How to avoid mobile roaming charges overseas

Return from your next overseas adventure with wonderful photos and memories, rather than a bank-breaking mobile bill.

If you’ve ever been overseas, you’ll know the joy that can come from the little surprises along the way, but not all surprises make for happy memories. There’s nothing worse than receiving a shock four or five figure phone bill when you return. Here are five ways you can avoid mobile roaming charges on your next trip.

Talk to your provider

  • International roaming costs will generally be outside any call, data or SMS allowances included in your current phone plan.
  • You may be charged for calls you receive.
  • It will be more expensive to make calls and send SMS/MMS.
  • Data in Australia can cost 10c/MB, whereas roaming costs could exceed $15/MB.

Use a prepaid SIM

  • Buy an international SIM card (make sure it’s the right type of SIM for your phone!)
  • Use SMS instead of phone calls to contact people. You’ll be able to make local calls, send texts, and access data at the prices the locals pay, which is often a fraction of the roaming charges.

Wait for Wi-Fi and turn off your data roaming

  • If you’re staying in relatively populated areas, you should be able to easily find free Wi-Fi hotspots in local hotels, cafes and restaurants. They’ll give you more than enough access for the odd email and status update.
  • Stick to free Wi-Fi and you’ll be able to turn off data roaming for the duration of your trip, eliminating any risk of bill shock.

Save your data

  • Turn off any voicemail or diversion services you have.
  • Download an app which allows you to track your data usage.
  • Be aware of apps that use data such as maps, emails and background internet services.
  • Turn off push notifications and automatic software updates.
  • Change the settings so that your applications only access data and update when you ask them to.

Download in advance

  • Apps such as translators and maps can be a lifesaver when you’re stuck in a tight spot overseas. Check the app store and download a few options before you leave home.

Of course, the easiest way to ensure you’re not spending stacks on international roaming is to leave your smartphone at home. If you use a TravelSIM while overseas, friends and family will be able to send you texts for free.