I made a mistake last week. At the time I wasn’t sure how it had happened. I thought I had been so careful. So reserved. So responsible.
And yet there I was, staring down the barrel of a $273 roaming charge.
I travel quite a bit for work and pleasure, so this wasn’t my first time around the global block. In fact, one of the reasons I swapped to Vodafone a couple of years back was for the $5/day roaming. I can set and forget.
Between France, Germany, the USA, South Korea, the UK, Singapore and Japan, I’ve never had any issues, whether I was there for a week or a few hours in transit.
And then the United Arab Emirates happened.
Don’t get me wrong, I adore Dubai airport. It’s well organised, has beautiful food options and a divine lounge shower that leaves me feeling like a lavender-scented travel goddess.
The Wi-Fi is also incredibly decent, which is why I usually connect to it.
But not this time.
The vile beast known as Data Roaming was lurking in the bowels of the international departures lounge.
It hunted in the shadows for spare megabytes to satiate its undying thirst, and it had now found its mark in this unsuspecting, jetlagged journalist.
Flying back from Huawei’s P30 launch in Paris this week, we had roughly an hour in Dubai before heading back to Sydney. That was just enough time to grab a bite to eat, clear some work and download some trash television to the Netflix app.
And it was here that I came undone and made a most dire mistake. In my haste I failed to connect to the Wi-Fi when it came to the most important task of all – downloading the three remaining episodes of Dirty John.
In some other countries, this wouldn’t have been a concern thanks to the warm embrace of $5 roaming. Alas, not here.
I didn’t realise my mistake until I arrived home. Upon disembarking the plane I was greeted by a text that informed me of how much I had gone over my plan’s monthly spend by. My data also didn’t appear to be working.
A second text, which arrived about two hours later, revealed that it had been suspended due to the usage.
Historically, Australia telcos have flat out refused to sell dual SIM smartphones - heaven forbid you use the second slot for a SIM from one of their competitors. Optus has changed that this week with the Huawei P30 and Huawei P30 Pro. While Telstra and Vodafone are only ranging the single SIM version as per usual, hell has frozen over at Optus: it will have the dual SIM variant of both phones.Read more
While I was initially confused as to what had actually happened, a quick phone call to Vodafone shed some light on the issue. The UAE isn’t one of the 80 countries that’s covered by $5/day roaming. Comparatively, Optus and Telstra offer 180 and 200 countries, respectively – albeit, under different plan conditions.
Instead, Vodafone data in the UAE costs $1/megabyte used. Suffice to say, my questionable Netflix viewing habits cost me quite a bit extra this month.
While I certainly have some strong opinions around the general cost of international data in 2019 – I do need to take some personal responsibility on this one. Not only did I not connect to Wi-Fi when I easily could have, I made an inadvertent assumption about my data inclusions.
The moral of the story? Don’t accidentally spend $273 on true crime podcast adaptions. Oh, and always check whether the countries you’re travelling to (including in transit) are covered by your roaming plan. You can check that online with Vodafone, Optus and Telstra.
If they aren’t, clutch to Wi-Fi for dear life.