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When you bring your smartphones and other mobile devices with you when travelling, please note that the charge of mobile data roaming services is usually much higher than that of local mobile data services. For advice on how to avoid unexpected mobile data service charges, please refer to "Be Mindful of Unexpected Mobile Data Service Charges While Roaming Overseas".

Besides using roaming services provided by your mobile operator, you may consider other mobile data service options while travelling abroad.

Pre-paid mobile data SIM card

Portable Wi-Fi router

Data roaming day-pass

Pre-paid mobile data SIM card

You may consider purchasing a pre-paid mobile data SIM card which can be used at the destination from either local operators in Hong Kong or mobile operators at the destinations. These pre-paid SIM cards may have different charging mechanisms. Some may charge a fixed fee for a fixed amount of mobile data usage within a certain time limit, say, 1GB for 7 days in Japan. Some others may charge a flat-rate for one day use. You are advised to read and compare the terms and conditions, including the charging mechanisms, of various pre-paid mobile data SIM cards carefully, and choose one that best suits your needs.

If a dual-SIM handset is used, make sure that the SIM card for overseas use is put in the correct card slot and the handset setting is configured correctly.

Portable Wi-Fi router

You may consider renting a portable Wi-Fi router. A Wi-Fi router allows multiple users or devices to share the Internet connection simultaneously and at a relatively affordable price. These Wi-Fi routers may have different charging mechanisms. You are advised to read and compare the terms and conditions, including the charging mechanisms, of various Wi-Fi routers carefully, and choose one that best suits your needs.

Data roaming day-pass

Day-pass is a flat-rate daily plan for mobile data roaming. Some day-passes may set a cap on mobile data usage for each day.

As individual mobile operators may impose various restrictions and conditions of use on their day-passes, you should check the details of these restrictions and conditions before purchasing a day-pass. If in doubt, you should clarify with your mobile operator on, for example, how the charges are calculated, whether the day-pass is applicable to your destinations, how you may contact the mobile operator while outside Hong Kong, etc. Even after you have activated a day-pass, you should bear in mind the service restrictions, as all mobile data you have used but not covered by your day-pass may be subject to regular data roaming service, which is usually charged based on the amount of the mobile data used and is far more expensive than the flat-rate charge of the day-pass. In particular, you should take note of the following –

Day-pass may only be applicable to designated destinations and networks

Some day-passes are applicable to designated destinations and networks only. You should ensure that the day-pass you have purchased covers your destinations, and that you are always connected to the designated network(s) included in the day-pass. Please note that your mobile devices may be able to connect to non-designated networks, but the mobile data you used by connecting to these networks would not be covered by the day-pass, and will be charged separately. For more details, please see "Beware of 'network switching'" below.

Whether additional charges are levied on certain services

You should read carefully the terms and conditions on the kinds of services that are included in the day-pass and whether additional charges are levied on other services. For example, some day-passes may not cover “tethering” or “personal hotspot” services. Some day-passes may cover mobile data only but not voice services. Services not included in the day-pass may trigger additional charges. Please seek confirmation from your mobile operator if in doubt.

Check the service activation procedures

You should note that you may need to activate the day-pass by taking certain procedures, or otherwise, the more expensive mobile roaming services would be used instead. You need to follow those procedures properly before using mobile data services when travelling.

In general, the service will be activated only after you have provided confirmation to your mobile operator via a short message and your mobile operator has notified you that the service has been successfully activated. You need to clarify with your mobile operator whether the service will be activated immediately, or whether there will be any time lapse after you have made the confirmation. In the latter case, you should refrain from using your mobile device until after you have been notified that the day-pass has been activated.

Your mobile operator may accept your day-pass service activation request even when you are not in a designated destination. If you have any doubt about the procedures of day-pass service activation, you should check with your mobile operator.

Check the definition of "a day" for calculation of data roaming charges

The definition of "a day" may vary from package to package. "A day" may be counted based on the local time (00:00 - 23:59) of Hong Kong or the destination. The daily charges may also be charged on a per destination basis. For example, if you travel from the United Kingdom to France and use mobile data service in both countries on the same day, your mobile operator may charge you twice as you have used mobile data service in two destinations on that same day. Users should check carefully the definition of "a day" before activating and deactivating their day-pass.

Beware of "network switching"

If your day-pass only applies to designated mobile networks at the destinations, you need to ensure that your mobile device is always connected to these networks, otherwise you may incur additional service charges on top of your day-pass. To avoid hefty data roaming charges arising from such "network switching", you should set your mobile device to manual network selection to connect to the designated networks only. The steps for setting manual network selection may vary with different models of mobile devices. In general, you may follow the steps below:

  1. Go to the "Setting" menu;
  2. Select the "Operator" or "Network" sub-menu;
  3. Choose "Manual Network" selection to select your designated network;
  4. Save the designated network selection in your mobile device; and
  5. Ensure that you have successfully connected to your designated network.

Travelling in Border Areas

When you are at the border areas, it is possible that your mobile device would automatically switch to networks of the adjacent countries with stronger mobile signals, which may not be covered by your day-pass. For example, when you travel in Macau, it is possible for your mobile device to receive signals from Zhuhai due to over-spilling of mobile signals across the border. You may as a result incur additional service charges on top of your day-pass. Even if the day-pass covers such destinations, you may still incur additional charge for using the day-pass in another destination. You are advised to monitor your mobile device from time to time when travelling in the border areas. Again, you are strongly recommended to set your mobile device manually to connect with designated network(s) only.