Data Roaming in the USA

I go over to the US a few times each year, and I want to continue using the data on my mobile phone. However, roaming data charges can be expensive.

The roaming data charges, per megabyte (for prepay and contract phones) on the Irish networks are:

And as anyone knows, one MB hardly goes anywhere these days. I sometimes use as much as 200MB a day, so if I used my Eir SIM for roaming data, it could cost me over €2,000 a day!

Data Bundles

Of course, there are often roaming data bundles available, but you need to shop around for the best deals, and set them up in advance:

  • Vodafone – Red Roaming – 200MB of data for €2.99 per day
  • Vodafone – Connect Abroad – 100MB of data for €18.45 per day
  • Eir – USA Data Add-on – 200MB of data for €19.99
  • Three – No data bundles available

The Vodafone Red Roaming is clearly the best value for money, and that's the roaming deal I use for my trips. I just need to be careful to ensure that my APN is correctly configured.

Signing up for Red Roaming

Vodafone prepay and contract customers need to elect to use Red Roaming to avail of the roaming deal. It can be set up in the "My Vodafone" self-care web site, or by texting the word 'RED' to 50020 to opt in.

It's worth noting that if you run out of credit on Vodafone prepay you may be automatically de-subscribed from Red Roaming without notification, and then end up paying a lot more for data.

You also need to remember that the 200MB per day allowance runs from midnight to midnight Irish time. So if you're in Los Angeles (8 hours behind Dublin) your allowance runs from 4pm to 4pm each day.

What about a Roaming or USA SIM?

One other option to consider, if you travel a lot is to get a specialist roaming SIM card (available from a number of companies), or a SIM card for a US cellular network.

A typical offer of a specialist Roaming SIM is one from Roam Mobility, where it costs $10 to buy a SIM card, and then another $21.95 to buy 1GB of data. Similarly ZipSIM charges $30 for 1GB of data.

The US network T-Mobile also offers a Prepaid International Tourist Plan, which gives you 3 week of voice, texts and 2GB of data for $30. That's not a bad if you're visiting for more than a few days and also expect to make phones calls and send texts.

Dual SIM Phones

Sometimes the best deal for roaming data is from someone that isn't your regular mobile provider. And unless you fancy switching to another mobile number while you travel, you may want to consider getting a dual-SIM mobile phone.

I have a OnePlus 5 mobile that can take 2 SIM cards. So I have my regular Meteor/Eir SIM for use at home, and a second prepay Vodafone SIM for mobile data roaming.

When I'm travelling, I can have both SIM cards active in my phone at the same time. I can set my Meteor SIM to be used for calls and texts – so that I can contact family and friends – and set the Vodafone SIM to be used for data.

SIM & Network Settings

I just need to remember to switch the mobile data between Meteor and Vodafone each time I get on the plane.

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