For a big family like mine, buying local SIM cards for everyone is just not doable. Moving everyone together all the time is also not doable. We needed a simple solution for that and we found ChatSim. It’s a simple deal: you can use Whatsapp and a few other messaging apps on your phone, worldwide, for one yearly price.
*ChatSim kindly sent us free Sim cards, but the opinions are 100% ours.
What they offer
The idea is simple: Unlimited texts, anywhere, for $50 a year. We only needed it for that, urgent texts, because we’d be almost all the time together. We needed to be able to contact each other when we split parties. They also wanted to be able to talk to their friends, so it was a good deal.
If we bought them local SIM cards, it’d cost at least 5 times that.
For photos, videos, and calls, we would use wi-fi whenever it was available, so no big deal.
Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, Telegram, BBM, Wechat, QQI, Line, Hike, and Kakao are compatible with ChatSim.
They have coverage in 160 countries worldwide and they can be used with any smartphone or tablet.
It costs $25 per month or $50 per year, and there’s the recharge options of $12.50, $25, and $62.50. How far those credits go depend on the country – some are cheaper, others are more expensive.
You can use texts and emojis, but calls, photos, videos, and others are only available if you buy the extra credits.
The flaws of ChatSim for long-term travelers
- From the messaging apps compatible, we only use Whatsapp (others are Telegram, Hike, Line, Facebook Messenger, etc). Skype, iMessage, and SMS don’t work.
- They offer data plans, but only for the compatible apps. You can’t buy data from them and try to use on maps or anything because it won’t work. That’s one big flaw, in my opinion. I think at least one mapping service should be provided when we bought the extra data because they are highly valuable for travelers.
- The other flaw is that they don’t stop you from using data. We’ve found that, sometimes, we download photos mistakenly (tapping on the wrong place, for instance, or unknowingly) or apps get updated and they put our phones on slow data mode or even block it. It happened a few times, which isn’t fun. Slow mode is when the messages start taking a while to be sent or received and it can be pretty bad. What’s not supported should be blocked on the chip, instead of penalizing.
- The worst happened in Brazil, when the service was so unstable I couldn’t talk to the kids no matter what. I’d gone out with Angelo and they were with my mom. They sent me a message, but I couldn’t reply whatsoever. It just didn’t work for the most part of the time. That’s when I decided to get me a local SIM. In Peru, it was also highly unstable but it was mostly because we changed the kids’ phones there and it took VERY long to accept the new phones – like 3 days, seriously.
The great stuff about ChatSim
- Well, it’s pretty inexpensive. $50 a year for unlimited texting is fair, we think. And it works almost everywhere in the world.
- It’s one number, so you won’t have to let people know you’ve changed numbers in every country.
- The support is nice, they take a while to answer but they do reach out to keep you updated, so it’s a win.
- They are pretty clear on what they do and don’t, so there are no problems there if you read their terms and conditions.
- It’s easy to use, and it covers basic needs.
How it works for us
Angelo needs Skype to work, so he ditched his ChatSim and now buys a local Sim where we are. When he had the Zenfone, he could use both Sim cards, but now that he’s with an iPhone, he chose the local Sim.
I can’t. I buy a local Sim because I always forget to download the freaking map and I’m terrified of getting – really – lost. Well, I have a terrible sense of direction! Plus, I do Instagram and Facebook so I need to be online and it doesn’t offer that.
For the kids, even though it isn’t perfect, it works fine. They don’t work, they don’t have to do things on a specific time of day so they can just text with whoever they want anywhere. If they need to do something that requires data, they can use either my or Angelo’s phone.
As I mentioned above, when we traded the kids’ old iPhone 4s, we got them new Motorola G4 Play phones in Peru. The ChatSims took a while to accept the change of devices but the time frame varied between 12 hours to 5 days. One kid got the signal in 12 hours, the other in the first 2 days, but the last kid got us talking with their support for nearly a week until it was resolved. It was not fun and it didn’t work even on wifi, so it was a bit annoying and unfair, considering they all traded their old iPhone 4s for the same model Motorola G4 Play on the same day.
It worked in the end, so it’s a good thing.
We did trade devices again and it worked immediately after that.
I think it’s a good investment if you plan a long trip and you won’t need to call anyone. If you’ll need to make calls, and well, use online maps, and stuff, then this may not be for you.
How do you do when you travel?