Pay-as-you-go roaming: everything you need to know


WhistleOut
22 May 2017

Pay as you go data roaming


Heading overseas and hoping to take your phone? The good news is travellers now have several options for staying connected when abroad. The bad news? Not all of these options are cheap.

While many Australian telcos now offer add-on international roaming packages to both postpaid and prepaid customers, plenty more don’t, and not all travel add-ons will work in each destination. So prospective explorers may be stuck with a carrier’s pay-per-use or pay-as-you-go-rates for calling, texting and using data outside Australia. 

What is 'pay as you go' roaming?


When we say ‘pay-as-you-go’, we mean that you’ll pay for each call, text, and megabyte or kilobyte of data you use while roaming on an international network. Calls are charged on a per-minute basis, and data charges are usually rounded up to the nearest kilobyte, although this may vary between providers. 

Picture and MMS messages are also often available, but are generally more expensive than standard texts (and you may need to pay for data use in addition to the MMS charge). Another thing to remember is that in addition to being charged for each call you make, you may also be required to pay for calls you receive (Telstra, for example, charges for both). 

Overall, roaming on an overseas network is much, much pricier than using your mobile within Australia, particularly when it comes to paying for data. Unless you’re on a decent travel package or have roaming included in your domestic plan, you’ll find the megabytes add up quickly – often in the range of hundreds of dollars in a matter of days.

If you’re on a postpaid plan, here’s some examples of the pay-per-use rates from some of the biggest Aussie telcos, in five of the most popular destinations for Australians overseas. Similar rates will apply for prepaid customers – more information about prepaid international roaming is available here

Telstra


Roaming with Telstra? The company charges a flat $3 per megabyte data rate wherever you go, rounding your data use up to the nearest kilobyte (so, $0.003 per KB).

Calls and messages will vary depending on your destination, but expect to pay between $1.50 and $5.00 per minute to make or receive calls, and a standard 75c to send text messages. 


Indonesia New Zealand United Kingdom United StatesThailand
Cost to call Australia per minute $4.00 $1.50 $2.00 $3.00$2.50
Cost to send text message to Australia $0.75 $0.75 $0.75 $0.75$0.75
Cost of data $3.00 per MB $3.00 per MB $3.00 per MB $3.00 per MB $3.00 per MB


Optus


Like Telstra, Optus charges its customers to both make and receive calls when travelling abroad. However, charges will vary depending on which 'zone' your destination falls under – Zone 1 is least expensive, Zone 2 slightly pricier, and Zone 3 is reserved for special areas such as cruise ships.

Generally, pay-as-you-go rates are $1.50 per minute to make or receive calls, $0.50 to send SMS, and $1.00 per megabyte of data (charged per ten kilobytes). MMS will be charged according to the rates outlined in your domestic Optus plan. 

Optus also sends alerts to customers for every $100 spent on roaming – although you may not receive the notification until your usage has gone well over that amount. 


Indonesia New Zealand United Kingdom United StatesThailand
Cost to call Australia per minute $1.50 $1.50 $1.50 $1.50$1.50
Cost to send text message to Australia $0.50 $0.50 $0.50 $0.50$0.50
Cost of data $1.00 per MB $1.00 per MB $1.00 per MB $1.00 per MB $1.00 per MB


Vodafone


If Vodafone's $5 Roaming isn't for you, the telco offers a standard pay-as-you-go charge for all postpaid customers regardless of countries visited. All countries are priced at the same rate: $1.00 per minute to make or receive calls, $0.75 per text and PXT message sent, and $1.00 per megabyte of data used. 

If you're on a cruise ship, voice rates are significantly higher: $5.00 per minute to make and receive calls. Messaging remains at $0.75 per text sent, and cellular data roaming isn't available. 

Indonesia New Zealand United Kingdom United StatesThailand
Cost to call Australia per minute $1.00 $1.00 $1.00 $1.00$1.00
Cost to send text message to Australia $0.75 $0.75 $0.75 $0.75$0.75
Cost of data $1.00 per MB $1.00 per MB $1.00 per MB $1.00 per MB $1.00 per MB


Virgin Mobile


Like Optus, Virgin Mobile divides countries into 'zones', which determine how much you'll pay when roaming. Fortunately, most popular destinations fall under Zone 1, which gives you rates as cheap as 50c per minute for calls and 20c per megabyte for data. 

Zone 2 charges include $1.00 per minute calls, 50c texts, and 50c per megabyte for data. If you're travelling to Zone 3, you'll pay $2.00 per minutes for calls, $1.00 for texts, and $1.00 per megabyte of data. All data is charged on a per-kilobyte basis. 

Customers should keep in mind that Virgin will charge you for receiving voice calls: $0.10 per minute for Zone 1 countries, $1.00 per minute for Zone 2, and $2.00 per minute for Zone 3 locations. 


Indonesia New Zealand United Kingdom United StatesThailand
Cost to call Australia per minute $0.50 $0.50 $0.50 $0.50$0.50
Cost to send text message to Australia $0.50 $0.50 $0.50 $0.50$0.50
Cost of data $0.20 per MB $0.20 per MB $0.20 per MB $0.20 per MB $0.20 per MB


Amaysim


Amaysim customers can access pay-as-you-go roaming in over 50 countries, on both prepaid and postpaid plans. You'll need to enable roaming on your device before taking off: head over to the Amaysim app or website to update your roaming settings.

Voice call rates apply equally to calls made and received, and all data use is charged per ten kilobytes. Data isn't available on cruise ships or aircraft, but customers can call and text: you'll be charged $4.00 per minute to make or receive calls, and $1.00 per SMS sent.


Indonesia New Zealand United Kingdom United StatesThailand
Cost to call Australia per minute $1.00 $1.00 $1.00 $1.00$1.00
Cost to send text message to Australia $0.50 $0.50 $0.50 $0.50$0.50
Cost of data $0.50 per MB $0.50 per MB $0.50 per MB $0.50 per MB $0.50 per MB


Vaya


Unfortunately, Vaya only offers roaming to customers who have paid a $200 'roaming bond' prior to February 1, 2016. If you're a new customer, or didn't pay bond before the cut-off date above, you'll be unable to roam internationally on your Vaya plan. 

Customers approved for roaming on Vaya will be charged based on which 'zone' their destination country falls under. Most popular locations are charged at cheaper Zone 1 rates, while the pricier Zone 2 list mostly includes countries in Africa, the Middle East, and South and Central America.

Zone 1 rates are outlined below, while Zone 2 charges include $4.00 per minute to make and receive calls, $2.00 plus standard SMS charges to send texts, and $2.00 per kilobyte of data. 


Indonesia New Zealand United Kingdom United StatesThailand
Cost to call Australia per minute $2.00 $2.00 $2.00 $2.00$2.00
Cost to send text message to Australia $1.00 $1.00 $1.00 $1.00$1.00
Cost of data $1.00 per MB $1.00 per MB $1.00 per MB $1.00 per MB $1.00 per MB


Boost Mobile


If you're planning to roam with Boost, you'll need to add a $15 Bolt-On to your account prior to shipping out. Boost uses similar rates to Telstra, and you'll pay a standard $3.00 per megabyte for data roaming regardless of the country you're in.

In terms of voice calls, expect to pay between $1.00 and $5.00 per minute whether you're dialling or picking up the phone. 


Indonesia New Zealand United Kingdom United StatesThailand
Cost to call Australia per minute $4.00 $1.50 $2.00 $3.00$2.50
Cost to send text message to Australia $0.65 $0.65 $0.65 $0.65$0.65
Cost of data $3.00 per MB $3.00 per MB $3.00 per MB $3.00 per MB $3.00 per MB


Is there a cheaper way?


Worried that it's all too unaffordable? If pay-as-you-go roaming seems far too pricey, you do have other options.

Firstly, several big telcos offer included international roaming as part of your everyday domestic plan. If you're on Telstra's super-sized XXL plan, you'll get 1.5GB of international data roaming per month included in your plan price. Optus also offers 1GB of included monthly roaming on its $130 plan, and 1.5GB per month on the $160 option.

If you're with Vodafone, you can use your plan's included data, talk and text allowance in 55 countries for an extra $5 per day, and for free in New Zealand for up to 90 days per year. More info on Vodafone's $5 roaming can be found here.

If you don't have included roaming on your plan, you can buy international add-ons depending on your provider. Telstra's Travel Pass gives you roaming data for between three and 30 days, and is priced from $15 for 225MB up to $300 for 2.20GB. 

Optus allows customers to roam in Zone 1 countries for $10 per day through its Travel Pack. Each $10 daily charge buys you unlimited talk and SMS, plus 100MB of data, and purchasing multiple packs gives you a bigger data pool to use over several days: for example, $70 worth of Travel Packs includes 700MB to use over one week. 

Other money-saving options are listed in our handy guide to beating global roaming bill shock, including info on local prepaid and travel SIMs, plus tricks to cut down on data use when you're abroad. Most of these tips to apply to both prepaid and postpaid customers, but we've also compiled an extensive prepaid roaming guide here. Happy travels! 

Original travel accessories image via Shutterstock



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