Vodafone's $5 roaming is the simplest way to enable your phone's data and calling ability while you travel, but how does it work?
We're all much more aware of our smartphones' ability to roam when we travel, and it can be a convenient and fun way to stay in touch with friends and family no matter where we are on the globe. It can also be remarkably expensive, with many plans charging significant amounts for calls, texts and especially data.
Vodafone's $5 roaming deal stands out markedly in this maelstrom of overcharging because its core premise is remarkably simple. If you're on a Vodafone postpaid deal – whether that's a Vodafone contract plan or one of Vodafone's SIM-only plans – it will cost you $5 per day when overseas to access the inclusions already inherent in your plan. That's a flat $5 fee for potentially unlimited standard national calls and texts, as well as however many GB of data your plan has.
For simplicity, that's pretty hard to beat.
How do I use $5 roaming?
By default, any Vodafone postpaid contract SIM provisioned after 23 April 2014 will automatically be enrolled for $5 roaming. If your SIM or phone is older than that date then you'll need to enable it by contacting Vodafone, or switching it on through Vodafone's online portal.
In terms of enabling it once you're overseas, any usage of your phone will automatically incur that $5 charge on the day that you use it. This has some important caveats, because any usage outside of receiving a text will trip that $5 charge. If your social media accounts or email are set to automatically check at regular intervals, you'll hit the charge, as you will if you receive a phone call while travelling, even if that happens while you're asleep. Once paid for, you've got the day to use your normal provisioning before another $5 charge is applied to your account.
Don't want to risk racking up a steep roaming bill? Try these travel SIMs instead:
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Where can I use $5 roaming?
Vodafone supports $5 roaming in more than 80 destinations:
- Czech Republic
- Hong Kong
- Jersey, Guernsey and Isle of Man
- New Zealand
- Northern Ireland
- Papua New Guinea
- Saudi Arabia
- Slovak Republic
- Solomon Islands
- South Africa
- South Korea
- Sri Lanka
What types of usage are supported?
The broad intent of the $5 roaming deal is to provide much the same plan inclusions as you get when using your Vodafone service in Australia, as well as in the country you happen to be in. While on $5 roaming, standard national calls and SMS messages are covered for calls and texts back to Australia, as well as to the country you're in. You also get access to your regular data quota for your billing month. If your plan has 10GB regularly, you'll get to use up to 10GB when travelling. If you exceed your quota, the standard $10/GB excess charge applies
The one catch here is that Vodafone limits the number of $5 roaming days you can incur in a single year to 90. If you roam for more than 90 days, you'll start to be charged Vodafone's standard roaming fees, which currently stand at $1 per minute to make or receive calls, $1/MB for data and 75c per text message.
Can I connect to 4G services?
If Vodafone's roaming arrangement with the country in question supports it, then you'll be able to access 4G networks, but this isn't guaranteed. For planning purposes it's smart to think and plan around what's feasible on 3G networks to be on the safe side.
Can I avoid using $5 roaming?
It's feasible that you could, but you'd need to switch to only using available Wi-Fi sources and apps such as whatsapp to manage your communication needs, while leaving your phone's 3G/4G antenna disabled, most easily by throwing it into airplane mode and then re-enabling just the Wi-Fi portion. That should mean that you never trigger a $5 charge, but also means that anyone calling your phone will always end up being sent to voicemail.
Is Vodafone's $5 roaming good value?
If you're travelling in short bursts, then $5 per day is quite a reasonable sum to pay for access while travelling, but it's a value equation that loses appeal the longer you travel. For a two-week overseas trip, for example, you would pay an additional $70 on top of your monthly access fee, and that kind of money could buy either a dedicated roaming SIM or local SIM in the country you're travelling to.