What Tactics Do You Use To Minimise Roaming Charges?

Using your mobile on an overseas trip seems like a good idea right up until you get the hideously expensive bill filled with call and data roaming charges a few months later. Short of leaving the phone switched off altogether, what tricks do you prefer for minimins bill shock after an overseas trip?

A survey of 350 regular Australian travellers by discount SIM provider Tru highlights some of the more popular tactics which frequent travellers use to try and cut costs. Here's some of the favourites, according to a press release announcing the study:

  • 68% make fewer and shorter calls
  • 25% will only make calls on landlines (though that in itself can be a false economy if you pay over-the-top hotel rates)
  • 50% check email less often
  • 19% switch to an alternate local SIM

My own preferred travel strategy is a mix of a local SIM in some countries and a near-fanatical desire to find a hotel with free Wi-Fi, which covers most of my communications needs. What other strategies do you adopt? Tell us in the comments.


    When overseas, I disable my mobile provider's data services and only enable them went I want an updated feed of emails or to access web services. This greatly saved on data fees I would otherwise have been charged.

    Definitely local SIM. I can call from Bangkok to Oz for less than 2c per minute. Telstra = $1.80 per minute.
    I have a Skype-in number which I redirect my office number to, for the cost of a local call. I can then receive calls via Skype for free anywhere in the world.

    Do research on local SIMs at home before you leave Australia, especially if where you are going does not speak your mother tongue. That way you can just walk into the shop when you arrive and tell them (or print and show them) what you want.

    An EU Vodafone SIM is a good choice for most of Europe due to the roaming arrangements between countries. If you do this or similar 'continental roaming', make sure you set up the online portal so you can recharge with a credit card from outside of the SIM's home country.


    I disagree with Angus's free-WiFi obsession, I take that into account, but find out the cost of hotel wireless, and also look into local mobile broadband to work out the total cost.

    Last time I was in Wellington for a few days I found absolute bargain hotel rates, and then paid NZ$79 for a local dongle and 500MB on Telecom NZ's excellent XT network which worked out far cheaper than the hotels offerings and other alternative lodgings.

    I'm debating what I should do when I travel to America later this year. I had a look at Pre-Paid plans and they are slim to non. I thought the US had good data plans. I was wrong, AT&T want to charge $20 for 100mb. I think I will be looking for free wifi at the big Micky D's or Starbucks!


      I'm going to the States in a few weeks and have been researching this also. Check out these pre-paid rates for the USA.


      $80 = 2GB Data +

      *Unlimited calls to landlines and mobile phones within the United States and free incoming calls
      *Unlimited text messages to phones in the United States
      *Unlimited International calls to LandLines (Including Australia) & International calls to Australian Mobiles ($0.25/min)

    I disable data roaming on my Telstra phone and then check in once a day for the people that can't work out I'm overseas.

    I also leave a voicemail with my local mobile number.

    Has worked well for 10+ years.

    More recently I flick my data over to wifi and connect to various free zones I'm in.

    But work and family know to call my o/s number when I am o/s.

    Local Sim in combination with Skype. I redirect my aus mobile to my local skype number, then my skype to whatever local number I have. Avoids major problem of roaming data charges which are scandalous.

    Having worked for Vodafone in the past, a common Bill Shock is when you find out you get charged the international portion of the call when someone else calls you. I always used to advise getting a local SIM where possible and knowing how much it'll cost you if not. In most cases it was worth paying the unlocking fee for people to not use up their cap in less than 10 minutes.

    Also, Voicemail retrieval is charged at the full international rate.

    Im currently in Singapore for a week. Being on the telstra prepaid service, i purchased a $29 10mb pack. Switching off all background data, except for whatsapp & flighttrack. i dont make or take calls unless urgent. i can receive SMSs for free, and i send out SMSs using chompSMS network. The three apps use very little data , and allow me to communicate with everyone as i needed. Im still fine tuning this process as there appears to be some data leaks on my android device, but so far, i still have a couple of megs to use up with a day to go...this is with about 30 sms out a day, and heavy whatsapp usage.

    I use the service run by the company I work for (ekit.com) - global roaming SIM with good rates everywhere and a bunch of other nice stuff. Also getting the integrated travel journal is nice. But I'll stop spruiking :-)

    A local SIM is OK if you are one country for long enough - what about the 'travelsim'option - prepurchase in Oz before you go ($50) and recharge on-line? Works in all major countries but data plan isn't included.Aussi post flog them.
    Would appreciate any comments from anyone who has used one.

    For me it's combo of local SIM and Skype over WiFi for calls. And mostly WiFi for data (email/web/apps etc...)

    Twice I used data roaming when OS (NZ and Thailand) and twice it's cost me.... +$400 and +$200 for VERY minimal data usage.

    Lately though I've started leaving my phone in the safe at the hotel and find I'm enjoying my holidays being "disconnected" from the world. Usually just check it once a day to make sure no one back home has died or is dying... then back into the safe until the next day... (obviously not an option if you are working while OS... but then work should be paying your OS phone bills anyway :-)

    Re: prepaid in America, most networks (inc. T-mobile and At&T) offer what they call a PAYG plan, where u basically pay a daily fee (about $2/day i think) for unlimited calls and text. The t-mobile one also includes 2GB of data/month, or you can just buy a web day pass for $1.49/day (which includes unlimited data for the day-->great if you wanna use ur phone as a wifi router).
    The only thing you need to be careful about is that the 3G frequencies offered by networks in the US are different to Australia, although AT&T uses the same frequency as Telstra, so your phone may not get 3G reception on their networks.

    I used GoSIM travel simcard on my recent trip. You get a Moldovian phone number and the call rates are pretty cheap, you COULD use GPRS data if you wish. Another perk was that they had a website portal that people can send you SMS Messages for free as long as they have your gosim phone number.

    Used GoSim for 2 weeks in Japan in January and a month in Europe in March/April. Loaded it up with $99 credit, have no idea how much is left but it worked fine. Mostly used it for texting, a few calls, but not for data. Every hotel/B&B i stayed at had free Wifi, and many cafes, Mcdonalds etc.

    Gosim uses a funny way of calling, where you call the number, then it hangs up and calls you back. the frustrating thing with the iphone was that i had to go into the Gosim menu in the settings and make the call from there, otherwise the phone would freeze up. From that gosim menu you cant access your contacts so you had to write down or memorise any phone number you were calling. I sent Gosim an email about it and they said you shouldnt have to do that, so dont know if it is just a bug in the latest IOS, or something else.

    For America at lease, use mobipassport.com. I used it a couple of weeks ago with my iPhone 4 and had AT&T 3G throughout America! Only cost $25 for 500mb which isn't unreasonable..

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now