In today's world, international roaming feels like such a backwards idea. Why is it so complicated when all you want to do is grab your phone, fly to a new country, and just have things work? This is something we've all wrestled with whether it was your recent trip to Europe or you've crossed the border and nothing works anymore.
While making actual phone calls is less important these days, what really matters to us having reliable data – LTE, 3G or even worse, the dreaded E for Edge. So today, I'd like to introduce you to KnowRoaming and why I think they're my favourite solution to handle my smartphone data needs when I travel.
Read more about Europe
- Ultimate Eurotrip Packing Guide
- How to travel Europe for cheap
- Travel hacks – Travelling Europe for cheap
- What you need to know about river cruising in Europe
Where to stay in Europe?
- For the best prices on accommodations and the most choices, Booking.com has been my go-to choice especially once you reach Genius tier and you can find additional 10-15% off places to stay.
Here's what we're covering:
Why does roaming suck?
Here's everything wrong with how data roaming works today. Let me know if you relate!
- Roaming with your home data plan is almost always expensive
- Changing SIM cards sucks
- Buying a SIM card locally sucks because you're mobbed by companies at the airport and you don't know who has the best coverage and pricing
- Throttling – you never know when you're getting truly the fastest speed
- You really don't want to carry another device with you (wifi hotspots)
- Your home provider will fully take advantage of you if you don't activate a package before you hit the road
- Rates on data overages are killer
I can probably go on and on but one that is becoming more difficult to navigate is ultimately, what is either the best global SIM card for data or more specifically when in Europe.
Let me show you why KnowRoaming has changed the game.Roaming totally sucks but it shouldn't have to! #roamfreelyClick To Tweet
What is KnowRoaming?
KnowRoaming is a local Toronto-based company that provides well…roaming solutions for the everyday traveller like you and I. They were the ones that pioneered and developed the world's first global SIM sticker in 2013 and they've only continued to grow since then.
For me, what sets them apart is their ease of use, coverage, and price point. Let me explain.
Ease of use
Let's focus on the global SIM sticker first. This was a radically new concept when it first came out. What if you could literally turn your existing SIM card into a dual SIM? That's essentially what you're able to do with KnowRoaming's sticker SIM. You stick it onto the metal contact part of your existing card and pop it into your phone and that's it!
Wait so how does that work?
Well I'm glad you asked! It's the app that controls the magic in the SIM sticker technology. Here's a step-by-step for what happens:
- Turn international roaming ON before you leave your home country
- Purchase a package that matches your needs
- Arrive in your new country
- KnowRoaming app detects you're not on your home carrier anymore and automatically switches over to the sticker SIM
- Follow the simple 2-tap process to enable the KnowRoaming network profile on your phone
- Activate the package you purchased through the app
- Off you go
Now a few frequently asked questions I get are:
- Do you get a new phone number with this SIM? – Yes, the SIM will give you a new US number
- If someone calls me on my home phone number, what happens? – You won't be reachable but they do have a ReachMe call forwarding service which costs as little as $3/month
- Can I keep the sticker on my SIM even when I'm home? – Yes, once you come back home, the SIM will automatically switch you back to your home SIM and it's business as usual
I've also been pretty happy with the app in general as they make it quite transparent how much money you still have on your account, what package you have selected, what a-la-carte rates are if you're not using a package, and what your usage is.
This has improved a lot since I started using KnowRoaming but they are currently up to 200+ countries. The full list can be found on the KnowRoaming rates page.
When it comes to their unlimited packages, the countries whittle down to 125+ but it's still really good global coverage in my opinion.
Now onto the best part! What KnowRoaming does really well is a fine-tuned balance between your choice of unlimited and GB bundles.
Best value bundles for Europe
Europe data plans are probably the best example to look at. What you'll notice is that the special Europe promo data plans give the best bang for buck but note that these are limited time offerings for peak travel seasons.
|Coverage||Data||Number of Days||Price|
|Global||Unlimited||2||$11.99 *limited time only*|
|Global||Unlimited||10||$59.99 USD *limited time only*|
|Europe||1GB||7||$10 USD *limited time only*|
|Europe||5GB||14||$45 USD *limited time only*|
|Europe||/MB||N/A||$0.15/MB (pay per use)|
On my recent trip to the Czech Republic and Germany, I activated the seasonal 5GB Europe plan for $45 USD and for my two weeks there, I never had any data connectivity issues and even with the amount of social media that I was doing, I never experienced any slow down in speed since I wasn't on an unlimited plan. 5GB was plenty for 14 days.
Why did I go with that plan and not an unlimited plan? A big part of my choice was around the number of days I was in Europe. The largest unlimited plan goes up to 10 days and if I chose that one, I'd be left with 4 days without data not to mention I'd be paying more than $45.
The only other cost you need to consider is for the SIM card itself:
Other features and considerations
WhatsApp bonus – Essentially, for a period of 30 days after making a purchase on your account, you won't get billed for any data usage that comes through WhatsApp.
Ability to purchase local numbers – Something that is pretty unique is the ability to buy local numbers depending on where you are. This way, locals can call you without it being a long-distance number to the US.
Customer service – There were one or two times where something didn't seem to work with the activation of my package and so I emailed customer support. They got back to me almost immediately and took care of my problem.
There are a few things you should know about before you decide whether or not you want to use KnowRoaming.
- Unlimited data – KnowRoaming does have throttling as part of their Fair Use Policy but it doesn't sound like it's a hard limit. It reads: “Generally, we place no limitations on accounts drawing less than 250 MB per day. However, we reserve the right to scale access speed for individual accounts down to 2G (128 kbps) speeds once the user’s daily usage significantly exceeds the average on our network or begins to impact the ability of other customers to access data services. “
- SIM sticker compatibility – The SIM card doesn't work in the following conditions:
- Locked devices
- NFC tap payment
- Cut SIM cards
- Dual SIM devices (readers have pointed out that this actually does work)
- Unlocked – This brings up the fact that your phone must be unlocked to a provider. If you're Canadian, you can request to unlock your phone by any of the main carriers for FREE!
- Account balance expiry – Any prepaid credit and unused data packages expire 9 months from your last purchase so don't let your balances linger around and don't put in more than you need.
- Calls and texts – So far, I haven't even talked about calling at all but if you're curious about that, the app has a full breakdown of rates for inbound calls, outbound calls, and text messages
Comparing KnowRoaming with competitors
What makes the landscape confusing is that there are so many players in the market now trying to tug you their way. I think the fairest way of seeing how they compare against one another is to do a as close as possible apples-to-apples comparison.
|Unlimited Price||PER DAY||Data Price||PER GB||SIM Price||Notes|
|KnowRoaming||$59.99 (10 days)||$6||$45/5GB (14 days)||$9||$10 (sticker SIM) or $5 (regular SIM) after 50% code GOPLACES50|
|GigSky||N/A||N/A||$50/5GB (30 days)||$10||$9.99 (data only)|
|KeepGo||N/A||N/A||$219/10GB (forever)||$21.90||$49 (includes 1GB, data only)|
|Roam Mobility (Always Online Wireless)||$9.99 per day capped at 200MB/day||$9.99||$89.99/3GB (30 days)||$30||$14.95|
|Gosim||N/A||N/A||$45/5GB (30 days)||$9||$10 (data only)|
|Skyroam||$9 per day||$9||N/A||N/A||$149.99 for hotspot (get 10% off here)||Throttling to 2G kicks in after 500GB|
|Pokefi||$15 (5 days)||$3||$15/5GB (2 years)||$3||$169 for hotspot||Throttling to 2G kicks in after 750MB
Coverage only 60 countries
|Rogers||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||$12/day to "Roam like home"
They don't have any roaming packages
|Telus||N/A||N/A||$120/1GB||$120||N/A||$12/day to "Roam like home"|
|T-Mobile||Free unlimited 2G data with qualifying plans|
$5/day for full speed
|Free/$5||N/A||N/A||N/A||Full speed capped to 512MB|
|Verizon||N/A||N/A||$130/2GB||$65||N/A||$10 travel pass to use home data allowances|
If you study this table and focus in on the PER DAY and PER GB columns, KnowRoaming stacks up really well against other options that include international SIM card providers and wifi hotspot companies. What sticks out to me is that KnowRoaming is one of the few that offers both voice and data on their SIM as most others are strictly data. This is pretty important because what if you want to quickly dial out to a number or you need someone to call you?
With the exception of PokeFi which has exceptional prices but poor coverage and T-Mobile which offers really amazing roaming plans, I'd say KnowRoaming has positioned themselves in a really good spot. Their SIM card prices are on par and the per GB and per day rates when broken down are near the top of the pack.
Why not get a local SIM?
So you might also be wondering, why go with an international roaming SIM like KnowRoaming when I can get a cheaper local SIM. Yes, it could be cheaper but in my experience sometimes the trouble isn't worth it.
- Having to spend time finding a physical store and making sure you have a passport with you
- Paying an additional activation/SIM card fee
- Challenges of deciphering foreign websites to try to find the information that you're looking for
- Poor customer service via the in-store sales reps
- Most plans do not include roaming (great if you're staying only in one country but if you decide to bounce around you'll have to sign up for a card at each destination)
- Refilling/topping up credit is often complicated through the phone or you have to go in-store again
For some trips it makes sense because the cost savings are ridiculous but it is always more of a hassle than just flicking on a switch on your phone and having roaming activated.
KnowRoaming is one of the best Europe SIM cards for data. It is an option that provides flexibility by being able to make regular calls while having very competitive rates whether you want to go for an unlimited bundle or pay by the gigabyte. One that that you can't forget is the convenience of not having to swap SIM cards, the fact that WhatsApp data activity is entirely free, and the app is really easy to use and gives you the information you need. Ultimately it just works.
So how about you? What's been your experience with SIM cards like this and other data roaming solutions? Have one that I've missed that you'd like to add to the comparison table? Don't be shy and drop a comment below!
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