Sell or rent me a prepaid SIM card at the airport


So if you travel to different countries, you know that cellular roaming can be a pain, even with a GSM world phone, because they ding you for very high roaming charges.

So here's a service I want. A kiosk in the airport to sell, or ideally rent me a GSM SIM card for a prepaid account, right in the airport. The kiosk would also sell me unlocking service for my phone, and of course prepaid cards. (By renting the SIM card, I mean it would sell it, and then buy it back at a reduced price on the way back out.)

Update Note: I've created a Special Forum to share information on the best SIM card sources in different countries. Search there for info on each country or enter your own findngs. ...

I just did this here in Toronto. Fido sells a SIM for just $25 CDN, and the 15 cents/minute CDN for airtime is highly competitive, especially compared to the roaming charges which range from 50 to 99 cents USD depending on the company. It doesn't take very many minutes to make this worthwhile, and you also get a local number so local contacts can call you free. In many cases you can forward your original cell line to your temp number, if your network will let you do that. (Or get a VoIP number, you can redirect those over the web, usually for free.)

But to do it I had to trek to a Fido store (ordinary cell stores often don't sell SIMs for unlocked phones). And to make it worse, they won't let me refill the prepaid minutes from a non-Canadian credit card due to "security policy."

This would make sense all over the world. Of course many people rent cell phones but at crazy prices aimed at people on don't-care expense accounts. Prepaid cell services are often very cheap, even if you are going to throw away some of the minutes when you leave.

With many prepaid accounts, you must put minutes in every 3 or 6 months to keep the number. If you go to a country a few times a year, this can be worth doing to make the number permanent. Again, I just recommend VoIP numbers forwarded free to your current number of choice.

For Canada-USA, Verizon users who have phones that do multiple NAMs can get a second NAM for their phone on a prepaid account. I also did this once but then I got a phone with only one NAM. Bell Mobility (the CDMA-B carrier in Canada) overcharges for the NAM, so it's more for the regular traveller. Several of the phone companies offer USA-Canada roaming plans but they have high monthly fees and are only for the bi-national commuter.

The kiosk could make money a number of ways. Aside from profit on the sales of the SIMs and prepaid minute cards, they would get to resell and resell the spare minutes left on returned rented SIM card. And for the convenience of airport pickup and the fast-signup system, they could surcharge.

Of course you could rent live-account SIMs too, but that's effectively identical to renting phones, and probably more work considering that people need unlocked phones. You need to assure their credit which introduces a risk not found with prepaid cards.

It's also worth noting that often just buying a new, locked prepaid phone can be quite cheap due to the subsidies they put on locked phones. In this case, since you plan rare use, they are probably making a mistake. Indeed, if you only do this in one country, a new locked phone for that country may cost less than a sim card and unlocking your existing phone with an unlocking service. Many unlocking services charge $50 or more, but it can commonly be found for much less, and even cheaper for people who have the data cable.

To follow the Canadian example, a SIM and 100 minutes costs $55 CDN plus tax or $52 USD. That's paid for in 75 minutes of Cingular roaming, 100 minutes of T-mobile roaming, faster if also doing LD. For European roaming prices of over a buck, the payback can be quicker. I am told in some cases SIMs are free if you buy enough minutes with them.

The reason the cell companies might hate this? If they are a monopoly carrier, they love charging your carrier, and you, the fat roaming fees. They don't want you on their network for cheap.


you can get prepaid sims in many countries' main airports. the problem is the pricing model, high startup.

Buy a SIM card over the web from For European roaming they have several cards from Liechtenstein with low rates. They also sell prepaid SIM cards from most of a hundred nations. They aren't in airports, but a web store is cheaper to run and gets a world economy of scale.

But overpriced if they are just going to mail you the card. You can often just have the local cell company mail you the card after web signup, and pay no markup. You have to plan in advance for this. The airport kiosk idea is for those not wanting to hassle with planning in advance, or forgetting.

For example, Virgin's SIM card is just 10 pounds, telstial charges a lot more.

We had problems with Telestial sim cards. Soon after we went overseas, they never worked. Please use CAUTION!!!

most backpacker hostels will have people buying or selling cheap prepaid phones because they've done what you recommend. I use this to get completely anonymous phones for activism, but it also works if all you want is a cheap phone (typically less than $US20 sans credit).

That's a good idea, but the downside is you have to find and trek to the backpacker hostel. At the airport it's something to do while you wait for your bags or rental car. Of course, this works in any area of tourist concentration (hotels etc.) but ideally you want it the moment you enter the country. (Indeed, if the current SIM in your phone is prepaid, you may not be able to roam on it at all before you get the new one.)

Cheapest plan may be to order from the best priced prepaid company in advance for delivery to your hotel. Takes advance planning but minimal time. No resale to that, though.

You can cheat with They have often found the cheapest local prepaid company, and they add on thier own surcharge. Use their site to find the company, then order directly.

The site is also good for finding the companies.

Also check out my new special forum for sharing this information.

So Telestial makes a few bucks for providing the service - stop whining about it. Either pay the price for convenience (Telestial) or trek around when you arrive to pay "face value." For me, paying a $10 premium to Telestial is a small price to know that my phone will work the second I land and that I can get on with my trip.

Indeed, if it were just $10. However, the point I was making was that Telestial isn't doing anything you couldn't get by just going to the provider web site and having them mail a SIM card to your hotel, if you plan in advance. I think there's a market (and a margin) if you can do it quickly at the airport, without planning ahead.

Going to CA from UK soon. Have unlocked cell phone, where and what kind of sim could I get to cover N Ontario ( Bell seems to be the only one, but last year there was no link with Vodafone only FIDO and they don't cover that area) so I'm looking a low cost pay as you go sim for Bell ( or whatever) any Ideas?????

It uses CDMA and AMPS, not GSM. Nor for Telus. See the countries page, you can get Rogers, or Fido and pay the $5 fee to include the Rogers network, but good luck in Nothern Ontario.

You can also buy a bell prepaid phone. You can also buy somebody's used bell mobility phone and try to activate it, but that may not be that much better a deal, surprisingly. As somebody suggested, you might find a prepaid phone for sale in a hostel.

I bought a SIM card from Telestial before I took my UK trip because it has received some good reviews. My experience with that little SIM card in UK turned out to be a total nightmare. I had to make numerous calls just to get it activated. The customer service hotline that supports the SIM card in the UK is not 24/7 and the service was horrible. It took more than 3 days to get the SIM card activated and registered on the network. When I finally get to use it to phone home in the US, all US numbers (as it turns out) were blocked. I am still trying to communicate with Telesial and Mobile UK which supplied the SIM card to get the problem resolved. Next time when I travel to UK, I think I will just try the local kiosk there.

Call from anywhere in the gsm network to add more time, as desired.

New global roam sim now provides 24/7 multilingual customer service number so you can add more time, on-demand by simply calling from your cell phone (or even land-line).

Comes with broader coverage and lower rates than the above mentioned.

Please visit us at

or contact Joe at

Hi, I was just reading about your idea on Sim Cards, You are absoloutly right about Fido's competetive price on Prepaid acounts. I operate a cell phone store in two locations,
399 Old Orchard Grove (Avenue Road just North of Lawrance) 416-913-3436
3295 Bayview Avenue (Bayview Just north of Finch) 416-226-6662

I offer Prepaid plan for $50 which you get $50 worth of minutes included (333 minutes 15c a minute)Voice mail, Call display and 25 text and picture messages are included. You have access to expanded net-work (no charge) and most of all NO ACTIVATION FEE.
I offer unlocking with this purchase free.
They call me problem solver in the neighbourhood. I carry huge selection of accessories of any phones(old and new), as a matter of fact people of Toronto know me for this quality.

I am honoured to be at anyone's service and if you are a Fido customer already, by referring you know you and your friend will get $20 in your Fido accounts upon his/her activation.
If you mention this site, I will include a $25 worth of accessories(case/car charger)in.
Brad, your site is always very usefull
your friends at Cell Zone

Hi! I'm travling to Toronto on 9th Oct. I'm staying at 88 Alton Towers Circle & I'd like to buy a pre-paid SIM card. I wonder if you could deliver since this is my first time there. Is there any charge apart from the CAD$50? TKS.

I am the parent of a high school student going to study in the UK this summer. We have an unlocked quad band phone and I need to find a pre-paid sim card for the UK prior to him leaving the states. I have seen them on Telestial's site and from what I can read here, they sound acceptable. But I also wondered if you can pre-purchase the "top up" vouchers in advance. The students may not have the freedom to nip out and find a kiosk and I do not anticipate giving him a credit card.

Any suggestions for pre-paid sim cards but also any way to purchase "top up" vouchers ahead of time?


Tesco supermarkets sell their own SIM cards. I think that they actual use the O2 network.

They charge about 5 UK Pounds for it and if you put on a minimum of 15 pounds you get calls at 10pence/minute. Their rates are cheap to the US too.

If this is of interest to you, you can google Tesco, or try or

I travel to the UK with an unlocked GSM phone, and just switch SIM cards depending if I'm in the US or UK.

I have UK, German, France all europe sim cards for sale. My price will be £15 GBP for UK cards (Price varies on others). These are ready as long as your phone is unlocked. If it is locked I can unlock it. We aim to set up in every Airport within the next 2 years but for now email me and we will try to help. The website is not live but my other website is which is a global handset provider. Have a look email me and I will help. I can also send with credit.

Tel +44 1327811160 +447717860731

hi- need to buy a sim card for a phone interview. have an unlocked nokia. can anyibe recommend a sim card? i will be in vancouver

Try searching kijiji vancouver, howard forums vancouver or craiglist vancouver. Hope this helps.

Just a warning about the service with Telestial. Some may have had it good but my whole experience with Telestial has been very upsetting.

I ordered a SIM card with 3 day air delivery to my location where I would be needing it for 2 1/2 weeks. When I arrived, the card had not arrived in the 3 days. So I called Telestial and they said to wait for a day or two more. It still did not arrive, so I kept calling them to the point of asking for a refund. Each time they told me that "it should have arrived" and I should wait a while more. Finally 2 weeks later, extremely frustrated, I called them for the 6th time inquiring about the card, and finally the representative had the decency to tell me it was never sent out. So I demanded a refund check be sent to my hotel as I was leaving the country soon. Next day, I received the package, but instead of the refund, I got the SIM card I paid for. GREAT. the 3 day delivery option was chosen for a reason. and now I got the card 2 days before I was leaving.

I called Telestial again and they told me to send it back. And that they would refund me once they received it. So I did send it back. And ever since, I heard nothing from them. So I basically paid 65+ bucks (I ordered a top up card too) for a lot of HASSLE, LOUSY SERVICE, and I did not even get to use the SIM Card.

Yikes. That's not what I wanted to hear.

I'm leaving for Charlotte, NC, from Paris in two days and would like to have a SIM card waiting. But I guess I won't risk using Telestial.

I can buy a T-Mobile SIM from any company store after I arrive, but their rates are listed to be more than double that of the "SIMple Call SIM Card" that Telestial has advertised for $39.

Here's my gripe: Why is it easier to communicate in Africa than it is in the US and Europe? I can go to Ghana, buy a SIM card for $3 with $3 of credit, and immediately start surfing the web from my phone via GPRS for 6 cents per 100k. In France, the SFR card costs 30 Euros with negligible credit and you can't use GPRS under any circumstances.

I have not yet used a SIM card in the US, but it looks like I'm in for the worst ride of anywhere I've been yet. Are there any reliable options which aren't excessively expensive? (T-Mobile is $1.50 plus 35 cents/min per call to France.)

While T-mobile's SIM in the USA is a good deal especially if you plan to re-use it, nobody offers good overseas calling from most cell plans.

Those who do a lot of overseas calling look for a dial around, like rebtel or talkplus or one of its ilk. You dial a local number (just your ordinary airtime rate of 10 to 20 cents) and they forward overseas for you using voip for a couple of cents more.

same thing happned to me

Ya, now-a-days we can get the sim cards for our mobiles in the Airport itself in some countries. It would be so good if we get the sim card of the perticular country at the Airport itself. Even we can get the sim cards on the net also.

Hi there,
does anyone have any tips for getting a cell phone in Toronto for this length of stay? Most of the other comments are for shorter trips.
ps. I'm coming from Germany, but don't want to use my German cell for that length of time in Canada!

I think Fido is still a good choice for a SIM for your phone. If you don't have a phone, Virgin mobile's deals look good for no-contract stuff.

I am travelling to Mexico, LA, Vegas and Hawaii in the span of three weeks, comin from Australia. Currently I have a Samsung U700 phone with my prepaid Optus (one of australia's networks) sim cards in it. The phone itself was bought on a Telstra contract but is obviously not locked into Telstra. Does anyone know if my phone will be compatible with say a T-Mobile Sim when I go to America? Also can i top up my credit on my sim without a credit card as I do not own one. Would a T Mobile sim work in Mexico?

I travel a lot and use MyTravelPhone prepaid SIM card in my travels. It covers more than 180 countries (according to what they declared), in most countries incomings are free of charge. I travel often to USA, EU, Israel, ex-USSR, in most of these places i pay only $0.35-0.45 per minute (depends on country). They deliver MTP cards all over the world.

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