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 roaming.
You can either enable roaming on your phone and wear the potentially large 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 opt to roam without any kind of pre-roaming solution in mind, Telstra’s contract phones will generally work in most countries, but at a stiff pricing premium as you can see on the map above.
Telstra’s more budget minded option is to purchase an International Travel Pass before you fly. Telstra divides each country covered by an International Travel pass by Zones. International Travel Passes give you unlimited calls and texts for a fixed number of days, along with a fixed data provision.
Zone 1 is the easiest to understand, as it covers New Zealand only.
Zone 2 covers Brunei, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Macau, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand.
Zone 3 covers Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Mexico, Nauru, Netherlands, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Slovak Rep., Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, UAE, UK, USA and Vanuatu.
|Telstra International Travel Passes|
|Zone 1 Cost||$15||$35||$70||$150|
|Zone 2 Cost||$30||$70||$140||$300|
|Zone 3 Cost||$45||$105||$210||$450|
If you’re travelling to a country not covered by an International Travel Pass and want to use your Telstra phone and number, you’ll have to wear the PAYG costs for that usage.
Roaming with an Optus contract
Optus by default enables global roaming on all 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 by default splits the world into two zones, with the vast majority of popular tourist destinations sitting in the cheaper zone designation. You can check the precise costs for your destination on the map above.
It’s worth bearing in mind that Optus’ roaming service charges for data in 10KB blocks. For more on why larger data blocks are poor value, read our guide on how mobile data is counted.
Optus offers what it calls Travel Packs for prepaid global roaming purposes. Available for Zone 1 countries only, they cost $10 per day for unlimited calls and texts along with 50MB of data usage. 50MB isn’t a lot of data to speak of, but Optus does allow you to stack the data usage if you purchase multiple days in advance.
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 is older than that you can activate roaming via the My Vodafone portal.
Vodafone’s global roaming charges are split between the countries covered by its $5 Roaming offer, which charges a flat $5 per day of actual usage 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. As of February 2016, there are no charges for roaming to New Zealand on Vodafone contract or month-to-month plans.
The full list of $5 Roaming countries at the time of writing is
Albania, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, England, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Scotland, Serbia, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, USA, Wales.
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 PAYG basis.
Need a new mobile plan to go roaming with? Here are a selection of plans from the major carriers with decent data provisions. You can adjust any figure you like by clicking on "Modify Results" and selecting your desired usage parameters: