Wherever you travel to, staying connected is high on your priority list. Whether on business or enjoying a vacation, the ability to access anything and use your devices to the max is non-negotiable.

Your mobile provider at home will offer you data roaming while you’re abroad, but the costs can be high and limit what you’re able to do.

Alternatively, you can enjoy lower costs with greater convenience and flexibility through a travel eSIM. Looking in detail at eSIM versus a data roaming plan when traveling abroad – let’s see how these two options stack up…

What are the key differences between eSIMs and data roaming plans?

Here are some essential definitions for each of these options:

What exactly is an eSIM?

If you know what a SIM card is, you’re already familiar with the workings of an eSIM. Instead of a swappable piece of plastic that governs which cellular networks you can connect to, an eSIM is a reprogrammable part of your phone’s embedded hardware that does the same job. 

It’s the difference between getting your music or TV on cassette tapes, and streaming them – the principle is the same, but it’s totally digital.

This is great for travel, because it allows anyone with a relatively up-to-date device (i.e. that supports eSIM tech) to access a global marketplace for mobile data plans tailored to their trips. 

What exactly is a data roaming plan?

Data roaming plans are contractual add-ons to your existing mobile agreement that allow you to use your phone like you would at home, even when you’re out of the country, subject to certain extra charges. 

Say your standard day-to-day mobile contract is with an operator in Portugal, but you’re headed to Canada on a trip. Data roaming lets you continue paying your home operator for your out-of-territory usage, while the Canadian operator charges them for the data you used.

Data roaming is typically the default approach used by many travelers who are unaware of the alternatives. And while it can be convenient, it can also be fraught with risk – with countless examples of customers suffering ‘bill shock’ after unwittingly racking up thousands in charges just for using their devices abroad the same way they would at home.

How to decide if eSIM or data roaming is best for you

Now let’s explore some of the factors that go into deciding which approach is best for you – buying an travel eSIM for your next trip, or relying on your home operator to enable data roaming.

Do you want the best value for money?

Data roaming is a monopoly – whatever your operator wishes to charge you is what you have to pay. You could choose a different home operator on the basis of what data roaming options they give you, but even then it’s the same issue.

eSIMs are a highly competitive market where you get to shop around and choose the best deal for you. This drives down costs and is almost always cheaper compared to the data roaming alternative.  

Do you want the fastest speeds?

The monopoly of data roaming also means you get no choice in the networks your home operator chooses to partner with. Say you’re headed to India – will your data roaming plan steer you onto one of the new 5G networks, or a slower one? Many data roaming plans are geared to the lowest acceptable standard. In other words, you pay to be connected in other countries – you don’t get to choose the best quality. 

eSIMs give you far greater choice and it's transparent which operator you will be using. So if it’s speed you want, you get to choose. Breeze has over 100 5G network agreements in 60+ countries, and it’s growing all the time!

Is it essential to remain connected at all times?

The basic nature of data roaming gets you connected to the network your home operator chooses. Imagine the problem you face if that network has poor coverage in the area you are traveling to. After all, wherever you go, different networks have different levels of signal coverage. Data roaming makes this risk something of a lottery.

On the face of it, eSIMs face the same challenge. However, not with a multi-network eSIM – a type of eSIM profile that allows you to switch between numerous networks in the same country. Using a multi-network eSIM all but guarantees that, wherever you travel within a country, you’re always connected to the strongest available network signal. Breeze has plenty to choose from in key destinations!

Do you want to be in control of costs?

Data roaming costs are typically a combination of daily rates and metered usage. This can make it hard to plan how much it will cost to stay connected when traveling abroad. The other downside is that data roaming is postpaid i.e. you get charged for it after you consume it. Add them together and you can see why so many are caught out, receiving bills for hundreds or even thousands that they weren’t expecting.

eSIMs are prepaid, meaning you buy them in advance. This strictly controls your spend so you’re never liable for more consumption that you can afford. The added benefit of Breeze eSIMs is you can top-up them very easily if you ever need to consume more data than you expected. Some eSIM providers say they do top-ups, but actually they just sell you extra eSIMs which can get unnecessarily complicated.

Are you OK with using apps?

If you’re happy to pay a premium for it, there’s no activation necessary with data roaming. It’s advisable to at least notify your home operator before you travel, if you are planning to roam internationally on your current plan. This avoids emergency charges and lets you access any promotional deals your operator is offering. 

eSIMs are almost as simple but still devastatingly easy to activate. You’ll need to access an online eSIM store or app to choose and pay for your chosen eSIM. Registering an account lets you manage the eSIM you’ve purchased.

Need a travel eSIM for your next trip? Look no further! Browse our world-beating selection of top quality eSIMs.

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