When you’ve saved up for months for a sunny holiday abroad and finally get a week or two off of the normal day to day grind, you want to relax as much as possible. You’ve already downloaded all of your favourite travel apps and have planned what you want to do when you arrive The last thing you want is to come home after unwinding in the sun to find an obscenely huge mobile phone bill waiting to destroy your mood. Sadly, this happens to many unfortunate travellers. There have been stories of mobile phone users accidentally racking up thousands on their bill just by checking their email a few times and uploading some pictures to social networking sites.
The EU has gone part of the way toward solving this problem by bringing down the general cost of roaming in Europe. Since July of this year a new cap has been introduced on data roaming charges, as well as the cost of calls and text messages. This should make your holiday far cheaper if you’re planning to stay close to home in the EU. However, the charges can still easily rack up quickly and often without warning for those who are planning on travelling further afield.
Luckily, this unfortunate situation is completely avoidable. Don’t worry- you don’t have to leave your phone at home, that’s not something most of us could cope with, you just have to be aware of a few simple tricks that can help bring down your mobile roaming charges.
Switch Data Roaming Off
The first and most important thing you should do as soon as your plane lands and the seatbelt signs are off is to turn off data roaming. This could easily save you a fortune- most of the horror stories involving people accidentally ending up with massive roaming charges involve data roaming being left on, allowing the phone to find its nearest 3G connection to update apps, send emails and messages through and keeping your internet running as it would at home.
Some phones will switch your data roaming off automatically when it detects that you’re abroad, but it’s always wise to double check that roaming is actually off before you begin your holiday fun. This is easily done by going into your mobile network settings and either turning off mobile data or switching the specific data roaming setting off.
Find The Wi-Fi
Try to avoid using any mobile data at any point throughout your trip and utilise free Wi-Fi instead. Depending on where you are in the world and how remote your location is, most airports and many hotels will have free Wi-Fi hotspots ready to any traveller to use. Most major cities have plenty of cafes and restaurants that also offer free Wi-Fi, so be sure to ask wherever you are or look out for signs advertising internet services.
If you keep your phone off most of the time and switch on when you’re in these Wi-Fi hotspots, you’ll be able to check your emails, get in touch with friends and family and upload a few holiday snaps to Facebook without incurring any unwanted charges along the way.
Buy A Package
If you really can’t live without data 24/7 or won’t be able to find much Wi-Fi at your travel destination, consider asking your network provider what kind of international data packages they offer. If you are going to be using a significant amount of data, it’s important to know how much you’ll be charged per MB and how much data you tend to use daily. Track your usage for a few days and then speak with your provider about what they might be able to offer you. A package deal will almost always be cheaper than being charged at the normal rate for each MB you use.
Buy A Local SIM
This can be an especially useful trick if you’re going to be staying abroad for more than a week or two and need to use your phone fairly frequently. Once you’ve landed and settled in, buy a local SIM card rather than using your usual UK SIM. This will give you a local phone number and allow you to use data on a pay-as-you-go basis at the local network rates. How much this will set you back will depend on where you’re travelling in the world, but in many destinations it will be substantially cheaper than using data roaming on your UK mobile phone.
Your mobile phone will need to be unlocked from the network to allow you to use an international SIM card, so make sure the phone is unlocked before you set off on your holiday. This can sometimes be done by your network carrier, if they’ll agree to it, or can alternatively be done by many specialist mobile phone shops that aren’t tied to any particular network.
Invest In Mi-Fi
If you’re travelling with family or friends and want to chip in together on a gadget to save everyone money on data charges, consider getting a MiFi device. MiFi allows you to create your own personal Wi-Fi hotspot, which can connect with up to five different devices at once, giving everyone internet access from one modem. These are relatively inexpensive and easy to set up, but won’t be ideal if you’re hoping to finally get a family holiday where the kids aren’t glued to their mobile phones.