7 Myths Debunked! Is Data Roaming really expensive?

7 Myths Debunked! Is Data Roaming really expensive?

We just debunked 7 myths about data roaming! Is it really that expensive? Read on for the truths behind these myths.

Think data roaming is crazy expensive? Only meant for business travellers who get reimbursed for everything? Or only for people with deep pockets? Well, we thought so too! Until we did a little digging and found out how friendly data roaming actually is for us travel aficionados!

It’s tiring to have to consciously think about the amount of data a Facebook post is going to use, or whether that 5 minutes of FaceTime with your ‘bae’ is going to deplete your data roaming limit. Using data roaming can actually be as unconscious and natural as when you’re in Singapore! Let’s look at some myths and see what is really going on.

Also read: 10 Coolest Travel Accessories You Might Not Know Existed

Myth #1: Data Roaming is way more expensive than getting a local SIM card.

Truth #1: It really depends on what type of internet user you are and where you’re travelling to.

Image credit: jo.sau

If you’re a light data user and going for a very short trip, $10 for 100MB daily is likely a better deal for you. Local prepaid SIM cards tend to come in bundles comprising of talk time, texts and data. They sell it to you as a value pack, sometimes on top of buying the card at a flat rate. This may end up costing you more. You don’t quite need to make that many local calls, send local texts, or use that much data if you’re only there for a short period of time. Let’s say you’re in Batam for a weekend getaway and just want to use WhatsApp for texting your family and friends, as well as post a few photos on Instagram and Facebook. That’ll only cost you $20 for two days of data roaming as compared to a local prepaid SIM card that may ask you for something like $25 because of a large amount of talk time, texts and data thrown in. In addition, scrambling to get a local prepaid SIM card once you arrive at Batam just doesn’t seem to be a good start to a fun and relaxing weekend away from the hustle and bustle of Singapore.

100MB of data, by the way, can actually go a long way. You can send and receive an average of 100 emails with attachments, surf the web for 6 hours, or make 40 photo posts to your social media account. That sounds like more than enough for us!

(Psssst..!!!) Also, if you frequent countries like Australia and Malaysia (weekend groceries shopping, anyone?), you can enjoy a monthly data bundle of 1GB for only $10! So feel free to instagram your cheap buys across the causeway, from across the causeway. It’s the same price as what you would pay for a Singapore prepaid data plan. Best of all, save the hassle of changing SIM cards as you’re crossing the causeway. Save that energy for all the shopping, eating, and instagramming instead!

But wait, there’s more! Singtel roaming subscriptions will only charge you once even if your subscription overlaps two billing cycles. So let’s say your billing cycle follows the calendar month. You subscribe to DataRoam Saver Malaysia Monthly 1GB in mid-April and it lasts till mid-May. Instead of being charged for both months of April and May like what other telcos may do, Singtel will only charge you once. Likewise with the timing of data roaming plans’ activation. Singtel follows the timezone of your destination so that you won’t incur extra charges due to timezone differences.


Myth #2: I will be slapped with a $2,000 mobile phone bill when I return from my overseas trip

Truth #2: Be informed about your data roaming plans, options and limitations as well as switch off what is unnecessary to avoid painful charges.

Image credit: Cloudywind

We’ve all heard countless horror stories about that friends’ friend or that auntie’s friend’s daughter who surfed the web while overseas and got a bill shock after returning home. That online search for the best wanton mee in Hong Kong which was only S$5 to eat ended up costing S$100. How did that happen? Should I deactivate data roaming throughout my trip?

Fret not, these “victims” didn’t know better.

This is what a savvy data user would do:

  1. When not using data, switch data roaming off. See how to switch data roaming off for your iPhone and see here for other devices.
  2. If you don’t want to use data or even calls and text messages, switch your phone to airplane mode. Then when you do find a convenient Wi-Fi spot, you can switch your Wi-Fi on again.
  3. As data roaming plans are usually tied to a specific local telco service provider, make sure you do a network lock. See how to perform a network lock if you’re a Singtel user*.
  4. Turn off the Background App Refresh option to save on data. Just turn it on when you’re connected to Wi-Fi.
  5. Set push notifications to manual or simply turn it off.
  6. Browse the mobile versions of websites as they use less data.
  7. Be aware of your data usage. For example, with Singtel, you may activate My Singtel app to view your roaming charges. Simply select “Roaming” to view your usage. Alternatively, you can log on to www.ideas.singtel.com > DataRoam Settings to view the charges.

And that’s how you don’t get a bill shock.

Verdict: You CAN have your cake and eat it. Or your wanton mee, for that matter.

*All Singtel data roaming plans automatically enable your device’s network lock, so you don’t need to enable the network lock manually. However, if you somehow disabled your network lock permanently, do seek help from your telco’s customer service provider to enable it. We’re sure you don’t want to be part of the story people share about bill shocks!


Myth #3: I need to find Starbucks/McDonald’s/Cafes with Wi-Fi every time I’m overseas

Truth #3: Data roaming allows you access to your virtual social world without needing to constantly hunt down for Wi-Fi spots. Data roaming #FTW.

data roamingImage credit: Vinu Thomas

Ever googled “Wi-Fi places in [destination city]” so that you manipulate your travel itinerary to include those places? Do you identify as a Wi-Fi addict? But overseas Wi-Fi can be hit or miss. Sometimes the Wi-Fi service provider requires you to have a local number before you can connect to the Wi-Fi network, or the connection could be unstable.

Why be limited to Wi-Fi spots when you can have data roaming and be connected on the go, anytime, anywhere?

Image credit: Alessio Bragadini

Myth #4: It takes as much time as drinking a Starbucks Venti Latte to upload a photo on Facebook using data roaming

Truth #4: As long as you’ve got enough signal bars on your phone and switch to using the 3G network on your device, internet usage should be a breeze.  

The more signal bars your phone gets, the faster your internet is likely to be. Your distance from the tower and things that physically obstruct the signal (eg. walls, buildings, hills, weather conditions) can result in lower coverage and slower speeds.

To get the best speeds, use your device in a spot that gives you the most coverage bars. If you’re inside, this will usually be near a window.

If you’ve got a 4G device and move from 4G coverage into a 3G coverage area, you’ll likely notice a dip in your internet speeds. If you’re in an area where there’s low 4G signal, your device may also automatically switch between 4G and 3G. So the next time you experience slow speeds on your 4G device, try switching to 3G.

It should take around the same amount of time uploading a photo on Facebook as if you were back home.

Also read: 10 Entertaining Apps to Kill Time for Your Next Long-Haul Flight


Myth #5: I can only update my status on Facebook or upload a picture on Instagram when I’m back at the hotel with Wi-Fi.

Truth #5: Only people who are not educated about the benefits of data roaming become #latergrammers.

data roamingImage credit: Scott Rocher

You don’t have to be a #latergrammer just because you’re overseas. Keep your fans, friends, and family updated while you’re on the go! Data roaming allows you to upload your photos and update your status wherever, whenever! As long as you have signal, that is.


Myth #6: Travelling without being connected is awesome

Truth #6: Travelling while being connected is way more awesome

Some people travel without any data roaming, or without any international roaming at all for that matter. They do so thinking they will just enjoy their vacation and be tuned out to the outside world. Aspiring? Yes, and maybe it will work if you’re really just going to chill and bum by the beach. But really, we would very much prefer being able to search for local eats, find out about local deals and what’s popular, and share our sense of amusement and delight with our network on social media. There are many local apps and websites nowadays that are location-based enabled, so you will be able to discover more attractions and places to eat while you’re out and about. It’s become part and parcel of the modern-age travel experience, yo!

Besides, with data roaming, you can be connected with loved ones at any time. Saw something ‘bae’ may like? Can’t decide which designer bag to get while you’re shopping in Paris? Take a picture and send it over to your people and get an instant response to help with your decision-making. Or maybe you want to talk people through your shopping options. Use FaceTime, WhatsApp or Viber to make that international call using data as they tend to be much cheaper than international calls.


Myth #7: Data roaming is limited to only a few countries

Truth #7: I hate to break it to you, but you’re living under a rock if you think data roaming is only available to a handful of countries.

data roamingImage credit: Moeko

Wait, what? Did you think data roaming exists only for first-world countries or something? Singapore telcos partner with many telcos abroad to convenience your internet needs, and you are not giving them credit for it. Singtel, for one, offers data roaming in more than 100 countries now! From Brunei, Japan, Saudi Arabia to Zambia, instagram away!

Brought to you by Singtel

About Author

Xanne Lim
Xanne Lim

Easily restless, Xanne has crazy ideas brewing in her mind constantly. They usually involve travel, food, and living in different places at each phase of her life. She thinks she creates multiple lives that way. In another life, she was pursuing lifeless symbols and collecting meaningless possessions. These days, you will find her chasing waterfalls and kayaking on white water. And smiling a lot while at it. Sometimes, she can be seen jumping off something somewhere when she’s had enough of normal. She shares more of her adventures, experiences and thoughts on Where is Xanne?.


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