If you’ve never taken your iPhone overseas before, have you thought about whether you’ll use international roaming?
International roaming can be activated in the iPhone’s settings to enable your phone to automatically connect to a local mobile phone network. Activating international roaming lets you use data while you’re travelling in another country. You will be billed by your current network provider with additional international roaming charges.
It sounds convenient – but it isn’t cheap. The iPhone is a device that has the potential to use a large amount of data, causing users to incur charges even for simple tasks like checking emails. People have received unexpectedly large mobile data roaming charges by not taking care with how they used their international roaming.
The number of complaints has gone down considerably in recent years according to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman, but there are still issues about international travelers running up unexpected thousands of dollars in their phone billing.
How to manage international roaming charges
Here are some ways to save you money if you take your phone overseas:
1. Turn Off Data Roaming.
This is the single most effective step you can take to avoid big international roaming bills.
Turning off the data roaming feature on your iPhone will prevent your phone from connecting to any carrier to access mobile data while overseas, until you turn it back on.
If you do need to connect to the internet, try to use Wi-Fi hotspots. Many hotels and restaurants provide internet access to their customers. If you have Skype, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and other similar apps on your iPhone, you can use them to call and send messages. Use Wi-Fi before you head out to download maps so you can still use your GPS to find your way around.
2. Turn Off Data-Heavy Functions.
Some apps and iPhone functions can use data in the background, even when you’re not specifically trying to access the internet. Some examples are emails that are pushed through as soon as your phone finds a connection. If you’re using Wi-Fi that can be a handy feature, but you have to be careful. Turning on your international roaming for a necessary function such as checking your bank balance could trigger apps to start accessing the internet for their own purposes.
These features can be turned off through the iPhone settings. You can set apps to only update when you’re connected to Wi-Fi, or when you manually ask them to update. That way, if you do need to access global roaming, you’ll only use what you need.
3. International SIM card
If you have an unlocked iPhone, you can install an international SIM card with a data plan for use abroad.
An example is the GO-SIM international SIM card which can connect to 340 networks in 210 countries. Visit the website for the type of plan and rates which differ based on the location.
4. Local Prepaid SIM In Country of Destination
This is also for unlocked iPhones. Services through a local prepaid SIM card will have no roaming charges. You should research for the best local SIM card plan for your needs and also check that it’s compatible with your iPhone.
Local SIM cards are usually available for purchase at the airports, or with a bit of planning can even be posted to Australia. Just make sure to inform your important contacts about your new number.
5. Get a Data Plan from Australian Telcos
The major network carriers offer reduced rate or fixed data packages for international roaming. Just make sure whatever you choose will work in the country you’re travelling to. Here are some examples of the data plans offered by Australian network operators:
- Telstra offers this International Day Pass
$10 a day in more than 70 countries (Check available countries). $5 a day in New Zealand. Includes Unlimited talk and text; Maximum of 200MB of data daily (data expires daily, based on AEST). If you exceed 200MB, an additional 500MB for $10 will be added for use within 31 days. Visit the website for more details and latest updates.
- Optus offers both postpaid and prepaid Travel Packs
Postpaid OPTUS TRAVEL™ PACKS – Spend $10 per day for standard unlimited talk and SMS plus 100MB of data to use in Zone 1 countries. You can buy multiple packs at a time. Prepaid customers planning to travel abroad should check out the Prepaid Mobile Travel Credit & Prepaid Mobile Broadband Travel Packs.
- Vodafone offers its $5 Per Day International Roaming for its plan holders.
The plan can be used in over 60 countries. You get unlimited SMS, calls and use of your standard domestic data allowance. Check also the international roaming plans offered by the other telcos.
Where are you going?
If you’re travelling to any of the 28 countries of the European Union and the European Economic Area (EEA) nations of Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein you don’t need to worry about international roaming charges. Roaming charges have been abolished in EU countries since June 2017. You can ‘roam like at home’. It means that if you go to France, you’ll pay the same amount as if you are using your iPhone in Australia. However, there are some exemptions. It’s better to clarify things with your mobile network provider.
Dodging extra charges
There are many ways to stay connected using your iPhone while overseas without worrying about data roaming charges.
The most convenient way to save on international roaming charges is yet to come, i with embedded SIM (eSIM) technology. An eSIM will allow iPhone users to switch carriers in the country they’re going to, and is one of the anticipated features of the soon to be released 2018 iPhone. Until then, be wise and save yourself a bundle by turning off international roaming and avoiding those extra charges.
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