Use your mobile phone overseas

It’s becoming easier and less expensive to use your phone when travelling internationally.

Here is some of the advice provided by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission if you’re considering using your own phone or tablet in foreign countries.

Most phone companies allow you to use your mobile phone when travelling overseas. This service is known as ‘international roaming’. Before you leave, check with your provider to activate international roaming.

Your phone will not automatically work in every country. So again, check with your mobile phone provider that you will be able to use your phone in your destination.

Charges for using your mobile phone overseas

Using your mobile phone or tablet overseas will usually be more expensive than using it at home in Australia. While it can cost 10 cents to use 1MB of data in Australia, it could cost $15 overseas.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

You may be charged for the calls you receive as well as the calls you make.

It will probably also be more expensive to:

  • Make calls within the country you are visiting.
  • Make calls back to Australia.
  • Send SMS or MMS messages.
  • Use data services on your phone. This can be particularly expensive and will include using the internet, sending and receiving emails, and using many phone and tablet applications (such as map applications).
  • Receive and retrieve voicemail.

International roaming will probably not be included in any call, data or SMS allowances you may receive on a mobile phone plan. This means that roaming will usually cost you extra to use.

Before you leave Australia, make sure you know what your provider is charging you to make and receive calls and messages and to use data on your phone or tablet.

The Australia Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has developed the International Mobile Roaming Standard that requires mobile service providers to give their customers more information about mobile roaming.

Tips for minimising your bill

If you do want to use your phone or your tablet while you are overseas here are some tips to try and keep your bill low:

  • Buy a SIM card that is aimed at overseas travellers. There are many international roaming or global roaming SIMs available.
  • Use SMS rather than phone calls to keep in contact with people.
  • Turn off any voicemail services or diversions you have.
  • Turn off data roaming or buy a pre-paid data pack.
  • Download a mobile phone usage app so that you can keep track of how much you are spending while overseas.
  • Change your mobile phone settings to minimise the amount of data you use. For example, turn off features on your mobile phone or tablet that automatically use data, like ‘push’ notifications and automatic software updates.
  • Try to avoid using mobile networks to access data. Instead, try and use WiFi services where possible.
  • Tell family and friends that contacting you on your phone will be expensive and that different ways of communicating, like email, may be better.

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