Data Roaming in Vietnam & Alternatives to Get Internet for Tourists

Traveling to Vietnam can be an exciting experience, with its rich culture, stunning landscapes, and mouthwatering cuisine. However, one aspect that can cause frustration is getting mobile data and internet access while visiting the country. Read on this guide for an in-depth look at using phone data roaming in Vietnam.

Data Roaming in Vietnam

I. Phone Roaming in Vietnam – Quick Facts for Tourists

Phone Roaming in Vietnam
Phone Roaming in Vietnam

Here are some key points about mobile roaming in Vietnam:

  • Roaming availability: Roaming is generally available with most major mobile carriers when traveling to Vietnam. However, it’s important to check with your home service provider before your trip to confirm they have roaming agreements with Vietnamese network operators. 
  • Roaming charges: Roaming rates in Vietnam are typically higher than standard call/data rates. Using a local SIM is more affordable. Call charges when roaming range from $0.50-3+ per minute depending on your carrier and plan. Calls back home can be especially expensive. So, consider installing messaging apps that allow free Wifi calling/texts as an alternative to cellular roaming charges.
  • Activation: Roaming should already be enabled on most devices. Contact your carrier to activate it if needed before travel.
  • Data usage: Downloads, streaming etc use significant data. Use hotel/cafe WiFi when possible to save data roaming allowance.
  • Speed: LTE/4G speeds are excellent when roaming with a compatible device

Note: Having confirmation that your carrier supports roaming in Vietnam will help ensure you stay connected during your travels without any network issues.

II. Understand How Roaming in Vietnam Works

Roaming relies on partnerships between cell phone carriers in different countries. When a foreign phone is used in Vietnam, it connects to and uses a local Vietnamese network. The user is essentially borrowing network access from the local carrier. Behind the scenes, the home and Vietnam networks coordinate and pass on the usage charges.

  • Automatic Nature of Roaming

One key thing to understand is that roaming happens automatically by default when traveling internationally. So as soon as a foreign phone enters Vietnam and connects to a local network (the major cell phone networks are Viettel, Vinaphone and Mobifone), roaming charges can start applying. These incremental usage fees get added to the next bill unless data roaming gets disabled manually.

  • Billed Later By Home Carrier

All data, voice calls, SMS used while roaming are paid later to the traveler’s regular cell phone carrier back home. So the roaming charges don’t need to be paid upfront. However, they can rack up quickly at $10 per day or even more. Getting billed an excessive amount after returning from a trip is frustrating, so managing data usage is vital.

Pro Tips: Using a local SIM avoids high roaming fees and allows flexible use of phone services during your whole trip

III. Is the Roaming Rate in Vietnam Expensive?

Is Data Roaming in Vietnam Expensive?
Is Data Roaming in Vietnam Expensive?

Yes. Vietnam phone data roaming rates can be quite expensive compared to options like buying a local Vietnamese SIM card or using an eSIM. While convenient, most travelers find paying $10-$20 daily roaming fee excessive, especially on longer trips. A week in Vietnam could cost over $100 in roaming charges alone.

Some carriers like Mobifone offer hourly or daily roaming packages to reduce bill shock. However, these still average around $10 per day. Frequent travelers end up finding the daily roaming fee unjustifiable. Additionally, remember roaming charges apply 24 hours so buying a daily package at 8 pm ends up being wasted.

Recommendation: Check with your mobile operators right before your trip on their roaming rates and plans. However, the best solution for saving money is getting a Vietnam SIM card or eSIM

IV. How to Activate Roaming Service for Vietnam in Your Cell Phone?

To activate roaming services, you just need to take 4 steps:

Step 1. Choose your service provider

Check with your home carrier if they have international roaming coverage in Vietnam with carriers like Viettel, Vinaphone or Mobifone.

If you choose a local mobile carrier, and activate its roaming service, the recommended local providers for roaming services are these 3 carriers. Check their roaming plans below: 

Vietnam Mobile Network CarrierRoaming Fees
ViettelFrom 200,000VND/3GB data, 10SMS, 30min calls/30 days
VinaphoneFrom 50,000VND/50MB data/30 days
MobifoneFrom 100,000VND/1GB data/30 days

Step 2. Activate the roaming function for your provider

Contact your home carrier before travel and ensure roaming has been activated on your account. You may need to pay activation or daily access fees.

Step 3. Buy a mobile package with roaming

Your provider can offer short term roaming packages for Vietnam that bundle daily data, calls and texts at discounted rates compared to pay-as-you-go charges.

Step 4: Turn on your phone’s roaming

Upon arrival in Vietnam, ensure roaming has been turned on in your phone settings. Your device will automatically connect to local networks where coverage permits. You’re now able to use your regular phone number in Vietnam.

Tips: Remember turning off data roaming and only using WiFi when possible to minimize charges.

V. How to Avoid Roaming Charges When Traveling to Vietnam

To avoid paying exorbitant carrier data roaming rates in Vietnam, here are some tips to help avoid expensive roaming charges when traveling to Vietnam:

  • Turn off cellular data roaming on your phone. Only use WiFi to access the internet to avoid data charges.
  • Use messaging apps like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger over SMS if possible. Texts typically cost less than calls internationally.
  • Consider purchasing an international plan add-on at home that offers flat rates for calls/texts worldwide.
  • Buy a local Vietnam SIM card/ eSIM, it costs $5-10 and includes credit/data that can last your whole trip.
  • Avoid roaming charges by shutting off your device when not in use, such as overnight.

Overall, a much more affordable option is to purchase a local prepaid SIM card or activate an eSIM once arriving in Vietnam. A Vietnam SIM ensures worry-free messaging, navigation, and social media access without unexpected fees. It offers the best solution for budget-conscious tourists who plan to be in Vietnam for more than just a few days at a time.

VI. Vietnam eSIM – Alternative to Data Roaming to Get Internet

Besides physical SIM cards, eSIMs have emerged as an alternative for getting mobile data and affordable rates while visiting Vietnam without paying expensive roaming fees. 

For hassle-free connectivity during your trip, an eSIM from GIGAGO is the ideal solution. Unlike physical SIM cards that require standing in line or waiting for delivery, Vietnam eSIM plans provide instant activation simply by scanning a QR code right to your phone. They offer excellent value with options from 3GB for just $8.90 up to unlimited data plans,

Say goodbye to searching for WiFi and expensive roaming charges – with GIGAGO’s easy eSIM setup, reliable service, and affordable packages tailored for travelers, you can fully focus on exploring Vietnam.

Vietnam eSIM plans
Vietnam eSIM plans

VII. How to Turn Off Data Roaming When Traveling in Vietnam

If wanting to completely prevent any charges from racking up on a trip to Vietnam, disabling international data roaming is key. Both iPhone and Android phones allow toggling roaming off to block background app data/syncing which could trigger expensive usage fees.

Turn off Data Roaming on Iphone: 

  • Go to Settings > Mobile Data > Mobile Data Options
  • Turn off “Data Roaming” by swiping the button to the left
How to Turn off Data Roaming on Iphone
Turn off Data Roaming on Iphone

Turn Off Android Data Roaming

  • Go to Settings > Network & Internet > Mobile network
  • Select the three-dot menu in the top right corner
  • Select “Data roaming“, then toggle the button to turn it off
How to Turn Off Data Roaming on Android
Turn Off Data Roaming on Android

Also consider occasionally enabling Airplane Mode as an extra safeguard against accidental roaming charges if keeping the home SIM active as a backup for calls/texts.


Is it safe for foreigners to buy a local Vietnam SIM card?

Yes, Vietnam SIM cards purchased from legitimate sellers are safe to use. Official SIM card kiosks can be found at Hanoi/Ho Chi Minh City airports. Reliable stores like Viettel sell new SIMs that don’t require registering personal ID details.

How long does an eSIM data pack stay active when visiting Vietnam?

eSIM data allowances like 1 GB for 7 days remain usable during the entire duration and don’t expire early if unused on any given day. This differs from many daily roaming packages that can waste unused data at the end of each 24 hour window.

Do eSIMs work with dual-SIM phones?

Yes, having dual physical SIM slots doesn’t interfere with downloading and using one or multiple eSIMs profiles. Phones essentially have two types of SIM modes – physical and digital eSIM. So there aren’t conflicts having e.g. home SIM card + Vietnam eSIM as data-only line.

IX. Conclusion

In conclusion, it is best to avoid using phone data roaming given the high daily charges when visiting Vietnam. So, getting connected locally is highly recommended – prepaid Vietnam SIM cards offer the best value but require physical access and swapping. Alternatively, switching to an eSIM solution provides a solid middle ground when prioritizing convenience and avoiding roaming fees.