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How to avoid big mobile bills when travelling overseas?

in Mobiles

  • Worried about massive bills after getting back from your overseas travel?
  • But you still need access to your phone and data?
  • You need to call the hotel reception or restaurant or confirm that activity you have booked!
  • You don’t want to swap the sim in your phone to a local foreign one, as you still might need occasional access to your Australian number while travelling and that can be a pain swapping between the two sim cards.

There are ways to solve all of this. Use of your phone and data while avoiding huge bills.

What about those connecting flights or getting to your accomodation? Yes, airport Wi-Fi is usually ok. But not all airports. And what about that Uber ride or train to your accomodation where you need to book the Uber or call reception on the way?

After a delay, what do you do when you get to your hotel in a new country, reception’s closed and no one’s there in the middle of the night, and you need to make a call?

No matter the reason, we highly recommend against using Australian Calls and Data overseas, it is simply not worth it. The fees are huge and with background updates, app activity and other things going on you would be in for a huge bill, often into the thousands of dollars.

This is due to Telstra’s network and their pricing.

The easy way out is to enable International Roaming for your service and turn on “Data Roaming” in your phone settings.

If any call or sms comes through it will trigger a daily pass fee per day. So if you simply leave this on and send or receive 1 SMS each day it will cost you this fee each day.

And then any data usage on your phone will rack up a huge bill.

Don’t do this!! You do have better options that are straight forward and simple to setup.

You should enable International Roaming with your provider. However we recommend you turn off Data Roaming under your phone settings and avoid answering most calls or listening to voice messages that are not critical as you will pay for all of it. e.g. if someone from Aus calls (they may not know you are overseas), so the call is a normal cost for them, but if you answer it triggers the day pass and an international call.

What are my options?

Get an international eSIM before you go. Turn off Data Roaming. And buy Skype to Phone credit for those unexpected calls you will need to make.

Only use your Australian SIM card if you deperately need to get a verification SMS.

Can I get my voicemail messages?

First up, before you leave we recommend setting up a voice message to say something like: “I can’t take your call as I’m currently overseas/away. Please send me a WhatsApp message instead.”

Try to avoid getting or retrieving all voice messages.

What about receiving SMS verifications while overseas?

This is the only thing that should cost you money.

You can periodically enable Data Roaming under your settings if you really need to receive an SMS. Like a bank verification.

But try and only do this when connected to Wi-Fi (e.g. in a hotel or cafe), then wait for the SMS to come through and then turn off Data Roaming once you have it.

Use WhatsApp…always!!

Everyone has it, it’s easy, it’s free. Why wouldn’t you use it?

You can communicate mostly using WhatsApp and call anyone who doesn’t have WhatsApp using other options. Yes, unbelievably some people do not know what WhatsApp is, but you can educate them before you go.

We strongly recommend getting WhatsApp if you don’t already have it and using this for all calls and messages.

If you cannot call someone with WhatsApp and need to make a call to a normal mobile or phone, then downloading the Skype app and using “Skype to Phone” credit is a great option.

Skype to Phone

Who said Skype was dead?

It is still excellent for calling directly.

Download the Skype app before you go and top-up with Skype-out credit. This will allow you to call any mobile or landline directly anywhere in the world for a few cents. Call any number in Australia or anywhere else in the world, just like you would make a normal phone call (but from the Skype App rather than your usual dial pad). As an example, calling your elderly parents’ landline in Australia, who don’t use mobiles, while you are overseas would cost between 1c and 4c per minute. In other words, an hour catchup would cost about $1 or $2.

The tricks of Data Usage:

However the trick comes in with the data usage. Everything you do needs it.

Both Whatsapp and Skype to Phone both need Data to work. And obviously you would want to use the internet too.

When connected to Wi-Fi it is easy and it all works effortlessly.

But when not connected to Wi-Fi, what can you do?

In short, you need Wi-Fi or Mobile Data and this is the challenge.

Airalo is an excellent option for data that many of our customers have used successfully:

Once you have it, it’s like you’re back home with your normal mobile data working.

Download the Airalo App and buy an international eSIM through the app. Download the app on your phone(s) and purchase a local, regional or global data eSIM for the number of days you’ll be in that country. There are various options. Before you leave you can then set the phone to use calls and SMS on the default Australian SIM, and then data from the new eSIM.

And then turn off your Australian Primary SIM completely and only turn it on if in an emergency.

Want to go old school?

We seriously recommend against it!

Your mobile provider could just enable International Roaming for you and then you enable Data Roaming on your phone, but we’ve seen bills get into the thousands of dollars!

If we are your provider, and you insist on this option, once we’ve enabled International Roaming for you, we would add Excess spend limits to your mobile, ranging from $50 to $1000, to be paid upfront. The benefit of this is to avoid bill shock as the spend limit will cut off once the limit is reached (so you know what you’re in for). But it is still a really bad option. International roaming chews through data so quickly it is really not worth it. The Telstra network still charges per KB and MB for data when overseas and it really is not recommended when there are other great ways to get around it.

Let us know if you want to understand more.

Safe travels :-)


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