Does mobile data roaming cost money abroad?
Those who depend on their data when travelling breathed a sigh of relief in June 2017 when the European Union scrapped roaming charges. Now holidaymakers can save themselves from getting lost in unfamiliar streets, check out the latest restaurant reviews and stay in touch with friends back home, without running up an astronomical bill. However, whilst this may be welcome news to those who have been bitten by the travel bug, what happens after Britain leaves the EU? We could find that our international phone bills rise again. And what happens right now, if you’re looking to venture further afield than the continent?
Here are our top tips for avoiding data roaming charges and staying on top of those holiday spends:
Check with your network provider
Even if you are planning to travel within the EU, it’s still a good idea to double check with your network provider that your particular plan will be as cheap as it is in the UK. Although most of those on pay-monthly and pay-as-you-go schemes should find they pay the same abroad in the EU as at home, there are some instances (such as when a provider has a fair use policy in place) where you may find costs are higher than you might expect. It’s also important to double check which countries are covered by your provider. Don’t take anything for granted.
2. Stick to WiFi
One of the easiest ways to avoid those roaming charges when outside the EU is to ensure that your ‘data roaming’ switch is set to off in your settings and stick to WiFi whenever possible. Even if you think that since you’re not actively using the Internet, background apps can easily rack up charges just by updating without your knowledge. It’s safe to switch off. Fortunately, it’s usually easy to find a restaurant or bar that offers WiFi when abroad – whether the signal is worth writing home about is a whole different matter.
3. Purchase a data bundle
If you know that there is no way you can avoid using data when on holiday and don’t want to have to rely on tracking down WiFi, talk to your network operator to find out if they offer a deal. You might be able to purchase a roaming bundle for a flat fee or a capped-data package to avoid you busting your budget. You might be surprised at just what’s on offer if you simply ask.
4. Buy an international SIM
Those with an unlocked phone may be able to pick up an international SIM which includes data, allocated on a pay-as-you-go basis. Some of these deals will offer you a bundle of data every time you top up, allowing you to use the internet as and when whilst keeping track of how much you’re spending. Unfortunately, it can be a bit tricky to get your phone unlocked in the first place – network providers are no fools and understand that by doing so, it means users are pushed to pay higher prices. Luckily, smaller, independent mobile phone stores may be able to unlock your phone for a fee. You could also probably find a specialist online, or Google how to do it yourself.
5. Download your maps
One of the major reasons it is so easy to rack up data charges when abroad is that we are so used to relying on our smartphones to help us find our way around unfamiliar turf. The temptation to quickly switch on roaming will often win out, especially if the atmosphere in the car has turned tense or you have already asked several people for directions, all of which turned out to be tourists. A solution to save on data costs is to download your maps before you leave the country or vacate the WiFi zone. Check out Google Maps offline maps feature or download an app such as City Maps 2Go or ForeverMap 2. You’ll have to pay a few quid, but we imagine it is far less than the roaming charges you could potentially clock up.
Of course, you could simply embrace the phone-free lifestyle and embark on a digital detox. Who knows, you might just enjoy it.
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