Global roaming rates are a rort. That's news to nobody. But if you were desperate to keep hold of your Australian phone number while travelling overseas, what's the best way to cap your costs?
Image: Here In Van Nuys
The answer very much depends on the carrier that your phone or SIM is currently tied to, because each of the big carriers treats its roaming options a little differently.
The good news here is that if you do want to keep your number for simple calls and texts, you're not likely to go massively broke just by using your phone. The rates for calls and texts have tumbled in recent years, although it's worth bearing in mind that some destination networks include a charge to receive as well as send text messages.
There's not much doubt that from a costs perspective Vodafone's $5 per day roaming deal is the best value if keeping your smartphone number is of vital importance to you. The key matter here is to match it up to your destination. Vodafone currently covers a number of Asian destinations, 34 different European countries, and its original trio of the UK, USA and New Zealand.
Optus roaming scheme divides most of the world into two zones, with Zone 1 countries (USA, Europe and Asia) charging 50c/MB for data usage. Zone 2 countries (Africa, Latin America and the Middle East) is a touch pricier at $1/MB. Those rates apply whether you're a pre- or post-paid customer.
As we noted at the time, that's hardly all that cost efficient, but if you must use your standard number for whatever reason, it pays to be informed.
Hands up if you figured Telstra would be pricey. Yep, that's all of you.
Telstra did rejig its roaming rates back in March, divvying up the world into eight zones for calling and SMS purposes, but it made no changes to its data rates, which sit at a flat $3/MB if you don't buy a data pack upfront.
It would still be cheaper to use other alternatives, but again if you're stuck using just one device and SIM, the data packs would be the way to go. The expensive way to go, with 100MB of prepaid data costing you $29, 300MB costing $85, 600MB costing $160 or 1.5GB costing $350. Then again, those beat paying that $3/MB price, where 1.5GB of data would cost you an eye-watering (and wallet-emptying) $4500.
It's slightly worse if you're a Telstra pre-paid customer, where the 1.5GB pack isn't even an option.
Virgin does support international roaming, but has no plans of note to cover it, or options to pre-pay for data or voice services. Its factsheet notes that exact charges may even vary within a specific country depending on which network you roam onto. As such, it would be sensible if you're going to stick to Virgin Mobile to do your research and work out the cheapest network for your given destination.
As we've noted before, sticking with your provider is rarely the most cost-effective way to use smartphone services, and particularly data while travelling overseas. For more on this, why not check out our guide to avoiding global roaming rorts?
Lifehacker’s weekly Planhacker column rounds up the best communication deals.