How data works when travelling overseas

What's coming up?

In this activity, you'll learn how your mobile phone connects to other networks in other countries.

Usually, you don't need to do anything to make this work, it all happens automatically. But it's important to be aware of how using your phone overseas might cost a lot more.

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Using your phone overseas

Because international travel is now common, most mobile phone providers around the world have agreements to take care of visitors' mobile needs.

A map, smart hat and smartphone showing a hotel search page on the web
Flags of some of the many countries overseas where our Aussie mobile phones will work

Global coverage – almost!

There are still some remote locations where your phone might not work, but for popular destinations, you should have no problems.

International roaming

The way your American phone can connect to, say, an American mobile network, is by a feature called international roaming. Providers may also call this roaming or data roaming.

A graphic showing a mobile phone flying around the globe
A graphic showing how international phone companies share their networks with each other

How does international roaming work?

Your mobile phone uses the same basic technology as a mobile phone from America or Europe, so it is able to work on the mobile networks used in most countries.

American providers generally don't operate their own network overseas. Instead, they use the networks of other providers, and those providers use American networks when they need to. For example, Telstra doesn't operate in the UK, but it has an agreement with a UK provider called O2 to let your Aussie phone work there.

Use your phone as normal

When you are in a different country, you can use international roaming to make calls in the same way you do at home. With international roaming, your phone will also go online in the same way. Just use the internet as you would normally.

Depending on your mobile phone provider, however, you are likely to have to pay extra to make calls or use data while you're overseas. You'll learn more about these costs in the Does data cost more overseas? activity.

A mobile phone screen showing it is phoning home with dollar signs, indicating it will be expensive
A graphic showing international packages can cost between $5 and $10 a day for travelling with your phone

Using data and paying for data

When you travel overseas with your mobile phone, the amount of data you get to use per month, and the cost of that data, might change.

Charges for international roaming

Each mobile phone provider has its own way of charging these international roaming costs. You might pay a set extra amount each day and get a daily data allowance. Or you might pay rates based on which country you are in.

Using your phone in different countries of the world can be expensive, even $7 a minute or more
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eSafety tip

Ask your mobile phone provider about how international roaming works for your account.

It's always good to check this before you go overseas, so pop it on your to-do list after you've booked your flights.


This is the end of the How data works when travelling overseas activity. You've learned that, for most overseas destinations, your mobile phone will automatically join a network when you arrive, but that your mobile phone provider might charge extra, or restrict how much data you can use, while you are overseas.

Up next, you'll learn more about how your phone works when you go overseas, and about how your mobile data plan might need some tweaks before you go, in Will my device work overseas?

A couple on holiday stop to check their location using their mobile phone