Mobile usage costs are something many of us don’t think too much about when we’re home, but when we go on holiday, we often discover that it’s something we should have considered. Usually we can connect just fine, but hostel and hotel Wi-Fi is usually horrible, or ridiculously overpriced. Likewise, roaming fees can crush an otherwise normal phone balance, leaving even the most careful of us wondering how we managed to pull up such an outrageous bill.
If you’re among the many people who haven’t considered the real costs of their mobile bills and balances while traveling, then this article is for you. We’ll cover standard fees and rates, what to expect from carriers when you’re abroad, and some of the things you may need to do in order to be able to use your number outside of the UK, as certain providers block use outside of home to help prevent cost overages in the event your phone is stolen or lost, and you don’t immediately report it. This article is part of our series on keeping mobile usage costs down.
1) Pay Attention to Fees: As a general rule, mobile usage costs for roaming outside the UK are significantly higher. Typically you’ll spend around 55p plus VAT per megabyte in Europe, and up to £8 per MB elsewhere. To give you an idea of what that data figure means, you can send about 30 email messages of around 15 lines or so on 1MB of data. That’s assuming you don’t have a signature with images, and aren’t sending any photos. Considering that many modern mobiles will snap shots of 8MB and more per image, you could be looking at a data cost of £64 to send one image. Send 11 photos, and you would just as easily buy your special someone a new iPhone 6.
2) Discuss Network Discounts: Contact your network, and see what their plan options are. Some offer reasonable data plans when traveling abroad, which can be especially useful if you’re in Europe often. For places farther afield, you’re likely going to want a special plan. For example, Vodafone will let you use your plan minutes and such in Europe, but you’ll need to pay £3 per day in order to access that. Other carriers, like O2, will let you pay £1.99 per day for a 25MB data limit.
3) Make Sure You’re Not Blocked: Some networks, like Vodafone, will block you from international usage unless you’ve let them know in advance that you’ll be going abroad. Even a short trip into Europe will cause you to be blocked. Obviously you can still connect to Wi-Fi wherever you are, but you wont be able to use your phone for calls or to send and upload data when you’re not connected to a Wi-Fi signal. Of course, if you’re on holiday, that shouldn’t be an issue, as you should be relaxing rather than trying to catch work emails.
4) Think About Your Usage: Honestly, if you need to be connected, then you’ll have to get some sort of plan, but your needs will dictate the plan you choose. For instance, not having a plan, or getting the wrong one could set you back £150 a day or more if you just send a few photos. On the other hand, you could end up paying £3 or more per day for a plan you really don’t need. Consider whether Skype from your hotel or a café isn’t going to be a better use of your money. Often you can save enough for another night’s stay, or a night on the town, depending on where you are. If nothing else, the savings should at least cover a lunch.
5) Think About Going Local: Without exception, it’s always less expensive to pick up a SIM card wherever you’re traveling, and just get a local plan. Most countries offer a pay as you go plan on their local network, and you can get those for next to nothing. You won’t have the same home number for people to call you on until you’re back in the UK, but if you don’t need to be answering business calls, there’s no reason not to get a cheap local SIM. Additionally, if you will be making a lot of local calls, to taxi services, tour companies, or just to stay in touch with your partner or friends, you’ll save quite a bit more and in most cases get better reception by using a local network. Just shop around a bit before you pick up your SIM card to see who has the best plans. This can usually be done online before you leave for your trip.
Just find your network and visit the relevant site for information on what they do and don’t offer. As mentioned earlier, many times you’ll find it’s less expensive and less headache to get local SIM cards when you travel abroad. This is especially true if you’re visiting far away places like Hong Kong, or Mexico.
Disclaimer: This was a sponsored post.