Using a mobile phone abroad can be prohibitively expensive, but if you are careful it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. There are lots of ways to keep the cost of using a mobile abroad down, and here’s how you can avoid being one of those people who ends up with a huge bill at the end of two weeks in the sun.
Check Before You Travel
Never leave the country before informing your network provider you are travelling overseas. That way you can find out in advance what the costs of calls, texts and data are before you go. Knowledge is power and if you are clued up you should be able to avoid incurring unnecessary costs. Ideally your network provider will also let you know if there are any special deals available to reduce the cost of overseas travel.
Buy a Local SIM Card
The problem with using mobile phones abroad is that we don’t always realise the costs are racking up as we read web pages or upload photos on to Facebook. If we are lucky, our network provider sends us a warning text, but all too often these warning texts don’t arrive or we ignore them. By far the simplest way of avoiding massive global roaming charges is to buy a local SIM, but remember that your mobile needs to be unlocked for this to work.
Turn Off Data Roaming
Data roaming is the main reason why people incur a lot of charges from overseas mobile phone usage. Most of us use smartphones to access the internet: to read emails, check the weather forecast, find out local information, and update social networking accounts. If you connect to the internet via 3G or 4G whilst abroad, you will have to pay a fortune to your network provider, so turn off data roaming before you travel – preferably before the plane has taxied down the runway.
Stick to Free Wi-Fi
Using Wi-Fi is the cheapest way to access online content and download emails. Hotels often charge for Wi-Fi, but even this is still a lot cheaper than using mobile data. However, with so many public Wi-Fi networks available these days, it is possible to connect to the online world via free Wi-Fi virtually everywhere you go (unless you are snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef of course).
Turn off Voicemail
It costs nothing to receive a voicemail at home, but if someone calls you whilst you are working on your tan somewhere hot and sunny, it could cost you a lot more than the price of an ice cold beer. Listening to voicemails is always expensive abroad, but some networks even charge to receive a voicemail in certain parts of the world, irrespective of whether you bother to listen to it. To avoid this unnecessary cost, turn off your voicemail before you go.
Buy an Overseas “Add-On”
Check out money saving bundles and add-ons before you travel. Network providers often have special deals for customers with a desire to travel. You might be able to buy an add-on that gives you a certain amount of data for a fixed fee or cheaper calls. However, do read the small print before you sign up because the deal might not be as cheap as it first appears.
Stick to Free Messaging
Making calls from a foreign country is never going to be cheap, but other than switching your mobile off for the duration, one way to keep the costs down is to stick to free messaging services if you feel the need to brag about what a fantastic time you are having. As long as you have access to Wi-Fi, it costs nothing to use messaging services such as WhatsApp or Apple’s iMessage. So stick to typing messages instead of hitting the dial button.
Download Content before You Travel
Downloading movies, games, books or videos will eat up your data and leave you with a nasty bill when you return from your trip. However, if you think you might need entertainment when you are away, download everything you need before you travel. This also applies to maps. Map apps such as Google Maps can work offline if you save the map you need before you turn data off. So prepare for your trip in advance by saving maps you think you might find useful and save a packet at the same time.
Assuming you have informed your network provider about your forthcoming trip, the other thing you should do is protect your mobile with a passcode. That way if the phone is lost or stolen, nobody will be able to use it and run up a huge bill on your account.
Using a mobile abroad doesn’t need to be horrifically expensive if you follow the tips above, but don’t forget to educate your children about their mobile usage, too, or it could all go horribly wrong.