Updated: Dec 16, 2019
Data roaming allows you to stay connected with your family and friends using mobile devices while in foreign countries. You can update them on where you are and your well-being. However, uncontrolled use of data roaming can lead to exorbitant bills and make your travels costly.
To avoid costly data charges when travelling, you can get local prepaid cards with data quota or an international data package with limits on both data quota and/or maximum payout. But, hitting the limits when you are not near the end of a trip is not what you will want either. In most cases, you can just top-up the cards but controlling data usage is still the way to go.
Below are 15 ways that can help you to manage data usage and cut data roaming charges. We will also tell you something that other websites don't.
Update: We added 1 new check on 28 April 2017. See 1A.
Before we start, understand why data roaming charges are expensive.
To use local networks when travelling, you will need to have some "relationships" with the local carriers, via prepaid SIM cards from them or international data plans with your telco, before you can enjoy "better" rates. But "better" does not mean cheap, the rates are just lower than using networks from carriers that you have no relationship with (the most expensive and often lead to exorbitant bills).
In any case, your relationship with a local carrier is only as long as your travel period in that country (may be just a few days), they have no incentives to make data rates very cheap for short-stayers, unlike for their long-term subscribers.
Note also that all calls and data usage may be charged by both the local carriers AND your own telco (check your data plan).
# DEVICE SETTINGS
(To enable/disable any functions in Settings, please refer to respective operating guides for your mobile device model and operating system version.)
1. Turn Off Data Roaming
First thing to do when travelling is to turn off data roaming on your mobile device, especially when you do not have a data plan with a local carrier. This essentially cuts off all data communications but you can still make calls when needed (take note of call charges). The only time you can get online is when WiFi is available.
If you have a data plan, you can switch on data roaming only when need to. Keep it turned off at other times to avoid unnecessary incoming data that eats up your data quota. This is also good to prevent apps from auto-downloading contents when launched unintentionally.
One drawback though, when you turn on data roaming, all pending notifications, messages, updates, mails, etc, will flood your device all at once. You will still lose data. Read on for more settings to further prevent this from happening.
1A. Turn Off Data Roaming in Telco App