Travel hack: Should I buy a SIM card overseas or pay for data roaming?

Travel hack: Should I buy a SIM card overseas or pay for data roaming?

Staying connected through internet connection becomes as important as the food we eat and the air we breathe. This is especially so when travelling, with the need to update our social media feeds or to do a quick Google search on the most recommended place to dine or places to visit.

Stories of travellers being slapped with huge phone bills after forgetting to turn off their data roaming are no strangers to Singaporeans. Spending a huge chunk of your fortune just for data access is definitely not a smart way to end a getaway. There are definitely ways to get cheaper data when travelling, depending on your personal preference and convenience.


Wi-fi Router - S$5-S$12 Daily

If you do not find carrying an external device for data access a hassle, renting a Wi-fi Router from Changi Airport can be a solution. You will get unlimited data at a fixed price every day, depending on your destination. Price ranges from S$5 daily for countries like Thailand and Taiwan, to S$12 per day for destinations such as Europe and US.

You pay for 3 days router rental if you fly to Bangkok on a Friday, and return on Monday.Photo: Changi Recommends

The additional benefit of renting a Wi-fi router is that if you are travelling in a group, everyone can come together to split the bills for the rental.

Tip: Make sure you check online for promo codes before making your booking. Changi Recommends has partnerships and promo codes with numerous banks and merchants, plus they offer their own promo codes too.

Google “Changi Recommends Promo Code”

Overseas Prepaid SIM Card

Purchasing a SIM card from the country you are travelling to is an easy option for many of us. Prepaid SIM cards packages are usually limited by either number of days or data usage.

Once you land at your destination's airport, you'll see many shops selling tourist SIM cards. Do your research online prior to arriving to know which telcos are good. Based on experience, when travelling places like Bangkok, Malaysia, or Cambodia, these SIM cards are really affordable and come with really attractive bundle plans.

There are a few things you need to take note of when purchasing SIM card overseas:

  1. Get the SIM card that fits your phone-be it the nano or micro SIM card.
  2. Keep your local SIM card in a safe and secure place and remember where you put it. If you misplace the original SIM card, you can't transfer it back when you return!
  3. If you are an iPhone user, remember to bring your SIM card tray removal pin. I always attach it to my keychain and keys, so that I constantly have it with me. That said, with iPhones being so common, the shop that sells you the SIM card will usually have their own pin.
  4. Lastly, be prepared to queue when purchasing SIM card at the airport since most of the tourists will be crowding around the SIM card vendor to get themselves a SIM card too.

If you are travelling to a single country, this option is often the cheapest.

Data Roaming Plans from local telcos

M1: Data Passport

M1 allows their user to deduct from their local data from their mobile plan when travelling. With Data Passport, M1 users can pay a single fee for your Data Passport and use mobile data overseas like he would, locally.

The monthly fee for Data Passport ranges from S$10 for countries such as Thailand, Hong Kong, Australia, to S$25 for places such as China or Japan.

If you travelling in Europe, you can purchase the $50 Europe Data passport, which let you roam in 29 countries within Europe. There are also packages such as the ASEAN and Asia Data Passport according to user's needs.

Photo: M1 Data Passport

There will be a $2 activation charge to connect to M1's official partners when abroad. Connecting to non-partners of M1 can result in additional charges.


StarHub Postpaid customers can use DataTravel plan, which works for destinations such as Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, China, Japan, Macau, New Zealand and Australia.

Photo: StarHub

If you need more data, consider using StarHub's DataTravel Unlimited. Over 120 destinations are supported, you can save yourself the hassle of changing SIM cards or manually selecting the network. For that convenience, prices are understandably more expensive.

Photo: StarHub

For non-StarHub customers, there is a prepaid option available-Happy Roam Data Plan.

To use the Happy Roam Data Plan, you need to first purchase a Happy Prepaid SIM at S$15, S$32 or S$50. This prepaid SIM card comes included with credits and local data. Next, download the Happy Prepaid App and purchase additional data plans through the app. Prices are as follows:

Photo: StarHub

Travellers should check to see if the country you are travelling to is one of the Happy Roam Destinations before purchasing it.


Singtel users can look at DataRoam Unlimited Daily for unlimited data roaming each day. Charges range from $19 to $29 daily, depending on your destination.

Singtel ReadyRoam offers 1GB of data over 30 days from S$12 and can be used across multiple eligible destinations. This is useful if you're on a backpacking trip and don't foresee yourself using a lot of data, but will be travelling to multiple countries. Should you need more data, the each subsequent GB is charged at the same rate as the initial 1 GB.

Singtel also provides 100MB for $10, DataRoam 100MB Daily Plans which makes little sense for our modern day data usage.

A version of this article first appeared in

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