If you see a bunch of bewildered looking tourists searching for Wi-Fi hotspots while on holiday, there’s a high chance they’re Singaporean. Apparently, we’ve all become so used to staring at our smartphones on those grinding MRT rides and during boring meetings that we’re completely unable to disconnect even on holiday.
These days, every phone plan comes with some kind of data roaming package that lets you use a small bundle of data overseas, so you’re not confined to the Starbucks Wi-Fi and there’s no need to change your SIM card.
Data roaming plans from Singapore telcos — which is best?
Every telco has 3 to 10 different permutations of data roaming plans, so it’s impossible to compare them apple-to-apple. What I’ve done instead is to look at 3 common Singaporean holidays and quoted the relevant data roaming plan:
- Short getaway to Thailand
- Week-long trip to Japan
- Multi-country trip in Europe
|Data roaming plan||Thailand||Japan||Europe|
|Starhub DataTravel||$5 (1GB, 3 days)||$5 (1GB, 3 days)||$40 (2GB, 30 days)|
|Singtel ReadyRoam||$5 (1GB, 7 days)||$20 (2GB, 30 days)||$40 (3GB, 30 days)|
|M1 Data Passport *||$15 (1 month)||$30 (1 month)||$55 (1 month)|
|GigaRoam||$5 (1GB, 5 days)||$5 (1GB, 5 days)||$15 (1GB, 15 days)|
|Gomo Roaming Data Pump||$10 (1GB, 10 days)||$10 (1GB, 10 days)||—|
|Circles Life Roam Boost||$5 (1GB, 7 days)||—||—|
|MyRepublic Roam Like Home||$18 (2GB, 30 days)||$20 (1GB, 30 days)||$35 (1GB, 30 days)|
* M1 Data Passport is unique: Instead of giving you a separate overseas data quota, you just pay to use your local data bundle overseas.
I’ve bolded the best out of each lot, and I think the results are quite clear: Starhub’s Giga has the cheapest data roaming plans on all 3 counts. If you are a hardcore traveller, then it’s well worth considering
But, if you are a data guzzler even when on holiday, M1 Data Passport is better it simply lets you use your local data quota overseas with a one-time payment. Assuming you have one of their SIM-only plans, that’s enough data for you to stream Netflix on the Tokyo Metro.
|Asia Pacific||$5 for 1GB||3 days|
|Asia Pacific||$15 for 2GB||30 days|
|Asia Pacific||$20 for 3GB||30 days|
|Global||$40 for 2GB||30 days|
|Global||$50 for 3GB||30 days|
Of the big 3 telcos’ data roaming plans, Starhub DataTravel data roaming options are among the simplest because there are only 2 destination tiers — either Asia Pacific, or … everywhere else.
Asia Pacific: Australia, Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Macau, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Pakistan, Philippines, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam
Global: Asia Pacific + Albania, Argentina, Austria, Bahrain, Belarus, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canda, Chile, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Guernsey, Hungary, Iceland, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jersey, Jordan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Oman, Palestine, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, UAE, UK, Ukraine, Uruguay, USA
I like that Starhub charges a flat fee for everything in the Asia Pacific tier, compared to some other telcos who put more coveted destinations like Japan and Korea in a more expensive group.
Starhub Data Travel’s $5 for 1GB option is great if you’re just going to Bali for the weekend or JB for the day. Assuming 1GB is sufficient for your usage, this might actually be cheaper than buying a local SIM card when you land.
My main gripe is that the Global roaming plans are very expensive, so if you’re travelling outside the APAC countries you might want to look for alternatives.
|1 destination (Malaysia, Indonesia or Thailand)||$5 for 1GB||7 days|
|9 destinations (Southeast Asia)||$12 for 1GB||30 days|
|18 destinations (Asia Pacific)||$20 for 2GB||30 days|
|81 destinations (global)||30 days|
Singtel customers should be pretty familiar with Singtel ReadyRoam, which, like Starhub DataTravel, is a selection of add-ons to your existing plan.
Like Starhub, they have a $5 for 1GB option, but it’s for Malaysia, Indonesia or Thailand. If you’re going to any other nearby destination for the weekend, it’ll set you back at least $12. Take careful note of the countries included in the 9 and 18 destinations:
9 destinations: Australia, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines and Thailand
18 destinations:Australia, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam
81 destinations:Albania, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brunei, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Egypt, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Laos, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macau, Malaysia, Mexico, Mongolia, Myanmar, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Slovak Republic (Slovakia), South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Turkey, UAE, UK, Ukraine, USA, Uzbekistan and Vietnam
For certain destinations, Singtel’s rates are higher than Starhub’s. For example, if you’re going to Japan, you’ll top up $20 for 2GB with Singtel, whereas Starhub costs $15 for the same data.
It’s also kinda restrictive that Singtel’s $20 18 destination plan is only 2GB, whereas Starhub offers 3GB for the same price, for most of the same countries. Unless you want to pay for more data, you need to watch your usage a bit more closely.
If you’re travelling to far-flung places, Singtel has probably the best global roaming bundle. This used to cost $35 for 3GB, but it’s now revised to $40 (just in time for the year-end holidays!).
That said, it does cover practically every country in the world: There are a whopping 81 destinations! If you’re globe-trotting to faraway destinations like Argentina and Island, Singtel’s data roaming offers the most value.
M1 Data Passport
|M1 Data Passport||Price (includes $5 activation fee)||Validity|
|$10 Data Passport||$15 per country||1 month|
|$25 Data Passport||$30 per country||1 month|
|$25 ASEAN Data Passport||$30 for 9 ASEAN countries||1 month|
|$50 Asia Data Passport||$55 for 25 Asian countries||1 month|
|$50 Europe Data Passport||$55 for 43 European countries||1 month|
If you use a lot of data even while on holiday, M1 Data Passport is probably the best value of the 3 big telcos since it allows you to use your existing data bundle overseas — so you don’t get restricted by the measly 1GB or 2GB with the other plans. (Note that for SIM-only plans, usage is capped at 10GB, which is still very generous.)
$10 Data Passport countries: Bangladesh, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, United Arab Emirates
$25 Data Passport countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Mongolia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, United Kingdom, USA
A $5 one-time activation fee applies for every Data Passport, and it’s valid for a month. Note that they are for single country use only; if you are going to multiple destinations, you have to opt for one of the expensive ASEAN / Asia / Europe Data Passports.)
M1 also has this thing called Unlimited Data Roaming where you pay $15 to $25 per day for unlimited data overseas, but I’m not going to talk about that because it’s too crazy.
|gigaRoam APAC||$5 for 1GB||5 days|
|gigaRoam ROTW||$15 for 1GB||15 days|
Starhub’s Giga clearly has the best data roaming plan for all kinds of travel. There are 2 types of plans to choose from: gigaRoam APAC (Asia Pacific) and gigaRoam ROTW (Rest of the World).
They cost $5 and $15 respectively for 1GB of data. It’s not a lot, but if you just need a teensy bit of data in case of emergencies, these prices are unbeatable. You can add on more if you run out.
gigaRoam APAC: Australia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Macau, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam
gigaRoam ROTW: Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brunei, Cambodia, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates and United States of America
Singtel’s GOMO Roaming Data Pump
Compared to Starhub’s gigaRoam, Singtel’s rival GOMO Roaming Data Pump is quite chui in comparison.
There’s just the one plan — $10 for 1GB — and it can only be used in 10 countries: Australia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Macau, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand.
Yes, that’s twice the price for the same amount of data, except in fewer countries (no China, Myanmar, NZ or Vietnam).
The one advantage is that GOMO’s roaming pass lasts 10 days instead of Giga’s 5 days. But that’s not a huge deal because I assume most people would use up 1GB in 5 days anyway.
Circles Life Roam Boost
For Circles Life base plan subscribers, activating data roaming overseas is a simple matter of choosing a “Roam Boost” in your usual app.
Each boost is 1GB and you can add boosts if you run out of data. The price of each boost is either $5 or $8, depending on which set of countries your destination falls under.
|Roam Boost A||Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Taiwan||$5 for 1GB / 7 days|
|Roam Boost B||Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Macau, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Saudi Arabia, USA||$8 for 1GB / 7 days|
The list of countries covered is woefully short, with no coverage available for common destinations like Japan, New Zealand and Europe.
MyRepublic Roam Like Home
MyRepublic has a whopping 7 tiers, so the cost of roaming can vary drastically depending on which country you’re going to. Here they are, listed in order of price.
|MyRepublic Roam Like Home||Countries||Price|
|Neighbours||Malaysia, Indonesia||$6 for 1GB|
|Emerging Asia||Brunei, India, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam||$15 for 500MB|
|Pacific||Australia, New Zealand||$15 for 1GB|
|Essential||Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Taiwan, Hong Kong||$18 for 2GB|
|Popular Asia||China, Macau, South Korea, Japan||$20 for 1GB|
|Canada & USA||Canada, USA||$35 for 1GB|
|Europe||Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, UK||$35 for 1GB|
Prices are not exactly competitive for some of the countries. For example, it’s probably a lot more worthwhile to buy a SIM card when you land in “Emerging Asia” than to pay $15 for a measly 500MB of data.
For places like Japan or China, $20 for 1GB is also exorbitant considering you can get 3 times the data for the same price with Starhub’s Data Travel.
Or… you could get a prepaid SIM card
If it’s not economical for you to add a data roaming plan onto your current plan, you may want to consider getting a prepaid travel SIM card instead.
For example, an 8-day unlimited data SIM card for Thailand costs only about $5, where one for Taiwan or Hong Kong costs about $10 to $15, also for unlimited data. (This is a good way to check if your data roaming plan is worth paying for.)
For multi-destination trips, there are also prepaid travel SIM cards which can save you the hassle and cost of getting a separate SIM for each leg. Here’s a snapshot of some options on the market.
|Prepaid Travel SIM||No. of countries||Price|
|GOMO Travel SIM||10||$12 for 2GB / 10 days|
|Thin Margin Travel SIM||17||$15 for 2.4GB / 30 days|
|M1 M Card||12||$15 for 2GB / 10 days|
|GOMO Travel SIM||10||$20 for 3GB / 10 days|
|M1 M Card||17||$28 for 2GB / 10 days|
If you really want to break things down, getting a data roaming add-on for your regular postpaid data plan may not really be that worth it.
For example, you might have to pay $15 for 1GB of roaming data with your telco — whereas you can get 2GB for the same price with a prepaid SIM. But I think most Singaporeans don’t mind paying a premium for the convenience of not having to pick up and change your SIM card.
Do you use data roaming when you travel? Tell us why or why not in the comments!