Using your mobile overseas

Using your mobile overseas

Stay connected while travelling, without racking up the bills, with Andreas Bernstrom's top tips on calling from the road

For modern travellers packing a mobile phone for foreign travel is as natural as packing a toothbrush. Despite the fact almost everyone travels with their mobile there is still a great deal of confusion on how best to use your phone abroad.

Hardly a month goes by without some news story concerning travellers racking up 'shock bills' - often running into the tens of thousands of pounds - after making just a few phone calls or watching videos on YouTube.

So to help you navigate the pitfalls of using your mobile abroad, we've put together a brief guide to the best way to use your mobile whilst roaming and suggested a few other options to cut costs you may not have considered before.

Things to check before you travel

1. Firstly, the good news
The European Union has enacted legislation that aims to bring down the often-excessive costs charged by mobile operators for European roaming. The changes came into practice this summer and it caps the charge for calling another EU country while in the EU at approximately 31p/min (ex VAT).

2. Check with your operator
As a result of the new EU laws all of the major mobile operators are offering much more attractive roaming deals than in previous years. However, almost all the deals you see advertised will only apply to those travelling within the EU. If you are outside the EU (or plan to call outside the EU) you will be subject to far higher charges. The best thing to do is to chat with your operator and see what they offer.

3. Study the terms and conditions
Make sure that you fully understand what your roaming package or phone contract allows you to do. Some packages have limits on data usage and may not warn you if you exceed them. For example: some of the 24 hour roaming packages may expire at a specific time, such as midnight, rather than after a full 24 period of use. Not knowing how your package works could be costly.

4. Switch off roaming and 3G before you fly
Make sure you aren't inadvertently tapping into local networks the moment you touch down on foreign soil. This is especially important if you aren't using a roaming package or if your roaming package needs to be activated upon arrival.

5. Turn off those apps
If you are a smartphone user, chances are you have all sorts of updates and push notifications coming in constantly to your phone. That's fine when you are at home, but a potential disaster whileabroad. Disable them. Those Angry Bird updates can wait!

6. Disable voicemail
Checking in on your voicemail while abroad is going to cost you (around 20p a minute).  Avoid.

Money-saving tips

There's plenty you can do outside of signing up with a decent roaming package to save yourself cash and stay as connected while travelling.

1. Use VoIP
Voice over Internet Protocol services such as Rebtel, Skype and Viber are a great way to make calls for free of for a fraction of the cost of using your mobile. Many of us use these services when at home so what's stopping you using them abroad?  If you have free Wi-Fi access, or maybe are visiting an internet café to catch up on your emails, why not use VoIP? It's a great way to make high quality calls without having to count the seconds.

2. Buy a local SIM
If you simply have to make lot of calls (and have an unlocked mobile) buying a local SIM card is a good option. As it's most likely to be a pay as you go card you'll never be in danger of facing any hidden charges and can top up when needed.

3. Get friends from home to text you
It may cost to send texts, but never to get them. Tell those from home who are likely to contact you during your travel to text you where possible. You can then see if it's urgent enough to ring home straight away or if it can wait.

4. Use free Wi-Fi
Many cafes, bars and hotels now offer free Wi-Fi so why not use it? Get your daily internet fix while having a chilled cocktail at that beach café with stunning sunsets.

5. Don't fear your phone abroad
With a little planning and some common sense there's no reason for mobile phones to cause you any undue stress on your travels. With more and more places offering free Wi-Fi you can start viewing your mobile as a tool to help make travel run smoothly, rather than something to stay away from.

Andreas Bernstrom is CEO at Rebtel - a company which offers travellers a cheap way to call home while on the road.

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