Airtel is offering very competitive international roaming packs.

Indian carriers have generally shied away from offering affordable international roaming packs for customers traveling abroad. It's not to say that there were no plans available, just that they were so costly that it made little sense to opt for one.

The only recourse, then, for most travelers was to source a local SIM after they land in their destination country. That's what I used to do every time I went to the U.S.: find a T-Mobile store, pay around $50 for one of the carrier's prepaid plans, and be on my way. T-Mobile offers a generous 10GB of LTE data along with unlimited calls and texts for 30 days, and while that's great, I lost out on access to my primary phone number.

Thankfully, all that is changing with Airtel's new international roaming plans. The carrier has overhauled its tariff structure and is now offering very competitive plans for those looking to go abroad. Having used the service in both China and Thailand, I can attest to its efficacy. It's great to be able to use your phone from the moment you land in a new country, and with plans starting from as low as ₹499, there's really no reason to look elsewhere.

Here's what you need to know about Airtel's international roaming plans.

What countries are covered?

Airtel's international packs cover over 100 countries, including popular destinations like the U.S., UK, Canada, Australia, Switzerland, Thailand, and others.

Here's the full list of countries:

  • Afghanistan
  • Albania
  • Argentina
  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Azerbaijan
  • Bahrain
  • Bangladesh
  • Belarus
  • Belgium
  • Bhutan
  • Brazil
  • Brunei
  • Bulgaria
  • Cambodia
  • Canada
  • Chad
  • Chile
  • China
  • Colombia
  • Congo
  • Costa Rica
  • Croatia
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Dominican Republic
  • Ecuador
  • El Salvador
  • Estonia
  • Fiji
  • Finland
  • France
  • Gabon
  • Germany
  • Ghana
  • Greece
  • Guatemala
  • Honduras
  • Hong Kong
  • Hungary
  • Indonesia
  • Ireland
  • Israel
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Jersey
  • Jordan
  • Kazakhstan
  • Kenya
  • South Korea
  • Kuwait
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Macau
  • Madagascar
  • Malawi
  • Malaysia
  • Malta
  • Mauritius
  • Mexico
  • Moldova
  • Myanmar
  • Nepal
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Nicaragua
  • Niger
  • Nigeria
  • Norway
  • Oman
  • Panama
  • Paraguay
  • Peru
  • Philippines
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Puerto Rico
  • Qatar
  • Romania
  • Russia
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Serbia
  • Seychelles
  • Sierra Leone
  • Singapore
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • South Africa
  • Spain
  • Sri Lanka
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Taiwan
  • Tanzania
  • Thailand
  • Turkey
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Uganda
  • Ukraine
  • United Kingdom
  • Uruguay
  • United States of America
  • Vanuatu
  • Zambia

How much do the plans cost?

Airtel has segmented countries into four zones: the tariff you'll pay is indicative of what zone the country is in. For instance, if you're traveling to the U.S., a roaming pack with a validity of 30 days, 5GB of 4G data, and unlimited incoming calls will set you back ₹3,999. That same pack for a country like Thailand costs ₹2,496.

If you buy a plan for a specific zone, you'll be able to use that pack when you travel to other countries in that same zone. Most European countries fall under the same zone, so if you're planning a summer getaway to multiple countries in the region, you can buy a single pack and use that throughout your stay.

Here's the zone-wise breakdown of the tariff:

Zone A

Zone A has the most affordable tariffs, and you'll be able to use the roaming plan in a total of six countries. You get unlimited incoming calls on all plans, along with 100 free texts.

The first pack has a one-day validity, and costs just ₹499. You get 500MB of data, along with 100 minutes of talktime for both local calls within that country and to India. The next plan has a validity of ten days, and costs ₹1,199. You get 3GB of data, and 250 minutes of cumulative talktime — both for local calls within that country and calls to India. When you throw in the unlimited incoming calls and 100 texts per day, the ₹1,199 plan makes a lot of sense.

Airtel also has a 30-day plan available if you're planning a longer visit. It costs ₹2,499, and you get 5GB of data along with 500 minutes for calls. Here are the zone A countries where the aforementioned plans are valid:

  • Australia
  • Bangladesh
  • Malaysia
  • Singapore
  • Sri Lanka
  • Thailand

Zone B

Zone B covers 50 territories, including the U.S., Canada, China, United Kingdom, and most European countries. The same tariff rules are valid — you get free unlimited incoming calls and 100 texts a day on all plans, but the amount you pay for the plans is different.

The one-day plan with 500MB of data and 100 minutes costs ₹649. The pack with ten days of validity, 3GB of data, and 250 calling minutes will set you back ₹2,999, and the 30-day option with 5GB of data and 500 minutes costs ₹3,999.

These are the countries where you'll be able to avail the plan:

  • Albania
  • Austria
  • Bahrain
  • Belgium
  • Brunei
  • Bulgaria
  • Canada
  • China
  • Croatia
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hong Kong
  • Hungary
  • Indonesia
  • Ireland
  • Israel
  • Italy
  • Jersey
  • South Korea
  • Kuwait
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Macau
  • Malta
  • Mauritius
  • Mexico
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Philippines
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Serbia
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Taiwan
  • Turkey
  • United Kingdom
  • United States of America

Zone C

Zone C covers eight territories, including Russia and the UAE. The tariff is the same as what you pay for the countries in zone B, and while you get 100 texts per day, you miss out on unlimited incoming calls.

The roaming pack with one-day validity costs ₹649, and you get 500MB of data, 100 minutes' worth of calls within the country and to India, and 100 minutes of free incoming calls. The 10-day pack costs ₹2,999, and gives you 3GB of data, 250 minutes of calls within that country and to India, along with 250 minutes of incoming calls.

The 30-day plan can be bought for ₹3,999, and offers 5GB of data, 500 minutes of calls (local and to India), and 500 minutes of incoming calls.

These are the countries covered under zone C:

  • Brazil
  • Japan
  • Jordan
  • Nepal
  • Qatar
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Russia
  • United Arab Emirates

Zone D

Zone D features a lot of South American and African countries. There are three packs on offer, but they cost more than what you usually shell out in other zones. 100 texts per day are standard across all packs.

The one-day plan with 500MB of data, 100 minutes for calls within the country and to India, as well as 100 minutes of incoming calls will set you back ₹999. The 10-day pack comes with 3GB of data, 250 incoming minutes, 250 minutes' worth of local calls and calls to India, and costs ₹3,999. If you're opting for the 30-day pack with 5GB of data and 500 minutes, you'll have to shell out ₹6,999. These are the markets covered under zone D:

  • Afghanistan
  • Argentina
  • Azerbaijan
  • Belarus
  • Bhutan
  • Cambodia
  • Chad
  • Chile
  • Colombia
  • Congo
  • Costa Rica
  • Dominican Republic
  • Ecuador
  • El Salvador
  • Fiji
  • Gabon
  • Ghana
  • Guatemala
  • Honduras
  • Kazakhstan
  • Kenya
  • Madagascar
  • Malawi
  • Moldova
  • Myanmar
  • Nicaragua
  • Niger
  • Nigeria
  • Oman
  • Panama
  • Paraguay
  • Peru
  • Puerto Rico
  • Seychelles
  • Sierra Leone
  • South Africa
  • Tanzania
  • Uganda
  • Ukraine
  • Uruguay
  • Vanuatu
  • Zambia

What about overages?

Should you exceed your data or calls quota, you'll be switched to the standard tariff rate for that zone. For zones A and B, that comes out to ₹3 for every MB of data, text, one minute's worth of calls to India or a local number in that country, and ₹35 per minute for international calls. Incoming calls from India will continue to be free even if you exceed your quota.

For zone C, you'll have to shell out ₹3 for an MB of data and SMS over your quota, ₹12 for a minute of calling time to India as well as local calls within that country, ₹10 for every minute of incoming calls, and ₹35 for international calls.

As for zone D, the overage charges are ₹10 for every MB of data and text, ₹35 for a minute's worth of calls to India, local calls, and international calls, and ₹25 for incoming calls.

How can I activate an international roaming pack?

Once you've figured out which roaming pack to get, you can pick it up directly from Airtel's website. You can also use the My Airtel app to purchase the pack.

Usage is about as straightforward as it gets. The pack is activated the moment you start using your phone in another country. If you pick up a 10-day pack, it'll be valid for ten days from the moment it gets activated. Generally, you'll need to have over ₹100 in your account to use the roaming pack.

Do note that if you exceed your data or calls quota, the pack itself will still be valid, but you'll be charged overages based on your usage. If you unintentionally run through your data quota without realizing it (it's hard to stream just one episode of Rick and Morty), you don't have to worry about bill shock. If your overage exceeds ₹499 a day, Airtel will automatically switch you to the one-day pack.

What if I'm not an Airtel customer?

Even if you're not an existing Airtel customer, you can avail the carrier's international plans. To do so, you'll need to pick up a travel SIM by walking into an Airtel retail store.

What do you think?

Staying connected while abroad while having the ability to use your primary number is a definite bonus, and Airtel's international plans are affordable enough that I don't feel like I'm paying too much for the convenience of using my Indian number when traveling.

What are your thoughts on Airtel's international roaming packs? Let us know in the comments below.