I’ve previously written about how you can get SIM cards for the USA, the UK and France delivered to you in Singapore so you can have them activated and ready to go by the time your plane touches down at your destination.
But it’s also helpful to be aware of the data roaming offers from our various local telcos so we can see how we can get the best deal. I’ve taken the liberty of looking at Starhub, M1 and Singtel’s offers and here are some of my findings.
Starhub has what I think is the best data-only solution for anyone who just needs data with their Happy Roam prepaid roaming offer. You don’t need to be an existing Starhub customer to take advantage of this, you just need to buy a prepaid Happy Roam SIM.
This offer is valid in the following countries
|Destination||Preferred Partners’ Network|
|Australia||Telstra | Vodafone|
|Hong Kong||Three (3)|
|Indonesia||XL Axiata | Three (3) | Indosat|
|Japan||NTT DoCoMo | KDDI|
|New Zealand||2Degrees | TNZ|
|South Korea||SK Telecom | Olleh KT|
|Taiwan||Far EasTone (FET) | Chunghwa Telecom|
|Thailand||TrueMove | DTAC|
|United Kingdom||Three (3)|
|United States of America||T-Mobile|
There are different pricing configurations on offer
You can buy a $15 or $50 Happy prepaid SIM in Singapore, download the Starhub Happy prepaid app and activate it just before you leave. Note that while you will be able to make calls using this prepaid SIM, they will be at the usual outrageous roaming rates. Therefore if you buy a $50 Happy prepaid sim and activate a 30 Day 3.6GB $20 plan, you’ll have $30 left on your phone for calling. Don’t be surprised if that lasts you all of 5 minutes.
If you just need data, I think this is an amazing deal. It’s difficult to beat S$20 for 3.6GB of data.
Happy Roaming SIMs can be purchased at any Starhub shop, 7-Eleven/Cheers store and at Changi Airport (Travellers’ Counter and UOB Currency Exchange Counters). I’ve been using one on my current RTW trip and don’t have any complaints so far.
If you’re a postpaid customer on Starhub, you can pick from a 2GB or 3GB DataTravel pack that costs $15 and $20 respectively.
What’s interesting to note is that these plans cover 12 different countries, but they’re not the same as the ones covered under HappyRoam. For example, you can get Macau on DataTravel, but not the UK or the US. If you want the UK/US, you’d have to use HappyRoam, or…
This is Starhub’s version of Singtel’s unlimited data roaming packages. You pay one flat fee, depending on country, and get unlimited data for a day.
However, Starhub’s plans range from $19-50 per day, versus Singtel with $19-29. To be fair though, there’s only one country at the $50 price point (Vietnam- which Singtel DataRoam Unlimited doesn’t support. Presumably the carrier in Vietnam asks for a very high reimbursement rate)
If the 12 countries covered under Starhub’s DataTravel don’t match where you’re headed, Starhub has a slightly more expensive option in the form of its RoamEasy packages. These cover 80+ countries, but you’re looking at paying $40/$100 for 400MB/1GB, versus $15/$20 for 2GB/3GB with DataTravel.
Where prepaid is concerned, M1 has recently relaunched its MCard offering with a $15 and $28 option. You get 2GB and 10 minutes of calls that are valid for 10 days, which can be used across either 12 or 17 destinations depending which plan you spring for.
M1 has a nifty program for its postpaid customers called DataPassport, which lets you pay a fee to use your local data allowance overseas for a given month. $10 to let me use my monthly local data in the USA? Sounds pretty sweet.
These DataPassports come in a few flavors- if you’re going to a single destination, you can pay $10 or $25 depending where you’re headed
And if you’re headed to multiple destinations you have regional DataPassports too
Daily Unlimited Data Roaming
Alternatively, you can pay $15 for unlimited data roaming per day in Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Macau, Malaysia, Philippines, Saudi, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand and the USA , or $25 for Japan and the UAE. These rates are significantly cheaper than Singtel’s (see next section)
DataRoam Saver and DataRoam Unlimited
Ah Singtel. The ones who invented this whole campaign around the “Romaphobe”, poking fun at those who go to ridiculous lengths to avoid using data overseas, while forgetting that the reason they do so is because telcos like them charge obscene amounts for data roaming (and it’s OT but let’s remember that Singtel is the upstanding telco that tried to pull a fast one on all its customers back in 2008 by signing them up for their stupid Color Me Tones and saying you need to opt out or you’ll be charged. They got off with a slap on the wrist).
Seriously, just watching the video again makes my blood boil. It’s like the classroom bully making fun of those who detour down the corridor to avoid them.
Singtel’s postpaid customers can take advantage of DataRoam Saver and DataRoam Daily plans. In my opinion these are the worst value of all the telcos. All the plans are for 1 day and expire at midnight local time. Meaning that if your flight lands close to midnight, say, 1150pm, and you turn on your data roaming you’re going to feel very stupid…
|Destination||DataRoam Saver (Unlimited)||DataRoam Daily (100MB)|
Do note that if you’re travelling to China, Indonesia, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand, you can pay $20 to enjoy 1GB data for 30 days. (promotion valid till 31 Dec 16)
If you’re heading to Australia, you can pay $10 to get 1GB of data that lasts you for one month.
And if you’re heading to Malaysia, you can pay $10 for 1GB of data (one month) or $5 for 200MB (one month).
Singtel has also recently launched another offering called ReadyRoam. When you sign up for one of these plans, you get 1GB of data to use across 30 days, with 9, 16 or 31 destinations depending on which plan you spring for. This is very useful when you’re travelling to multiple geographies and may even be better than purchasing a local sim card in some cases.
If you finish using your 1GB your plan will automatically renew at the same price as your pre-selected plan, i.e $12/GB for 9 destinations, $20/GB for 16 destinations and $35/GB for 31 destinations respectively.
Local prepaid SIM
The big advantage of getting a local prepaid SIM is that it gives you both data and voice calling. Why do you need voice calling in an age of Skype/Whatsapp? Well, if you’re on a road trip you might end up in a place with only 2G speeds or no data coverage at all. If you’re trying to book a table at a restaurant they may request for a local number. If you’re trying to register with some of the local apps (eg taxi booking) they might request a local number to send a OTP registration code to. If you’re trying to register with a wireless public hotspot some of them only send activation codes to local numbers. As far as Skype/Whatsapp have come, voice calls over the voice network are still much more reliable and better quality.
EDIT: Another important need for a local number- when you need to call your Uber/Grab driver to tell them where to find you
People on the comments have highlighted providers like Interfone where you put a sticker on your sim card that allows for cheaper roaming. I’ve not tested any of these, but feel free to provide more ideas in the comments as well.
The EU recently eliminated data roaming charges across Europe, meaning that if you buy a prepaid sim card in France you should be able to use that data all across Europe. I’m hopeful that closer economic integration among ASEAN and other regional blocs will see similar legislation passed soon, so people can post important cat videos wherever they are.