Save on Roaming Charges – Buy Local SIM Cards

I am going home to Zimbabwe next month for a nice and long 7 week vacation which I am excited about but at the same time a bit apprehensive. I left home more than 10 years ago and just about every single visit since then has been a short 2 to 3 week stay and I don’t know if I can handle 7 weeks with all the changes in the country.

Anyway, on our way home, my wife, daughter and I are stopping over in Hong Kong for a few days with a quick side trip into China. The last time we were in China, language was definitely a barrier and in a couple of situations like when the cab driver dropped us off at God knows where, my cell phone came in very handy. A quick call to the hotel concierge who spoke to the store keepers and got us back on track made that experience a little less daunting. Having my cell phone and activating roaming was our saving grace but roaming is not cheap. It can cost a fair penny to not only make calls but to receive calls as well but that also depends on where you are travelling to.

If you are not too bothered about not receiving calls on your own number when travelling abroad, the most logical way of saving money on calls is to buy a local SIM card. I have put together a little comparison chart to show just how much I could save by buying a PCCW Mobile SIM card in Hong Kong instead of roaming on my Vodafone card.

Service PCCW Mobile Hong Kong
Vodafone NZ Roaming
Data Services HK$0.08/KB – HK$0.016/KB NZ$30/MB
SMS Charges Intra-network HK$0.1/SMS NZ$0.8/SMS
Inter-network HK$0.7/SMS NZ$0.8/SMS
International HK$1.80/SMS NZ$0.8/SMS
Local calls HK$0.06/min – HK$0.12/min NZ$0.7/min
Receiving calls HK$0.06/min – HK$0.12/min NZ$1/min

I came up with a hypothetical situation of where I make 30 minutes worth of local calls and receive 30 minutes of calls, send 50 international SMS messages and use 5MB of data, this is how much it would cost:

Service PCCW Mobile Vodafone NZ
Calls HK$5.40 (NZ$0.89) NZ$51
SMS HK$90 (NZ$14.88) NZ$40
Data HK$120 (NZ19.84) NZ$150
Total NZ$35.61 NZ$241

As you can see, I will save myself a considerable amount of money by buying a local SIM card instead of roaming and that may very well be the same case for you too; when you travel abroad.

You can buy a prepaid SIM card when you arrive at your destination (in this case, a PCCW card costs HK$48 or $78) or if you want to have everything set before you depart, can buy one off eBay – eg. Hong Kong Sim Card. There are some sites that sell SIM cards from around the world but from what I have seen it looks like it would be cheaper to get them on eBay (if available) or when you reach your destination.

To be able to roam you do need to make sure that you have a cell phone that will work wherever you are going. If don’t have one, there are a number of places online where you can get unlocked cell phones for really good prices that will work with a number of international carriers – is a good start. The only downside I can think off about getting a local SIM card is that you won’t receive calls on your own at home number. Considering that I could save myself a good amount of money, I would be more than willing to let go of my number for a little while. Would you?

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