Singapore was officially my first Asian destination for leisure purposes (I went to the Philippines for a month, but that was for work. I explored the country a bit, mainly its beaches, but it was not a proper holiday). Well, it has been my favorite destination for years. Sure, it is not the cheapest country in Southeast Asia, but it is the one I had felt the safest, had the most fun, and considered to immigrate to (that is before I knew it is challenging to immigrate to Singapore, ha).
To keep expenses manageable, we should not add expensive roaming bills to our post-travel experience. Roaming with your provider can be expensive, which is why many travelers buy a Singaporean SIM card when visiting Singapore (unless you have a plan with a Southeast or East Asian provider, they may offer free or low-cost roaming for Singapore). In this article, I will analyze the SIM card options you have in Singapore. Let’s go.
Telecom Providers in Singapore
Singapore has 3 major telecom providers: Singtel Mobile, StarHub, and M1. As of late 2019, TPG Telecom ran trails, but their service does not seem to be accessible to visitors. As of 2016, many Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) started in Singapore, such as MyRepublic, Zero Mobile, Gomo, Giga, and Circles.life. None of the MVNOs will be discussed in this article because visitors cannot get their SIM cards, or they are postpaid (on a plan) only.
As to be expected from Singapore and a small nation, coverage with all providers is excellent throughout the city-state. The main differentiator is the perks the providers offer and the rates.
What SIM card should you buy when visiting Singapore? If you want to buy a SIM card in Singapore, I would recommend going with the tourist SIM cards of any provider (SingTel Mobile, StarHub, or M1) because they give the most value for the money spent. Coverage and speed with all Singaporean providers are excellent, meaning that it does not matter which one you choose – it all comes down to the perks.
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Just like many other Southeast Asian countries, you have to register your SIM card before you can use it. Make sure to bring your passport with you when going to an official store, authorized resellers, or kiosks. Every person may only have three active SIM cards activated on their name, which should not be a problem to most visitors (unless you are me and like to get as many SIM cards to review them for a blog… what a weirdo).
Also, it is important to mention that Singapore shut down its 2G network in 2017. Most modern smartphones support 4G/LTE or, at least, 3G, meaning that it should not be an issue for most travelers. Those with a “dumbphone” should be aware of this).
Finally, you get charged for taking an incoming call, even if it is a domestic call. As a result, I will mention when a plan offers free incoming calls, which is useful to know if you expect to receive phone calls in Singapore.
With that said, let’s see what Singaporean providers have to offer to us.
Tip: Looking for cheap flights? Book with AirWander and add stopovers! Not in a hurry yet? Set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog and get notified when ticket prices for your preferred route(s) drop!
With a market share of around 45%, SingTel is the largest and most popular provider in Singapore amongst locals and travelers alike. They offer a variety of great package deals for data, but by far, the most popular SIM card is the ‘hi!Card’.
SingTel Mobile offers an overwhelming number of package choices. Simply put, there is going to be a package that suits your needs, whether you are a high usage person or need more emphasis on data for social networking and apps.
You can top-up your SIM card with ease. With lots of options, you can precisely find what you need. Data can be applied to your SIM card with prices ranging from 10 SGD to 30 SGD (or $7.35 to $22 – 1 SGD is about $0.73). High usage plans will range anywhere from 7 SGD for 2 GB to 15 GB for 30 SGD. High-value plans will include 10 MB for 7 days at 1 SGD to 1GB for a week at 7 SGD.
Aside from these popular plan options, you can also find extended-expiration plans that range from 10 SGD to 30 SGD and social media packs that give you access to WhatsApp, Line, WeChat, and Facebook for a low price.
To put it simply, they have it all.
Below are some of the data packs SingTel offers:
- 2 SGD: 100 MB for 7 days
- 7 SGD: 2 GB for 24 hours
- 8 SGD: 1 GB for 7 days
- 10 SGD: 1.5 GB for 7 days
- 10 SGD: 1 GB for 30 days
- 13 SGD: 1.5 GB for 30 days (and 750 extra MB between 12 AM and 8 AM)
- 16 SGD: 6 GB for 3 days
- 20 SGD: 3 GB for 30 days
- 30 SGD: 15 GB for 7 days
- 30 SGD: 5 GB for 30 days
Interested in SingTel tourist SIM cards? The hi!Tourist SIM comes in 3 variants:
- 15 SGD: 100 GB, free Facebook, WhatsApp, Line, and WeChat data (capped to 1 GB), 500 minutes, 100 SMS, and 30 international minutes valid for 7 days.
- 30 SGD: 100 GB, free Facebook, WhatsApp, Line, and WeChat data (capped to 1 GB), unlimited minutes and SMS, and 90 international minutes, free Singtel WIFI, 2GB roaming for Australia, Malaysia, and Indonesia valid for 12 days.
- 50 SGD (2 SIM cards so that you can share the perks with your travel partner): 100 GB, free Facebook, WhatsApp, Line, and WeChat data (capped to 1 GB), unlimited minutes and SMS, and 90 international minutes, 5 GB roaming for Australia, Malaysia, and Indonesia valid for 14 days.
As you can see, those tourist SIM cards are very attractive. Stay tuned, as I will try one of them in February and report my findings on the site!
StarHub is another popular provider in Singapore that offers a wide selection of SIM cards for locals and travelers, the most popular SIM card being the ‘Happy Prepaid SIM.’ 3 types of Happy cards can be bought:
- 8 SGD: 10 SGD in credit valid for 90 days and 800 MB for 30 days
- 15 SGD: 15 SGD in credit valid for 180 days and 2.2 GB for 180 days with WhatsApp, Line, and WeChat usage not counting towards your data quota
- 50 SGD: 50 SGD in credit valid for 180 days, 100 GB for 10 days, and 5 GB roaming data for 30 days. Only sold at Changi Airport (at the UOB Foreign Exchange shop)
Each top-up value comes with its perk, especially in terms of calls and SMS. The 25 SGD top-up, for example, comes with 400 MB, 120 minutes, 500 SMS, and free incoming calls for 50 days. The other values come without data or 10 MB, which is basically nothing.
The standard rate for data is 0.04 SGD per 10 KB (reminder, 1024 KB = 1 MB). You can add additional data ranging anywhere from 2 SGD2 to 25 SGD and can also purchase specialty packs for social media, including WeChat and Line.
Below are the StarHub data packs:
- 2 SGD: 30 MB for 3 days
- 6 SGD: 1 GB for 3 days
- 8 SGD: 1 GB for 7 days
- 11 SGD: 1 GB for 30 days
- 18 SGD: 3 GB for 30 days
- 25 SGD: 5 GB for 30 days
StarHub also offers a special roaming package known as ‘Happy Roam,’ which will allow its users to have data without the expensive pricing across all of Asia as well as into other countries. In other words, you can use your plan’s allowance in 17 countries without a surcharge. The following destinations are the Happy Roam countries:
- Australia (Telstra & Vodafone)
- China (China Mobile)
- Canada (Rogers)
- India (Bharti Airtel, IDEA & Vodafone)
- Hong Kong (Three)
- Indonesia (XL Axiata, Three, and Indosat)
- Japan (NTT DoCoMo & KDDI)
- Macau (CTM Macau)
- Myanmar (MPT & Telenor)
- Malaysia (All operators)
- New Zealand (2degrees, Spark & Vodafone)
- Philippines (Smart)
- South Korea (SK Telecom & Olleh KT)
- Taiwan (FET & Chunghwa Telecom)
- Thailand (TrueMove & DTAC)
- United Kingdom (Three)
- United States (AT&T & T-Mobile)
Finally, StarHub has two tourist SIM cards:
- 12 SGD: 100 GB, 1 GB roaming data in Happy Roam destinations, 30 international minutes, 100 SMS, 500 minutes, and unlimited incoming calls, all valid for 7 days
- 32 SGD: 100 GB, 3 GB roaming data in Happy Roam destinations, 90 international minutes, 500 SMS, 3000 minutes, and unlimited incoming calls, all valid for 12 days
As you can see, tourists get amazing offers when visiting Singapore.
The M1 is the smallest company in Singapore, offering its customers some great deals across the board, the most popular SIM card option being the ‘M Card.’ You can top-up your SIM card quickly and easily, and prices range from 5 SGD to 30 SGD, depending on your needs.
Unlike the other providers, the top-ups come with sweet perks that include data as well. For example, besides getting a bunch of minutes and SMS, you get 1 GB or 3 GB for 19 SGD or 30 SGD, respectively, valid for 30 days.
Data packages range from 10 MB for 7 days for 1 SGD to 6 GB for days for 28 SGD. Not bad deals at all.
Of course, M1 offers tourist SIM cards as well – 3 different ones to be exact. All offer free incoming calls:
- 12 SGD: 100 GB, 20 international minutes, 500 minutes, and 100 SMS, all valid for 7 days
- 30 SGD: 100 GB, 50 international minutes, 3000 minutes, 5000 SMS, and 3 GB roaming data, all valid for 12 days
- 50 SGD: 100 GB, 50 international minutes, 3000 minutes, 5000 SMS, and 5 GB roaming data, all valid for 14 days
Roaming data can be used in the following destinations:
- Hong Kong (SmarTone)
- Indonesia (Indosat & XL Axiata)
- Macau (SmarTone)
- Malaysia (Celcom)
- Taiwan (Chunghwa)
Which Singaporean SIM Card is the Best?
Now that you know everything you need to know about telecom providers in Singapore, you may be wondering which SIM card is the best for you. I made a Singaporean SIM Card comparison article where I go through Singtel, StarHub, and M1 more in-depth, comparing their packages, speeds, and coverage.
It is a good read where I take certain scenarios into account that may apply to you (such as spending a certain amount on data packages like 10 SGD, 30 SGD, and 50 SGD, wanting to call and text abroad, speeds, and who has the best tourist SIM card).
Be sure sure to check out the Best Singaporean SIM Card comparison post.
Other Ways to Stay Connected When Traveling in Singapore
Besides getting a Singaporean SIM card, there are different ways of staying connected when exploring Singapore, such as using an international SIM card, roaming with your provider, using pocket WIFI, or WIFI networks.
International SIM Cards
There are many international SIM cards out there, such as OneSimCard and SIM cards from SimOptions. These SIM cards with the same as roaming with your provider, but the charges are often way less than actually roaming because they have been set up for international travel.
International SIM cards give you the same convenience as roaming with your provider. As in, not having to get numerous SIM cards, you will not use again, and being reachable on one number instead of multiple. In most cases, you can use your international SIM when back home, but their rates will be high compared to using your carrier.
Do note that using an international SIM card is often more expensive than using a local SIM card but cheaper than roaming with your provider. International SIM cards are appealing for those who travel frequently and cannot be bothered with the hassle of purchasing a SIM card each time they arrive at a new destination. Additionally, constantly having to switch SIM cards and using different phone numbers may discourage seasoned travelers from buying local SIM cards.
If you are visiting only one destination for a short period, get a local SIM card (or roam with your provider if they have attractive roaming rates or plans). If you travel often and want to be able to be contacted on one phone number when visiting multiple destinations, international SIM cards could be attractive. Check out my international SIM card comparison article, where I analyzed the top 10 leading international SIM cards out there.
Roaming with Your Provider
Roaming is a term used in wireless telecommunication that indicates a mobile device is outside the range of its home network and has connected to a different, available cell network. If you use your phone in Singapore without changing SIM cards, you would be roaming in Singapore.
You have probably read numerous horror stories of travelers who went abroad for a while and came back home to a phone bill in the thousands because they were roaming. An example of such a story is this individual who received a bill of £8,348.41 for data roaming for 40 minutes. I also found the reason why roaming is so expensive.
No idea how roaming works? I made this comprehensive guide about what roaming is and how it works. It is worth the read – promised!
Roaming can be convenient because you do not have to wait in line to get a local SIM card, go through the whole SIM card registration process, and can easily be reached when friends and family who are in your home country want to call or text you.
However, this convenience comes at a cost – a high cost if you do not watch out. But this does not always have to be the case.
Some carriers allow you to roam for free in select countries, such as Sprint (Canadian provider). They have a program called Sprint Global Roam, which allows its customers to roam in 205 destinations, including Singapore, for free at reduced speeds.
Other carriers allow you to use your plan's allowance if you pay a fixed daily fee. For example, Koodo, a Canadian provider, allows you to use your plan's allowance with their program called Koodo Easy Roam International for $12 a day, which can be used in Singapore as well. This means that if you get 10 GB a month, you can use those 10 GB in Singapore as well.
However, you should take caution with such plans. They are convenient and inexpensive when done for a few days, but not when going abroad for a week or more. I often argue that one can use these plans if you are staying abroad for a maximum of three days. If longer, than you are better off with a local SIM card, which will give you more bang for your buck. Check out my articles to see if your provider offers roaming bundles.
Finally, you can roam on Pay As You Go roaming rates. With standard roaming rates, you get charged per action on the go. In other words, you get charged per minute, SMS, or KB/MB. Often, Pay As You Go roaming rates are insanely high (which leads to those stories where people got charged into the thousands), and should be avoided in most cases. However, some providers do have reasonable standard roaming rates, especially to neighboring countries.
In general, I would discourage you from roaming on Pay As You Go roaming rates when visiting Singapore, but it is still an option to explore. If you want to see what your carrier would charge you, check out my roaming with your provider articles with my analysis and verdicts.
If you do not want to get a local SIM card or an international SIM card and do not feel like roaming either, then you can get pocket WIFI. A portable hotspot is a device that acts as your personal router that you can take with you. This hotspot connects to the cellular networks of your destination – just like your phone would do but without the roaming costs.
There are many portable hotspots out there. Two reputable pocket WIFI companies I know are Skyroam (use coupon code PHONETRAVELWIZ) and Vision Global Wireless. WIFI access with Skyroam starts at $8 a day. Using a Vision Global device starts at $2 a day. Both services cover more than 130 destinations around the world.
A pocket WIFI device is ideal for those who are traveling with families or multiple individuals. This way, everyone can connect to the device and enjoy the WIFI network on the go. Some companies will charge you per GB while others will give you unlimited data. Be aware of the data restrictions of your device so that you will not receive a high bill after your travels.
Using Free WIFI Connections
If you do not want to pay anything extra for staying connected while in Singapore, then you can choose to connect to WIFI networks instead of cellular networks.
Although using WIFI hotspots may save you money, it may not be convenient as using a SIM card. First, you would have to find WIFI hotspots. Luckily, Singapore has a free city-wide WIFI network. However, it is only available in the city-center itself (so not in the ouskits of Singapore).
Moreover, many malls, restaurants, and cafes have free WIFI networks too. Most of them are fast too.
Additionally, public WIFI hotspots are unsecure. I would recommend using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) if you connect to an unfamiliar network. The VPN will encrypt your data and will keep your data private. I use NordVPN, and you can get up to 70% off when you get a NordVPN subscription. Get yours today or find out more about NordVPN.
The Best Way to Stay Connected When Traveling in Singapore
Getting a tourist SIM card from any provider would do you well when considering a Singaporean SIM card. Be sure to explore the roaming options your provider offers you, as they may offer free or cheap roaming bundles.
You could also consider getting an international SIM card or using a portable hotspot. International SIM cards are attractive for those visiting multiple destinations at once or within a year. Portable hotspots will be useful when traveling with multiple people so that not each individual has to get a SIM card but can use the hotspot.
Visiting other countries in Southeast Asia? Check out my Southeast Asian SIM card buying guide, covering other Southeast Asian countries, such as Brunei, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. Going to other places around the world? Then you should also check out my sim card buying guides for other destinations around the world.
What is next?
Looking for the best companies and gadgets to enhance your travel experience? Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! Save money on plane tickets, bus rides, cruises, and accommodation. Besides that, I also list services and items I use to make my life easier – and I believe they will help you too!
Book Your Flight for Singapore
It is time to book your flight. Find cheap flights with AirWander so that you can add free or cheap stopovers in destinations you have not considered yet before going to Singapore. If you are not ready to take off yet, set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog, and they will notify you once ticket prices to Singapore drop.
Book Your Accommodation for Singapore
I am a huge fan of Airbnb because it allows me to live with a local or get a local place for myself. Staying in someone’s house or apartment feels much different than being in a ho(s)tel, especially in Singapore. At least, that is how I see it. Moreover, Airbnb can often be much cheaper than staying in a hotel.
Get Your Travel Insurance for Singapore
You will regret not having travel insurance once you actually need it and “forgot” to get it. Nowadays, travel insurance is cheap and comprehensive unlike back in the days. World Nomads is by far the best travel insurance for adventurous travelers like yourself. You can even get insured WHILE already traveling in Singapore, which is not something many insurance companies allow you to do.
Get a Travel Debit Card
Travel Cheques are outdated. Paying with your credit card or debit card can be expensive because of all the exchange commissions banks charge you. TransferWise allows you to convert your main currency to Singapore Dollar for a small fee (up to 8 times less than with your bank!) Getting a Transferwise Borderless account is FREE, so you will get an instant return on your investment.
Enjoy your trip!