iPhone Data Usage Screen,How to Save Money on your Cell Phone Bill while Traveling Overseas

How to Save Money on your Cell Phone Bill While Traveling Overseas

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Traveling without a roaming plan is really expensive. Instead, you may think registering for a dedicated roaming plan is more cost efficient. Guess what? Roaming plans can also be of poor value. Time to show you How to Save Money on your Cell Phone Bill While Traveling Overseas!

iPhone Data Usage Screen,How to Save Money on your Cell Phone Bill while Traveling Overseas


I just returned from a business trip to Asia. Before leaving, I purchased a roaming plan from my cell phone company. I thought I was so smart. Whoop-de-doo!!! La-de-da! Look at me, I’m being pro-active and saving my organization money! Then, I learned the details and cost of my carrier’s roaming plan which were:

  • 100 minutes voice
  • 150 sent texts (unlimited received)
  • 50 MB of data
  • Anything over above limits are additional $1.25/min voice, $0.30/text and $20/ for every extra 15 MB.

Total cost of roaming plan before overages in Canadian dollars = $125.


Now as far as voice and text goes, I really do not have a big need for these services when I travel. For me, data is what’s important. I require data for a list of work-related tasks such as, retrieving/sending e-mails, communicating with clients/colleagues via various messaging apps, GPS, or looking up info on the web.

Furthermore, in terms of data, 50 MB is nothing! A 10 minute Skype voice only conversation used 6 MB. Even messaging apps with simple text messages didn’t take long to get me to the 50 MB limit.  My trip was approximately 2 weeks and even though I had shut off my roaming 99% of the time, I easily went over my 50 MB limit.

How to Save Money on your Cell Phone Bill while Traveling Overseas

First, you need an unlocked phone. I have an iPhone purchased from Apple directly. Buying direct from the manufacturer is the best way to get an unlocked phone. To buy an iPhone direct, you can purchase one from an Apple store, or from Apple online!

If you buy a phone without a contract, it might seem really expensive compared to the same phone with a 1 or 2 year contract. However,  I can tell you that with a contracted phone you will eventually pay the difference over your contract period through higher monthly charges.

When it comes to making a contract with most service providers, I find they seem to almost always work in the vendor’s interest. For example, if you don’t like your carrier, you are  locked into service with that company until the end of your contract. Then, if you want to unlock your phone, you will have to pay an additional charge to make this happen. If you buy an unlocked phone from the start, you avoid these issues.

If you have an unlocked phone, just simply arrive at your destination. When you get there, look for a cell service provider and purchase a SIM card/plan. If you are going to a non-English speaking country, you can ask your hotel’s concierge to go out and buy a SIM card and plan for you. When they return, just give them a tip, pop the SIM card in, and you’re in business!

I’ve done this all over Asia and the costs in comparison to a Canadian roaming plan are way less expensive.

  • Japan – I purchased a SIM card and 4 GB data plan for about $40
  • China – 4 GB around $30, included talk/text
  • Vietnam – 4 GB around $20, included talk/text
  • Thailand – $10 for a SIM Card and $3/week for unlimited service! (Thanks for the info, Paul!)

To break it down: 4 GB is 80 times the size of 50 MB. If you spend $30 on SIM card/plan, that’s about 75% less than the $125 roaming plan. In other words, spend 75% less and get 80 times more!

As a bonus, it was also nice having a local number in case the people I was meeting needed to call me. Since I had a local number, they didn’t have to call long distance to Canada.



  1. In Thailand a SIM cards costs $10 and an unlimited data plan is only $3 per week. Canadian cellphone plans are so expensive!

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