For the modern traveller, connectivity is paramount. Whether it's calling an Uber, looking for nearby restaurants, updating your social media, or using Google to look up that pointless fact that you and your travel companions have been arguing over all day, staying connected while on the road makes a world of difference.
The Roaming Problem
Of course, roaming – and cellular data in particular – is often an expensive proposition. I of all people would know, because when it comes to avoiding data charges, I'd consider myself something of an authority figure.
You see, Canadians pay some of the highest data fees out of anywhere in the world, so when I first moved here in 2012, I flat out refused to take part in what I considered to be daylight robbery. That's right, I lived without mobile phone data – not even while travelling, just in day-to-day life – from 2012 all the way until 2017, when the demands of running a website finally led me to hook up to a LTE network.
Truthfully, I'm not sure how I made it through those years as a functioning member of society, and nowadays my LTE connection is something that I, like most people, can't live without. However, while travelling, I would still make it a habit to turn my data off and rely on wifi hotspots instead, because I simply couldn't stomach my carrier's data roaming fees.
On some occasions, I would pick up local SIM cards as a cheap solution, but hunting for SIM cards upon arriving in a new country can be a time-consuming process, and there often isn't a good way to track your usage. Furthermore, when going on trips involving multiple countries, I would inevitably end up with an assortment of foreign SIM cards that I had little use for.
Naturally, my curiosity was piqued when I learned about KnowRoaming, a Canadian startup that equips travellers with global connectivity solutions, helping you achieve significant savings on calls and data when you're out and about, as well as providing the added convenience of an easy-to-use app for monitoring your usage and topping up your credits.
How KnowRoaming Works
KnowRoaming has two different products to help you achieve easy and convenient connectivity from wherever you are: a Global SIM Card and a Global SIM Sticker.
The Global SIM Card (US$9.99) is exactly like the regular SIM cards you're used to seeing, and comes in three different sizes (mini, micro, or nano) depending on your device. You swap out your day-to-day Canadian SIM card for the Global SIM Card once you land in a foreign country, and swap it back once you return home.
The Global SIM Sticker (US$29.99, comes with a US$10 account credit), on the other hand, is simply a thin sheet that adheres to your existing Canadian SIM card. You're given a special applicator that helps ensure that you layer the Global SIM Sticker perfectly on your SIM card. Once it's attached, your phone automatically knows when you're in a foreign country and switches to the KnowRoaming service on its own, without you having to swap out the SIM cards! It's quite the feat of engineering, if you ask me.
Both products are connected to the very same technology, so choosing between the two is entirely a matter of personal preference. For its higher price, the Global SIM Sticker saves you the trouble of managing multiple SIM cards (and if you're an iPhone user, keeping track of that pesky little pin that opens the SIM card holder – I hate having to look for that thing!)
Once you order your Global SIM Card or Global SIM sticker, you wait a few days for it to come in the mail. You'll register the product on the KnowRoaming app, which also sets you up with a KnowRoaming account. You can then use a credit card load money onto your account, which can be used for calls or data packages.
KnowRoaming has a versatile range of options for making and receiving calls. You're able to forward your Canadian phone number to your KnowRoaming account and thereby only pay the local airtime rates when taking calls.
You're also able to make outbound calls, which follow the same principle. You can even purchase a local phone number wherever you are, which you can give to the people you meet along your travels so that they never have to pay long distance charges when calling you.
Meanwhile, the mobile data services are extremely intuitive. While you can start surfing the web as soon as you land at a predetermined rate (per megabyte) that varies by country, it's highly recommend to purchase one of KnowRoaming's data packages, which offer spectacular value compared to the roaming options offered by our beloved "Robelus" and their subsidiaries.
There are numerous packages, which vary by how many GBs of data you get, how long it's valid for, and how much you'll pay, so choose the one that best fits your needs.
Best of all, everything is done through an easy-to-use app on your phone, which allows you to track all of your calling and cellular data usage, monitor your account balance, top up your credits as you go, and access a 24/7 support team if any issues arise. No more anxiously waiting for your phone bill when you're back from your trip, or hustling to figure out how to register the SIM card you bought at the airport on the local carrier's website – everything you need to roam the world, worry-free, is right at your fingertips.
My Experience with KnowRoaming
I tried it on my recent trip to Latin America, and found it to be a highly intuitive, reliable, and convenient service. Let me tell you about my experience.
Upon landing in Buenos Aires, Jessica and I sought to get our roaming set up before catching the airport bus to the hotel. I had swapped out my Canadian SIM card for a KnowRoaming Global SIM Card, whereas Jessica was using the Global SIM Sticker and so didn't have to do anything. Within minutes, we had connected to the local carrier, Movistar, and we were up and running.
Excellent 4G service was available throughout most big cities, with the occasional patch of 3G kicking in on a few rare occasions. Since you're connecting to the local network, the reception you're getting will depend on where exactly in the country you are, but it'll definitely be as strong as what the locals get using their own mobile phones.
We definitely made the most of our cellular data throughout the trip. After all, Uber was exceedingly cheap and convenient, while exploring a big city on foot required heavy usage of Google Maps.
No doubt the most convenient part of KnowRoaming's data functionality is the seamless transition between country to country, like when we took the ferry between Argentina and Uruguay, or crossed the Brazil–Argentina border near Iguazu Falls by bus.
Calling works in over 200 countries around the world, while data connectivity is supported in the 82 countries shown below. Therefore, odds are that you won't have to do a single thing when you cross national borders – your phone will automatically connect to the new country's carriers, and you'll continue roaming as usual.
During the trip, I also had to make quite a few outbound calls of various nature. I had to hunt down some stray Uber drivers, I needed to ring up a few airport hotels with whom I needed to confirm the shuttle schedule due to our late-night arrivals, and I also ran into a bit of a tight spot when checking in for my Ethiopian Airlines flight from Buenos Aires to São Paulo.
The ticket somehow hadn't been issued correctly, so I had to call Aeroplan in order to prevent a potential "denied boarding" debacle. That's the $7.95 phone call you see in the usage log below. KnowRoaming couldn't have been more useful throughout all this, and I certainly resolved these issues with greater efficiency than if I had been worrying about the roaming charges I'd have to pay.
The one downside of the service is that KnowRoaming currently doesn't support text messages; unlike with calls, you won't be able to use your Canadian phone number for texts while you're away. However, that's where messaging services like iMessage, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger come in, and you can use your generous data allowance to ensure you stay in touch with everyone back home.
Pricing & Current Promotions
To get started with KnowRoaming, you'll need to get either the Global SIM Card or the Global SIM Sticker. The former costs US$9.99, while the latter costs US$29.99 but comes with a free US$10 in account credits to get you started.
For phone calls, the rates are extremely favourable compared to pay-per-use roaming options with a Canadian carrier. Remember, local airtime rates apply, so at worst you'll be paying around $0.5/min for outbound calls (and lower for inbound calls), compared to $2-3/min if you roamed with your Canadian SIM card.
Now let's talk about the data packages. These days, the big Canadian phone companies offer all-in roaming options for international destinations, which – to the surprise of absolutely no one – are all priced uniformly at $12/day. So for $12/day, you get to use the same services that you have on your plan back home when travelling in a foreign country.
If that sounds like a fair deal to you, that's because you've let Big Telecom walk all over you for too long, because things could be so much better! With KnowRoaming, there are 1GB, 5GB, or unlimited packages; there are 1-, 2-, 7-, and 10-day packages; and there are Europe, Asia-Pacific, and global packages. You can choose the exact package that fits your needs best, and it's cheaper than Rogers's Roam Like Home (or equivalent) at every price point. Have a look at this page to see all the data packages available to you.
With the 2018 FIFA World Cup just around the corner, KnowRoaming even has a few special packages for Russia-bound spectators. You can enjoy a 1-day unlimited data package for only US$4, a 30-day 5GB package for US$50, or even get your Global SIM Card together with a 5GB package – essentially covering your data needs for your entire trip – for as low as US$55.
Lastly, on the topic of pricing, I find that my friend Barry from Money We Have regularly has unique KnowRoaming promo codes. In particular, it seems like the code "BARRY18" will give you quite a discount on the Global SIM Sticker at the moment 😉
Here at Prince of Travel, we're all about enjoying our trips to the maximum while keeping our out-of-pocket expenses reasonable, so I think many of you would benefit from giving KnowRoaming a try. With a significant pricing advantage over using your native Canadian carrier and a tremendously convenient product and app interface that saves you the hassle of buying local SIM cards, KnowRoaming promises to shake up the way we stay connected on our travels.