Travel SOS – No more bill shock

How can you avoid coming back from overseas to a massive phone bill?

Travel SOS – No more bill shock

Kay O’Sullivan offers some advice to Beverley who is worried about bill shock on her upcoming holiday.

Q. Beverley
I'm heading to Mexico and Cuba.  I understand that mobile and internet communication in Cuba can be difficult.  In order to avoid global roaming charges I was thinking of buying a Woolworths international sim. I'm confused by good and bad reviews I've read about the product, and to be honest, I'm probably the world’s worst person in charge of a smartphone (HTC One). I only need to send and receive a few text messages, maybe one or two calls back to Australia, post some pics on Facebook, access my travel information and browse some places of interest. Also I've been told I should get VPN to access the internet in Cuba. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

A. Beverley, it’s not you, it’s them. You would need to be a genius, and one with patience at that, to understand Woolworth’s instructions for Android phones. I tried and failed miserably.

It is a huge worry that half of the extraordinarily lengthy document is “if this doesn’t work, then try this, or this, or this.” (If any of you don’t believe me, have a look at this eye-glazing document).

There are numerous international sim cards for Android phones that are easier to install and use but first check whether your phone is locked i.e. is it still under contract? If it is, you need to get it unlocked by your service provider and that may cost you.

As for setting up your own VPN, not necessary. The thaw in relations with the U.S. is fast-tracking change in Cuba and that includes access to the internet. It is now available in hotels and at the various wifi spots around the country. Not as plentiful or fast as you would like, but it should be fine for what you need.

I use and recommend AusPost’s Prepaid TravelSIM. If I can use it, anyone can. The starter pack is on special for $25 – it’s usually $49.95 – and I checked that it will work with your particular phone, and in both Mexico and Cuba.

No lock-in plans and you can buy data on a daily basis and cap how much you spend on it – from $10 to $100 a day. You get a warning when you are approaching the limit and you are only charged for the data you use.

You do need to set up and practice making calls and texts before you go away. But the instructions on the website are clear and concise, and so much easier than that Woolies document.

If you were going to just one country I would suggest getting a sim for that country rather than an international sim, as it’s cheaper again. But, hey, why go to one country when you can do two of the most exciting destinations in the world?

Have fun and let us know how you get on.

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.


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    21st Nov 2015
    Or, you can really get into the 21st Century by downloading the WORLD PHONE app from Norwood Systems.
    World Phone for Apple phones is already released several months ago.
    World Phone for Android will be released on 30th November 15.
    Google it, if in doubt. Top selling travel app in many countries already - and it is from an Australian company.
    21st Nov 2015
    Of course you could use Skype. All you need is to put yourself out and wait until you have a computer connection....hotel, internet cafe, etc.
    Cheap as chips. Cheaper than a local call in Oz. Reliable and good quality. To relatives and friends you can use Skype video and voice FOR FREE. So why on earth would anybody be dumb enough to take and use a phone? Ok, instant gratification. I see. Good luck!
    26th Dec 2015
    mick, you do need an emergency back up to make a phone call! Whilst you offer good advice about using free WiFi actually finding free WiFi can be a challenge when OS.
    21st Nov 2015
    Prior to travelling throughout South America, Cuba and Mexico I checked with my carrier (iinet) and was told that text messages cost the same no matter where they're sent from. I used a tablet and hotel wifi for longer messages, FB, etc.
    21st Nov 2015
    There is small portable hot spot device that works anywhere (or most countries) in the world, that costs around 10 $ a day.
    26th Dec 2015
    $10/day??? No way!!!!
    23rd Nov 2015
    I found the Post Office Travel Sum outrageous in expense. Tried it in NZ and the cost just soars. Not for me again. A cheap phone and sim in the destination country or free wifi in public buildings will suffice next time.
    26th Dec 2015
    "You do need to set up and practice making calls and texts before you go away."

    Perhaps the most important advice above. Making a phone call OS is a nightmare, things are often not what they seem and instructions seem simp,e till you try and use them.

    We took a Travel SIM card with us and also used Skype and Face Time in free WiFi areas.

    I have trouble buying a SIM card in Australia and I would be totally hopeless doing so in a foreign country in a foreign language!

    If the expression 'locked mobile' means nothing to you then immediately make contact with you mobile service provider and get it unlocked now! It does not always happen very quickly. LOL, my Nokia Mobile as soo old none knew the code to unlock it!!!!
    26th Dec 2015
    Accessing Facebook takes a lot of data and surely not necessary until you find wifi Download all your free tourist information apps onto your phone before you leave home. We have always found FaceTime to be a better connection when overseas than Skype

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