Taking your mobile on holiday? Of course, you’ll want to. But before you fly, it definitely pays to do some research. It could save you a fair amount of money and hassle.
If you continue to use your phone abroad as you do at home, you’d better have deep pockets to pay for more expensive calls and texts, not to mention the charges for internet access and data. The internet and data charges, what’s known as ‘data roaming’, can run up enormous bills very quickly. So, the first thing to do is to turn off the ‘data roaming’ function. This will stop your phone using the network in the country you’re visiting to access the internet, whilst still charging you for your network back home. Also, this charge is not covered by the data allowance on your contract.
Watch out if you’re taking your iPad along too and using it to access your emails, for example. Their roaming costs are often far more expensive than those for a phone.
Remember, even with data roaming off, you can still use a free WiFi hotspot to access the internet on your phone when abroad, without running up any additional cost.
Also, divert your calls to voicemail, otherwise you’ll still be paying for the incoming calls. Remember, listening to a voicemail costs the same as making an international call to the UK.
As far as keeping down the price of calls and texts, start with a call to your mobile provider. Many have international packages that can offer savings of up to 60%. These can be for either EU or wider international use. It pays to ask, because some networks can be a little shy about what they offer. Do remember to cancel any add-on international package you buy when you get back home!
If you are going somewhere exotic, check that your phone is technically compatible with the country you’re visiting. Roughly speaking, Dual Band phones work in Europe, but not in the US. Tri Band phones are good for most countries, but not in some South American countries. A Quad Band phone will work in most places, except for non-GSM countries such as Japan and South Korea.
There is another option to cut your costs. Hire a phone (with airtime) at your destination. This makes sense for calls within the country you’re in, but not international ones.
If you’re attached to your own phone (who isn’t?) you could go for a pre-paid SIM card. Here you have two options; either a pay-as-you-go card that gives you a new number and is mainly for in-country use, or a ‘global’ SIM. The latter will let you keep your number and work in a number of countries. It’s more convenient as well as the most cost-effective if you are travelling through several locations. Just make sure your phone is ‘unlocked’ to use a new SIM card other than its original one.
You could bypass your network altogether, find a WiFi hotspot, and speak for free on clever internet-to-phone systems like Skype or Viber. Download the Skype or Viber app to your phone and you can talk as long as you like to someone who has the same app. If it’s free messaging you want, systems like WhatsApp are just the job.
One final tip – never take your phone on holiday without noting its serial (IMEI) number, your network’s customer services number and, if you don’t know it, your mobile number and any passwords. Keep that info safe, so if the phone is lost or stolen you can quickly get it blocked. After all, you definitely don’t want to pay for someone else’s calls when you are on holiday!