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Can I use my phone abroad without international roaming?

There are other ways for you to stay connected abroad

· 4 min read

With how our phones are such an integral part of our daily lives these days, it could be rather unnerving if you are unable to use your phone. As you prepare to embark on your trip abroad, you might perhaps be wondering if your phone will continue to work when you are overseas, or if you would need to do anything to prepare it for use overseas. Let's find out.


Can I use my phone overseas?

If you were wondering if your phone would suddenly stop working just because you stepped out of the country, you don't have to worry about that. Your device will continue to work.

But of course, you are wondering more about whether or not you will be able to use your phone for the calls, messages, and the internet.

The good news is that in most cases, you will be able to continue to use your phone overseas, but there are a few things you might need to check and configure.

Check your phone's compatibility

Most modern smartphones today are designed to work globally across the various network bands. However, if you are on an older device, remember to check if the network band your device is on is supported by the local networks in your destination country. If the networks are not supported, you will not be able to connect to the local network - which essentially means you wouldn't be able to call, send messages, or make use of cellular services.

Check international roaming capabilities

You should also check with your phone provider if your plan supports international roaming. Check what is included in your phone plan - if international roaming is supported, then you should be able to connect to the local networks when overseas. However, be mindful that additional charges may be incurred when you roam, whether you are making overseas calls, sending SMSes, or using mobile data while overseas. If your primary line doesn't support international roaming, you wouldn't be able to make calls or send messages using your primary line when you are overseas.

Using your phone overseas without international roaming

If you foresee having to make calls or send or receive messages on your primary line, you will need to make sure international roaming is supported on your primary line.

However, it is definitely possible for you to have international roaming in case you need to make calls or send messages, but still yet not incur any charges for data use. The answer to that is to get another SIM card or eSIM that can help you get connected during your trip.

There are two primary ways that you can get another SIM card or eSIM for your trip: either directly from the local telcos upon arrival; or to get a travel SIM or eSIM ahead of time.

What is the difference between getting a travel (e)SIM and direct from a local telco?

In both cases, you will be able to get connected to the local network. However, there are some key differences to note:

  • Network: Getting a (e)SIM directly from a local telco means that you are locked to that single network. In most cases, travel (e)SIMs support multiple networks, providing you with the option to switch between multiple providers while on your trip. Getting a (e)SIM directly from a local telco also means that it is a direct connection; whereas in the case of travel (e)SIMs, traffic is often provisioned via international roaming, which involves some rerouting of traffic.
  • Process of getting the (e)SIM: In most destinations worldwide, regulations require that you provide identity documents if you are looking to get a local (e)SIM. Most of the time, you can also only purchase your (e)SIM only upon arrival in the country, meaning you are also subject to operational hours of the telco booths at the airport. On the other hand, most travel (e)SIMs do not require any identity documents for purchase and use. For physical travel SIMs, you likely will have to place an order in advance to allow for time for the physical SIM card to be mailed to you (or you can collect it from airport booths upon arrival); eSIMs are much more straightforward and you can just buy them online and receive it via your email.
  • Services available: With local (e)SIMs, they typically offer options which include local calls and messages. On the other hand, travel (e)SIMs are mostly data-only, which means you can use the travel (e)SIM to get connected to the internet, but it doesn't allow you to make calls or send messages.

Using a travel eSIM for your data needs when abroad

Travel eSIMs are a great way for you to stay connected while abroad due to the convenience it brings about. Unlike physical SIM cards, travel eSIMs are usually just a few clicks away and you can get them installed within minutes. You also do away with the hassle of having to submit identity documents, and yet you enjoy rates that are much better than international data roaming.

However, when you get a travel eSIM, you might notice that the instructions for installation and activation often require you to turn on the international roaming settings on your device. This is primarily because providers of travel eSIMs typically rely on roaming agreements with multiple network providers internationally to provide data connection globally.

Just remember that before you turn on your data roaming setting on your device, make sure that your travel eSIM is the one that you have configured for your data usage so that you do not accidentally incur international data roaming charges on your primary line.

Get a Nomad eSIM to help you stay connected on your next trip

Nomad offers data plans in over 170 countries, and you can be sure to find one that is suitable for your travel needs. And if you will be traveling across multiple countries, there are also regional plans available so you can stay seamlessly connected as you hop between countries. Data plans are available from as low as $1.10/GB.

The networks that Nomad's eSIMs use for each plan are stated on the plan details on the web store and apps, so you can check which networks are supported before buying your plan. Data sharing and tethering is also supported on Nomad's eSIM plans.