The cost of international roaming


WhistleOut
24 January 2017

Planning an overseas trip can be rather complex. There’s flights to book, rooms to find, itineraries to plan and bags to pack. That you’re reading this page suggests you’ve already thought about another really important element — how to use your phone or tablet when in another country. This should be easy, but unfortunately it often isn’t.

There’s a couple of different considerations with international roaming. We’re digging deep into the costs of using your phone overseas, but there are other things to check as well:

What to consider before taking your phone overseas:

  • Is your phone compatible with local networks?
  • Is your phone network locked?
  • Does your local carrier support global roaming?
  • What is the cost of using your phone overseas? 

Australian phone networks work on what is known as GSM technology. This is pretty standard around the world, so your phone should work in most parts of Europe and Asia, in the US, UK and New Zealand. Other countries may have a mix of technologies, so you might have to do a bit of research to make sure there is a network operator that supports your phone.

All phones sold on contracts in Australia, like new Samsungs and iPhones, are sold with no network lock. If you’ve bought a cheaper handset sold with a prepaid SIM card then there is a good chance that your phone is locked and you’ll need to contact your provider to have it unlocked before you use it overseas.

Read more about phone compatibility here.

Pro Tip: it is generally cheaper and better value to buy a local SIM card after you land at your destination. Like, much cheaper. The downside to using a local SIM card is that you’ll have a different phone number during your trip.

Pack before you leave

Below we list all of the pay-as-you-go rates charged by the carriers when you’re overseas. Optus and Telstra also offer prepay travel packs, which are much better value, especially if you’d like to use your phone everyday that you’re away. The packs all work a bit different depending on which provider you’re with, but generally the prices only apply to certain countries, so you need to check with countries are eligible and make sure your destination is listed.

Optus travel packs:

  • $10 per day. Includes unlimited calls and SMS in country and to Australia, plus 50MB of data per day
  • $120 My Plan Plus includes 10 days worth of travel packs each month. You need to activate this with Optus before you leave.

Telstra Travel Packs

All Travel Packs include unlimited calls and SMS

  • Zone 1 (New Zealand only) - $15 for 225MB data for 3 days, $35 for 525MB data for 7 days, $70 for 1.03GB data for 14 days, $150 for 2.20GB data for 30 days
  • Zone 2 (more than 40 eligible countries including Indonesia, USA, UK, Thailand, China, Singapore, Fiji, Japan, India) - $30 for 225MB data for 3 days, $70 for 525MB data for 7 days, $140 for 1.03GB data for 14 days, $300 for 2.20GB data for 30 days

Best for international roaming: Vodafone

Vodafone leverages it relationships across the globe and provides the best value roaming in Australia. Best of all, it is the easiest option to understand as well. You pay $5 for each day that you use your phone overseas, and you use your standard Australian plan inclusions. So you get unlimited calls and SMS (included in all Vodafone Red plans) and the data you normally get each month — regardless of how much this is.

Called Red Roaming, this is only available on Vodafone postpaid Red plans. This applies to no contract plans too, so even if you’re not a Vodafone customer, you can switch over before you trip.

You can read more about Vodafone's Red Roaming here.

How much goes international roaming cost?

OK, time to get into the nitty gritty. Below is the cost of roaming for a number of the Australian mobile providers, breaking down the cost to make a call, send an SMS and use data.

It is important to remember that the cost changes from country to country, so to keep things simple we’ve listed the prices for the top 10 travel destination for Australians based on data from the Australia Bureau of Statistics. If you’re travelling elsewhere, you will need to visit your provider’s website and navigate to the international roaming rates page.

Optus pay as you go roaming rates

Destination

Make/Receive Calls
(per minute)

Send SMS

Data (per MB)

New Zealand

$1.00

$0.50

$0.50/MB

Indonesia

$1.00

$0.50

$0.50/MB

USA

$1.00

$0.50

$0.50/MB

UK

$1.00

$0.50

$0.50/MB

Thailand

$1.00

$0.50

$0.50/MB

Hong Kong

$1.00

$0.50

$0.50/MB

Singapore

$1.00

$0.50

$0.50/MB

Fiji

$1.00

$0.50

$0.50/MB

Japan

$1.00

$0.50

$0.50/MB

India

$1.00

$0.50

$0.50/MB

MVNOs operating on the Optus network and offering the same international roaming rates:


Telstra pay as you go roaming rates

Destination

Make/Receive Calls
(per minute)

Send SMS

Data (per MB)

New Zealand

$1.50

$0.75

$3.00/MB

Indonesia

$4.00

$0.75

$3.00/MB

USA

$3.00

$0.75

$3.00/MB

UK

$2.00

$0.75

$3.00/MB

Thailand

$2.50

$0.75

$3.00/MB

Hong Kong

$2.50

$0.75

$3.00/MB

Singapore

$1.50

$0.75

$3.00/MB

Fiji

$2.50

$0.75

$3.00/MB

Japan

$3.00

$0.75

$3.00/MB

India

$3.50

$0.75

$3.00/MB

MVNOs operating on the Telstra network and offering the same international roaming rates:


Vodafone pay as you go roaming rates

(standard pay as you go rates)

Destination

Make/Receive Calls
(per minute)

Send SMS

Data (per MB)

New Zealand

$1.00

$0.75

$1.00/MB

Indonesia

$1.00

$0.75

$1.00/MB

USA

$1.00

$0.75

$1.00/MB

UK

$1.00

$0.75

$1.00/MB

Thailand

$1.00

$0.75

$1.00/MB

Hong Kong

$1.00

$0.75

$1.00/MB

Singapore

$1.00

$0.75

$1.00/MB

Fiji

$1.00

$0.75

$1.00/MB

Japan

$1.00

$0.75

$1.00/MB

India

$1.00

$0.75

$1.00/MB


Virgin Mobile pay as you go roaming rates

Unfortunately, Virgin Mobile is not as forthcoming with its roaming rates, when compared to other Australian telcos. When asked about rates for Hong Kong, we were informed that Virgin Mobile doesn't supply these costs as they are 'dictated by the provider', e.g. the Hong Kong wireless network that a customer roams on.

Virgin Mobile lists some destinations on its website, but customers may need to call Virgin's helpline or visit a retail store for any information on the countries not included.

Destination

Make/Receive Calls
(per minute)

Send SMS

Data (per MB)

New Zealand

$0.50 (make)
$0.10 (receive)

$0.50

$0.20/MB

Indonesia

$0.50 (make)
$0.10 (receive)

$0.50

$0.20/MB

USA

$0.50 (make)
$0.10 (receive)

$0.50

$0.20/MB

UK

$0.50 (make)
$0.10 (receive)

$0.50

$0.20/MB

Thailand

$0.50 (make)
$0.10 (receive)

$0.50

$0.20/MB

Hong Kong

$0.50 (make)
$0.10 (receive)

$0.50

$0.20/MB

Singapore

$0.50 (make)
$0.10 (receive)

$0.50

$0.20/MB

Fiji

$0.50 (make)
$0.10 (receive)

$0.50

$0.20/MB

Japan

$0.50 (make)
$0.10 (receive)

$0.50

$0.20/MB

India

$1.00 (make)
$1.00 (receive)

$0.50

$0.50/MB


Aldi Mobile pay as you go roaming rates

Destination

Make/Receive Calls
(per minute)

Send SMS

Data (per MB)

New Zealand

$1.00

$0.50

$0.50/MB

Indonesia

$1.00

$0.50

$0.50/MB

USA

$1.00

$0.50

$0.50/MB

UK

$1.00

$0.50

$0.50/MB

Thailand

$1.00

$0.50

$0.50/MB

Hong Kong

$1.00

$0.50

$0.50/MB

Singapore

$1.00

$0.50

$0.50/MB

Fiji

$1.00

$0.50

$0.50/MB

Japan

$1.00

$0.50

$0.50/MB

India

$1.00

$0.50

$0.50/MB


Dodo pay as you go roaming rates

Destination

Make/Receive Calls
(per minute)

Send SMS

Data (per MB)

New Zealand

$1.50

$0.75

$1.00/MB

Indonesia

$1.50

$0.75

$1.00/MB

USA

$1.50

$0.75

$1.00/MB

UK

$1.50

$0.75

$1.00/MB

Thailand

$1.50

$0.75

$1.00/MB

Hong Kong

$1.50

$0.75

$1.00/MB

Singapore

$1.50

$0.75

$1.00/MB

Fiji

$1.50

$0.75

$1.00/MB

Japan

$1.50

$0.75

$1.00/MB

India

$1.50

$0.75

$1.00/MB


iiNet pay as you go roaming rates

Destination

Make/Receive Calls
(per minute)

Send SMS

Data (per MB)

New Zealand

$1.00

$0.50

$2.00/MB

Indonesia

$1.00

$0.50

$2.00/MB

USA

$1.00

$0.50

$2.00/MB

UK

$1.00

$0.50

$2.00/MB

Thailand

$1.00

$0.50

$2.00/MB

Hong Kong

$1.00

$0.50

$2.00/MB

Singapore

$1.00

$0.50

$2.00/MB

Fiji

$1.00

$0.50

$2.00/MB

Japan

$1.00

$0.50

$2.00/MB

India

$1.00

$0.50

$2.00/MB


TPG pay as you go roaming rates

Destination

Make/Receive Calls
(per minute)

Send SMS

Data (per MB)

New Zealand

$1.00

$0.50

$0.50/MB

Indonesia

$1.00

$0.50

$0.50/MB

USA

$1.00

$0.50

$0.50/MB

UK

$1.00

$0.50

$0.50/MB

Thailand

$1.00

$0.50

$0.50/MB

Hong Kong

$1.00

$0.50

$0.50/MB

Singapore

$1.00

$0.50

$0.50/MB

Fiji

$1.00

$0.50

$0.50/MB

Japan

$1.00

$0.50

$0.50/MB

India

$1.00

$0.50

$0.50/MB


Vaya pay as you go roaming rates

Destination

Make/Receive Calls
(per minute)

Send SMS

Data (per MB)

New Zealand

$2.00

$1.00

$1.00/MB

Indonesia

$2.00

$1.00

$1.00/MB

USA

$2.00

$1.00

$1.00/MB

UK

$2.00

$1.00

$1.00/MB

Thailand

$2.00

$1.00

$1.00/MB

Hong Kong

$2.00

$1.00

$1.00/MB

Singapore

$2.00

$1.00

$1.00/MB

Fiji

$2.00

$1.00

$1.00/MB

Japan

$2.00

$1.00

$1.00/MB

India

$2.00

$1.00

$1.00/MB



MVNOs that don't yet offer roaming:

  • Lebara Mobile
  • GoTalk
  • Jeenee Mobile
  • Woolworth's Mobile
  • Kogan Mobile
  • Southern Phone
  • Hello Mobile
  • C Mobile
  • Think Mobile


Things to remember

Despite the relative savings, a major problem with buying an add-on international data pack is that not all customers will be able to monitor their usage when travelling internationally, as most of the services provided by telcos will only track data and call minutes used domestically.

Another point about data use: many telcos don't necessarily charge per kilobyte, rather in increments of 10KB or more. Make sure you're aware of the minimum cost of each data session before you go online.

Overall, sticking with your local provider when abroad isn’t the most wallet-friendly option. Even Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) such as Amaysim, Boost and Vaya will charge rates comparable to those of the big telcos if you want to roam internationally with any of their plans – not surprising considering small operators all use either Telstra or Optus’ networks.

Image credit: Kuster and Wildhaber Photography


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