Smartphones can be incredibly helpful when on the road, but be mindful of data usage when using your 3G “global roaming” or you could be in for a massive bill on your return from your trip. Nothing puts a downer on a fabulous holiday like a phone bill that literally runs into thousands of dollars. The cost to download 1MB of data when overseas is an average of $15, which, to put it into perspective, is approximately 300 times the cost of downloading the same amount of information on a domestic phone plan. Ouch!
So what are your options? Firstly, if you don’t need to check your data at all times, you can turn your ‘smartphone’ into a ‘dumbphone’ the following ways:
iPhone: open the Settings app and tap General, then Network, and set the Data Roaming switch to ‘Off’.
Android smartphones: click Settings, Wireless controls, Mobile network settings and uncheck the ‘Data roaming’ box.
BlackBerry devices: choose Options, Mobile Network, Data Services and select the ‘Off When Roaming’ setting.
You’ll still be able to use your smartphone for Internet and apps when connected to the wifi network in your hotel or any handy café, but won’t run the risk of clocking up those data charges.
Another option is to pre-purchase a global roaming pack from your telco – Telstra, Optus, Vodafone all offer these, and while still expensive compared to your domestic data usage, not nearly as much as your standard global roaming rates. If you know you will be using your data regularly it’s best to overestimate how much you will need than underestimate and get unknowingly switched back to standard global rates half way through your trip when you’ve gone over your pre-paid allowance. Please be aware that these pre-paid rates do not cover all countries so check this with your telco before purchasing.
Finally, a far more cost effective option is to swap your Australian sim card for a local pre-paid voice and data card in the country you are in. You can even get these at the airport when you arrive, or if you’re prepared to wait and shop around a little it can work out a little cheaper. Whichever way you do it, the pre-paid local sim card will work out about 90% cheaper than an Australian telco’s global roaming rates. There are just a couple of little drawbacks with this option – mainly that you will not be able to be reached on your Australian phone number, so maybe change your voicemail message before you leave Australia asking people to email you if they need to get in touch urgently rather than leaving a voicemail message. Make sure also to keep your Australian SIM card nice and safe, maybe in a zippered compartment in your wallet, so you can easily swap it back over when you return home.