Travel Hacks: Should I buy overseas SIM card or data locally when travelling?

3 min read

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.

Wifi Router (Wifi Egg)

Average Cost: $3-$16 Daily

If you do not find carrying an external device for data access a hassle, renting a WiFi Router can be a solution.

The Ultimate WiFi Rental Comparison To Travel In Groups (2018 Edition)

Read more: The Ultimate WiFi Rental Comparison To Travel In Groups (2018 Edition)

One will get to enjoy unlimited data at a fixed price every day, depending on your destination. Price ranges from $3 daily for countries like Thailand and Taiwan, to $12 per day for destinations such as Europe and US.

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

Overseas Prepaid SIM Card

Purchasing a SIM card from the country you are travelling to is one of the most viable options for many.

Travellers on these SIM cards packages are usually limited by either number of days or data usage.

These SIM cards are easily available when you reach the airport of the country you are travelling to. Based on experience, when travelling places like Bangkok or Malaysia, these SIM cards are really affordable and comes with really attractive bundle plans.

Things to take note of, when purchasing SIM card overseas

  • Get the proper type of SIM card for your phone, be it the nano or micro SIM card.
  • Keep your local SIM card in a safe and secure place and remember where you put it. This is so that you can transfer it back when you are back in Singapore.
  • If you are an iPhone user, it is really inconvenient to change SIM card due to the need to have SIM card tray removal pin.
    Hence, remember to bring it with you while travelling, or another solution which works for me will be a fitting paper clip.
  • 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 will be very viable.

Is your telco providing the cheapest data roaming plan?

We did a quick comparison not too long ago to find out who is the cheapest when it comes to data roaming.

Having pit each telco against each other in terms of Data Roaming, here is the result:

Data Roaming Plan: Singtel vs M1 vs Starhub vs Circles Life vs MyRepublic

Data Roaming Must-Know Guide For Every Singaporean To Travel With Ease

Read more: Data Roaming (Must-Know) Guide For Every Singaporean To Travel With Ease


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 single fee for Data passport ranges from $10 for countries such as Thailand, Hong Kong, Australia, to $25 for places such as China or Japan.

If one is looking to travel around Europe, he can purchase the $50 Europe Data passport, which allows roaming for 28 places in Europe. There are also packages such as the ASEAN and Asia Data passport according to user’s needs.

Do take note that there will be a $2 activation charge and to connect to M1’s official partners when abroad. Connecting to non-partners of M1 can result in additional charges.


For travellers who are on StarHub Postpaid plans can look to get DataTravel plan, if you are travelling to destinations such as Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, China, Japan, Macau, New Zealand and Australia.

Starhub DataTravelsource: StarHub

Users can also take a look at StarHub DataTravel Unlimited where a fixed rate is charged for unlimited data depending on country of destination.source: StarHub

Prepaid options are available for non-StarHub customers. The Happy Roam Data Plan is the one we are looking at here.

starhub happy roam data plan

source: 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 for it range from $19 to $29 daily, depending on your destination.

Singtel ReadyRoamsource: Singtel

The Singtel ReadyRoam offers 1GB of data over 30 days from $12 and can be used across multiple eligible destinations. There is also the Expanded ReadyRoam that allows travellers to enjoy 1GB of data at $20 for 16 destinations and $35 for 31 destinations respectively. Travellers can automatically enjoy the subsequent GB at the same rate should they used up their first 1 GB.

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

Read also: 5 Hacks To Save Money On Your Next Holiday

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