So it’s time to go overseas but how will you get connected while you’re away? Whether it’s to touch base with back home or to get online in a distant land, mobile services are particularly slow at evolving to the global travel boom that is just gaining strength.
Australian Telcos Get Involved
The 3 big Australian providers have all tried their hand at giving customers what they want, some with more success than others. The deal that stands out as number one is probably Vodafone which offer $5 a day roaming in certain countries with calls, text and data used from your normal plan. The others have lower rates or packages which you can add on to get roaming calls, text and a small amount of data.
Data is always the big sell for telcos as it is easy to get out of hand and unsuspecting travelers can be slugged with huge bills when they arrive home.
** TIP – Make sure if you plan to use international roaming you have it enabled before you travel. It can sometimes be difficult trying to call back to Australia to get these services activated. Also if you need to add roaming packs, be sure to have them on and ready before you arrive at your destination.
What about Wifi?
The best solution for data overseas is wifi, with so many places offering free wifi you can venture around a modern city jumping from hotspot to hotspot without missing a beat.
The risks here are security. Open wireless hotspots offer little to no security for the data you’re transmitting. Something as simple as logging into your internet banking could be broadcast to any number of people on the same network as you with tools to “listen” for data being easy to come by.
Wifi has its place; if you need a quick look at a map or just want to check on the weather. Remember, anything that requires you to login will transmit your details and it’s not always worth the risk.
Travel Sim or Local Sim?
The other option is to pickup a sim card either before or during your trip. There are countless options available before you leave Australia to pickup a travel sim that will work almost anywhere. The prices and included services can vary so be sure to shop around before you go.
Depending on the country you’re traveling to, you may be able to pickup a prepaid sim when you arrive. Just pop it into your phone, add some credit and you’re ready to go.
There are pros and cons to either solution. If you use a travel sim you may be limited to what data you can use with recharges being expensive. I have found in the past some of these services don’t operate like you’d expect with regards to calls. One or two services I have tried in the past do not do direct calling but rather go through a portal where you dial a local number and then enter the number you want to call which then connects you.
Remember, whichever option you pick, chances are your phone number will likely be an international one so friends and family back home will be slugged with international rates to call or text you.
When traveling to New Zealand earlier this year I picked up a Vodafone sim at Auckland airport. For $50 there was a good amount of calls and data included. They even had minutes for calling back to Australia which was great for me. The service coverage was great and the data fast but I did find I was recharging a lot to call back home and check in. Be sure to check the call rates back to Australia before you sign up for anything to see how much you will be forking over to call home.
Do I Need a Phone Plan?
When my boss travels he turns his phone off. It’s expensive receiving calls when on roaming and when you’re always getting calls this can add up.
There are heaps of services available now-a-days to call from a wifi connection, some even free.
For a small amount of coin you can add credit to Skype and dial any number, connected over wifi. You can even add on options to get your own phone number so anyone dialing it will connect to you via Skype.
Be careful when traveling. Be wary of what service you’re using and how much you’re spending. Costs don’t always show up immediately and it’s easy to get in over your head and the telcos back home aren’t always sympathetic to an “I didn’t know” sob story.
If you spend some time on Google before you leave you can explore the options available to you.
Remember to check for: costs of calls/texts back to Australia, how much data is included and how much will I need and is it easy for people back home to call me?
** BONUS TIP: Be sure to install updates on your phone before you go so you don’t get surprised at your phone downloading a few hundred mb of updates while you’re away. Also if you can download offline maps before you leave this is a great way to save on data or better yet access maps if you get stuck in an area with no service.
Here’s some external links for some more reading
If you have a story about using your mobile overseas please let us know in the comments. We’re always open to a good bill shock story too.