Why Travel Insiders Are Ditching Wi-Fi Routers for Ahamo Mobile Carriers | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Why Travel Insiders Are Ditching Wi-Fi Routers for Ahamo Mobile Carriers

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The Internet situation for international travel has changed dramatically since the COVID-19 crisis

Using the internet overseas has become almost essential. Similar to the sensation in Japan, it’s no longer uncommon to be connected to the internet anytime, anywhere while abroad.

Foreign tourists visiting Osaka. Smartphones and the Internet have become indispensable for overseas travel (Image: Afro)

Many travel industry insiders who frequently travel abroad choose ahamo as their mobile carrier. Some even say, “If you travel abroad often, ahamo is the only choice.”

In fact, the author is one of them. Having used ahamo multiple times overseas, the author has consistently experienced its user-friendliness. Although some minor drawbacks have been found during the past two years of continuous use, there are currently no plans to switch from ahamo.

Other companies are following suit in overseas roaming, but ahamo is still ahead of the pack

Trouble with overseas roaming has been a hot topic of conversation for many years, such as “I received a hefty bill after returning home from an overseas trip. Other companies besides ahamo are now offering their own services.

Major overseas roaming services by cell phone company

Perhaps due to the influence of ahamo, other companies also seem to have lowered the cost of overseas roaming considerably compared to the past. The number of plans that do not require advance application has increased.

However, inexpensive plans still require advance application. Moreover, the cost is added to your regular cell phone bill. The more days you stay, the more you have to pay. On the other hand, with ahamo, there is no need to apply in advance, you can make do within the 20GB domestic allowance, and no additional charges.


Why ahamo is so convenient overseas, and why it is so easy to use

ahamo is a budget version pricing plan for mobile phones introduced by NTT Docomo in March 2021. It costs 2,970 yen per month (tax included) and includes up to 20GB of data usage.

On December 3, 2020, NTT Docomo announced its new pricing plan “ahamo.” The monthly fee was 2,980 yen at the time, and the inclusion of up to 20GB of data usage created quite a stir. (Image: Aflo)

As a matter of fact, if it were only a low-cost rate plan, it would compete with other companies. However, in terms of overseas roaming, AHAMO is just as convenient. It is easy to use. Simply switch your smartphone to “Airplane Mode” when flying from Japan, deactivate Airplane Mode when arriving at your destination, set your smartphone’s data roaming to On, and your phone will automatically connect to the local telecommunications carrier’s Internet connection.

According to the official ahamo website, it covers approximately 98% of the areas where Japanese people travel. Since the service began in 2021, the author has traveled to destinations such as the United States, Hawaii, Europe, and Asia, consistently using ahamo. Every time they connect locally, they receive guidance via SMS, including warnings, but so far, there have been no major issues.

In fact, there are zero drawbacks to “ahamo,” such as…

When it comes to overseas travel or short-term business trips, ahamo is certainly sufficient. However, it’s important to note that it’s not without its drawbacks.

For instance, ahamo covers slightly fewer countries/regions compared to other mobile carriers for international roaming. As of March 2024, while NTT Docomo covers over 200 countries/regions and au/UQ Mobile covers over 160 countries/regions, ahamo covers only 91 countries/regions. Even though it covers 98% of the countries/regions where Japanese people travel, caution should be exercised when traveling to the remaining 2% of countries/regions.

A back alley in Agra, India. Stray cows were walking around. I got a glimpse of the reality that most parts of India are still poor.

Even if ahamo is available in a particular country, it doesn’t guarantee coverage in every corner of that country. When the author visited India in the fall of 2023, they found that while it worked in urban areas like Delhi, it became unusable as soon as they ventured slightly into the outskirts. Places like Agra, where the famous Taj Mahal is located, had virtually no coverage. Despite being considered an IT powerhouse, India’s infrastructure outside urban areas is still lacking, which might explain the issue. On the other hand, countries like South Korea, Taiwan, the United States (including Hawaii), and Western Europe had no issues, indicating a discrepancy in usability.


The local communication speed was generally satisfactory. However, in countries or regions where ahamo offers 5G support, such as South Korea, Thailand, and the United States, are limited. If you prioritize 5G, purchasing a local SIM card might be necessary.

Furthermore, speed restrictions apply after 15 days of overseas stay, even if you haven’t exceeded the monthly 20GB limit. These restrictions cannot be lifted until after returning to Japan.

In contrast, SoftBank’s “America Hodai” plan is preferred over ahamo in the United States. It not only offers free data communication but also includes free voice calls and SMS. While Hawaii, a popular destination for Japanese travelers, is covered, it’s worth noting that Guam and Saipan are not included.



Convenient to use immediately upon arrival at the destination, and no more problems that are a staple of overseas travel.

Opportunities to use the Internet when traveling overseas are steadily increasing. In particular, it is very useful to be able to use the Internet as soon as you arrive at the destination, for example, when you want to take a cab from the airport.

Uber” terminal at Bengaluru Airport in India. It is a little farther away from the cab stand, but there were more users than cabs.

Using an app, you can call a ride-sharing service such as “Uber” or “Grab,” pick up a car, and go to a hotel or other location with a pinpoint accuracy. At cab stands at airports, it is necessary to talk with the driver, and there can be problems with fares being ripped off. Ridesharing, on the other hand, is virtually free of such problems. The fare is known before the ride, and payment is made with a credit card registered on the app, so there is no exchange of cash. In countries and regions where it is difficult to walk around town, the range of activities has expanded.

Of course, it is also useful in the city. Even if there is Wi-Fi in cafes and other places, in some countries, such as India, you need a local cell phone number and cannot use Wi-Fi unless you can receive SMS. In China, “LINE” and “X” cannot be used with local lines or locally purchased SIMs due to the Great Firewall, but they can be used with ahamo and other Japanese overseas roaming services.

Overseas Roaming = Expensive – Wi-Fi routers and local SIMs are becoming a thing of the past.

Before introducing ahamo, the author used to buy SIMs at local airports. However, it often took a long time to get online, and it took more than an hour at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, France, and Vodafone in Egypt. When we rented a Wi-Fi router in Korea, the router was still large and heavy at the time, and charging the battery at night at the hotel each day was also a hassle. While renting, you also have to watch out for theft and loss.

Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok, Thailand. SIM shops are lined up just beyond the arrival gate (left rear), but there seems to be a decrease in the number of customers compared to before. January 2023.

Upon arriving at overseas airports, there used to be numerous shops selling SIM cards, especially in Asia. However, this has recently decreased, and even if they exist, there are fewer customers compared to before.

The overseas roaming offered by major mobile carriers costs around 980 yen per day, and it adds up for the duration of your stay, making it still quite expensive. However, with the emergence of cost-effective services like ahamo, the notion that overseas roaming equals expensive is becoming a thing of the past. Since ahamo, even the style of overseas travel has changed.

Having an internet connection while traveling abroad has become indispensable. To save on travel expenses, it’s wise to choose a mobile carrier carefully.

  • Interview, text, and photos Aki Shikama / Aki Shikama

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