What You Need to Know About International Roaming Before Heading Overseas

What You Need to Know About International Roaming Before Heading Overseas

When you head overseas, you might be thinking about how you can access phone calls and the internet abroad — queue international roaming.

While there are often Wi-Fi options available where you might be going, in particular at airports and in cafes, your phone is still capable of accessing the internet through 3G, 4G and 5G connectivity.

But be wary, friends. As we’ve recalled at length in the past, a blindspot in your international roaming plan could set you back hundreds of dollars.

Here are the ins and outs of international roaming, including what your options are from the major Australian telcos at the moment.

What is international roaming?

International roaming is the ability for your phone plan to connect to networks in countries outside of Australia. This functionality is controlled by your phone plan provider (for example, Telstra, Optus or Vodafone) and is provided through your SIM card.

International roaming is typically handled as an add-on to a phone plan, however, it could also be offered as an included extra. There are terms outlined by the provider dictating how you might be able to use it, including available countries and data packages.

While most international roaming plans include unlimited calls and texts, make sure you’re aware of which countries your phone plan provider allows you to call without extra costs, or you could rack up a sizeable bill. Additionally, be aware of how limited your data may be when you go overseas, as only having access to a couple of gigabytes per day could cost a fortune if you stream a Netflix series from beginning to end.

What is data roaming?

For the most part, data roaming is the same thing as international roaming, but many may use it as a capture-all term to discuss the more data-involved applications of international roaming (for example, streaming Netflix via your phone data in another country).

Given how reliant we’ve become on the internet through social media, web searches and online messaging services, you’ll often find data roaming plans inseparable from international roaming plans. But, just check what you’re paying for first and make sure it works in the country you’re going to.

International roaming from Telstra

Telstra’s international roaming plans are offered in the form of day passes. These include unlimited talk and text, along with 1GB of data in Zone One and Zone Two countries (Zone Three countries do not get data inclusions).

A Zone 1 pass costs $5 per day and Zone Two/Three passes cost $10 per day. You can activate a pass in the MyTelstra app.

Telstra does not currently offer international roaming on prepaid plans. You’ll be charged pay-as-you-go rates through Telstra if you’re not on an upfront plan.

International roaming from Optus

Optus has three international roaming options.

Option one

Optus offers international roaming on Optus Choice Plus, Optus Plus Family or Optus Plus Kids through a plan inclusion, activated automatically when customers land in an eligible country. Travellers to  Zone One destinations get a 5GB data pack (for use within 24 hours) for $5 per day. You’ll also get unlimited talk and text.

Option two

Available to select customers (check your availability through the My Optus app), Optus offers the Roaming Pass for $10, giving you 1GB to use within 24 hours in Zone One destinations (paired with unlimited talk and text).

Option three

If you’d like to roam with a pay-as-you-go approach, this is option three. Pay-as-you-go rates begin if you don’t activate one of the earlier-mentioned options. You can read more information about this here.

International roaming from Vodafone

From Vodafone, you can spend $5 per day and get access to all of your plan inclusions (unlimited calls and texts, plus whatever data allowance you have allocated). If you run out of data, you’ll need to spend $5 per 1GB (this will automatically be added). This is available on mobile plans and tablet plans and will be activated from the moment you use your plan overseas. You’ll find a map here indicating which countries allow for Vodafone $5 roaming and which countries you’ll need to pay as you go.

What about other providers?

Other phone plan providers offer international roaming, including Boost Mobile and Felix Mobile, but these may come at additional costs with additional conditions on the plan. If using your phone plan overseas is important to you, make sure you go through the terms and conditions and find the right plan for your holiday.

Happy roaming to those headed overseas.

This article has been updated since it was originally published.