Global roaming charges are the worst thing about taking your phone overseas. If you want to keep using your Australian number on foreign soil, you're at the mercy of your provider.
While some options are better than others, it's very easy to rack up a massive bill and feel screwed by your telco. There's not even a cuddle after.
However, some plans now include global roaming as a standard feature. In most cases, this means you have a secondary data allowance that you can tap into while travelling - without having to pay a single extra dollar. Here's a look at who's offering what.
Optus recently added roaming data to its top-end end SIM-only plan. $50 per month gets you 80GB of local data, unlimited talk and text, and 4GB of monthly roaming data to use overseas. This data works in any Zone 1 country (predominantly Asia Pacific, Europe, and North America). In addition, you'll have unlimited talk and text while roaming in these countries.
If you’re travelling to a Zone 2 country (any country not part of Zone 1), you'll have to pay-as-you-go.
Zone 2 is predominantly made up of countries in the Middle East, Africa, Central and South America. Rates vary from country to country, but you're typically looking at $1.50 per minute of talk, $0.50 per SMS, and $1 per megabyte of data. Yikes.
Optus is currently taking 20% off this plan, so you can get it for $40 per month if you sign up before June 6. Here are the full details:
If you'd prefer a plan with a new phone, you'll get 2GB of roaming data on Optus' $105 24-month contract plan, and 4GB on the $125 plan (in both cases, excluding handset repayments).
Optus typically bills roaming data at $10 per day for 100MB in Zone 1 countries, so a fixed roaming data inclusion could save you an arm-and-a-leg if you're a regular traveller.
In terms of prepaid, Optus has a new roaming add-on for its prepaid recharges. The destinations are a bit limited, but if you've got an Optus prepaid SIM, you can add 10GB of roaming data for $20 to use in Hong Kong, New Zealand, Singapore, the UK, and the USA.
The add-on has a five-day expiry, which works out to be $4 per day. Talk and text are still charged at pay-as-you-go rates, however. Here are Optus' prepaid starter packs:
Telstra 24-month contracts and leases starting from $119 per month (excluding handset repayments) currently include roaming data at no extra cost.
On top of unlimited talk and text while roaming, the $119 plan gets you 2GB roaming data, and the unlimited data $199 plan gets you 10GB.
This data can be used anywhere in Telstra's roaming zone, which currently covers over 70 countries.
Telstra's priciest SIM-only plan also comes with 2GB of roaming data and unlimited talk and text. It will set you back $89 per month.
In terms of local inclusions, the plan gets you a 90GB data allowance, unlimited talk and text, and unlimited international talk and text to 15 destinations.
Here are the full details of the plan:
Other Telstra postpaid customers can use Telstra's Day Pass system when travelling. This costs $10 per day for most destinations, or $5 per day in New Zealand.
No matter which day pass you buy, you get 200MB per day, which expire at midnight (Australian eastern standard time, rather than your local time zone).
If you go over your daily 200MB, Telstra will automatically add another 500MB for $10 with a 31-day expiry. You won't eat into this allowance until you've exceeded your daily 200MB.
Vodafone doesn't sell any plans with fixed roaming inclusions like Optus and Telstra, but has its famed $5 roaming instead. For $5 for per day, you're able to use your local inclusions overseas, as if you were still in Australia.
The one exception to this is if you're on a Red Plus plan with "data that never ends". If you use your entire full speed data inclusion overseas, you'll be charged an extra $10 per gigabyte, rather than falling back onto your slower, unlimited allowance.
$5 per day roaming works in 80 countries, but it's always worth double-checking Vodafone's country list before you travel.
For example, $5 per day roaming doesn't cover the United Arab Emirates, which could lead to a hefty accidental bill if you're transiting in Dubai.
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.
You can use $5 roaming for up to 90 days in any calendar year. Here are a few Vodafone SIM-only plans with $5 roaming:
Alex Choros is Managing Editor of WhistleOut, Australia's phone and internet comparison website.
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