Roaming in Australia with T-mobile, AT&T and Verizon can be extremely expensive and basically not a viable solution for the majority of travelers. Some carriers, such as Verizon, charge by the day so a quick trip to, say Mexico for a few days is not going to impact one’s pocket book too much. However, most travelers to Australia tend to stay for a couple of weeks or more which can add up to several hundred dollars in just cellular service. In addition, the way that Verizon and some of the others set up their plans is that even if you use the phone for a minute or for one text, you are paying for the entire 24 hour period. Here is a concrete example. Verizon currently charges $10 per day to use your phone in Australia. Including tax, you can expect to pay $12-$13 per day. So, if someone sends you a text message, even one short text message, that message costs you about $12. Or, if your cell phone is and the data is not switched off, even if nobody sends you an email or even if you don’t browse the internet, since your phone automatically updates apps and your location, you will pay $12-$13 per day. The good news is that there are better solutions.
Let’s start with this one as it is probably one of the more applicable solutions for the majority of travelers. Most travelers travel in pairs or in groups. Therefore, you might have an iPhone and the person traveling with you has an iPad or even a laptop. The easiest and most affordable way to address a solution for multiple devices is to rent what is called a mobile hotspot. You will need to rent one specifically designed to be used in Australia. A mobile hotspot essentially is a portable device that gives you your own personal Wi Fi signal. You can access data with multiple devices at the same time. In fact, up to 10 people can access the internet at the same time. This is a very easy solution that does not require you swap out SIM cards or use another phone.
While the mobile hotspot is a great device, it is not always the best solution for everyone. Some travelers simply do not want to have yet another piece of equipment to haul around. Plus, some many travelers need a local solution with a local Australian phone number so that the locals can reach them as well.
Most US cell phones now come unlocked meaning that you can put in a different SIM card than the primary provider’s. For example, if you have an iPhone 5, 6 or 7, you can just slide out the current SIM card and put in an Australia SIM card. There are two main advantages of using a local Australian SIM card instead of roaming with a US provider. The first is that you will save a lot of money on calls and data and the second is that you will have a local phone number. In addition to the local phone number, you can also retain your usual US phone number which, you may or may not want to do. Typically, business travelers need to or want to retain their US number while leisure travelers do not want to be disrupted by calls.
In sum, just like every traveler has different ideas of what they want to do on vacation, every traveler has their own specific need in terms of cellular service – including not even having cellular service, period during their trip. The good news is that there are many affordable solutions available.