Don’t want to switch SIMs or numbers when you travel? Here are your carrier options for roaming to minimise bill shock when you return.
If you’re a contract mobile phone user with one of the big three network carriers in Australia, you have two basic options when it comes to international roaming.
You can either enable roaming on your phone and suffer the potentially steep bill when you return, or purchase a specific roaming package to minimise your overall spend while you’re travelling.
It's always wise if you know you're going to travel to purchase a roaming allowance from your contract provider rather than simply enabling roaming, because the associated costs can be quite high. The following map shows the roaming rates across the globe for Telstra, Optus and Vodafone customers:
Roaming with a Telstra contract
If you go travelling without setting up any kind of roaming solution in advance, Telstra’s contract phones will generally work in most countries, albeit at a stiff pricing premium as you can see on the map above.
Telstra’s more budget-minded option is to purchase an International Day Pass before you fly. For $10 a day, this pass gets you unlimited standard international talk and text plus 200MB of mobile data to use when travelling to over 70 select countries. Just bear in mind that Telstra tracks daily usage in Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST), so each "day" of an International Day Pass begins at 12:01AM AEST and ends at midnight AEST that same day.
You'll also want to be careful with data usage when travelling with an International Day Pass. If you use up the included 200MB, Telstra charges at a rate of $10 per 500MB, though each 500MB chunk is valid for 31 days as opposed to the single day the 200MB is valid for.
While most Telstra customers can purchase an International Day Pass, customers on Go Mobile Plus/Swap plans of $129 or more, My Business Mobile/Lease plans of $129 or more, or any Premium, Corporate or Enterprise mobile plan cannot add the pass to their plans.
The countries included in Telstra's $10 International Day Pass are:
Telstra also offers an International Day Pass specifically for travellers to New Zealand. This pass offers the same inclusions as the standard International Day Pass but only costs $5 a day. Its inclusions are only valid when travelling to New Zealand, however.
If you’re travelling to a country not covered in the list above and want to use your Telstra phone and number, you’ll have to pay Telstra's standard international roaming rates for that country.
Roaming with an Optus contract
By default, Optus enables global roaming on all prepaid and postpaid phones and has done since September 2013, so if your phone is at least that new you should be automatically enabled for roaming. If not, you can enable roaming via the Optus App, or by texting the number 7 to 9999 from your Optus mobile, or online from the My Account portal.
Optus divides the world into two zones for international roaming. For countries in Zone 1, postpaid Optus mobile customers can purchase a $10-a-day Travel Pack that includes unlimited standard international talk and text plus 100MB of mobile data. If you purchase Travel Packs for multiple consecutive days, that 100MB of data will accumulate, allowing you to use multiple days' worth of data all in one go or spread out however you like. For example, if you purchase a week of consecutive Travel Packs, you can spend the 700MB of included data at any time over the course of those seven days. Data does not accumulate if you purchase Travel Packs separately, however.
It’s worth bearing in mind that the Optus roaming service charges for data in 10KB blocks. For more information on why larger data blocks are poor value, read our guide on how mobile data is counted.
If you want to roam with an Optus prepaid phone plan, you have two options available to you. On a My Prepaid Daily or Daily Plus plan, roaming charges are applied directly to your MyCredit balance. On all other Optus prepaid plans, you'll need to purchase a separate Extras Credit pack to take advantage of international roaming. Available in either $10 or $20 increments with a 14-day or 28-day expiry respectively, these credit packs are charged at the Optus standard international roaming rates.
Roaming with a Vodafone contract
Vodafone has global roaming pre-activated on any contract mobile purchased after 23 April 2014. If your phone and contract are older than that you can activate roaming via the My Vodafone portal.
Vodafone’s global roaming charges are split between the countries covered and excluded by its $5 Roaming offer, which charges a flat $5 per day for access to whatever provisions your existing Vodafone contract offers. You’re only charged for the days you actually use your phone, rather than an upfront fee for days you might use.
The full list of $5 Roaming countries at the time of writing is:
Vodafone’s deal for any country not covered by $5 Roaming is very simple, with a flat $1/minute call cost, 75c text cost and $1/MB data cost on a pay-as-you-go basis.