International travel SIM cards in Australia. How they work

Roberto Efflandrin

Are you planning a trip abroad and are concerned about expensive usage while you’re away? Perhaps you have a work business trip coming up, and you’ll need to be using your phone more than usual.

It would be worth you looking into an international travel SIM card, as these can save you money and make your trip less stressful.

In this article, we’ll explain everything you need to know about getting an international travel SIM card in Australia for your next trip abroad, including what they are, how they differ from roaming plans with your provider, plus some examples of travel SIM cards that are currently on the market.

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What is an international SIM card for overseas use and how does it work?

International SIM cards are pre-paid travel SIMs that provide you with a set amount of calls/text/data that can be used while abroad. These SIM cards will connect to a local network in the country you’re exploring, and prevent you from accidentally overspending on roaming charges while abroad.

There is a range of options available to consumers, each with different pre-paid plans that will suit different preferences such as data-only plans or only calls/texts.

Dedicated travel SIM card vs roaming plans with your service provider

There are some key differences between using a travel SIM card vs a roaming plan with your service provider.

Here are some of the main differing factors between these two options:

Travel SIM Card Roaming Plans
Prepaid with a set amount of data/calls/texts Charged either via roaming fees per minute for calls, per text for messages, and per MB for data or via a roaming plan. Some providers will provide free roaming as part of a standard plan, but this is not the norm.
Fees are generally more affordable than roaming charges Roaming fees are usually more expensive than a standard plan/travel sim.
Can be used to visit different regions/countries Roaming charges will change depending on region/country
Phone number will generally change Phone number will stay the same
Compatible with multiple devices Usable for your phone only

Do you need a different SIM card for travelling abroad

You don’t necessarily need a different SIM card for travelling abroad, as most networks have roaming services/packages that you can use when going away.

However, these services are usually charged at a much higher rate than your standard plan or travel SIM cards, which is why many people decide to use a dedicated travel SIM when going abroad.

Benefits of using dedicated travel SIM cards abroad

There are many benefits of using a dedicated travel SIM card when travelling abroad. Here are some key reasons why it’s worth considering:

  • You’re charged local rates - Once you’ve reached your destination country, you’ll be charged the local rates when using your phone. These are generally much cheaper than roaming charges from your provider.
  • Generally affordable - Travel SIM cards are generally considered to be more affordable than roaming charges or a roaming plan.
  • Prepaid - Most travel SIM cards are prepaid, meaning that you may for a set amount per month/time period that you’re abroad in return for a number of texts, minutes, and/or data.
  • Compatible with different devices - If you plan on using a tablet or other phone while away, travel SIM cards are usually compatible with a range of devices.
  • Incoming calls are generally free - You won’t typically be charged for incoming calls when using a travel SIM card, whereas you may be charged to accept an incoming call with standard roaming rates.

International SIM card providers in Australia

Below we’ve included the main providers of international travel SIM cards in Australia. Each has different features and benefits that will suit different people depending on their travel preferences.

Airalo Discover Global eSIM

The Airalo Discover Global eSIM is an international travel SIM card that provides you with data that can be used in over 84 countries.¹

With plans ranging from 1GB - 20 GB, there is a range of options to suit your data usage, and validity varies from 7 days - 180 days meaning you can tailor your plan to how long you plan to be away.¹

Plans start from $9 US for 7 days of usage and increase to $89 US for 180 days. This eSIM can be activated and managed using the Airalo app, and Airalo claim to be trusted by over 1,000,000 people worldwide.¹

Keepgo Lifetime World SIM

The Keepgo Lifetime World SIM is another travel SIM focused on data, with plans ranging from 100MB at $3 US - 25GB at $250 US. A key benefit of this travel SIM is that your data won’t expire as long as you top up each year (minimum top-up of $3 US).²

With Keepgo there are no monthly payments, no contracts/extra fees, plus you can use your phone as a hotspot and for tethering purposes.²

Australia Post International SIM

Australia Post offers an international travel SIM that is great if you’re looking for a budget option. Plans start from 2GB for $10AU with a 30 days expiry and scale up to 100GB for $150 with a 365-day expiry.³

Plans offer a data rollover to a maximum of 100GB and provide unlimited calls and texts for those with Australian mobile numbers. You’ll receive your money back if you experience coverage issues while using their service abroad, plus you can gift some of your mobile data to friends and family.³

International travel SIM card related questions — FAQs

Can you buy a travel SIM card in Australia?

Yes - you’ll have to double-check that your phone is compatible with a travel SIM card, however, once this has been confirmed you can purchase a travel SIM card before you leave or they can be bought at the airport/at a provider’s stores.

What is the cheapest way to use your phone overseas?

The cheapest way to use your phone overseas is by exclusively using Wi-Fi. However, if you don’t want to be restricted to WiFi networks, a travel SIM card will be the cheapest option for you.

Is there a SIM card that works in all countries?

Yes - most international SIM cards can be used across multiple countries. Always check the features of a travel SIM card before purchasing it to make sure it works in multiple countries if you’re travelling.

What happens when you put an international SIM card in your phone?

When you put an international SIM card into your phone, your phone will be charged at local rates instead of via your network provider’s roaming fees.

Can you text with an international SIM card?

Yes, most international SIM cards include a set amount of prepaid texts that you can use while travelling abroad. Always double-check different travel SIM cards to ensure you purchase the best SIM card for your circumstances.

Travel wisely — Give the Wise Account and Debit Card a try

For those of you that are planning on travelling abroad in the near future, you should check out the Wise Account and Debit Card.

With a Wise Account you can hold money in over 40 currencies and spend it in over 160 countries. Whenever you exchange currencies it’s done using the mid-market rate with a low conversion fee shown upfront.

To make everyday spending easier you can order a Wise Debit card for your Wise Account and generate virtual cards as needed. If you have the local currency in your Wise Account the Wise card will use it and charge no fees. If you don’t, it uses smart technology to auto-convert your money at the mid-market rate, for a low conversion fee.

Join over 13 million customers currently using Wise. It’ll only take a few minutes to register and see what’s inside.

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Please see Terms of Use for your region or visit Wise Fees & Pricing for the most up-to-date pricing and fee information.


  1. Local and regional eSIMs for travellers - Airalo
  2. World SIM card with prepaid data valid Forever - Keepgo
  3. $10 Plan (includeds SIM starter pack) - Australia Post Mobile and Broadband

Sources checked on: 30 June 2023

This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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