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Can I use my phone overseas? Your mobile travel questions answered

Keeping connected when you travel is crucial, but can you even use your Australian phone overseas?

Anula Wiwatowska
Feb 16, 2024
Icon Time To Read9 min read

Keeping connected when you travel is crucial, but can you even use your Australian phone overseas? There is a lot of standardisation across mobile networks internationally but there are still a handful of things you’ll need to keep in mind when you’re travelling. In this guide we break down everything you need to know about taking your phone overseas, from whether it will even work, through to the cheapest ways to keep your Australian number while you’re away.

Can I use my phone overseas?


If you’re heading overseas for a holiday, or for a longer stint away from home you may be wondering if your phone will even work. The short answer is yes, your phone will most likely work in other countries. There are a couple of factors at play however, first you’ll need to make sure the mobile frequencies your phone is compatible with match your destination, and you’ll need to check that the device isn’t locked to an Australian network.

Mobile phone international compatibility

Most mobile phones, Australian models included run on GSM- Global System for Mobile Communication. GSM is a mobile network widely used across the globe, although some destinations may use a mixture of different frequencies to transmit signals. Australia, Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa all use a similar combination of frequencies while other countries vary depending on providers. It is worth checking what frequencies your phone uses and finding a provider that matches them in order to get the best service.

Phones locked to Australian networks

If your phone is locked to an Australian network then you won’t be able to use it overseas, even if the same provider has set up shop over there. Phones used to be sold ‘locked’ to either the Telstra, Vodafone, or Optus networks but that hasn’t been the case for more than ten years. These days, if you bought your phone on a plan, or outright from a retailer then the answer to whether your phone is locked is probably ‘no’. Some prepaid phones, or older hand-me-down models bought from telcos may still be stuck to that provider’s network and will likely require you to pay a fee to free it. 

Fees vary depending on the provider, we’ve broken down the basics for you below.

How much does it cost to unlock your phone?

Provider
iPhone
Android Postpaid
Prepaid phones
OptusUnlocked since Sept 2013UnlockedUnlocked if you’ve spent $80 or more in recharges since Sept 2012
VodafoneUnlocked if bought since Aug 2013Unlocked if bought since Aug 2013$50 if you’ve had it for less than 6 months$25 if you’ve had it for more than 6 months
TelstraUnlocked from iPhone 4s upwardUnlocked$80 if you’ve had it for less than 6 months$25 for more than 6 months but less than 2 yearsFree after 2 years
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Can I receive calls overseas without roaming?

Some providers like Belong will still allow you to receive text messages and phone calls without paying for international roaming. This is especially convenient for things like two factor authentication text messages. However this is not a standard feature so you’ll need to check with your provider to see what you can and can’t do without a roaming pack.

Can I use my phone plan overseas?


For anyone looking to use their Australian number overseas, you’re in luck- there are now more providers than ever offering international roaming. International roaming is a mobile plan feature that allows Australian providers to piggyback off networks in other countries, it means your phone will still work, and you’ll keep your number but it will cost you.

International roaming is expensive no matter which way you look at it, you’ll need to pay your usual phone bill plus extra roaming charges on top of that. There are free ways to use your phone overseas, but we’ll get into those a bit later on.

How much does international roaming cost?

How much international roaming costs will depend on which provider you’re with, how long you’re away for, and of course how much data you’ll need. Roaming used to be reserved for the big three telcos but as of late more of the smaller players have begun offering it as an extra. Here is a quick breakdown of the total minimum costs for international roaming with all Australian providers offering the service.

Scroll down for more detail on each provider.

Provider
Min. roaming cost
GB/ expiry
Expiry
Min. SIM plan cost
Min. total cost
felix mobile$20 4GB365-days$25/mth$45
Belong$30 3GB15-days$29/mth$59
amaysim$25 1GB365-days$10/week$35
Tangerine$35 5GB7-days$22/mth$57
Kogan Mobile$10 1GB1-day$15/mth$25
Boost Mobile$20 1GB3-days$12/week$22
Optus prepaid$5 1GB1-day$12/week$17
Optus postpaid$5 5GB1-day$49/mth$54
Vodafone prepaid$5 200MB1-day$30/mth$35
Vodafone postpaid$5Min. 40GB1-day$49/mth$54
Telstra prepaid$10 400MB3-days$12/week$22
Telstra postpaid$10 1GB1-day$62/mth$72
Woolworths Mobile$7 150MB1-day$25/mth$32
More$35 5GB7-days$24/mth$59
Info Box
What does stackable mean in international roaming mobile plans?

The term ‘stackable’ pops up a lot in international roaming guides. ‘Stackable’ packs mean packs that can be purchased and used concurrently- this may be appealing if you need more data than what is offered but don’t want the hassle of topping up multiple times. If a provider doesn’t offer stackable packs then you’ll only be able to have one roaming pack active at once.

Optus international roaming

Type
Pack
Price
Expiry
Inclusions
PostpaidOptus Roaming Pass$524-hours5GB data Unlimited talk and text
PrepaidTravel Credit$1014-daysPAY-G credit
PrepaidData-only roaming$2014-days10GB
PrepaidInternational Roaming$357-days10GB

Optus postpaid roaming

Optus postpaid customers can opt in for the Optus Roaming Pass for $5 per day. This $5 gets you 5GB of data to use per day, plus unlimited standard calls and text within Zone 1 destinations. 

Each pass is valid for 24 hours from the time of activation, but unfortunately unused data doesn’t roll over. When the clock strikes you have the option to get the add-on again or you can pay-as-you-go at international roaming rates. These rates are very expensive, especially where data is concerned so we wouldn’t recommend it for most people.

Zone 1 covers over 100 countries across Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas, so chances are where you’re travelling to will be covered. It is always best to double check Optus’ full list of eligible countries available on the Optus website.

Optus prepaid roaming

Optus customers using a prepaid SIM have more international roaming options to choose from than their postpaid counterparts. Prepaid users can opt for PAY-G Travel Credit, Data-only Roaming, or stackable International Roaming packs. 

Travel credit is valid for 14-days and lets you use the credit for anything your heart desires- calls, texts, endless TikToks. Again though, pay as you go roaming rates are pricey so the travel credit won’t go as far as opting for one of the packs. If you’re primarily online the Data-only roaming add-on is the best option- for $20  you’ll get 10GB to use over 14-days. Considering that the average Australian only use 13GB of data per month, that should be enough to keep you going while you’re out and about. Otherwise if you want the option to call and text, Optus’ International Roaming add-ons go for $5 per day, and come with 1GB of data, 100 texts and 100 talk minutes. These are stackable however, so for $35/week you’ll get 7GB, 700 text, and 700 minutes.

Vodafone international roaming

Type
Pack
Price
Expiry
Inclusions
Postpaid$5 Roaming$524-hoursAll usual plan inclusions
Prepaid200MB Add-on$101-day200MB
30 texts
25 mins
Prepaid750MB Add-on$153-days750MB
120 texts
90 mins
Prepaid2GB Add-on$357-days2GB
300 texts
200 mins

Vodafone postpaid roaming

Vodafone’s $5 international roaming is infamous, but let us remind you how it works. For $5 per day Vodafone postpaid customers can use all their usual monthly inclusions- unlimited talk, text, and their data allowance- across over 90 countries. It is easily the best dollar-to-data deal out there.

Each day is charged across a 24-hour period, so if you switch it on at 8am you’ll get charged again the next day at 8am again. However you’re only charged if you use your inclusions on that day, so if you keep your phone on aeroplane mode and use public WiFi instead you’ll save yourself $5. Customers can use Vodafone $5 roaming for up to 90 days per year, after that it’s $5/GB.

Vodafone prepaid roaming

Compared to Vodafone’s postpaid international roaming options, the prepaid offerings suck. $5 buys you 200MB of data, 30 text messages, and 25 international call minutes to use in one day. It is a far cry from $5 for unlimited calls and texts and at least 40GB of data. For a three day expiry you’ll pay $15 and get 750MB, 120 texts, and for seven days it goes up to 2GB, 300 texts, and 200 call minutes. These packs are available across 80 countries.

Telstra international roaming

Type
Pack
Price
Expiry
Inclusions
PostpaidInternational roaming Day Pass$10 ($5 in NZ)24-hours1GB
Unlimited texts
Unlimited mins
PrepaidTelstra Prepaid International Roaming Pack (1)$51-day400MB
15 texts
15 mins
PrepaidTelstra Prepaid International Roaming Pack (2)$157-days2GB
25 texts
25 mins
PrepaidTelstra Prepaid International Roaming Pack (3)$2514-days2GB
300 texts
200 mins

Telstra postpaid roaming

Postpaid or Upfront Telstra customers can access international roaming through the International Roaming Day Pass. As its namesake suggests, this pass lasts for 24-hours but notably this is measured from midnight AET no matter where you are in the world. These passes are not stackable, and if you hit your 1GB limit in a day you’ll get the option to add another 1GB for $10 with a 31-day expiry. Telstra’s postpaid international roaming works in around 70 destinations.

Telstra prepaid roaming

On the prepaid side of things for Telstra, customers have more flexible roaming options depending on how long the trip is. $5 covers one day with 400MB, 15 texts, and 15 international minutes, $15 covers 7 days with 2GB of data, 25 texts and call minutes, and for longer trips you can get 4GB and 50 texts and minutes for $25. Telstra prepaid roaming covers 35 countries.

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What is VoLTE roaming?

VoLTE is when your phone uses an LTE network to make phone calls and send texts rather than a 3G network. Since 3G networks are shutting down across the globe, many roaming partners are switching on VoLTE international roaming. In theory this should give you clearer phone calls, better speeds, and faster connecting times.

felix mobile international roaming

Type
Pack
Price
Expiry
Inclusions
PrepaidInternational Roaming add-on$20365-days1GB
Unlimited texts
Unlimited mins

Network: Vodafone
Roaming Destinations: 40+
Stackable packs: Yes
Billing cycle: 365 days from the purchase date. No auto-renewal.

Important to note: Roaming packs can be used on a paused felix mobile subscription

Belong international roaming

Type
Pack
Price
Expiry
Inclusions
PostpaidInternational Roaming$3015-days3GB
Unlimited texts
150 mins

Network: Telstra Wholesale
Roaming Destinations: 45+
Stackable packs: No - when a new pack is purchased the existing one will expire.
Billing cycle: Packs expire at midnight AET on the day of expiry.

Important to note: Belong plans above the 1GB Plan can use WiFi Calling for free, and receive incoming text messages without activating a roaming pack abroad.

amaysim international roaming

Type
Pack
Price
Expiry
Inclusions
PrepaidSmall Talk$20365-days100 texts
100 mins
PrepaidThe Works$25365-days2GB
30 texts
50 mins
PrepaidJust Gigs$50365-days6GB
PrepaidThe Epic$70365-days9GB
60 texts
100 mins

Network: Optus
Roaming Destinations: 90+
Stackable packs: Yes
Billing cycle: 365 days from the purchase date. No auto-renewal.

Important to note: Not for use on cruise ships.

Tangerine international roaming

Type
Pack
Price
Expiry
Inclusions
Postpaid3 Day Pack$603-days3GB
300 texts
300 mins
Postpaid7 Day Pack$357-days2GB
30 texts
50 mins
Postpaid14 Day Pack$5514-days10GB
60 texts
60 mins

Network: Telstra Wholesale
Roaming Destinations: 70+
Stackable packs: No.
Billing cycle: Packs expire at midnight AET on the day of expiry.

Important to note: If you run out of data your service will simply stop working until you purchase a new pack.

Heads Up
Can I pause my plan when I'm travelling?

Generally you won’t be able to pause your mobile plan when you’re travelling, but there are some exceptions. If you’ve got a prepaid SIM you can simply stop topping up while you’re away, and some providers like Boost and felix mobile will even allow you to use International Roaming packs without an active recharge.

Kogan Mobile international roaming

Type
Pack
Price
Expiry
Inclusions
Prepaid1 Day roaming$1024-hours1GB
50 texts
50 mins
Prepaid3 Day roaming$253-days2GB
30 texts
50 mins
Postpaid14 Day Pack$5514-days10GB
60 texts
60 mins

Network: Vodafone
Roaming Destinations: 30+
Stackable packs: Yes - up to five.
Billing cycle: Expiry periods start immediately after purchase or activation

Important to note: An existing and active Kogan Mobile recharge is required to use an international roaming pack.

Boost Mobile international roaming

Type
Pack
Price
Expiry
Inclusions
PrepaidInternational Roaming Small$203-days1GB
20 texts
20 mins
PrepaidInternational Roaming Medium$307-days3GB
30 texts
30 mins
PostpaidInternational Roaming Large$4014-days5GB
60 texts
60 mins

Network: Telstra
Roaming Destinations: 40+
Stackable packs: Yes
Billing cycle: Expiry periods apply in 24-hour periods from when you first activate the pack. For example 1:00pm - 1:00pm the next day.

Important to note: You do not need an active recharge to be able to purchase a Boost International Roaming Pack

Everyday (Woolworths) international roaming

Type
Pack
Price
Expiry
Inclusions
Prepaid + Postpaid1 Day Roaming Add-on$121-day1GB
20 texts
20 mins
Prepaid + Postpaid7 Day Roaming Add-on$457-day5GB
30 texts
30 mins
Prepaid + Postpaid14 Day Roaming Add-on$7014-day10GB
60 texts
60 mins

Network: Telstra Wholesale
Roaming Destinations: 1 Day Roaming covers 32 destinations, other packs cover 68
Stackable packs: No - limited to purchasing two roaming add-ons per 24-hours
Billing cycle: Add-on expiry periods as soon as the purchase is made, and end at 11:59 AET on the day of expiry.

Important to note: WiFi calling is available but only from overseas back to Australia.

More Mobile international roaming

Type
Pack
Price
Expiry
Inclusions
Postpaid3 Day Pack$603-days3GB
300 texts
300 mins
Postpaid7 Day Pack$357-days2GB
30 texts
50 mins
Postpaid14 Day Pack$5514-days10GB
60 texts
60 mins

Network: Telstra Wholesale
Roaming Destinations: 70+
Stackable packs: No.
Billing cycle: Packs expire at midnight AET on the day of expiry.

Important to note: If you run out of data your service will simply stop working until you purchase a new pack.

What are the alternatives to international roaming?


The cost of international roaming can really add up, especially on longer trips but luckily there are alternatives. The downside is that none of these alternatives will allow you to actively use your Australian number. If you’re heavily reliant on your phone number for work and can’t divert to an online source of communication like WhatsApp, then these probably won’t work for you. On the other hand if you’re okay to ignore your home-bound responsibilities while you’re away you can easily save a good chunk of money.

Travel eSIM

One of the easiest, and most cost effective ways of using your phone overseas is to buy an international eSIM. Generally speaking these have some of the best data-to-dollar values, and are also the most convenient way to get connected. eSIMs are rewritable SIMs embedded in your device that ultimately allow you to download a new phone plan instantly. Not all phones are compatible with eSIM, so be sure to check that your model works with eSIM.

International eSIMs can be bought in advance, and activated when you land at your destination. There are a range of online retailers like Airalo, and TravelSIM selling eSIMs for use in any country you can think of. While there are options that cover whole continents like Europe, coverage can vary drastically between countries so it may be worth looking into new plans for each country.

Buy a local SIM card

If you’re less e-inclined then opting for a local SIM is another solid option while you’re travelling. Local SIMs will use one of the country’s local networks, but you’ll want to grab a prepaid one to make sure you don’t end up locked in to an international contract.

Free load off public WiFi

The cheapest way to use your phone overseas is to pop it on aeroplane mode and just be a freeloader. No matter where you travel there will be plenty of places spruiking free WiFi, so you can always just use that to stay connected. Obviously there are downsides- public WiFi networks are less secure, and you won’t be able to use your phone in between destinations, but hey the price is right.

Anula Wiwatowska
Written by
Anula Wiwatowska
Anula is the Content and Social Media Editor within the Reviews.org extended universe. Working in the tech space since 2020, she covers phone and internet plans, gadgets, smart devices, and the intersection of technology and culture. Anula was a finalist for Best Feature Writer at the 2022 Consensus Awards, and an eight time finalist across categories at the IT Journalism Awards. Her work contributed to WhistleOut's Best Consumer Coverage win in 2023.

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