If you're travelling to Europe soon, you should check out the MaxRoam global roaming SIM card. It replaces the SIM from your Australian carrier, and gives you much cheaper phone calls -- and also relatively cheap internet access on your smartphone.
The countries MaxRoam provides cheap global roaming in are:
Albania, Lithuania, Andorra, Luxembourg, Austria, Macedonia, Belgium, Malta, Bosnia/Herzegovina, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Netherlands, Croatia, Norway, Cyprus, Poland, Czech, Republic, Portugal, Denmark, Romania, Estonia, San, Marino, Finland, Serbia, France, Slovakia, Germany, Slovenia, Greece, Spain, Hungary, Sweden, Iceland, Switzerland, Ireland, Turkey, Italy, Channel Island, Latvia, United Kingdom, Liechtenstein.
Global roaming SIMs like Travel SIM have been around for a while, but they usually only help with reducing the cost of voice calls.
If you use the internet at all on your smartphone while abroad on most global SIMs, you'll end up paying up to $50/MB with some of the global roaming SIM cards -- one email with a couple of photos attached could cost $150.
However, MaxRoam is different -- it's a global roaming SIM card that provides both cheap voice calls and relatively cheap data in many countries.
For example, in many European countries (including UK/Ireland), calling back to Australia costs only 68c/min, and receiving calls is free. Using data costs only $1.10/MB. That compares very favourably to Optus, which charges $20/MB worldwide. Telstra and Vodafone charge $15 and $10/MB respectively.
At $1/MB it's still not a 'cheap' solution -- in a few weeks if you used 200MB on your smartphone, you'd have chewed through $220. But it's certainly a viable cost against using paid Wi-Fi hotspots casually or in-room hotel internet fees.
One advantage of MaxRoam is that you can get a local Australian phone number in an Australian city of your choice, linked to your roaming SIM card.
People can then call you while you're overseas on that number -- at a local call cost to them -- and in many countries across Europe, you can receive the call free of charge, too.
Another benefit of MaxRoam is you don't have to do use a 'call back' system where you dial a number, hang up and then receive a call back, as you do with many global SIM cards.
MaxRoam offers a 'call-through' system that works just like a regular phone in global roaming mode. It does also offer call-back mode if you want slightly reduced rates.
Users of the iPhone up to the 3GS model can use MaxRoam's standard SIM cards for both voice calls and internet access.
MaxRoam provides a micro-SIM compatible with iPhone 4 for $95.27 which includes 90 minutes of outgoing calls, 100 SMS, and 50MB internet. However, the credits can only be used to make calls/SMS to and from a set of European countries -- to make calls or SMS back to Australia you have to add some additional dollar credit to the account.
There's also a data only iPad micro SIM available for $48.22, including 50MB of prepaid data for use only in the set of European countries.
Where MaxRoam falls down
MaxRoam isn't great for countries outside Europe. For example, in the USA, it costs $4.13/min to call back to Australia, and $12.20/MB for data.
For the USA, you'd be much better off using Tru SIM, which costs only 17c/min to call Australia and 35c/MB for data.
Tru SIM is also much cheaper if you are only planning to visit the UK, as Tru SIM's UK rates are excellent: 12c/min to call Australia or 15c/MB for data.
MaxRoam is also not good value in Asia. It costs $1.23/min to receive calls in Hong Kong, China or Singapore, $4.13/min to call Australia from those countries and $12.20/MB for data used there.
BuzzRoam is a better choice for roaming phone calls in Asian countries, charging 41c/min to call Australia, though its data rates are terrible, at $26.30/MB.
For data in Asia, check out the Bridge Alliance AsiaRoam Data SIM which provides unlimited data use in a number of Asian countries for a flat daily fee of $US12.
We also recently covered the best prepaid SIM card in Hong Kong, which charges just 25c/MB for data and
Find out more...
You can see more details about MaxRoam at their website.