Heading overseas? Here’s how to best use your mobile to keep connected

Every year, many of us dust off our passports and head overseas to see new sights and cultures. Wherever we are, we still want to keep in touch with home.
Luke Hopewell · 20 September 2023 · 5 minute read

Before you go, there are a few steps you should take to ensure your smartphone will work overseas and you don’t end up with an unwanted phone bill, plus if something goes wrong, how you can contact us. 

Here are the most common questions you are asking, and some answers that can help.


To reduce bill shock and get you a better deal, we provide an International Roaming Day Pass service. For most people on a Consumer or Small Business plan, it is a service that activates automatically when you land overseas, and you do not need to do anything to turn it on. 

It offers international roaming for $5 a day in New Zealand, and $10 a day for over 70 countries across Europe, Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Americas, and Oceania. This means you can call for no additional charge to Australia and to any other country included in the zones. 

Depending on your service and your destination, your International Day Pass offers unlimited calls and SMS (Short Message Service) in most popular countries, and a daily 1GB data allocation in most locations. However, there are some terms and conditions, so make sure you check out our International Roaming Day Pass offer page to understand everything before you go.

If you use all that data before the indicated period is up, on most plans you will receive an automatic top-up of 1GB that lasts 31 days for $10. This 1GB of data will sit in reserve for days you go over your daily data allowance until you have used it all. 

On some older Telstra plans, the day pass runs on Australian Eastern Standard Time (12am-11:59pm) and not the local time of your destination. So, if you are planning to use your phone with the International Day Pass for a limited time, make sure you check the clock as you may incur a second charge if your usage period extends after midnight in Australia.

You’re able to check your mobile data usage via the MyTelstra app. Also keep an eye out for your SMS messages as you may receive SMS usage updates from Telstra at certain points.

When you arrive overseas, we’ll send you a free SMS or email to let you know if your destination is eligible and whether your International Day Pass is working.  

If your destination isn’t eligible for an International Day Pass, you will be charged pay-as-you-go roaming rates. This means you’ll be charged for every call, SMS and MB of data used. These rates differ from country to country, so Telstra will send you a SMS with pricing information for that destination. 

Regardless of whether you use a Telstra international roaming option or not, your mobile device will still work for features that do not require an internet connection - such as your camera app, or even the likes of Google Maps if you’ve saved offline map details for where you are. 

When you’re on the high seas, you want to make sure you’re connecting to your friends and family back home to share memories and stay in touch. However, while we have the largest mobile network in Australia, our coverage and Day Passes do not stretch out into international waters. 

When you’re sailing on a cruise ship, international roaming services and fees will apply. When you’re at sea, your phone also may try to connect to the cruise ship’s own mobile service. Connecting to these networks will be charged at pay-as-you-go rates and are not included as part of any International Day Pass.

To minimise charges, we recommend using the ship’s Wi-Fi service instead – but depending on your cruise ship and fare, the cruise provider also may charge you to access this. So worthwhile checking out when you board.

Logged into this Wi-Fi with the Wi-Fi Calling setting on your phone activated, Telstra post-paid customers will still be able to make calls to Australian destinations, receive calls from anyone and make and receive texts. 


Finally, if you want to be extra sure, turning off your mobile data roaming setting while aboard a cruise ship will ensure your device only uses the Wi-Fi connection available, and not any cellular data. 

If you want to talk to someone in our Australian contact centre, simply dial +61 439 125 109. This is a dedicated number for international callers available from 8am to 7pm AEDT (Aust Eastern Daylight Time), Monday to Friday. There are no additional costs when calling from a Telstra device beyond the International Day Pass charge, but if you aren’t calling from a Telstra device, you will incur charges from the alternate provider.

However, time zones can be a challenge, so if you have an internet connection you can always chat to Telstra via Facebook or X (Twitter) social channels and send us a private message. Our social team are available 24/7, so will be free to chat regardless of the time zone you are in.

You can also contact us from some overseas locations through Telstra Messaging when logged into My Telstra (app or web browser) and entering your username and password. This service is also available 24/7. There are also several self-help options available on the app, so in some cases you might be able to fix the issue yourself without having to speak to us. 

For security reasons, we can’t communicate only over email about your account. That goes for if you are in Australia or abroad - it is just safer that way.

Whatever way you choose to reach out to us, we’ll need to grab some details from you to verify your identity before we can help. This is to make sure your account is safe and it's not someone pretending to be you. 

You will be asked your Telstra account number, so make sure you have that written down or the MyTelstra App installed on your device (it will be listed under the Payments tab). Part of this verification process also includes you accessing a two-factor verification code, which depending on your contact method, may be sent via SMS or email. 

First thing: don’t panic. Then contact Telstra to let us know. Once we have verified your identity, we can either block your device or temporarily suspend your Telstra service, so it cannot be used while it is missing. If you then find your phone, simply contact us again and we can restore it. 

You should also contact your financial institutions to let them know if you had any linked bank cards stored in your phone’s digital wallet. 

Depending on how and where it was lost, you should also consider reporting it to local authorities. Often this is required for travel insurance purposes. 

While Telstra’s data roaming packs are extremely popular, many people who are having extended holidays or in countries where our data packs do not work may choose to use a local SIM card. 

Simply take the Telstra SIM card out from your mobile phone’s SIM slot and put it in a safe place, and then insert the local SIM.

If you are overseas and purchase a local eSIM, you won’t need to remove your physical Telstra SIM card - but make sure to turn the Telstra SIM off while you are away in your phone settings. If it’s active, it will try to connect, wherever you are.

Similarly, if your phone uses a Telstra eSIM, make sure you jump into your settings and turn the service off while overseas if you do not want it to be active. 

Turning off your data is another effective cost saving option. You will not incur any charges, but you will still be able to receive incoming text messages and incoming calls. 

However: if you respond to or send a text, or answer a call, you will automatically activate our International Roaming Day Pass and be charged $10. You might want to save up all your calls and texts for one day to minimise your charges. 

It’s important to note- most apps or features like maps, google translate, find my device and social media will not work with your phone’s mobile data switched off – in this situation, you’ll need to connect to Wi-Fi to get any updates or send posts. 

Most smartwatches are paired to your mobile phone via Bluetooth. If you have one of those connected and your data activated, then it will still work while you are overseas. Your watch will continue to display SMS messages that are coming through from your phone and will piggy-back on whichever mobile service or Wi-Fi you have activated in your phone. 

You won’t be charged $10 data roaming for each Bluetooth paired device that you use - but you will get charged for each device with its own Telstra mobile connection as it activates. 

If you have a smartwatch in Australia with the Telstra One number option activated -where your watch can make and receive calls without being attached via Bluetooth - this service will not work overseas. It only works on the Telstra network in Australia. 

An eSIM (embedded SIM) is a mobile network SIM that is built into compatible mobile phones, tablets, wearables, and other technology. You don’t need a physical SIM card as a result and it allows you to have multiple phone numbers connected to the same device using a digital e-SIM profile, including an overseas local network. There are a range of phones on sale that are e-SIM compatible, including popular Samsung, Apple and Google devices and you can check to see if your phone is listed HERE.

 If your phone uses a Telstra eSIM, make sure you jump into your settings and turn the service off while overseas if you do not want it to be active.

Dual SIM is a capability your device may support, allowing it to support up to two mobile services. That might mean you could have one international SIM card and one Telstra SIM card in your device. It might also mean your device can either take two physical SIM cards or a mix of e-SIM and physical SIM. The advantage of a dual sim device is that you can use a local sim card for calls but still be able to access messages and calls from your normal service, however you may still incur Telstra roaming charges. 

Free public or hotel Wi-Fi is handy for googling things and keeping updated on social media. However, it isn't as secure as the Wi-Fi you are used to at home, so be careful about sending and receiving confidential information like online banking across public Wi-Fi networks - you do not know who is in control of the network. 

If you do use public Wi-Fi, we recommend using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to help keep your connection private. You can also turn any public hotspot into secure Wi-Fi with Telstra Device Security- on top of offering a VPN connection, it has a range of other cyber features which can boost your security on up to 10 devices - worth a thought if you are travelling with a family or for an extended period. 

While streaming platforms like Netflix, Spotify and YouTube are awesome when you have some airport downtime, they can quickly chew through your mobile data allowance. We strongly recommend downloading and saving any streaming content when you are on Wi-Fi, so it is available to watch or listen later. This will free up your mobile data for more important things like accessing crucial travel info, maps, connecting to your social media, and any texting and calling.

If you listen to lots of podcasts, or if you have heaps of Spotify playlists saved, make sure that these do not update automatically. Trust us – it’s better to listen to the same thing twice, than it is to realise your phone has unexpectedly downloaded a four-hour history lesson while you were on the beach.

You should make sure you have a variety of up-to-date forms of contact details registered, such as telephone numbers and email addresses, plus know your account number, so that you or your authorities can enable that two-factor authentication to proceed in case you can’t receive an SMS. To check your account details, call us before you leave on 13 22 00, chat to us online or visit in-store.

We also suggest making someone you trust an authority on your account. That way, you can ask them to make changes on your behalf if you can’t do so. 

Make sure you complete any available software or app updates - and then turn off any automatic updates. That way you won’t accidentally download a phone system upgrade that might use lots of data. You can then use Wi-Fi or wait until you get home to do any recent updates. 

 Also, make sure that you set your device to back up to the cloud over Wi-Fi as you travel. This will help make sure your precious memories aren’t lost with your device (if it is).

Many popular brands offer a ‘find my device’ type setting which if activated, can be handy if you have misplaced your device. You’ll just need to be logged in to another compatible device and have your data roaming working to be able to track it down.


Mobile technology has changed the way we travel overseas and stay connected. It can keep us safe in an emergency and allow us to communicate and find our way in unfamiliar places. These few tips will help you use your devices wisely. 

This advice is of a general nature and some exceptions or variations may apply depending on the device you are using or the plan you are on. If you have any doubts or want to double check something, please contact Telstra on 13 2200 or visit a Telstra store before you go.