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Should I Turn Off Roaming When Abroad


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Karilynn Serafin



Traveling abroad can be an exciting adventure, but it often comes with the challenge of staying connected to the internet and making phone calls. Roaming, a service offered by mobile service providers, allows you to continue using your devices while abroad, utilizing a foreign network. While this may seem convenient, it’s essential to carefully consider whether or not to turn off roaming when traveling internationally.


Roaming is not a new concept, and it has revolutionized the way we stay connected while away from home. However, it’s important to understand the potential drawbacks and costs associated with using roaming services. This article will explore the advantages and disadvantages of roaming, reasons why you might want to consider turning it off when abroad, how to disable it on different devices, and alternative options to stay connected.


Before we delve into the specifics, it’s important to note that the decision to turn off roaming ultimately depends on your individual needs while traveling. Factors such as the duration of your trip, your destination, and your reliance on mobile data and phone calls will influence whether or not roaming is the right choice for you.


What is Roaming?

Roaming is a service provided by mobile network operators that allows users to use their devices, such as smartphones and tablets, outside of their home network coverage area. When you travel abroad, your device will automatically connect to a foreign network through roaming, enabling you to make calls, send messages, and access data services.


When you activate roaming on your device, you essentially piggyback on the network infrastructure of another mobile service provider. This allows you to maintain connectivity even in a different country, where your home network may not have coverage.


Roaming services were initially designed to provide convenience and connectivity for travelers, allowing them to stay in touch with friends, family, and colleagues while abroad. It eliminated the need to purchase local SIM cards or rely on Wi-Fi networks for internet access.


Roaming services cover a range of connectivity options, including voice calls, text messages, and mobile data. With roaming enabled, you can make and receive calls as if you were in your home country, send and receive text messages, and use mobile data for various purposes, such as browsing the internet, checking emails, or using apps that require an internet connection.


It’s important to note that roaming services are not limited to just voice and data services. They also extend to other features like voicemail, call forwarding, and even multimedia messaging services (MMS). This allows you to enjoy the full range of functionality that you would have on your device when connected to your home network.


The Cost of Roaming

While roaming can provide you with convenience and connectivity while abroad, it’s crucial to understand the potential costs associated with using this service. Roaming charges can significantly impact your mobile bill, so it’s important to carefully consider your options before activating roaming on your device.


One of the primary concerns when it comes to roaming charges is the cost of making and receiving calls while abroad. International calling rates can be exorbitant, often ranging from a few cents to several dollars per minute. This can quickly add up, especially if you need to make frequent phone calls while traveling.


Text messaging charges are another aspect to consider. While texting usually incurs lower fees compared to voice calls, the cost can still accumulate if you engage in frequent messaging while abroad. It’s worth noting that some mobile service providers offer international roaming packages or discounted rates for calls and texts, so it’s advisable to check with your provider before traveling.


Perhaps the most significant concern for many travelers is the cost of data usage while roaming. Using mobile data abroad can be incredibly expensive, with charges that can quickly escalate if you’re not careful. Many travelers have experienced bill shock upon returning home, only to discover that their data usage during their trip has resulted in an astronomical bill.


Roaming charges for data usage are typically calculated based on the volume of data consumed, measured in kilobytes (KB) or megabytes (MB). Rates can vary greatly between service providers, and it’s not uncommon to pay a high premium for each kilobyte or megabyte of data used while roaming.


Streaming videos, downloading large files, or using data-intensive applications can result in data usage that exceeds your plan’s limits and leads to substantial additional charges. It’s essential to be mindful of your data usage abroad, and if possible, utilize Wi-Fi networks or offline resources to minimize the need for extensive data usage while roaming.


Please note that some mobile service providers offer international data packages or add-ons, which can lower the cost of data usage while traveling. These packages often provide a fixed amount of data for a specific price, allowing you to have more control over your expenses while staying connected.


Overall, the cost of roaming can be a significant factor to consider when deciding whether or not to enable roaming while abroad. It’s essential to be informed about any potential charges and explore alternative options to avoid racking up excessive costs during your trip.


Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Roaming

Roaming offers several advantages that can enhance your travel experience and keep you connected while abroad. However, it also comes with a set of disadvantages that should be considered before deciding to use this service.

Advantages of Roaming:

  1. Convenience: Roaming allows you to use your device seamlessly, without the need for purchasing a local SIM card or relying on Wi-Fi networks. You can make and receive calls, send text messages, and access data services just as you would in your home country.
  2. Staying Connected: Roaming ensures that you maintain connectivity with your contacts while traveling. This can be especially important for emergencies or staying in touch with loved ones who need to reach you.
  3. Access to Data Services: With roaming, you can access mobile data services, such as browsing the internet or using apps that require an internet connection. This allows you to stay updated, search for information, and utilize various online services on the go.
  4. Familiar User Experience: Roaming allows you to use your device as you would at home, meaning you don’t have to adjust to a different interface or learn new settings while abroad.
  5. Utilizing Your Existing Contact Information: When roaming, your contacts can reach you using your regular phone number, which eliminates the need for sharing alternative contact information.

Disadvantages of Roaming:

  1. High Costs: Roaming charges can be significantly more expensive than using local SIM cards or relying on Wi-Fi networks. International calling rates, messaging fees, and data usage charges can quickly add up, leading to unexpectedly high mobile bills.
  2. Data Limitations: Many service providers place restrictions on data usage while roaming. This may result in slower internet speeds or reduced data allowances, impacting your ability to use data-intensive applications or services.
  3. Technical Compatibility: Not all devices are compatible with all international networks. Depending on your device, you may experience compatibility issues or limited network coverage while roaming.
  4. Potential Security Concerns: Public Wi-Fi networks are often used while traveling to avoid roaming charges. However, these networks can pose security risks, potentially exposing your personal information to hackers and cybercriminals.
  5. Relying on Network Availability: Roaming requires a strong network signal from a foreign service provider. In remote or rural areas, you might not have access to reliable network coverage, hindering your ability to make calls or access data services.

Before deciding whether or not to use roaming while traveling, it’s crucial to weigh these advantages and disadvantages based on your individual needs, budget, and travel destination.


Reasons to Turn Off Roaming When Abroad

While roaming can provide convenience and keep you connected while traveling, there are several compelling reasons why you might want to consider turning off roaming when abroad.

1. Cost Savings:

The most significant reason to turn off roaming is to avoid substantial roaming charges. International calling rates, text messaging fees, and data usage charges can quickly accumulate, resulting in a hefty mobile bill upon your return. By disabling roaming, you can minimize the risk of incurring excessive expenses and explore cost-effective alternatives.

2. Alternative Solutions:

When traveling abroad, there are often alternative solutions that can provide connectivity at a fraction of the cost of roaming. For example, purchasing a local SIM card can offer much lower rates for calls, messages, and data usage. Additionally, utilizing Wi-Fi networks available in hotels, cafes, or public areas can provide free or low-cost internet access for communication and online tasks.

3. Data Usage Control:

Disabling roaming helps you stay in control of your data usage. Mobile data charges while roaming are typically expensive, and you may quickly exceed your plan’s limits if you’re not mindful of your usage. By relying on Wi-Fi networks or offline resources, you can avoid unexpected data charges and ensure efficient use of your data allowance.

4. Privacy and Security:

Roaming on public networks, especially when accessing data services, may expose your personal information to potential security risks. Public Wi-Fi networks are often unsecured, making them prime targets for hackers and cybercriminals. By disabling roaming and using secure connections, such as virtual private networks (VPNs) or trusted Wi-Fi networks, you can protect your personal data and maintain your privacy.

5. Flexibility and Adaptability:

When traveling to different countries, it’s often more convenient to have the flexibility to switch SIM cards according to your location and personal preferences. This allows you to take advantage of local rates and services easily. By turning off roaming, you can avoid any limitations that may arise from being restricted to your home network.


Keep in mind that the decision to turn off roaming ultimately depends on your individual needs, travel plans, and budget. Assessing the cost and weighing it against the benefits of staying connected through roaming can help you make an informed decision that suits your specific circumstances.


How to Turn Off Roaming on Different Devices

If you’ve decided to disable roaming while traveling abroad, you may be wondering how to do so on your specific device. Here’s a general guide on how to turn off roaming on different devices:

1. iPhone:

To turn off roaming on an iPhone, follow these steps:

  1. Go to the “Settings” app on your iPhone.
  2. Select “Cellular” or “Mobile Data” (depending on your iOS version).
  3. Tap on “Cellular Data Options.”
  4. Toggle off the “Data Roaming” option.

2. Android:

The steps to disable roaming on Android devices may vary slightly depending on the manufacturer and the version of Android. Here’s a general outline:

  1. Go to the “Settings” app on your Android device.
  2. Select “Connections” or “Network & internet.”
  3. Choose “Mobile networks.”
  4. Toggle off the “Data roaming” option.

3. Windows Phone:

To turn off roaming on a Windows Phone device, follow these steps:

  1. Go to the “Settings” app on your Windows Phone.
  2. Select “Cellular + SIM.”
  3. Tap on “SIM settings.”
  4. Toggle off the “Data roaming options” or “Roaming options” (depending on your Windows Phone version).

4. Other Devices:

If you’re using a different type of device, such as a Blackberry or a feature phone, the process may vary. In most cases, you should find the option to disable roaming under the device’s settings, network settings, or connectivity settings. If you’re unsure, consult the device’s user manual or visit the manufacturer’s support website for specific instructions.


Remember that turning off roaming on your device will prevent it from automatically connecting to foreign networks when abroad. However, you may still be able to make emergency calls or connect to Wi-Fi networks for internet access.


It’s advisable to disable roaming before you embark on your journey to avoid any unintended charges. Additionally, if you need to use roaming services during your trip for specific purposes, ensure that you understand the associated costs and adjust your settings accordingly.


Alternatives to Roaming

If you’re looking to avoid the potential costs and limitations of roaming while traveling abroad, there are several alternatives you can consider. These alternatives can provide connectivity and communication options without relying on traditional roaming services. Here are some viable alternatives:

1. Local SIM Cards:

Purchasing a local SIM card in your destination country can be an affordable option for staying connected. This allows you to have a local phone number and access to local rates for calls, text messages, and data usage. You will need to ensure that your device is unlocked and compatible with the local network frequencies.

2. International SIM Cards:

International SIM cards provide global coverage and can be a convenient option for frequent travelers. These SIM cards allow you to use a single card across different countries, often offering competitive rates for calls, texts, and data. They may require an upfront purchase or a pay-as-you-go model.

3. Portable Wi-Fi Devices:

Renting or purchasing a portable Wi-Fi device, also known as a pocket Wi-Fi or MiFi, can provide you with a personal hotspot wherever you go. These devices use local cellular networks to create a Wi-Fi hotspot that you can connect your devices to. This way, you can utilize local data plans or prepaid packages, ensuring cost-effective and reliable internet access.

4. Wi-Fi Networks:

Take advantage of public Wi-Fi networks available in cafes, restaurants, hotels, or public areas. While using public Wi-Fi networks may come with security risks, you can mitigate these risks by using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to encrypt your internet connection and protect your data.

5. Offline Resources:

Before you travel, download maps, language translation apps, travel guides, and any other necessary resources that can be accessed offline. This can help you minimize the need for constant internet access, ensuring you can navigate and access important information even without an internet connection.


Remember to research and plan ahead to determine which alternative best suits your needs and the specific country you’re visiting. Consider factors such as coverage, costs, and any necessary device compatibility requirements.


By exploring these alternatives to roaming, you can maintain connectivity, use data services, and stay in touch with loved ones while keeping your expenses under control.



Deciding whether or not to turn off roaming when traveling abroad is a matter of personal preference, budget, and individual needs. While roaming offers convenience and connectivity, it can also come with significant costs and limitations.


In this article, we explored what roaming is, the potential costs associated with it, and the advantages and disadvantages of using roaming services. We also discussed reasons why you might want to consider turning off roaming while abroad, such as cost savings, alternative solutions, data usage control, privacy and security concerns, and the flexibility of using local SIM cards.


If you do choose to disable roaming, we provided a general guide on how to turn off roaming on different devices, including iPhones, Androids, Windows Phones, and other devices. Disabling roaming ensures that your device won’t automatically connect to foreign networks, although you may still be able to make emergency calls or utilize Wi-Fi networks for internet access.


Moreover, we discussed alternatives to roaming that can provide connectivity and communication options while mitigating the potential drawbacks of traditional roaming services. Options such as using local SIM cards, international SIM cards, portable Wi-Fi devices, accessing public Wi-Fi networks, and utilizing offline resources can help you stay connected without incurring excessive costs.


In conclusion, carefully consider your travel needs, your budget, and the available options when deciding whether or not to turn off roaming when abroad. Analyzing the advantages and disadvantages, researching alternative solutions, and planning ahead will help ensure a seamless and cost-effective travel experience.