Before you leave, make sure you inform your service provider where you’re going, and when. It’s likely they will have a range of international deals you can set in place to ensure you don’t unwittingly rack up a huge data or call bill while using your phone abroad.
Keeping in touch when abroad
Using your mobile phone abroad can be an expensive business, with international roaming charges inflating your bill without you even knowing. But by doing a few simple things you can relax knowing that your phone isn’t spending more than you are.
You may want to go on holiday to relax and switch off, but it’s likely you’ll still want to stay in touch with people back home – and for them to get in touch with you. International roaming charges and hotel Wi-Fi can be expensive, but there are plenty of ways you can use your mobile phone abroad and share your experience on social media without spending more than you spent on the holiday itself.
International roaming charges can be costly, especially if you haven’t told your service provider you’re away, so download as much as you can onto your phone before you leave the house. That includes maps or guides of the area you’re visiting, music, books, games or videos to keep you entertained, and key phrases to hold your end of the conversation in a foreign country.
If you’re travelling to Europe, changes in the law for European roaming charges have meant that you can use your monthly allowances of calls, data and texts with no extra charge (with a few exceptions), but go beyond those allowances and you could face a large bill. With many apps able to run undetected in the background, uploading images or downloading updates, your limit could be used up very quickly without you even realising. If you want to make sure you don’t go over your limit, the key settings to change are Data Roaming and, to be safe, all push notifications on your apps.
Calling the UK from abroad isn’t cheap, so it may be cheaper and easier to buy a pay-as-you-go SIM card in the country you’re visiting rather than use your existing contract, taking advantage of low call rates and internet access. There are also online companies such as Holiday Phone that will deliver a local SIM to your door before you leave and even allow you to keep your own phone number.
There’s now a fantastic range of messaging and video apps that allow you to stay in touch with anyone wherever you are – as long as you have either a data allowance or a Wi-Fi connection. By far the most popular is WhatsApp, which lets you text, call, video chat and send pictures to people you’re connected to, whether that’s individuals or groups. Then there’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, which are ideal for quick updates and posting holiday snaps designed to make everyone jealous. Finally, there’s good old Skype, which is still one of the best video chat apps around.
Most hotels and resorts now offer free Wi-Fi and it’s likely there will be cafes and bars nearby that provide it free for customers. So do your chatting and downloading there, and avoid running up unnecessary bills.
Of course, there’s one option available if you really don’t want to be charged for using your mobile phone abroad: turn it off. It’s drastic but effective – and you just might have a more relaxing holiday because of it.