The Facts: What is international roaming?

International roaming is when you are able to use your mobile on another mobile network overseas while still being billed by your usual Australian mobile service provider.

This works because the overseas network provider has a commercial agreement with your Australian mobile network provider and will bill your home network provider for the calls you make while on their network.

Depending on your destination and the type of roaming available there, you will generally use your existing mobile number and mobile phone to make and receive calls, access voicemail and send and receive SMS.

Voice calls will usually attract a higher charge than at home and it may be easy for you to exceed you normal credit limit. Although voice calls will be more expensive while roaming, they will generally be less expensive alternatives than using data roaming services.

As well as voice calls, you can continue to use SMS and MMS while travelling. You may find this an economical and convenient way to communicate – especially in some time zones. Receiving SMS and MMS is free, but charges for sending messages may be slightly higher than you pay at home. Again, ensure you are familiar with the costs before you depart.

Also it is important to note that you may pay for receiving voice calls while roaming as you will pay for the international leg of a call made to your mobile number by a caller in Australia while you are overseas. This can include calls that end up diverting to voicemail or other answering services (unless you set up an unconditional diversion) and can be quite expensive. Talk to your mobile service provider before you go to ensure you are familiar with all the costs before heading overseas

Data roaming explained for smartphone users:

If you have a smartphone you may also be able to enjoy data roaming. This will allow you to access email and the internet including social media such as Facebook or Twitter while overseas.

Be wary, however as charges for data roaming, are typically significantly higher than data charges for using your mobile at home. You may decide to avoid these charges by disabling data roaming while you are overseas and your mobile service provider can tell you how to do this.

 Another option to manage your data spend is to switch your mobile to only receive emails manually (by pull) rather than automatically (by push). You may also want to change the settings on apps, such as Facebook, so that notifications or updates are not “pushed” to your smartphone as this will also incur data charges. Your service provider can provide instructions on how to set this up for your particular handset.

There are more tips on how to minimise your mobile spend while roaming at the bottom of this page.

Is roaming available for your destination? Check with your service provider first.

If you wish to use your mobile overseas, you need to check whether your handset will work in the destination country. Because some countries use different bands of radio-frequency spectrum for mobile networks, not all mobile phones will work in all countries.

 If your mobile is not compatible with the network in your destination country, it may be possible to arrange with your carrier to hire an appropriate handset in Australia or at your destination, or to upgrade your existing phone. You also need to check whether roaming services are available in your destination country.

Before your trip you will need to consult your mobile carrier’s website, or ring their customer care line, to find out if roaming is available at your destination and if so, how it will work and how much it will cost.

In some cases you will need to have roaming activated for your service and you may decide to only enable voice roaming and not data roaming to limit costs. Your mobile service provider will be able to assist you with this.

Receiving calls while overseas:

Once you are roaming, calling you on your mobile while you’re overseas is as easy as calling you on your mobile when you’re at home. Your mobile phone number does not change. No international prefix is required from Australian callers. However, callers dialling from anywhere else in the world (including from your destination country) would need to use the Australian prefix (+61) then your mobile number without the first zero to contact you. For example, if your mobile number is 0404 xxx xxx, then to dial you while roaming, callers need  to dial +61 404 xxx xxx. 

Making calls while overseas:

Often you will be able to dial local numbers while on your overseas network but this can vary and sometimes you will still need to dial the international prefix before the number. Talk to your mobile service provider before leaving Australia about how to make calls while overseas, and about the costs.

More information is available from your mobile service provider:



Virgin Mobile


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