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How to Avoid Data Roaming Charges while Travelling Abroad

data roaming charges

What if you return home and find a crazy mobile phone bill? It must have been a nightmare. Data roaming charges can add up quickly, leaving you with an unexpected bill at the end of your trip to your favorite country. And all your great experiences from the trip may be ruined.

But with a little bit of understanding and planning about data roaming, you can completely avoid these changes and enjoy your holiday without worrying about such crazy charges.

In this post, we’ll walk through details about international data roaming, and how much you might be charged when using data roaming for your trip abroad, as we as certain tips on how to avoid international roaming charges.

data roaming charges

What is data roaming?

When you travel abroad and use your local SIM/eSIM on your mobile device (like a smartphone or tablet) to access the internet and other data services just like when you are at home, your mobile device does not connect with your local mobile operator, but a foreign one. This process is called Data Roaming.

This can happen as your local carrier has an agreement with the carrier(s) in your destination.

data roaming
What is Data roaming?

For example, let’s say you are from the USA and travel to Thailand. You get off the plane, and like magic, you have signal bars to call your family home to say you are safe or call a driver to pick you up at Bangkok Airport. This happens because your wireless carrier has an agreement in place with a network in Thailand to provide you with roaming service. If you have the roaming feature turned on, all of this will happen automatically.

Good to know:

  • Data roaming allows you to get connected when you are outside of your network’s boundaries.
  • But the roaming data usually comes with high charges on your account.

How much is data roaming?

What you pay for roaming charges will depend on your carrier, but plan for roaming charges to breakdown somewhat like this:

  • $2-$5 per MB of data,
  • And even the roaming charge for calls and text, something like:
    • $0.25 per minute while talking on the phone.
    • $0.10 cents per text message.

Here are data roaming rates of a few major mobile operators in the world.

>> AT&T’s Data Roaming Rates

LocationData roaming charge
Mexico & Canada$2.05/MB
Rest of the world$2.05/MB
Cruise ships$6.14/MB

>> China Mobile’s Data Roaming rates

LocationData roaming charge
KoreaCNY 5/MB ~ $0.069
UKCNY 5/MB ~ $0.069
SpainCNY 10/MB ~ $1.37
MonacoCNY 5/MB ~ $0.069
MaltaCNY 10/MB ~ $1.37
CzechCNY 10/MB ~ $1.37
DenmarkCNY 5/MB ~ $0.069
BelgiumCNY 10/MB ~ $1.37
FinlandCNY 10/MB ~ $1.37
CambodiaCNY 10/MB ~ $1.37
Other covered countries (not the rest of the world, as many others are not covered in roaming)CNY 0.005/BB – CNY 0.05/MB ~ $0.069 – $6.89/KB

>> Softbank’s Data Roaming rates

LocationData roaming charge
EuropeJPY 2,000 – 4,000/MB ~ $13.82 – 27.62/MB
AsiaJPY 2,000 – 4,000/MB ~ $13.82 – 27.62/MB
AfricaJPY 2,000 – 4,000/MB ~ $13.82 – 27.62/MB
Middle EastJPY 2,000 ~ $13.82/MB (3G signal only)
OceaniaJPY 2,000 – 4,000/MB ~ $13.82 – 27.62/MB

Needless to say, it is way too expensive to rely on roaming data during your trip. Seriously, no matter what carrier you use, those roaming rates will quickly add up and you might just rack up $10,000 in roaming fees without even knowing it.

Should I have data roaming on when travelling abroad?

The answer is NO.


  • If you need to have you local SIM active to receiving calls and SMS during your trip, then turn off data roaming, as the fee for international data roaming, mentioned above already, is very high and you have many ways to avoid it.
  • If you don’t need to receive any call or text via the local SIM, just turn off it entirely. If you do so, you still can get connected with your family at home via apps like Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, Viber, etc. as it will not be signed out, and there are many ways to have internet for those apps as mentioned above.

How do I avoid data roaming charges?

how to avoid data roaming charges when traveling

Thankfully, there are several ways to avoid data roaming charges while traveling abroad. Here are some effective strategies to consider:

  • Turn Off Data Roaming: Before leaving your home country, disable the data roaming option on your mobile device. This setting helps prevent your phone from automatically connecting to foreign networks and incurring charges. You can usually find this option in the settings menu of your device.
  • Connect to Wi-Fi Networks: Seek out Wi-Fi networks wherever possible and connect to them to access the internet without using your cellular data. Many hotels, cafes, restaurants, and public spaces offer free or paid Wi-Fi services. But be cautious when connecting to public networks, ensuring they are secure and reliable.
  • Download Maps and Important Data: Prior to your trip, download maps, translation apps, travel guides, and other essential information that you may need during your travels. This way, you won’t have to rely on an internet connection while you’re out and about.
  • Get a Local SIM/eSIM Card: Purchasing a local SIM/eSIM can be a cost-effective option for any trip abroad. This allows you to access data services at local rates. In addition, almost countries in the world provide prepaid SIM/eSIM plans, so you will not have to worry about the phone bill.
  • Consider a Portable Wi-Fi Device: Another option is to rent or purchase a portable Wi-Fi device, also known as a pocket Wi-Fi or a mobile hotspot. These devices use local networks and provide you with a secure Wi-Fi connection for your devices while on the go.

Why should I use a prepaid eSIM for international roaming?

If you want affordable mobile data in another country, you should definitely use a prepaid SIM/eSIM instead of “roam” your primary one.

And in case you don’t want to touch your primary SIM card, eSIM is a perfect choice.

eSIM (embedded SIM Card) is a digital SIM card that works just like a traditional plastic SIM card. But you will not have to remove your primary one and insert the eSIM as it can be downloaded and install via a QR code onlin.

eSIM provides you with great data experience at a much more affordable rate.

You can buy an eSIM from an eSIM provider like GIGAGO. This eSIM Provider have eSIMs for 190+ countries and regions, so you can get an affordable local connection in your destination.

No matter if you want to keep your primary phone number active or not, eSIM works for your trip and save you from crazy roaming charge.

Wrapping up

Data roaming is a tradditional way to get connected on a trip abroad, but it’s too expensive and travelers usually not opt for it for their trip.

There are various ways to avoid crazy phone bill when traveling internationally, including:

  • Turn Off Data Roaming
  • Connect to Wi-Fi Networks
  • Download Maps and Important Data
  • Get a local SIM/eSIM card
  • Consider a pocket Wi-Fi

And by using a reliable travel eSIM provider like GIGAGO, you can stay connected with your loved ones without breaking the bank.

Check out its international eSIM plans before you take off for any country.

Written by Alper Aydın

Years Of MembershipVerified User

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