In this Google Fi Review, we’ll cover why Google Fi is the best US carrier for international trave. To start things off, these are most notable Google Fi features:
- Data rates are the same in the U.S. and when you’re traveling abroad
- Flexible plans: You’re paying for the date you use
- Built in VPN: Even if you’re abroad, you’re accessing the internet like you’re in the U.S. That means, websites will default to English and you have access to the American video streaming sites like Hulu, Disney Plus and Netflix.
I’ve been on Google Fi since it’s beta days of “Project Fi,” and have loved most of it since. My first phone was with AT&T, and after years of high bills and low service, I ended up switching services because I found out about the T-Mobile International travel plan on data. Not too long after that, Project Fi was in it’s beta stages and I got on board with Google! As you’ll see from my Google Fi Review, it’s pretty amazing.
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Google Fi Phone Plans: Ulimited or Flexible
- VPN: This is the absolute best feature of Google Fi that they don’t even list on the official website.
- Unlimited calls (Wi-Fi calling) and texts
- Low rates for calls internationally (Not that important since you have other free options)
- Mobile hotspot tethering (super awesome for the VPN feature)
- No contracts so you can cancel anytime (This is amazing. You can even pause your service right in the phone app)
Unlimited Plan (for 1): $70/month + taxes
- The unlimited data plan…is pretty limited. You get high speed data up to 22GB, then your speed gets throttled to about 1%speed.
- Free data and texts when traveling…when available. There’s some countries (Vietnam) where you won’t get data, but you’ll be able to make calls and texts. Calls can cost between $0.01-$1+ depending on the country.
- Free calls to 50+ countries and territories: This is actually pretty good. Many people use Skype, Line or other 3rd party calling apps, but still useful.
- Google One Membership: You get up to 100GB of cloud storage for each unlimited phone line ($1.99/month value).
The monthly price drops down for additional line with the unlimited plan. Having 2 phones will bring the plan to $60/phone and 3 phones will be $50/phone.
Flexible Plan (for 1): $20/month + $10/GB of data + taxes
- Pay ONLY for the data you’ve used. Google Fi charges $10/GB, but that’s prorated based on the data. For example, if you used 100mb of data, that will cost you $1. You pay exactly for the data you use.
- Same data and text rates when traveling: There are no roaming charges with Google Fi so you won’t be surprised by an outrageously high bill after your trip.
- Affordable Calls to other countries: Calls to all countries outside the U.S. start at $0.01/minute.
- Data is free after you use 6GB: That means the highest your bill can go is up to $80USD. After 6GB, you’ll get high speed data for up to 15GB then get throttled to 1% speed.
VPN: Google Fi Review
In my opinion, the VPN is one of the best features of Google Fi. A VPN is a virtual private network, meaning that you have a secure connection to the internet…but more importantly a VPN can tell the internet you’re in a different location that your actual location.
When using your mobile data, you’re automatically connected to the Google Fi VPN which says you’re in the United States even when you’re not. This is an amazing feature if you like having internet freedom, making Google Fi the best plan for international travel.
For example, you’re in Japan browsing the internet. When you use the internet without a VPN, you’ll notice most websites will switch to the Japanese version and you’ll be targeted with Japanese ads. With the Google Fi VPN, websites will continue to default to the English version since your VPN says you’re in the United States.
Google Fi VPN Video Streaming Freedom
With Google Fi’s VPN, you can even stream videos from Hulu, Amazon Prime, Crunchyroll, Netflix and Disney Plus anywhere in the world. Each streaming services filters users by country and will allow you playback content depending if they have streaming rights. For example, Hulu can ONLY be streamed in the United States.
So if you happen to be traveling outside the U.S. and want to stream Hulu or any of your other streaming services from America, you can with Google Fi!
Netflix is available in most countries around the world, but the streaming catalog depends on the country. The selection of movies and TV shows will be very different between the United States and Thailand.
While I was in Thailand, I learned that most Netflix shows localize content to that country. While trying to watch some Japanese anime (Yowamushi Pedal), I found out that the language audio was available in Japanese (no problem), but the subtitles were only available in Thai. A problem easily resolved with Google Fi.
Google Fi VPN Internet Freedom
Internet censorship happens all over the world. In China, there’s the Great Firewall. Websites like Google, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube are all blocked. Unless you have a VPN. Google made a deal with China Unicom to Google Fi users to have service in China.
Since Google Fi is not publicly available to Chinese citizens, the only people using the service would be foreigners in China. With that in mind, Google Fi users can bypass the Great Firewall of China to access any website.
Here’s a short list of websites blocked in other countries, but not if you have Google Fi:
- Indonesia: Vimeo and Reddit
- Turkey: Wikipedia
- Russia: Reddit, Telegram, Amazon Cloud, Google Cloud, Archive.org and the Jehova’s Witnesses official site
- UAE/Qatar/Saudi Arabia: Skype, Snapchat, Whatsapp, Telegram and Facetime
- Iran: Telegram and Instagram
- YouTube is blocked in China, Iran, Pakistan, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria and Turkey
What phones can you use with Google Fi?
Besides the official Google Pixel phones, you can bring most newer phones to Google Fi. You can check if your phone is compatible with the network on the Google Fi site first.
They do mention that non-Google phones are working in the beta stages, so you might run into issues. I’ve been using the official Google Fi phones and haven’t had any problems with the network.
With Google Fi, you don’t necessarily need cell phone reception to make a phone call because you can make calls using WiFi. Crystal clear calls from anywhere in the world back to the United States for free. If you’re traveling in Italy, your friends in the United States can call you at no additional fee.
The Google Fi website doesn’t mention this, but you can access your contacts, check voicemails, make calls and use your text messages from the Google Hangouts interface.
If you want to actually text people and look like you’re working, using Google Hangouts is an amazing feature.
For texting, I personally prefer using hangouts since I can type faster on a keyboard. It’s also great when you get a two-factor authentication code. You can just copy and paste the code.
Google Fi Connection Speed:
Depending on where you are in the world, your data speed can change. With full bars in the US in a big city like Los Angeles, data speeds are around 50mbps. In Taiwan, I get speeds around 25mbps and speeds around 1mbps in Malaysia. It really depends on the types of contracts Google Fi has set up with the network providers internationally.
Google Fi is the best mobile carrier for international travel because it’s available in over 200+ destinations where you can call, text or use data. It’s the best US carrier for international travel, but you should know about what they don’t tell you.
Google Fi is amazing, but it’s not perfect. The available countries list is a little misleading. Even though it’s available in MANY countries, it doesn’t mean data is available in every country. I’ve only ran into this issue in Vietnam. Google Fi in Vietnam is available, but only for phone calls. SIM cards are $8USD at the airport for unlimited data, so I suggest just buying a local SIM to save you the trouble.
Can you bring your phone number to Google Fi?
You can transfer your current phone number to Google Fi! It just takes a few minutes to call and start the process.
Why is Google Fi the Best Plan for International Travel?
Because it gives you the most access to the world and it’s the most affordable. If you travel, it makes a lot of sense. Being able to go from country to country without having to change your SIM card is incredibly convenient. Google Fi is the best way to use your phone internationally, since you’ll only need one phone. You can try the T-Mobile international travel or Verizon International data plans, but I think you’ll find the freedom and flexibility of Google Fi to be the absolute best mobile carrier for international travel.