Set-Up

Google Fi SIM cards work just like any other normal SIM card.  We have one plan and David keeps the main SIM card in his phone.  Then we have the second data-only SIM card, which stays in our Wi-Fi router.  If I’m leaving the boat, I can take the data-only SIM card with me.  This is all I need:  we communicate using WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, or we use Google Voice to connect with friends and family back home.

Use our Share the Fi Love referral code to sign up for Google Fi.   You’ll get $20 credit and so will we.

*It boggles my mind how many places in the States have free wifi; grocery stores, malls, restaurants, airports, coffee shops, doctors offices, day spas, etc…

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4 Comments

  1. I currently have Google Fi. I remembered you two mentioning it, and signed up. It is especially good in the US for when our Mint phones(Based on T-Mobile towers) don’t work in a particular area. Google Fi is based on the Verizon, Sprint, US Cellular towers! So we can use whatever set of phones work in a given area. T-Mobile also has an international roaming plan that gives you guaranteed 256k data in a whole lot of countries.

    1. Good! I’m glad you’ve found Google Fi helpful. I have heard about that T-mobile plan. After running on the 256k data with Google Fi for a week or two, I’m not super keen to repeat the experience! 🙂

  2. As far as I know, Google Fi is only available for US citizens. You need an US billing and shipping address. So for all of us non-US travelers it is not available or only with some complicated hacks to circumvent the restrictions. You might want to mention that.

    1. You are right, it’s much more complicated if you aren’t in the US. There are workarounds, like using a mail forwarding system and a VPN. I have updated the post to reflect this information. Thank you!

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