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international roaming?
how do you all go about using your phone overseas?

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#1 tessysmum

Posted 29 December 2012 - 08:35 PM

So basically - heading to Singapore and Bali in January - will be away almost 3 weeks. I was going to set up international roaming - have done so before without issue, for a 3 month round-the-world trip in 2006 and in fiji for 2 weeks in 2008. We made an effort not to use our phones much, still did occasionally,  and didnt get any ridiculous bills. However - this was before the days of smart phones and mobile data.

Our provider is virgin mobile, whom I asked about charges and they straight out recommended to get a travel sim, as the charges were so high. So why have things changed so much in a few years?
I'd love to still have my phone and number, and would use it rarely, and only access data through free public wifi. And the travel sim charges look pretty high anyway - can text quite cheap though. We were also thinking would be handy to be able to call each other (DH and I) in case we want to go seperate ways sometimes, such as in zoo or theme park, taking one kid to loo, etc.

So what do you all do for phone contact when you travel OS, especially these regions if anyones familiar??


#2 Isolabella

Posted 29 December 2012 - 08:41 PM

I take my normal SIM but use a dual SIM phone.

So I have a non data phone (calls only) which has my Aussie number for people to txt, contact me in an emergency, and then get a local SIM at the destination to use and put that I. The dual SIM phone. So I can receive calls on two different SIM cards on the one phone. I give my new local phone number to anyone really needing to contact me overseas too.

Dual SIM phones


I take my smart phone without a SIM and just use it for WiFI access to get emails etc.

We did that in EU last year. Also helped that the UK SIM had calls from 1p per minute to Australia so really cheap for me to phone home.

Edited by lsolaBella, 29 December 2012 - 08:42 PM.

#3 babychacha

Posted 29 December 2012 - 08:41 PM

I always buy a local sim card. Much much cheaper and as you say, handy to be able to text/ring whoever you are there with.

I just text my new number to whoever needs it back in Australia or wherever. Global roaming is crazy expensive.

#4 HurryUpAlready

Posted 29 December 2012 - 08:46 PM

I always turn my data off - it will cost you a FORTUNE every time you download an email. Just turn it off & access your email & Internet via free wifi where you can get it (pretty common at hotels, cafes etc).

I also try to limit voice calls to an absolute minimum. Even just using SMS I managed to rack up a bill worth at least $300+ when I'm overseas for a few weeks. Remember, you pay for every call & text you receive as well as send.

I also turn my voicemail off when overseas (not always practical if it's a work phone) as you are also charged st roaming rates to receive voicemail.

Getting a local sim helps if you are making local calls, but is expensive if u are using your phone to call/SMS home.

Beware, it really is easy to rack up a huge bill. A few phone calls home from Bali in 2008 cost me over $600!! And that was me being careful!!!!

#5 TheWanderer

Posted 29 December 2012 - 08:57 PM

If you continue to use your phone as you do locally when you are abroad then expect to need a second mortgage to pay the bill.  Roaming charges are just as extortious as they ever have been.  Factor data into this and it is actually worse than ever.

You don't, repeat don't want your phone using data while roaming unless you have a specific roaming data plan.  I was lucky enough to get this last time I travelled to New Zealand with Vodafone (believe it or not, I have found they are actually the best carrier to be using if travelling overseas, even if their local challenges) but I have not heard of other carriers offering similar.

What I usually do is to use my phone for txts only when overseas, as these are generally pretty reasonable.  If you will be away for an extended period then a local SIM card is going be be of benefit.  You need a phone that is not locked to an Australian network first, if you have a prepaid phone this may be a problem.  Even for some plans, the handsets are locked to the network but you can usually unlock it easily enough.  Check this before you go.

Do you have an iPad or other tablet or spare phone (old one in the junk box)?  This may be a good option for the local SIM.  An iPad or tablet can be used as a portable hotspot so you can use Wi-Fi from your primary phone for data services.   I often do this and get the best of both worlds... my usual number stays on my phone so people can still call me or text me while all data gets charged at local rates.  

Don't forget that even inbound calls get charged for at roaming rates.  

Skype is your friend.  Most smartphones can run Skype. I have the facility setup so I can use Skype to call out to normal phones.  It isn't free so you need to buy some credit but if you call land lines it is pretty cheap, though calling mobiles can be pricey.  Make sure you have a good internet connection if you do this.  Hotel Wi-Fi is ideal.  Wi-Fi tethered through a tablet like I described above is not so great as it will burn up your data allowance pretty fast.

Did I say make sure data roaming is turned off?  It is worth repeating.  Go into your settings and make sure it is disabled.  All smartphones I have used allow you to specifically disable this.  Even if you don't go online and do a bunch of surfing, there are a myriad of things most phones do these days that burn through data without you knowing it.


#6 secret~sammy

Posted 29 December 2012 - 08:58 PM

I've only gotten a local SIM once and that was when I was in the one country for 3-4 months. I usually find the cost of the SIM for short trips is greater than the savings - If a local SIM is $20 for $10 worth of credit (plus the time/effort to buy one) and a global roaming SMS on my Aussie phone is 50c then I'd need to send 40 SMS to break even and *I* don't send that many. A few 'landed safely' messages back home and a few 'lets meet by the fountain at 5' messages to travel companions is all I do.

#7 amaza

Posted 29 December 2012 - 09:25 PM

If you are happy to play around with SIM cards there is a cheap way to go about it.

For SMS you'll need your Australian SIM but for calls you'll need an international prepaid SIM (that hopefully has good international rates so
You can call Australia).

Before you go tell your friends they may receive calls/text
From an international number but to only call your Australian number.

When you get there keep your Australian SIM in the phone but find out the international SIM cards number. Then dial in the number to place an 'unconditional' diversion on the phone to your international number (Virgin will be able to tell you the number to dial to divert like that from your handset). Then any calls that are made
to your Australian number will divert to the international number at Australian international call rates rather than roaming rates which are much higher. Virgin may even be able to put an international plan on your current plan for cheaper rates.

When you call Virgin have them turn off yiur data for the time you're away.

Once a day check your Australian SIM for texts (free to receive even when roaming) and reply if necessary (approx $0.80 per text).

That's by far the cheapest and something I recommend to all of my customers when they ask about roaming. Some people can't be bothered so if that's you I recommend turning data off via their systems (thats to avoid errors at the handset by a user) and any voicemail you have. Then I recommend not answering phone calls at all and only use SMS which is much cheaper.

PM me for any more details. I hope I made sense, I'm on a phone :/

#8 tessysmum

Posted 29 December 2012 - 09:42 PM

Thanks for all your quick replies!

I wish I could find out exactly how much it is for a txt/call on my plan when roaming, but its pretty well imposible. Im leaning towards a local sim, the travel sims seem quite expensive anyway. Can i put any local sim into any phone?? I would definitily disable all data.For data, I would try mainly to connect to wifi and send a couple of facebook pm's to family to give them quick updates. I remember using a payphone to make quick international calls when OS before, perhaps if I could rely on doing that again, if needed, and only text occasionally, the costs might be comparable to a local sim?? I cant see we'd even use the phone that much for 6 days in singapore,and 10 in bali.

Only thing is, we pay for incomings too, and hubby has a business, he may recieve random calls from strangers who have seen advertising. But he doesnt need to answer them, regualar important clients are aware he is away. Even voicemail costs. So he should definitely have a different number i guess, or none at all (his preference - the old fashioned way - "meet me at the lobby at 10",  "be back here in 20 minutes" - and just do it!!)

can you tell I'm still confused and undecided??!!

#9 tessysmum

Posted 29 December 2012 - 09:50 PM

thanks amaza, great advice - have PM'd you.

#10 Isolabella

Posted 30 December 2012 - 08:29 AM

If your phone is unlocked it will take any SIM.

I had to get my phone unlocked before going to the UK.

We use a local SIM as it also allowed DH and I to keep in contact with each other when we were apart and wanting to meet up.

I went through $10 worth of SMS and quick calls in the three days before I got my localSIM.

I also went with the cheaper local provider. Eg not an Optus/Telstra/virgin but a lebara provider in the UK and one of the supermarket types in Switzerland. Also my UK phone was not too bad for roaming costs to Switzerland so on my first trip I used the UK sim roaming In Switzerland.

#11 eachschoolholidays

Posted 30 December 2012 - 08:35 AM

I just turn off the data roaming.  You can either do it yourself through settings or ring your provider.  Then I just use free wifi and the occasional text message.

#12 Bluemakede

Posted 30 December 2012 - 08:47 AM

In Singapore I get a local sim (usually Singtel, you can get a sim with some credit already on it, you just need your passport when you go buy, can get from 7eleven etc). A lot of areas have access to wireless@sg, you need to register first to access, but it's handy when you're out and available widely enough in the areas tourists frequent, and is what a lot of my friends there without data plans use to access net on their phones when out.

#13 ChunkyChook

Posted 30 December 2012 - 09:47 AM

I have an iPhone 4S, if I got international roaming turned on before I go, get roaming turned off. Could I then use wifi around the place to access facebook and skype DD?? Then just pay for texts?

I have an iPhone 4S, if I got international roaming turned on before I go, get roaming turned off. Could I then use wifi around the place to access facebook and skype DD?? Then just pay for texts?

#14 Feraldadathome

Posted 30 December 2012 - 10:21 AM

My phone provider (Virgin) actually recommends using a local sim for data (a little more difficult for iphone5 with its nano sim, so check out availability). Then just a matter of emailing the local number to anyone important and connecting to your email etc.

#15 unicycle

Posted 02 January 2013 - 01:53 PM

I think the don't use roaming has come through strong enough. Remember, your contacts will still be on your phone. In Indonesia we use the Simpati cards. In Singapore you want the Singtel hi! card. Ask for the one that gives you local calls to Australia. I use this and dial the prefix 019 then my calls home are at the local rate. I ring mum and a 15 min call to her landline costs SD$3.  Hope this helps. Travelling, for internet we use my daughter's ipod touch successfully. This last time we also took the ipad. Hope this helps.

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