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International roaming: Prepaid plans compared

Travel the world without breaking the bank.

Alex Kidman
Aug 30, 2023
bullet6 min read

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You can roam on a prepaid plan, and we’ve made it easy to compare plans and prices from Telstra, Vodafone, Kogan, Felix Mobile, Everyday Mobile and more.

For a long time, if you wanted to activate international roaming on a phone connected to Australia’s mobile networks, you had to be on a postpaid plan. Prepaid plans were rather explicitly excluded from any consideration of international roaming.

Thankfully for your wallet and mine, that’s no longer the case, with a wide variety of carriers offering international roaming for Australians using prepaid and long expiry plans. Naturally, as it’s a prepaid account, you’d need to make sure that your account is paid up for the period that you’ll be travelling for.

Pricing and plans can vary a whole lot, and it’s worth noting that a lot of prepaid plans just default to a simple but excruciatingly expensive pay-as-you-go system for calls, texts and data. Those are always the worst value way to roam internationally, so we’re going to focus on telcos that provide prepaid plans that let you pay for a block of usage over time to ensure that you get the best value.

It’s also vital that you check your destination against the prepaid roaming coverage provided by your telco. Most popular destinations with Australian tourists and business travellers are generally covered, but it’s wise not to assume that every location will be.

First up, you’re going to need a prepaid plan. Here’s a selection of prepaid plans that include international roaming options to get you started:

Felix Mobile International Roaming

Felix Mobile is best known for its single unlimited data plan within Australia … but the key words there are “within Australia”, because its largesse does not extend beyond our national shores. However, it does offer a prepaid add-on for existing Felix Mobile subscribers, giving you 100 calling minutes, 100 texts and 4GB of data to use as you see fit for $20.

The one catch with Felix Mobile’s implementation of roaming is that its supported country list is comparatively small, with just 44 countries covered by its add-on roaming plan. That does include some very popular destinations for Australians including the UK, the USA, Bali and Japan, but if you need wider coverage it may not suit your needs. Felix Mobile is an MVNO that provides services on the Vodafone network.

Optus Prepaid Roaming

Optus Mobile customers on an Optus Flex prepaid plan have two options for international roaming, depending on the length of your travel. If you’re doing a real whistle-stop tour of a country, you can pay $5 for 1GB of data, 100 calling minutes and 100 texts to use in a single day. If you’re staying a while longer, the larger Optus pack gives you 7GB of data, 700 calling minutes and 700 texts for $35, which absolutely is just a multiplication factor in play when you consider that it’s good for a 7 day span. Bascially, Optus is saying that its roaming add-on costs $5 a day, and you can buy it in single day or 7 day blocks. Optus’ prepaid international roaming only applies to what it calls “Zone 1” countries, giving you just over 90 different destinations to choose from. Otherwise you’ll be facing costs that vary by destination, but typically around $1/minute to make or receive calls, 50c to send or receive texts and 50c/MB for data usage.

Telstra Mobile Prepaid Roaming

Telstra’s plans have a reputation for being that bit more expensive, but when it comes to roaming on a Telstra prepaid plan, it’s actually one of your more competitive options. The cheapest add-on for eligible Telstra prepaid plans costs $10 for a 3 day expiry period with 400MB of data, 15 minutes worth of calls and 15 SMS or MMS included. Spend $15 and you’ll get 2GB of data, 25 SMS or MMS and 25 minutes of calls with a 7 day expiry. Finally, $25 will buy you 4GB of data, 50 SMS or MMS and 50 minutes worth of calls with 14 days of expiry.

Add-on packs are purchased through the My Telstra app and fire up as soon as you buy them, so Telstra advises you do so when you land, not before you leave. Prepaid customers are only covered for 35 eligible countries, which is not huge comparatively, though many popular destinations are covered. There’s no facility for PAYG usage on a prepaid plan, although that does at least mean you can’t get slugged with a heavy bill or burn out your prepaid balance when travelling.

Kogan Mobile Prepaid Roaming

Kogan Mobile offers three different international roaming packs, covering 1 day (1GB data, 50 minutes calls, 50 texts) for $10, 3 days (2GB data, 100 minutes calls, 100 texts) or 7 days (5GB data, 150 minutes calls, 150 texts).

Roaming packs can be prepurchased before you travel, or if you’re already overseas, through the Kogan Mobile app, online on the web or by texting ROAM1,3,7 to 12612 from your phone, using a stored credit card to pay for your pack.

Kogan Mobile’s plans only work across a selection of 30 countries, and while the big hitters for Australian tourism are mostly present, they’re not the most compelling of deals; you may be better off picking up a local or travel sim or eSIM when you roam abroad, unless keeping your Australian number active is super important to you. Kogan Mobile is an MVNO on the Vodafone Network.

Amaysim prepaid roaming

It’s interesting to see how amaysim approaches global roaming given it’s 100% owned by Optus, which has its own different take. You get a choice of four different roaming packs, dubbed “Small Talk”, “The Works”, “Just Gigs” and “The Epic” respectively. All of amaysim’s international roaming packs can be attached to its prepaid plans, and they’re all valid for up to 365 days from the date of purchase.

The $20 Small Talk plan buys you 100 minutes of calls and 100 texts only, while The Works at $25 gets you 50 minutes of calls, 50 texts and 1GB of data. As the name suggests, the $50 Just Gigs only has a data provision – 5GB – to play with, while The Epic plan at $70 gives you 100 minutes of calls, 100 texts and 5GB of data. Interestingly amaysim will let you stack packs as well if you need a slightly different mix of value when you travel. It covers over 90 international destinations for travellers.

Vodafone Prepaid Roaming

Vodafone is very well known for its $5/day global roaming deal, but that plan only applies if you’re a postpaid customer. It does offer a $5/day plan if you’re on a Vodafone prepaid plan, but it’s not just your plan inclusions as it is with postpaid customers. Instead, you get 200MB of data, 25 minutes of calls and 30 international texts, all with a single day expiry. There’s also a 3 day option at $15 with 90 minutes of calls, 120 texts and 750MB of data. Finally, there’s a 7 day $35 add-on with 200 call minutes, 300 texts and 2GB of data. Vodafone’s prepaid roaming add-ons cover just over 80 countries including the USA, the UK, France, Japan, China and Japan.

If you don’t buy a plan, you’ll pay Vodafone’s standard prepaid international roaming rates, at $1/minute to make or receive calls, 75c to send texts or MMS and $1/MB of data, all taken from your existing prepaid balance.

Everyday Mobile prepaid roaming

Everyday Mobile – the mobile carrier formerly known as Woolworths Mobile – offers international roaming packs covering single days, 5 days, 10 days and 15 days. Here’s how those plans compare:

1 Day
5 Day
10 Day
15 Day
Calls30 mins60 mins150 mins240 mins

One important distinction in these plans is the coverage area, with the single day plan only covering a list of 30 countries, while the longer expiry, higher cost plans bump that number up to 67 destinations. Everyday Mobile is an MVNO on the Telstra Network.

Boost Mobile Prepaid Roaming

Boost Mobile’s a Telstra MVNO with a focus on affordability, and that’s quite evident in its approach to international roaming packs. The headline grabber here is the idea of international roaming at under $3 a day, although that only applies to its top line Large Plan, which gives you 5GB of data, 60 minutes of calls and 60 texts across 40 countries for $40. Divide that by its 14 day expiry and you are indeed looking at a nicely affordable plan for longer trips.

It’s a little less generous for shorter and cheaper add-ons, however. At the medium level, $30 buys you 3GB, 30 minutes of calls and 30 texts across 40 countries with a 7 day expiry period. Finally for short trips, $20 will buy you 1GB of data, 15 minutes of calls and 15 texts for just 3 days.

Should I use PAYG rates when travelling?

Not unless you really don’t like having money in your bank account, no. Across the board, PAYG rates for international roaming remain quite punitive; you can expect to pay $1 minute or more for calls, similar prices for texts and $1/MB for data. It’s the last use case that can really sting you in the wallet; bear in mind that the cute YouTube video that you might glance at while waiting in an airport lounge could easily weigh in at 20MB/minute, and you start to appreciate just how expensive PAYG can be. If you’re in a dire emergency for communication reasons only then go for it, but it’s not a good value approach to take generally.

Alex Kidman
Written by
Alex Kidman
Alex Kidman is some kind of word-generating AI from the future that somehow worked out how to sneak back in time to 1998 to start its journalism career. Across that time, including editorial stints at ZDNet, CNET, Gizmodo, PC Mag and Finder, as well as contributions to every major tech masthead, nobody has quite managed to figure out this deeply held secret. Let’s keep it between us, OK?

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