Guides

4 ways to ditch overseas data charges while staying connected

Reading time: 4 minutes

We know your upcoming trip is exciting, but it’s important to think about how you’re going to stay in touch with your loved ones while overseas. Many holiday-bound Australians don’t consider this and get stung by ludicrous data charges when returning home.

These charges can be extreme – in 2014, an Aussie man returned from his European trip to a $571,000 phone bill! These fees were waived because his phone was stolen and misused, but even a quick call to Mum or sole photo uploaded to Instagram can cost you big time.

Luckily, there are a few ways around this to ensure you can ditch the data charges while still staying connected the next time you go abroad for an exciting holiday.

There are a number of options to ensure you aren't stung by crazy-high data charges on your travels.There are a number of options to ensure you aren’t stung by crazy-high data charges on your travels.

1. Turning to an Australian prepaid SIM option

If you’re checking out multiple overseas locations – say, for example, you’re touring France, Spain and Portugal – then an Australian prepaid SIM card is your best bet for staying in touch. You will need to pre-order this from a specific provider such as the ones below:

TravelSIM

This company can offer call, text and data packages in more than 190 countries, with texting free between other TravelSIM phone numbers.

All credit lasts for half a year, with the option to extend any existing credit with a $5 top-up.

A TravelSIM Starter pack with standard $5 of phone call, text and browser data is available for $25. You can then add any extra credit you may need to this balance.

Go-SIM

Go-SIM offer international mobile packages that cover a number of countries worldwide across 340 networks, meaning no matter where you are you will be able to stay connected (and upload that perfect picture to Instagram).

You’ll receive a European phone number with the one size fits all SIM card. Starting from $19 for $10 pre-loaded credit, you need to add roaming data as additional, starting from $12.

These options are available for activation and top up through in-app and website platforms, making them excellent for travellers that want reliable comms when they need them.

However, the flaw with using an Australian prepaid international SIM card is that you need to get your phone unlocked in order to accommodate a foreign number. You’ll have to contact your network provider to see how to do this for your phone model.

2. Buying local SIM cards at your destination

If you’re travelling for a longer period of time – say a month or longer – it may be worth your time to buy a local SIM card in the country you’re in. This way you will avoid the crazy roaming charges that may otherwise be charged to your Australian number. It’s also a convenient option if you’re not big into planning ahead – you can just buy one and get calling!

SIM cards can be easily purchased from supermarkets, petrol stations or airports worldwide.

However, there are a number of drawbacks to this option:

  • If you travel anywhere else, your local SIM will be charged for global roaming.
  • Your Australian phone will still need to be unlocked by your network provider.
  • Certain countries, including Turkey, Japan, China and India make it very difficult for non-residents to get a SIM card (World SIM).

3. Using a global roaming package with your network provider

A number of Australian mobile network providers offer global roaming that can be added to whatever package you’re currently on at home, whether you’ve got a pre or postpaid SIM.

Optus

Optus charge based on a zonal basis, with rates varying between prepaid rates and rates on an existing phone plan.

The majority of the popular travel destinations for Aussies are in Zone 1, including European locations, the US and most of Asia. Call rates in this zone are $1.50 per minute for postpaid and $1 for prepaid, texting is $0.50 per SMS for both and data charges are $1 per MB for a plan and $0.50 per MB for prepaid.

Telstra

Telstra customers can sign up for the international roaming plan or a prepaid account that provides you with broadband while abroad. International Day Pass rates are just $10 a day for most countries worldwide, with this package also offering unlimited SMS messaging and 200MB of data per day.

Virgin Mobile

If Virgin Mobile is your normal service provider, their International Roaming feature can be added to your package through your online account or in-app. Additionally, you could purchase an International Roaming data pack. Rates vary by zone, but again the majority of Aussie travel destinations are in Zone 1, which offer data packs ranging from $30 to $85.

Vodafone

Vodafone’s roaming plan costs only $5 and can be turned on through MyVodafone. This covers over 60 countries worldwide and can be used for 90 days.

This option is usually more expensive than others, and you can occasionally be overcharged for the amount of communicating you do. You are on your holiday after all – you probably won’t be glued to your phone the whole time!

A roaming plan is usually the most reliable way of using your own SIM card while overseas.A roaming plan is usually the most reliable way of using your own SIM card while overseas.

4. Why not Wi-Fi?

Of course, one of the easiest options for keeping in touch overseas is to simply turn off your global roaming and use your phone as a Wi-Fi device!

Most tourist destinations will have hotspots in public squares, shopping malls and even parks. Else, coffee shops, restaurants and retail outlets often have freely-accessible internet!

There are a huge number of messaging apps that are entirely free, including Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp and Viber. These messaging apps also double up as means to make phone calls over the internet, while options such as Skype even allow you to make calls from your account to mobile or landline phones (for a small amount of  prepaid credit).

However, the issue with this option is unreliability. Not all locations will have Wi-Fi access, and public internet options often aren’t strong enough to sustain lengthy calls or for data transfer. Additionally, using public Wi-Fi means your sensitive data can be exposed to others in the same network.


Author

TID is an Australian online travel insurance company.

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