The best international roaming plans in Australia

Just because you’re away from home, doesn’t mean you need to be away from connectivity.

Vodaphone
Vodafone postpaid mobile plans
Offer
$5 per day roaming
Inclusions
Access your local data & call inclusions
Optus
Optus postpaid mobile plans
Offer
$5 per day roaming
Inclusions
5GB per day, or pay for seven days up front
Telstra
Telstra Upfront mobile plans
Offer
$10 per day roaming
Inclusions
500MB per day, excess usage at $10 for 1GB
Felix Mobile
felix mobile roaming pack
Offer
$20 for 365-day pack
Usage
4GB, 100 minutes talk, 100 texts
Alex Choros
Group Reviews Editor
Read More
August 23, 2022
4 min read

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Overseas flights may be expensive, but have you looked at the price of international roaming? If your provider only supports pay-as-you-go roaming, you could be looking at over $1,000 per gigabyte. 

While it’s possible to stay disconnected or reliant on public WiFi for your data needs while abroad, being able to use your local SIM can be a lot more convenient. 

To help you pick out a roaming plan that won't break the bank, we're looking at some of the more affordable options in Australia. 

Vodafone international roaming

Global roaming may not be chap, but Vodafone postpaid mobile plans have one of the more affordable offers on the market. You'll pay an extra $5 per day to use your local inclusions overseas, in over 100 countries. 

Unlike other telcos, you don't have a separate data allowance for when roaming overseas. You'll just pull from whatever you've got in Australia. If you're on a 40GB plan, that gives you 40GB to play with when travelling. If you go over your allowance, a further charge of $5 per gigabyte will apply. 

The $5 per day charge will only be added to your bill on days when you use data, make a call, or send a text. 

Note that you can only use $5 per day roaming for up to 90 days of the calendar year. If you're planning to spend more time overseas, a local SIM will probably be a better option. 

Vodafone also offers roaming add-ons for prepaid plans. $5 gets you 200MB for one day, $15 gives you 750MB for three days, and $35 gets you 2GB for seven days. While this still works out to be $5 per day and are an improvement over pay-as-you-go rates, they're pretty poor value. 

Optus international roaming

If you're an Optus customer on a postpaid Optus Choice Plus, Optus Plus Family or Optus Plus Kids plan, you can also roam for $5 per day. 

Your $5 will get you 5GB of data with a 24-hour expiry. Alternatively, you can pay $35 upfront and 35GB. These roaming offers can be activated through the My Optus app. 

There is one catch, however. Optus' roaming add-on only works in what the telco calls Zone 1 destinations. These include the following:

  • USA
  • Singapore
  • New Zealand
  • France
  • China
  • Hong Kong
  • Poland
  • Sweden
  • Norway
  • United Kingdom

If you're travelling to a "Zone 2" country, you'll pay-as-you-go. Zone 2 is predominantly made up of countries in the Middle East, Africa, and South and Central America. 

Rates will vary depending on your exact destination, but they're heft. You'll typically pay at least $1.50 per minute of talk, $0.50 per text, or $1 per megabyte of data. At those rates, that's over $1,000 for a single gigabyte. 

Telstra international roaming

Customers on Telstra Upfront mobile plans can roam under the International Day Pass system. 

This will cost you $10 for each day you are overseas, and your money will get you a 500MB international data allowance. If you're roaming in New Zealand, this drops to $5 per day.

If you go over your daily 500MB, you'll be stung with an extra $10. This will get you 1GB, which can then be used over the following 30 days whenever you go over your initial daily allowance. 

You'll also get unlimited talk and text as part of International Day Pass, but you'll pay $0.75 for each MMS you send while overseas.  

Telstra's roaming currently works in over 80 destinations. If you're outside of an eligible destination and on an Upfront, you won't be able to use your service. You'll need to get a local SIM.

Note that International Day Pass includes expire midnight Australian time (AEST), not at midnight in whatever country you've found yourself. 

felix mobile international roaming

felix is a rare MVNO that actually has a good international roaming offer. While most smaller providers offer poor value packs, expensive pay-as-you-go rates or simply don't offer roaming, felix's roaming add-on costs just $20. 

Your $20 gets you 4GB of international data, 100 texts, and 100 minutes of talk. Better yet, it has a 365-day expiry. If you're the kind of traveller that can sniff out public WiFi where ever you are, 4GB could be enough for your entire international getaway. But if you go over your 4GB allowance, you can always buy another pack.

felix mobile's roaming offer doesn't cover as many countries as what you get on Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone: it only works in 40 destinations. You should be fine for most popular countries, however. 

felix is unique in that it only has a single mobile plan with unlimited data. You'll pay $35 per month, but your data is capped to speeds of 20Mbps - both domestically and overseas. That should still be fast enough for most online activities, even streaming video. 

felix is powered by the Vodafone network. 

Should I just buy a local SIM in my destination?

No matter what provider you go with, roaming costs add up quickly. On Optus and Vodafone, a week of using your phone overseas will cost you $35. On Telstra, you're looking at a minimum of $70 (unless you're in New Zealand). 

If you really need to keep your local number to be contactable while away, you've really got no choice but to pay the telcos their blood money. 

But if you're going away on a holiday and don't care about having access to your local number, a local SIM can often be the better choice. If you're staying for over a week, local SIMs at your destination should typically cost less than what you'd pay in roaming fees.

This will naturally vary from destination to destination, but it's definitely worth doing the math before you commit to spending a whole lot of money on roaming. 

How to choose the best telco for roaming

If you're looking for a mobile plan explicitly for roaming, the big consideration is where you're going. You'll want to make sure that your plan actually supports roaming in your destination. 

For example, there's no point buying a Vodafone plan if you're heading to Egypt, as you'll be stung with pay-as-you-go rates. Instead, you'd want to go with Telstra if you really need to keep using your local number while admiring the majesty of the pyramids. 

Pricing is the next consideration. Paying less per day is obviously preferable to more. 

What about other providers?

While some smaller providers offer international roaming, they tend to be bad options. The travel packs are far more expensive than the competition, or you're stuck with pay-as-you-go rates that end up costing between $500 and over $1,000 per gigabyte. 

While MVNOs are a great pick for keeping your bill down locally, this doesn't translate to overseas usage. If you're going with a small provider like ALDI, Belong, Tangerine, Woolworths Mobile, or amaysim for your Australian SIM card, use the savings to purchase a SIM overseas when you arrive at your destination instead. 

International Roaming FAQs

Most phones should work overseas, but you'll need to ensure it's unlocked. If you bought your phone on a plan or outright, it will be unlocked. But if you bought it with a prepaid SIM, it may not be. Read more about unlocking your phone here.

Some prepaid plans include roaming packs, but the rates are worse than a postpaid equivalent. With very few exceptions, we'd recommend prepaid customers buy a local SIM at their destination.

Alex Choros
Written by
Alex Choros
Alex Choros is the Group Reviews Editor for Clearlink Australia's local websites - Reviews.org, Safewise, and WhistleOut - and the Managing Editor for WhistleOut Australia. He's been writing about consumer technology for over eight years and is an expert on the Australian telco sector, to the point where he knows far too many phone and internet plans by heart. He also contributes to Gizmodo and Lifehacker, and makes regular appearances on 2GB. Outside of tech, Alex loves long hikes, red wine, and death metal.

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