5 Ways To Avoid Sky-High Mobile Phone Bills Abroad
After a shockingly bad winter and a sub-standard spring, summer holiday season is finally upon us and thoughts are turning toward getting those flights and hotels booked. But before you go there’s one important thing you need to remember when taking a break abroad – the cost of roaming with a smartphone or other mobile device. Using a mobile in the UK doesn’t tend to break the bank, but the moment you leave the country and access a foreign network, the prices take a scarily big leap. If you’re not careful this can result in getting a very nasty shock when you open that dreaded bill on your doormat. But with a little planning, it’s easy to avoid becoming a tabloid horror story. Here are our top tips for lowering the cost of using a smartphone or mobile broadband on holiday…
1. Get an international add-on
You won’t be able to use the minutes or data from your regular mobile phone contract abroad, but most networks offer some kind of special add-on package for international calls, texts and internet that can be much cheaper than their standard roaming costs. Check online or call your network ahead of time to find out if this is available and how to use it – often it’s simply a matter of sending a special text to activate once you arrive.
2. Buy a SIM card from a local network
If your device is unlocked – and you can accept any network – save big money by purchasing a SIM card from a network in the country you’re visiting, so you benefit from local pricing. This works particularly well for mobile broadband and tablets to get much cheaper data. This may not be cost-effective if you’re only staying for a week or two, but for long trips or regular visitors it’s a great option.
3. Go PAYG
Using a pay-as-you-go mobile abroad is an easy way to control your spending, since you have to top-up rather than paying the bill at a later date. This is particularly useful for kids who may carry on using their mobiles like normal without fully understanding the costs. PAYG SIM cards can be bought for about 99p… or your network might just give you one for free, so you can pick up a spare SIM for use abroad and switch back to your regular service when you return.
4. Use hotel or coffee shop Wi-Fi
Calling from abroad isn’t cheap, but it’s data that’s the real killer. Rather than using the SIM card in your phone or tablet for data, track down a Wi-Fi connection. These are easy to track down, even budget hotels will have a wireless point, and they’re often free. If a charge is involved it will typically work out to be much cheaper than data roaming on your network.
5. Hire or buy an international mobile device
If you know you’re going to need to make lots of calls or will require a large amount of data allowance for internet access abroad, purchasing a specialist international service can be a money-saver, particularly for regular travellers. Services such as Cellhire, Globalgig and Tep Wireless provide mobile phones, SIM cards and mobile broadband devices to hire or buy. These come with generous packages that can be used all over the world for a set cost that’s far below UK network roaming charges.
If you want to find out more about saving money on your mobile broadband device when abroad, have a look at our user-friendly guide here.
Matt Powell writes on behalf of broadband, mobile broadband and smartphone consumer advice site Broadband Genie.
Do you have any tips on keeping mobile costs down when you’re on holiday?