Skyscanner Australia has found that for many mobile users, it’s possible to get a small add-on to their current deal when they travel. However, depending on how long you’re planning to be away, that might not always be the best option.
What is data roaming?
When you sign up for a mobile plan, you’re entitled to use your data and minutes wherever you are in Australia. Once you go overseas you may not be able to use these, instead having to pay extra to make calls or browse the internet. Depending on your provider, these charges can seem excessive, especially if you feel like you’ve already paid for unlimited use.
The big three mobile operators in Australia allow you to sign up for travel deals that give you calls, texts and data overseas at a much lower rate than if you simply travel and hope for the best, but there are also other options available.
Optus users must sign up for a travel pack to use their current number overseas. These Travel Packs cost $10 a day for up to 31 consecutive days. For each day you sign up for, you get unlimited voice calls and text messages, as well as 50MB of data to use, but you can use this how you like. For example, if you sign up for 10 days, you can use all 500mb of data on the first day. Some features (such as picture messaging) are not included in the Optus Travel Packs.
Optus Travel Packs can only be used in what are deemed ‘zone 1 countries’. This covers North America (but not Central or South America), Europe and most of Asia (but not Vietnam or the Middle East).
Telstra customers who have signed up for a plan must purchase a Travel Pass to use their number abroad. This is available for travel in more than 50 countries, from Austria to Vanuatu. Countries across much of Asia, Europe and the South Pacific are covered, as well as some in North and South America.
Packages are available for 3, 7, 14 and 30 days, all with unlimited voice calls and text messages. Data allowances start at 225MB and goes up to 2.2GB. Currently the smallest package costs $30 (so long as you don’t go over your limit) and the 30 day deal costs $300.
The same packages are available for trips to New Zealand at a reduced rate.
Depending on your destination, it may be possible to use your current Vodafone plan while you’re overseas for just $5 extra a day — you’re only charged on the days when you use your phone, so if you have it on aeroplane mode you can limit your bill. This option entitles you to the same minutes, texts and data as you’d normally have while in Australia and is automatically activated for those who have signed up with Vodafone since 23 April 2014.
There are more than 50 countries where this is available, including Canada, Japan and the UK. There is a limit of up to 90 days per calendar year for this service.
Alternatives to data roaming
There are a couple of alternatives to using your current number while you travel, which can be particularly useful for those going for a long time.
The first is to get a local SIM card. By getting something in the country you’re visiting, you can make use of local tariffs and not worry about huge charges. You’ll still be able to text home (depending on the deal you sign up for) and go online for advice, but the biggest problem comes if you plan to travel from country to country as you’ll likely need to sign up for a new SIM in each one.
Zap it for free
The second is to go without traditional modes of communication but instead book accommodation with free WiFi. You’ll be able to connect to a number of different apps that let you message and call for free (including Messenger, Skype, Viber and WhatsApp).
If you want to take it a step further you could purchase a global WiFi pass. This premium global WiFi Access Pass is an app you can download that’ll automatically connect you to WiFi hotspots around the world.
Keep it in your pocket
If you’re travelling to a number of countries, you might want to consider buying a data roaming internet dongle. WorldSIM offer one that works in 188 countries so you can plug it into your laptop and have worldwide internet access.
Depending on where you’re going, how long you’re going to spend there and what your actual phone needs are can go a long way to saving money on your phone bill while you travel.
Skyscanner’s also here to help you save money on travel. We compare all the travel options out there so you can find the best deals on flights, hotels and car hire, meaning you have more of your budget to spend on the things you really want to do.