I’ve been using M1 Data Passport (a postpaid service for M1 customers) for the past few years, as it was good value for longer trips. Recently, however, they’ve raised their prices: countries like China, Japan, and South Korea went from $10 to $25 per month, and that’s while consuming the data allowance from my postpaid plan. Not such a great deal anymore.
This pushed me to finally give the StarHub prepaid data roaming service, Happy Roam, a shot.
How StarHub Happy Roam works
StarHub Happy Roam works like any local prepaid data SIM card you might get when arriving in a new country, except it works in 17 countries with more being added from time to time.
Asia: China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Macau, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand
Other countries: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom, USA
The geographical coverage may disappoint if you’re traveling around Southeast Asia or Europe, but the clincher for me is that it covers Canada – where 1GB of prepaid mobile data costs $30 on average! This easily makes StarHub Happy Prepaid the best prepaid SIM card for Canada. Which brings us to pricing…
If you’re a tourist: to use the service, you must first purchase a StarHub Happy Prepaid SIM Card, either by ordering it online for collection at the airport (after customs/baggage) or at any of these locations in Singapore.
If you already have another StarHub prepaid SIM card, you can also use StarHub Happy Roam. You do not need to buy the Happy Prepaid SIM card.
Once you’ve got the SIM card in your phone, download the Happy Prepaid app (iPhone/Android). It will detect the SIM card and set up your account as shown in this screenshot.
With the StarHub Happy Prepaid app, you can check your SIM card balance and card expiry, as well as buy data plans. There’s no need to dial a service number to check your balance or top up your data plan, though that’s still available in case you lose your Internet connection.
As with all data roaming and portable Wifi router services, the network speed and coverage you get from StarHub Happy Roam depends on the local partner network being used.
James and I have used Happy Roam in Australia, China, Japan, and Taiwan with no issues, but while on the very edge of China’s border with North Korea, my travel companion could not connect to a Chinese network via Happy Roam although I could surf just fine on M1 Data Passport. Several Happy Roam users recommend manually selecting the partner network when overseas as automatic selection doesn’t always work.
Disadvantages of StarHub Happy Roam
You must register your StarHub Happy Prepaid SIM card. This is fairly straightforward and requires only your passport, but it means you must visit Singapore in person to use this service – you can’t just buy the SIM card online.
Your SIM card can expire after 90-180 days. You’ll have to top it up to extend its validity by another 90-180 days. I like that the Happy Prepaid app shows how many days you have left before expiry, so you can top up in time even when the SIM card isn’t in your phone.
You’ll need to switch SIM cards if you don’t have a dual-SIM phone. This is a real hassle when you’re making online purchases or logins that send a security code to your usual mobile number, including when you top up your Happy Prepaid account via credit card.
Conclusion: get it if you can
Although its geographical availability is currently limited, I cannot stress enough how cheap the mobile data is on StarHub Happy Roam, especially for traveling in Canada (and Australia, where free WiFi is about as common as a Starbucks).
If you happen to be transiting through Singapore Changi Airport on your way to any of the 17 destinations covered by StarHub Happy Roam, clear customs and head to the StarHub counters at Level 1 (Arrivals) in any terminal to buy a Happy Prepaid SIM. You can also pre-order and collect it at UOB currency exchange counters, also landside.
Last but not least: The cost of the SIM card is actually included as credit, so the SIM costs nothing. Happy Roam, indeed.
Have you used StarHub Happy Roam? What other products do you recommend for convenient and cheap data roaming?