Do you want to book a trip to Israel but don't know if your US phone would work while visiting? Does a phone have service in whatever country you bring it to? What's the cheapest way to get cell service while traveling?
Luckily, we've done some digging and have these answers below!
A US traveler can usually expect their cell phone to work in Israel. As long as your device is compatible with Israel's cellular signals and networks, you should be able to continue using your United States-based phone.
Specifically, your device must be a GSM phone with the following frequencies:
- GSM 900 MHz & 1800 MHz
- UMTS 850 MHz & 2100 MHz
- 4G LTE
You should be able to contact your cellular provider and ask them about international plans/charges, so there are many ways to figure this out.
As we start this article, we will cover all things traveling to Israel with your phone and discuss the best ways to do this. Whether you have family abroad, want to visit the holy land, or have other cellular questions, we're here to help! Let's dive right in.
Can I Use A United States Cell Phone In Israel?
Yes. As long as you use an Israeli SIM card, purchase an international data plan, or have one included in your monthly service, you can use a US phone in Israel.
Generally, you want to reach out to your cell provider and ask them what your current plan offers. Some cellular data plans extend free calls and texts while traveling or have it wrapped up into your monthly bill.
Furthermore, you can purchase an international data plan for you and whoever else you travel with. Let's say your phone works through Verizon.
In that case, you can enroll in their international travel plan, including your phone's apps, texting, maps, and other online features, without paying for roaming rates.
That can result in fewer fees you may encounter on your journey. Some cellular providers offer a variation of this plan, often including the same benefits.
However, if you don't purchase an international plan with certain features, don't expect to get them for free once you're in Israel. Unfortunately, nothing is complimentary when it comes to data.
Do I Need To Buy An Israeli SIM Card For My US Phone?
Although you don't need to buy an Israeli SIM card for your phone, doing this can be helpful. First, swapping out your United States SIM card for an Israeli model will give you cell service once you're there.
According to world travelers, you want to buy this SIM card far before you leave for Israel, so you can have it ready the day your flight is booked.
Like any travel prep, you need to ensure you have your SIM card or data plan in place before you're halfway across the world. Nobody likes having to do things last minute.
Even better, most companies selling these SIM cards don't charge hidden fees if the card is pre-activated. Therefore, try and shop through reputable brands, like SIM to ISRAEL.
The key here is purchasing enough SIM cards for each device and letting your cell provider know about your intent to travel abroad.
Since SIM cards are considered somewhat volatile safety-wise, make sure to keep your original US card somewhere safe and protected. You may even want to keep your card, passport, and IDs/credit cards in a mini lockbox during your trip.
It's better to be safe than sorry!
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How Much Does An Israeli SIM Card Cost?
Now that you know you can purchase an Israeli SIM card for your US phone, how much should one cost? Generally, Israeli SIM cards should cost around $25-$30, although this varies.
For example, if you need a SIM card with one GB for a week, that might only cost you $5. However, let's say you need five GB for 30 days, which will cost closer to $14.
Regardless of the timeline, you shouldn't need to spend more than $50 for a SIM card. Some brands offer discounts for partner SIMs, so you may want to see if that's an option.
Even though the Israeli SIM card you want is $20, that will add up for larger families/parties.
It's also worth remembering that the shipping for your SIM card may not be free. Some companies might be shipping to you from out of the US, meaning higher transportation charges.
If all else fails, you can check if the Israeli airport you're flying into sells SIM cards and wait until you get there. That's cutting it close, but it might be the best option if it saves money.
Can I Buy A Pre-Paid Phone To Use In Israel?
Even though you can purchase a pre-paid phone to use in Israel, this isn't the best idea. As we said above, SIM cards for Israeli travel aren't usually more than $25, meaning you don't have to get a new phone to go on vacation.
Instead, we recommend finding a reputable SIM card provider or buying an international data plan for your existing SIM card and smartphone.
Especially if you often travel for work or leisure, enrolling in a data package for the duration of your stay might make the most sense.
If you want to post on social media, stream videos, and text/call people in and out of Israel: we suggest enrolling in your cellular network's international plan.
So, although you can get a pre-paid cell phone for your Israeli journey, we don't see a good enough reason to go through the trouble.
Can You Connect Your Phone To WiFi In Israel?
Yes! If you forget to buy a SIM card, run out of international data, or can't find a good signal, connecting to WiFi in Israel should be pretty easy.
Typically, cafes, hotels, stores, and public areas throughout the country will offer some internet to patrons and visitors. Therefore, you shouldn't struggle to find service in a busy place.
According to LangEasy, countless cellular providers also offer WiFi in Israel. So, even if you run out of data on your SIM card or international plan, there should be alternatives.
Like most developed nations, it's pretty easy to find a hot spot to use for calls, texts, etc.
Israel is similar to the US in many technologies, meaning you shouldn't expect to be helpless. And, worst case scenario, you can always purchase an additional SIM card to use with more GIGs.
A helpful tip to retain data/GBs when in Israel is to cut back on video streaming. Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and any video-streaming platform suck up data like there's no tomorrow: often being the cause of fights during family vacations.
If you can wait, watch your favorite show/movie back in the United States.
Is There 5G In Israel?
Yes and no. Although very advanced, Israel hasn't yet fully embraced 5G cellular data/speeds. That said, you should be able to get some 5G signal in major cities, but it can still be spotty.
According to Haaretz, Israel allocated three 5G frequencies – 700 MHz, 2.6 GHz, and 3.5 GHz in 2019. Since then, these faster networks have been tested and utilized in busier sections of the country.
Again, you're not going to get 5G service in Israel as you would here in the United States, so it might be better to stick to LTE or 3/4G.
On top of that, 5G may cost you more than other slightly slower international plans, so if you want reliable, affordable cellular data: try and skip 5G altogether.
Sometimes, it's better to stick to what we know works rather than the newest product or service.
Can I Text People From The United States In Israel?
Yes. If you have family or friends in Israel or vice versa, you can text them. Generally, you will be able to receive texts for free from international locations, paying for the ones you send.
According to an AT&T customer forum, you pay international roaming rates for texts you send unless you're on a global data plan that includes them.
That might be a better choice for longer stays, as texting tends to be more than a few messages here and there. The same situation applies if you're in the US texting to Israel.
Unfortunately, anytime you depend on SMS for communicating, you're likely paying a fee. Some companies will charge a cent or two per message, while others will charge more.
A good way around this would be downloading WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, or another globally-used social media, which allows you to text for free as long as you have a signal.
Remember from earlier many hotels, restaurants, and public spaces in Israel offer free WiFi, so you can always try and use that to text US-based friends/family.
To Finish Up
Whether you travel to Israel on vacation, plan to stay for work, or need ideas for cheap cell service, figuring out the best way to use your phone abroad can be tricky.
We found that your phone should work in Israel if you have an international data plan or purchase an Israeli SIM card. Luckily, these don't typically cost more than 25 dollars, so you don't have to get too expensive.
We also recommend checking to see if your hotel offers free WiFi, which can help cut costs for texting, streaming, and posting on social media.
While you're here, check out these related travel articles!
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Driving In Israel (Everything You Need To Know As An American)