Roaming 101: Smart guide to getting travel data
We check out popular ways to roam and their pros & cons.
When it comes to roaming on your holiday, there are many ways to get mobile data. But deciding how can be a real headache. So we’re here to help! From prepaid SIMs to portable WiFi routers, we look at popular options and suss out their pros and cons.
How it works: You land at the airport, drag your luggage around and search for the best local prepaid SIM offer. They’re limited by days or mobile data amount or both. You pick a card, switch out your original SIM and start roaming.
Pros: Prepaid SIMs let you pick from many local telcos and is a very price-competitive roaming choice. Airport terminals often jack up prices, so going into town can get you better travel data deals. But that means you won’t get mobile data till then.
Cons: Prepaid SIMs mean you’re stuck with a foreign number, and you can miss credit card alerts or urgent calls from home. And there’s the hassle. Rushing to catch a train, while having to compare prices, queue and buy a Prepaid SIM can be panic-inducing. Another pain point is the troublesome act of switching. It’s easy to misplace or lose your SIM. And sometimes, the instructions are in a foreign language which makes activation frustrating. Worse still, you wouldn’t want to be caught having forgotten to activate your credit card and needing to switch back just to receive an OTP.
Ideal for: Prepaid SIMs are good if you’re doing a long-stay in a single country. Be sure to know if your SIM card is a Nano or Micro. It helps to have a sharp tool to eject your SIM during switching. A humble safety pin, paperclip or your earring often does the trick.
Global SIM Sticker
How it works: Order it online and have it reach you before your trip. Apply the sticker onto your SIM card and register it via an app. Select from pay-as-you-go or unlimited mobile data plans and pay via credit card. You’ll auto-connect to local networks and can start roaming. With most global SIM stickers, you’re stuck with a foreign number, but you can pay for call forwarding services.
Pros: Unlike Prepaid SIMs, you won’t need to switch SIMs. You can leave the sticker on after you return and your Singapore mobile plan will work as normal. You can then use it for roaming on your next holiday. But to do so, you’ll need to extend its validity.
Cons: Their mobile data plans tend to be pricer than traditional Prepaid SIMs. Also, placing the sticker correctly may be daunting for some. And should you change your SIM card, you’ll need to buy a replacement sticker.
Ideal for: It’s worth considering if you’re going to multiple countries yet don’t need too much mobile data on your holiday. But using a SIM sticker requires much homework and a healthy level of tech-savviness. You have to find a trustworthy supplier online and plan ahead to make sure it arrives before your trip.
How it works: You already have a postpaid mobile plan with your Singapore telco and they have postpaid roaming options. You buy your preferred mobile data plan, usually via SMS or an app. It auto-connects you overseas so you can start roaming once you land.
Pros: No need to switch SIMs or risk jailbreaking/unlocking your phone. Like the user experience for global SIM stickers, it’s easy to add data or check balances any time via an app. Plus payment is via your current postpaid bill – a big plus.
Cons: There isn’t as much choice as Prepaid SIMs. And you’ll need to be on a postpaid plan first.
Ideal for: This is the easiest option as you won’t need to touch your SIM. You land, you have data. Most postpaid roaming plans cover you in multiple destinations and some even allow you to carry over unused mobile data when you return to Singapore.
Mobile WiFi Router
How it works: You rent a mobile WiFi hotspot. With Changi Airport’s WiFi Router as an example: you order it online and collect it on the day you fly. Bring it around on your holiday and up to 6 devices can enjoy roaming on it.
Pros: You pay an affordable, fixed amount per day for unlimited mobile data. And everyone in your travel party (who has the hotspot SSID and password) can connect.
Cons: Despite unlimited mobile data, Changi Airport’s WiFi Router has a Fair Data Usage policy in places like Hong Kong, Europe, USA, Thailand and Malaysia. Once the hotspot uses more than a Fair Data limit of 500MB/day, surfing speeds slow down significantly. And there’s a 10m range so the group can’t stray too far apart. But you can get more routers, which will add to the cost.
You have to carry the router (and its accessories) around and make sure it’s charged. Losing the router can cost you at least $300. But you can and should buy a loss coverage “insurance policy” for only $10.
Ideal for: This is popular for group road-trips across multiple countries over a long period. It’s more cost-effective as you can split the bills. And of course, if you can live with average connection speeds. Alternatively, you can buy your own WiFi router. But it’ll require you to buy and insert your own SIM card – which is often too much investment and hassle for the average traveller.
Clearly, there are many choices for holiday roaming...
...so what’s best for you? If you want an effortless way and are now on a StarHub postpaid plan, why not check out our DataTravel roaming options? You won’t have to deal with the hassle of SIM switching, the headache of comparing prices or the trouble of carrying an additional device around.
We’ve got affordable, no-frills 2GB/3GB mobile data choices that you can carry across many countries over 30 days, covering popular spots like USA, Europe, Australia, Japan and more. And you can top up mobile data at any time. It really is the easiest way to get connected.