If your postpaid phone plan doesn't include international roaming as a standard feature, a travel pack is your next best option for using your Australian number when overseas. A travel pack will give you a fixed amount of talk, text, and data to use when travelling, over a set number of days.
These packs can be a little pricey - Telstra and Optus' options both work out to $10 for each day you're overseas - but a travel pack is a much better alternative to pay-as-you go roaming.
Travel packs can cost more depending on where you're headed, and in some cases, travel pack option might not be available for your destination.
Optus Travel Pack
Optus keeps it simple when it comes to Travel Packs: $10 will get you a day of unlimited talk and text, and 100MB of data. Essentially, you're looking at $10 per day you're overseas.
You're able to buy multiple packs over consecutive days, in which case your data will stack. For example, if pay $70 for seven days, you'll be able to use the 700MB at any time throughout that week.
Optus' Travel Pack will work in any Zone 1 country, which covers most of the world. If you’re travelling to a Zone 2 country you'll have to pay-as-you-go. Zone 2 is predominantly made up of the United Arab Emirates, Africa, Central America, and South America.
Telstra International Day Pass
Telstra's International Day Passes are quite similar to what's offered by Optus, with a few small differences. Pricing will vary depending on your destination
- Travel in Zone 1 - which is actually just New Zealand - you'll pay $5 per day.
- Travel in Zone 2, it's $10 per day.
Regardless of your destination, you'll get unlimited talk and text, and 100MB of data per day. Unlike Optus' Travel Packs, your allowance won't stack, it's just 100MB per day and any unused megabytes expire at midnight.
If you go over your daily 100MB, 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 100MB.
The following countries are part of Telstra's Zone 2:
Brunei, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Macau, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Mexico, Nauru, Netherlands, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Slovak Rep., Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, UAE, UK, USA, and Vanuatu.
Virgin Data Pack
Virgin's Data Packs are a little different to what everyone else is doing: as the name suggests, you only get data. Talk and text are billed at pay-as-you-go rates, instead. As such, you're probably better off using an app like Facebook Messenger, Skype, or WhatsApp for calls and messaging.
Data Packs will give you extra data for any country under Virgin's Zone 1 classification. There's four options:
- $30 for 500MB
- $45 for 1GB
- $60 for 2GB
- $85 for 3GB
All of Virgin's Data Packs have a 30 day expiration.
The following countries are part of Virgin's Zone 1:
Austria, Denmark, Fiji, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Ireland, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Singapore, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Thailand, United Kingdom, and United States.
Are travel packs good value?
The biggest issue with travel packs is the limited amount of data your money buys you. $10 gets you 100MB per day on Optus and 75MB per day on Telstra. Neither last long; they're roughly equivalent to how much data you'd use in an hour of web browsing. If you just want data for using maps and messaging apps, it might be enough, but you will need to very careful with your usage.
Virgin is slightly more generous: if you're looking at the $85 data pack, its equivalent to $5.60ish for 200MB. It's better, but still far more expensive than local data.
Despite the paltry data allowances, travel packs still tend to be better value for than most travel SIMs. In most cases, you'll be looking at least 25 cents per megabyte, so $10 would get you 40MB.
Flexiroam is the main exception, who'll do 100MB for USD$5.99 with a 10 day expiry or 1GB for USD$29.99 with a 90 day expiry. At current exchange rates, that ends up being cheaper than what Australian travel SIM providers are offering.
If you think you can survive without much data, a travel pack can be a simpler option than buying a local SIM - especially on a short trip - but if you're staying overseas for more than a week or expect to churn data, a local SIM is the way to go.
If you decide to go with a travel pack and are trying to make your data last, it's a good idea to crack down on which of your apps can use mobile data. On iPhone, you can find this by opening up Settings, tapping on "Mobile", and then scrolling down. You're then able to pick which apps can use data on a case-by-case basis.
If you've got an Android phone, you'll probably need to download a third party solution to prevent specific apps from using your data. We'd recommend NetGuard.
Person reading boarding pass image from ShutterStock.