If you've been reading our coverage about MaxRoam SIM cards -- particularly their relatively cheap data rates when used in Europe -- you might be interested to hear that they're actually available in Australia under a different name.
RoamingSIM is a Melbourne company selling SIM cards for travellers that use the MaxRoam service, with some tweaks to make them more suitable for Australian users.
According to RoamingSIM Director Jon Mooney, the RoamingSIM cards come with an Australian landline number in a city of choice attached to them.
This means people in Australia can call a traveller with a RoamingSIM for the cost of a local call, rather than having to dial an overseas mobile number (or even an Australian mobile number).
The free Australian number is valid for the first month of usage of the SIM, after which time it costs $6 a month to keep going -- though it can be deactivated after a month, and then a new Australian number purchased at any time in the future if needed again.
In comparison, if you directly purchase a MaxRoam SIM, you have to pay €10 (A$13.68) per month for an Australian number, so the inclusion of the free Australian number for one month with RoamingSIM is a good value-add.
Rates with RoamingSIM are also slightly different to MaxRoam. For example while MaxRoam charges 68c per minute to call Australia from the UK, RoamingSIM charges only 53c per minute.
On the flip-side, though, incoming calls to a MaxRoam SIM are completely free of charge in Europe (which, coupled with the Australian phone number option, makes it possible to have totally free, untimed phone calls with people in Australia while overseas in Europe), whereas RoamingSIM charges 8c per minute for incoming calls.
The biggest downside with RoamingSIM is that data rates are not currently as cheap as MaxRoam -- for example, in the UK, data costs $2 per megabyte with RoamingSIM, but only $1.10 per megabyte with MaxRoam.
At $2 per megabyte, RoamingSIM is not substantially cheaper than Telstra and Vodafone for data when you consider that you can pre-purchase roaming data packs at similar rates.
- Telstra - $2.66 - $2.90/MB depending on megabytes prepurchased
- Vodafone - $1.65 - $2/MB depending on megabytes prepurchased
- Optus - $9 - $10/MB depending on megabytes prepurchased
- Three - no pre-purchase option; casual global roaming rates only - $5 to $20 per megabyte. (Three does provide discounted rates of 50c/MB when a preferred network is selected in UK, Hong Kong, Italy, Sweden, Austria, Denmark and Ireland.)
Obviously, RoamingSIM is still cheaper than Optus and 3 for data, but you'd still be better off getting a MaxRoam SIM with its data at nearly half the price.
You can check out the differences between MaxRoam and RoamingSIM's rates for yourself here:
One key advantage of RoamingSIM is that the SIM cards are stocked in Australia, and posted from Melbourne, so delivery can be arranged with fairly short notice before a trip.
You can also buy them at most Newslink/Relay stores at airport and train stations, as well as all Officeworks stores from next week.
They cost $49.95 and come with $10 credit.
In comparison, MaxRoam SIMs are considerably cheaper, costing only €15 plus €3 postage to Australia, and come with €10 credit. However, they have to be sent from Ireland, so you need to allow about a week for them to arrive.
RoamingSIM technical support is also done from Australia, so there's an Australian phone number to call, and an Australian-staffed help-desk (though MaxRoam also provides an Australian number to call and is staffed by very helpful Irish people in Australian Business Traveller's first-hand experience.)
Which to buy?
If you have a week or two before your trip to spare, MaxRoam is still better value than RoamingSIM -- as it provides internet access for your smartphone at almost half the price, and has a lower upfront cost of €18 rather than the $49 cost of the RoamingSIM.
However, if you're departing in less than a week, RoamingSIM is a good way to get a MaxRoam-like SIM card for your phone. Just beware that the pricing isn't exactly the same, especially around data, and incoming phone calls.