Nobody likes to roam, at least not where cell phone data is concerned. Roaming charges are some of the most shocking fees people find on their phone bills. It doesn’t take a lot to put you in the poorhouse. But what exactly are roaming charges, and how do you accrue them?

data roaming global sim

This may sound like a simple question, but when the vast majority of large data roaming bills hit customers by surprise, it’s safe to say that most cell phone users don’t have a clear understanding of what constitutes roaming and how charges might apply. There’s even a handy term for people returning home from a trip to a shockingly huge roaming bill: bill shock.

When are you roaming?

Most people understand that data roaming is the act of accessing data through your phone while you are outside your local operator’s network of coverage and that this is only possible through agreements between providers. Roaming comes in two types, domestic and international. Since domestic roaming is usually free or very cheap, people can be a bit surprised to learn that their international roaming was considerably more expensive.

Another thing people don’t always consider while traveling is that a lot of data roaming is passive. For example, allowing a phone call to go to voicemail, receiving a text message (even if you didn’t open it), or having apps on your phone that connect to the internet while you’re not looking.

How expensive is international roaming, exactly?

It’s hard to give exact numbers on the price of international roaming. Every service provider is different, but they all come in varying types of expensive. Tens of thousands of complaints are lodged each year against telecommunications companies for ridiculous fees and charges.

Roaming bills can hit anyone

Some people think they’re safe from roaming charges because they’re using a plan that guarantees them free roaming, but you have to be very careful with any contract you sign with a mobile carrier. Say you’ve paid for a plan that allows roaming and you’re also on an unlimited plan. If the fine print states that your unlimited data is only valid domestically, then roaming plan or no roaming plan, you’re looking at a huge bill when you get home.

Many citizens of the European Union have also been stung with massive roaming charges lately. While the E.U. introduced legislation several years ago with the intent of ending most roaming fees across E.U. nations, data roaming charges are not only still possible, they’re common. There are endless loopholes to allow companies to continue charging roaming fees despite the “Roam Like Home” rule. As one German family learned last summer, cruise ships don’t count.

How to avoid roaming charges with certainty

So if you can’t rely on your domestic phone company to look out for you on your worldly adventures, how can you stay connected abroad? Prepaid data plans are the only sure way to avoid any sort of bill or fee. Their pay-as-you-go nature eliminates ex post facto bills entirely, including roaming charges. So if you don’t feel like paying $62,000 for a single movie while you’re on vacation, you’re going to have to cut your local provider out of the equation entirely.

Enter the Global SIM

A global SIM card is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a SIM card for your phone that allows you to directly access local data no matter where you are. Most modern cell phones use SIM cards and if yours is unlocked, then you can easily swap out your current SIM for a global one (don’t worry, you can switch back when you return from your trip).

Where to get a global SIM and how they work

You can get a global SIM that’s valid in 170 different countries from BNESIM. From there you can choose any one of BNESIM’s unlimited plans or build your own plan from scratch, customizing the amount of data, talk and text you want to pay for. BNESIM global SIM cards can be refilled online at any time, and if you buy more data than you use, you can roll it over to your next trip with no expiration worries.

BNESIM also offers an app that allows you to exchange calls and texts with other BNESIM customers completely free of charge, no matter where they are. So if you’re traveling with your family or your entourage, you can save even more money by going through the same SIM card provider.

Roam Safely

So with a global SIM card and an international phone number all your own you can truly relax during your travels. No more panicking when you hear your phone ring. And while it is true that some of the insane roaming charges racked up by people roaming with their local carriers do get reduced or waived all together, they’re few and far between – plus it’s a long drawn process and it’s not a risk worth taking.