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Reviewing the KnowRoaming SIM Sticker for International Travelers

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Update, February 2018: KnowRoaming now offers hotspots and normal SIM cards, as well as the sticker I tested. Whichever you use, the company also gives you 30 days free use of WhatsApp for texts and calls around the world whenever you top up your credit. That’s a useful bonus.

Less useful, however, is a new expiry policy for unused credit — you’ll lose it after nine months, unless you top up again. That’s something to bear in mind if you only travel infrequently.

If you’ve read a few articles here in the past, you’ll likely know we’re not always keen on international SIM cards. They tend to have overpriced calling plans and expensive data, and give you a phone number that’s a pricey call for those at home and in your destination.

If you’re going to mess around swapping SIM cards anyway, we’ve long recommended just buying a local SIM card and saving a bunch of money.

Canadian company KnowRoaming has an interesting approach, though, offering a sticker that attaches to your existing SIM card to provide international roaming services. As long as you have an unlocked phone, the service automatically switches on when you’re overseas, and off again when you return home, without you needing to do anything.

I’d never heard of the concept, so when the company offered to send me a sticker for an upcoming trip to Spain, I had to take a look.

Setting It Up

My “SIM sticker” arrived inside an applicator mechanism, along with a set of instructions. I expected the process to be messy and difficult, but it turned out to be neither. The company has invested some time in ensuring this, the most difficult part of the process, works as flawlessly as possible.

I simply removed a plastic adapter from the applicator, put my existing microSIM inside and replaced the adapter, before pushing down with the supplied ‘plug’ for about thirty seconds. After peeling off the plastic strip on the other side, a sticker was attached firmly to the metal tracks on my SIM card.

There are videos on the company’s site that take you through the process in detail, but it really wasn’t too complicated. I put the card back in my phone, turned it on and … nothing had changed. Given I was still in my ‘home’ country of the UK, that was a good thing – I just continued to use my existing service for the rest of my time there.

I downloaded the KnowRoaming app, registered an account with my details, then forgot all about it for the next few weeks.

Services and Costs

KnowRoaming package
KnowRoaming offers more roaming services than I’d expected. You get a US number for free with the service, so local callers don’t need to pay international rates to reach you there. You can buy numbers in several other countries, too, for around $3-$6/month, and receive calls on them whether you’re at home or abroad.

There’s a “ReachMe” service, that forwards on calls (but not texts) made to your usual number. The cost varies quite a bit depending on your home country – the company says between $3 and $14/month.

If you’re from the US, though, it’s free. If you want to send and receive SMS, the company advises giving out your free US number. Text messages sent to those are forwarded on.

If you live in the USA, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia or South Africa, you can also use the service at home for cheaper international calling rates than what your usual carrier offers.

Unlike some of its competition, KnowRoaming is upfront about its costs. In Spain, for instance, it costs me 14c to send an SMS to anywhere, and it’s free to receive the reply. Making and receiving local calls costs between 7c and 13c per minute, and calling the US is about the same.

Those prices aren’t unreasonable, although it’s worth noting that some destinations do cost a lot more. It’s always worth checking the rates beforehand – thankfully you can do that from within the app as well as on the site.

Data is usually the weak point of any roaming solution like this, and to some extent it’s the Achilles heel here as well. Casual rates here in Spain are 15c/MB, or you can pay $7.99 per day for unlimited use in around fifty countries.

The all-you-can-eat rate might be justifiable for short trips, or if you’re sharing the cost and connection with other people. It’s nice to see at least an attempt to let customers cap their costs.

For longer stints, though, you’re still looking at either paying nearly $60/week or carefully managing your data usage if you want to stay connected.

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Real World Testing


I landed at Malaga airport and switched on my phone just before customs. By the time I’d collected my bag, I had service on the Vodafone network, but no Internet connection. Tapping the ‘Tap if No Data’ icon in the app gave instructions for entering the right APN settings, and a minute later my phone was busy popping up notifications.

As I wasn’t planning on using much data that day, I decided just to switch it on and off as needed. That approach worked fine, letting me navigate my way onto and off a bus into downtown, and check email occasionally on the trip to Granada.

When the code to my Airbnb apartment didn’t work, I first tried sending a text, and then calling, the landlord to come and let me in from the cold. He didn’t receive the text, but the call went through fine.

KnowRoaming uses a callback system in some countries, including Spain. You dial the number and the system hangs up, then calls you back to make things cheaper. It only added a few seconds, and call quality was perfectly acceptable.

Over the next few days I did much the same thing when leaving the house. I’d switch data on for a few minutes every hour or two to check emails or navigation. Between that and making a couple of phone calls, I used five dollars of credit in the three days before I got around to picking up a local SIM.

I also asked a friend to call me on the free number I’d been given, and call quality was very good. It was certainly no worse than any other international landline to mobile call, and better than VoIP systems like Skype.

Service was always reliable. Other than the little icon in the corner of my phone screen, I wouldn’t have known I was using anything other than a normal connection.


So, the verdict. Overall, setup was simpler than expected, and having a working phone when I arrived in Spain saved me a lot of standing around in the cold.

Free extras like WhatsApp usage and a local US number are a bonus, and being able to receive calls made to any of your KnowRoaming numbers, no matter where you are, is useful for business travellers.

Having clear, accessible pricing is a nice change. If you’re not planning on making many calls or using data all the time, the service costs aren’t too bad. The SIM sticker itself runs a little under $30, with $10 worth of credit.

It’s a shame the service still needs an unlocked phone to work, although hardly the fault of the company. It’d be a complete game-changer if you could slap a sticker onto the SIM of a locked phone and use it overseas to avoid being gouged by your usual carrier, but for now, you’ll need to use a mobile hotspot instead.

As it is, I see this service being most useful for those who travel regularly, with limited data needs or who spend less than a week at a time in a country.

For longer stays, picking up a local SIM is still a more cost-effective option. Even then, though, if you can’t buy one at the airport, it’s still nice to know you can use the KnowRoaming option for as long as you need it.

I’m more impressed by the KnowRoaming solution than I expected to be. If you have an unlocked phone, or can convince your carrier to unlock it for you, it’s actually worth considering. Given how jaded I am by international SIM cards in general, I don’t say that lightly.

The relatively-high data costs mean it’s not perfect for everyone, especially those on lengthy trips, but it’s surprisingly useful for many.

Main image via Kim-Leng, others via KnowRoaming

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  1. I read the main review before I read this and in the meantime I had emailed knowroaming support about 10 times with various questions AND I was so impressed with the speed of response and detail of the replies.

    I feel I had just the opposite response from ONESIM – they couldn’t be bothered and kept pointing me to links which I had read before and couldn’t understand. When I asked how much for something the answer was “place an order”
    and you will see!

    I am certainly going to buy a KNOWROAMING sticker purely based on the quality of their support. Thanks for pointing me in this direction.

  2. I bought the sim card and then was told that it can’t support tethering to Apple products. How can this be possible?

    1. Dave Dean Dave Dean says:

      It’s much easier for cell companies to prevent tethering with Apple products than other devices, because Apple specifically included that ability in iOS. As for why KnowRoaming does this, I don’t know for sure, but I’d imagine it’s to stop the company from losing large amounts of money by people using gigabytes of roaming data when tethering their laptops on the $8/day unlimited plans. You’d want to check with them for confirmation of that, though.

  3. Hi Dave,

    Your review kind of skipped over the text message not being received by the Airbnb owner. Was this a one off that then got sorted, or just a facility that you didn’t really use?

    As I am needing a sim for pretty much text only (using free accomodation wifi for everything else) like you, to help fine tune Airbnb access times etc, I am interested in that aspect. Have you kept the sticker? Any subsequent update info to report?


    1. Hi Ann,

      I’ve kept the sticker, but typically only use it for the initial few hours until I’ve picked up a local SIM. I use WhatsApp for text messaging, or make a phone call if the Airbnb host etc doesn’t use WhatsApp, so I can’t really comment on the reliability of SMS I’m afraid. Sorry!

  4. To sum up my experience with KnowRoaming-be sure to add a package beforehand or you will get robbed by data charges. Also be aware “unlimited” isn’t really unlimited, you get throttled to 3rd world speeds after 250mb. $8 USD a day for 250mb of 3G is a complete joke. I use 250mb in the first half of the day just browsing! How is this considered abuse? Won’t be using the service any more, waste of time and money! Such a shame I had high hopes for this service. Get a local SIM or find another roaming provider that provides REAL unlimited data.

    1. Well, I guess the company sells it as ‘unlimited data’, not ‘unlimited data at maximum speed’, but it comes down to how any throttling is advertised ahead of time. The fair use policy does spell out the 250MB threshold quite clearly, but I did need to dig through the site to find it — it’s not stated clearly up front prior to purchase, at least not as far as I could see. I’ve passed your comment on to KnowRoaming to see if they have anything to add.

      PS: I’ve had better cell data speeds in many so-called ‘third world countries’ than I have in the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand etc. 🙂

  5. Avatar KnowRoaming Team says:

    Hi Andrew,

    We’re sorry to hear you did not have a pleasant experience. We appreciate your feedback and are taking steps to make our fair usage policy more visible. We hope you’ll consider trying us again in the future.

    The KnowRoaming Team

  6. Tagging onto the iPhone issue. What exactly is the problem? I use iPhones (unlocked) with onesimcard sims whenever I travel outside the US. I have no problems and getting cost I for is easy. I like the idea of the sticker but would not be happy if my iPhone has issues using the sticker.

    1. I think what you’re asking about is tethering restrictions with iOS? If so, then the issue is that you can’t tether your other devices to your iPhone when using the KnowRoaming SIM, so you can’t (eg) use your KnowRoaming data via your laptop.

  7. A good idea in theory, but startup is still in early mode. There are still plenty of kinks to be worked out. I have used the product over 5 months, travelling to 20 places, and it is flimsy at best. Kudos to them for have a responsive, friendly support team, however, Callback service does not work over 75% of the time; regular troubleshooting needed with their team to manually adjust phone settings to ‘correct’ for a couple days at a time. Got stuck in an emergency more than a couple times and KnowRoaming was unable to deliver on its services. Cheap product to have, but would not use again and definitely cannot recommend, at least for the next 5 years.

    1. Interesting to hear your experiences. I’ve been using the KnowRoaming on and off for a couple of years now, but almost always for data when I first arrive in a city — that’s been very reliable, but it’s been very rare for me to need to make a voice call, so I haven’t really tested that aspect much since my original review.

  8. Hi Dave,

    I’m from Canada and will be travelling around the world for the next year. According to the KnowRoaming website, all the countries I’m planning on visiting are covered until I arrive in South East Asia in Feb 2018 (I’ll cross that bridge when it comes). I have an unlocked Nexus 5X, and I’m trying to decide whether this product would be right for me. I know you said it isn’t the best option for long-term travellers, but would it be beneficial for me to use KR whenever I arrive in a new place before I can get a local SIM card – which would be cheaper than using KR all the time right? I would need data right away for maps to navigate to my destination, Google stuff, Uber rides, etc., and I’d also need local calling (but I could use the free WhatsApp for that right?). I’m very confused about all this international SIM stuff, so any advice would be much appreciated! $7.99 per day for data seems quite expensive, but maybe it’s worth the peace of mind when landing in a foreign place? Would I have to pre-load my account or just pay for what I use? And I’m not sure if I should get the SIM card or SIM sticker…

    Help 🙂


    1. Hi Cara,

      That’s exactly how I use my KnowRoaming sticker — for a few hours, or a day or two, when first arriving in a new country, until I get a local SIM card sorted. Bear in mind you don’t have to use the $7.99/day ‘unlimited’ data package. You can just turn your data on briefly to (eg) check emails or put a location into Google Maps, and then turn it back off again. I usually only spend a couple of bucks a day that way. Always check the casual rates in the app or on the site beforehand, though — while most countries aren’t too bad for very light use like that, some are remarkably high.

      You’d just load some money onto your account, and slowly use it up as you go. As far as SIM or sticker goes, it’s up to you. The sticker is best for people who are traveling for shorter periods between their home country and elsewhere, and don’t want to swap SIMs all the time. If you’re travelling long term, you’ll be equally fine with a physical SIM, and it’s a bit less effort at the beginning (ie, not having to apply the sticker). The only other thing to mention — it’s worth caching your Google Maps beforehand, so you’re not downloading map data over that expensive connection.

      Hope that helps!

      1. Thanks so much for the help Dave!

  9. Just a heads up, your referral link now goes to some dodgy “competition” webpage.

    1. Looking into it — thanks! I haven’t been able to recreate this myself yet, so if anyone else sees it, feel free to let me know. 🙂

  10. Avatar Nathalie P. says:

    Dear Dave

    Thank you so much for this really useful article.

    I am going to go travelling in South America (Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina) for two months and I am considering buying the KR SIM sticker. However, I have a few questions and was wondering if you’d mind answering them :
    – I’m from Switzerland. What will happen when people try calling me on my normal Swiss number ? And texting ? Will I still get those ?
    – About Whatsapp – that’s the main reason I’m interested in buying the sticker, as most of my communications both at home and while travelling are made through that app. If my intention was to just use KR to benefit from free Whatsapp, would that be possible ? I would basically just need to use up the original data on the sticker and then never top it up again and I would still be able to use Whatsapp, right ?
    – Also about Whatsapp : what will happen to my original Whatsapp account ? Will I get a new one connected to a new phone number ? If people text me on my original account,will I get those messages ?

    Thanks again,

    1. Hi Nathalie,

      To answer your questions:
      – the sticker has a ‘home SIM’ mode and a ‘Roaming’ mode, and you can manually switch between them. Usually while travelling, you’ll be in Roaming mode. To get calls and texts to your Swiss number, you’ll need to switch back to the home SIM mode. Since you’re then paying whatever your Swiss provider charges for international roaming, I’d recommend turning data off before switching back, and then turning it back on once you’ve gone back to ‘Roaming’ mode.
      – WhatsApp use doesn’t count towards your data usage with KnowRoaming, but I don’t know for sure whether you can continue to use it if you have no data/credit on your account. You’ll need to check with KnowRoaming about that.
      – You’ll continue to use your existing WhatsApp account. You don’t need to create a new one if you don’t want to. The only thing I would say is that if you had to reinstall Whatsapp for any reason, you’d need to briefly switch back to your home SIM to get the confirmation text.

  11. I wish I’d had such a good experience …

    Based on good reviews I bought KR Global SIMs for myself and my wife for a recent trip to Norway. Our daughter and son-in law, who accompanied us on the trip, also got KR global SIMs on my recommendation. My sister in-law did the same for her own separate trip to Norway. The executive summary is that while data and SMS worked for everyone, voice calling didn’t work for anyone, despite continuous efforts from tech support.

    When I first got the SIMs I installed them in both my phone and my wife’s to try them out while still in the U.S. Everything functioned seamlessly, exactly as expected. Text, data, and voice in and out worked exactly as advertised. I put our regular SIMs back in, confident that our phones would work fine in Norway.

    My sister-in-law took her trip to Norway first. She could not make voice calls, despite repeated exchanges with tech support by e-mail. Finally in desperation after 10 days of frustration, she put her ATT SIM back in, and and signed up for their $10/day deal to get her entire ATT voice/data package while traveling. It worked flawlessly. Her report was discouraging, but I hoped it was due to some kind of pilot error on her part (she is admittedly not very tech savvy), or the fact that she was using an iPhone (our phones are four different Android models).

    When our party got to Norway voice calling didn’t work on any of our phones. My son in-law didn’t really care because he has Google Voice service, so all of his calls go through the internet. But the rest of us were stuck. Calls out all failed, with a message saying the number was not in service (sometimes in Norwegian, sometimes in English). Most importantly we couldn’t call each other using our KR US numbers. We limped by with texts. I exchanged 17-mails with tech support (which was very responsive) trying to make voice work. We changed every conceivable setting numerous times: Callback on or off, 3G instead of LTE, different networks, different profiles, etc. Occasionally we could call a recorded weather number in the US, but ironically never our own KR US numbers, so we couldn’t call each other. We finally got voice working on my and my wife’s phones after 3 days, and I heaved a sigh of relief. We were in Flam at the time. The next day we went on to Bergen, and everything went in the dumper again. Throughout the remaining 11 days of the trip, voice calling never worked.

    I lost count of the emails I exchanged with tech support. Three days before our flight home, tech support gave up and “escalated” our problem to the network people at KR. I thought “better late than never!” They said they would send me an e-mail when the problem was sorted out. I never heard from them again. That was 26 days ago. I’m sure they’re still working diligently on the problem …

  12. Avatar Rocket Set says:

    Very poor customer service! I have not received any roaming data service since I ordered their eSIM. And they always do not solve my problems, and then they actually asked me to buy a new eSIM again for solve roaming data failure!

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