sim card generic
Sim cards Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: In this day and age, we’re always online, always getting calls, SMSs and notifications.

Even when we’re on vacation abroad, hibernating from the world is sometimes not an option. So we leave our phones on and choose between roaming or buying a local SIM at our destination, but if we’re not careful when on roaming, our bills could go through the roof without us knowing.

The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) warned customers against mobile “bill shocks” which describes the reaction of a customer when they see their bill after having been charged exorbitant fees while abroad due to apps or other phone use.

So which is better, to use etisalat or du’s roaming packages or buy a local SIM at your destination?

The regulatory framework obligates the service providers to make available the means by which subscribers can, free of charge, monitor service consumption at any given point in time and in the case of prepaid service, a means by which subscribers can, free of charge, check the credit balance on the account.

- Telecommunications Regulatory Authority statement

Some people are more comfortable using their numbers abroad and not having to remove their SIM cards from their phones. So they opt for roaming packages.

Here are some options to consider, but always read the terms and conditions before deciding:

For etisalat users, a Roaming Weekly Combo pack costs Dh250, which gives you 500 roaming minutes (incoming/outgoing) in more than 123 countries and on-board eligible airlines. These minutes can be used to call anyone in the UAE plus more than 100 eligible countries. It also includes 2.5GB worth of data, according to their roaming packages on etisalat’s website.

For those holidaying for a month, an Economy Class Pack is available for Dh350 which gives them 60 incoming/outgoing roaming minutes valid for 30 days with 2GB data.

du users, meanwhile, may choose roaming packages based on the country of their destination. Supposing they want to go to Germany this summer, the roaming service would be Dh300 with 5GB data for a week and unlimited outgoing calls to 173 countries. But incoming calls and outgoing SMS are charged at standard rates, according to du’s website.

Buying a SIM card overseas

If you’re going to the US for a short visit, check the minimum package and validity of the prepaid SIM and credit first. At & T, for example, has a prepaid sim with a $30 (Dh110) package that has unlimited calls within the US and data is charged at $2 per MB but you can also opt for 250MB for $5. A $45 data package with unlimited calls within the US, including Mexico and Canada, plus 6GB data.

Carriers have different offers and it’s best to check the one which suits your needs when you reach the airport.

Most countries have affordable prepaid SIM cards with voice and data bundle packages that are easily available at airports. This could be the best option for those who do not want to get charged at all by their telecom provider of anything once abroad.

Additional pointers

  • If you’re a frequent traveller to different destinations, it makes sense to get roaming.
  • If you travel frequently to the same destination, buying a SIM from there is wiser.
  • But be reminded to look at the list of service providers at the country of destination. Once there, manually select the service provider so you won’t get charged “out of bundle” service fees because you chose a telecom that’s not tied up with your telecom provider in the UAE.
  • UAE resident Sushmita Kar was charged as much as Dh250 in India for failing to check this.
  • Also, switch off the cellular data button of all unnecessary apps when you’re travelling because it will guzzle up your data quickly.