Staying in touch while cruising

Jeff is excited about his upcoming river cruise, but is keen to stay in touch with family and friends while travelling – without the massive cost.

Q. Jeff

Later this year my wife and I are doing a European river cruise. We’ll also spend some time in Prague, Budapest, Amsterdam, Paris, London, the Cotswolds and Hong Kong on either end of the cruise, and will be away five weeks in total. Wanting to stay contactable, check email and access the web while travelling all lead to us considering which technology to take, and the most cost-effective way of using it.  Our local Telstra rep tells us to leave Australian sim cards out of the iPhone and iPad, and purchase pre-paid phone and data sim cards in each country we visit.  That’s a lot of sim cards, but he assures us we don’t want the shock of a high bill associated with international roaming.

A. What a trip! I’m envious. River cruising is the way to go. Don’t take any notice of the Telstra rep. You would spend all your time fiddling with your phone if you took his advice. Equally, you don’t want a massive bill, so, yes, take your normal sim card out of the phone and replace it with an international phone sim, which you can buy in Australia.

Plenty of international sims work across Europe, Britain and Hong Kong, but trying to decide which one is like working out which energy plan offers best value – almost impossible. I use Australia Post’s pre-paid travel sim and am happy with it. It costs $49.95 and you top it up on the net. A fairly easy procedure once you get the hang of it. Which is why I suggest that before you leave home, you should activate the new sim and have a few trials of topping up the credit on the net. It also pays to make some practice calls. Also, be sure to send out the new sim number to anyone who may need to contact you.

With this kind of card, you’re always in control of what you spend, as an automated service tells you at the end of the call how much is left in your account.

As for using email or surfing the net on your iPhone, don’t bother, that’s what wifi on your iPad or tablet is for (although you can buy a daily data allowance for your phone if you really, really want to). Here’s the best news of all. Wifi is free on most of the river cruise ships, including APT’s extensive fleet and Uniworld. Yes, it can be a bit patchy in places, but a representative from APT claims the cruise director knows the best spots along the river for wifi. So, these are the places where you should be making calls using Skype. Your smartphone is just a backup in this new age of connected travel.

Read more about the Australia Post international sim card at

 Kay O’Sullivan is no accidental tourist. More than a decade ago, she decided to combine two of her favourite things – journalism and travel – and become a travel writer. Since then, she has worked for numerous papers, magazines and on the internet, both here and internationally.

Do you have a travel question for Kay? If so, send it to




Written by YourLifeChoices Writers

YourLifeChoices' team of writers specialise in content that helps Australian over-50s make better decisions about wealth, health, travel and life. It's all in the name. For 22 years, we've been helping older Australians live their best lives.

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