Confessions of a data roaming addict


As time goes by, mobile phones are becoming increasing important in our daily lives (read the evolution of my mobile phones in my previous post). Apart from the fundamental uses of mobile phone (making calls and sending SMS), a huge bulk of our handphone usage is actually spent on surfing social media sites, playing handphone games and watching videos (explains why iPhone screens are getting bigger).

In the past, going overseas meant throwing my mobile phone aside most of the time as I would not want to risk paying the exorbitant overseas roaming fee. However, with increasing connectivity and the increasing popularity of social media and free internet messaging apps (aka Whatsapp, iMessage, Line, KaKao Talk, WeChat & QQ – the current apps in my phone), it is now pretty affordable (or even free) to surf the internet on your mobile phone while you’re overseas.


This may sound like a huge step forward in the technological world but in the “holiday” context, this increase connectivity has a major drawback in “relaxing” and “enjoyment”. Especially when your bosses and colleagues expects a reply (despite your paid vacation entitlement) or you’re over obsessively checking your work email to prevent a major backlog upon your return.

Nevertheless, I’m still a fan of data roaming (yea, take my money), whenever, wherever I may be. At least for now.

The utility of having data roaming while you’re overseas is not just for the superficial reason of being seen in social media. It benefits by:

  • Having GPS & Google Maps on your phone so that you’re hardly ever get lost
  • Searching for transportation timings (especially on last train/bus)
  • Googling, Instagram search, Openrice Search on what looks or sounds delicious before deciding your meals
  • Plan a last minute itinerary based on recommendations (usually tripadvisor)
  • Having a Translator in non-english speaking countries
  • Ordering food by showing photos (we did that in Thailand) if there isn’t an English menu
  • and the list goes on

So here’s a simple test to determine if you’re addicted to data-roaming

1. The first thing you google for when planning for your overseas trip is “Can you buy Data Sim Card in XXX Airport?”

2. Immediately when the plane lands, you turn on your phone and start searching for the wifi hotspot at the airport.

3. Before clearing immigration (usually while queuing), you’ve already “checked-in” at the airport on Facebook/Instagram/Foursquare.

4. If you see a cafe/restaurant with a “Free-Wifi” sign outside, you’ll most probably be attracted to enter the place, or stand outside and hope to leech on the wifi if no password is required.

5. Free Wifi is one of the most important amenities you look for when choosing your accommodation. If you can’t get free wifi in your room, you need it at least in the lobby.

6. You will not leave home without your almighty Powerbank when you travel. Using data kills your battery life like crazy. Few year back when I was in Europe, my 3-year-old iPhone 3GS battery life could last a full day without charging (Powerbank was not popular then and we had to conserve our battery) as we did not have data sim and there weren’t much free wifi hot spots around.

7. Before you enter any restaurant, you tend to google or search instagram location tagging for their reviews and photos. Even after you sit down, you would continue to surf your phone, especially Instagram, often using it as the unofficial menu. The real physical menu only becomes useful in checking prices.

8. When you’re packing your bag, you’ll remember to bring a safety pin or that small pin equipment which allows you to remove your SIM card from your phone (iPhone and some other brands). You will need this thing on your return flight, otherwise you will not be able to switch your sim card back to your Singapore card before you land. Then, you’ll be the one desperately trying to connect to the airport’s wifi and unable to make any local calls when you reach the airport.

I guess if you agree with more than half of the characteristics that I have mentioned, you are somewhat a data roaming addict. Don’t forget to read up on my next post – Survival Guide for Data Roaming while Overseas.

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