A guide to using your phone abroad

Posted on May 10, 2016 by Guest Writer
Using mobile phone

A mobile phone is one of those basics that most of us can’t do without on holiday. But when travelling it’s important to know how best to use it without incurring unnecessary roaming charges.

Getting organised is easy. Here’s a quick guide and tips on using your phone abroad and how to set up your mobile for international travel.

Mobile roaming

When your mobile connects with the network of the country you are visiting, it routes your calls via this network instead of your usual one back home. This service comes at a cost, so it’s best to find out from your mobile service provider exactly what the roaming charge is before you start using your phone.

Just like at home, be aware that uploading and downloading data from the internet is likely to cost you dearly, so watching a 60-minute video on your device without switching it to a free Wi-Fi network could bring crippling costs. You will also need to think twice about uploading all your holiday snaps to social media like Facebook if you are not connected to Wi-Fi.

The good news is that data roaming charges have dropped considerably in the past year and have been capped, so web browsing, watching videos and checking your emails no longer mean the eye-watering costs of yesteryear. Europe’s digital agenda commissioner, Neelie Kroes, says: “By putting price caps on data we have created a roaming market for the smart phone generation. More than that, we have ended the rip-offs familiar to anyone who has used a mobile phone while travelling abroad.”

In Europe you can expect to pay no more (and often far less) than: 29 cents per minute for a phone call, 8 cents per minute to receive a call, 9 cents to send a text message and 70 cents per megabyte to download data or browse the internet.

It’s important to note that Turkey, Switzerland and Tunisia are not in the EU so don’t benefit from the pricing caps.

All UK mobile operators are now obliged to send you an alert when you reach 80 per cent of your agreed roaming limit. This safeguards you from otherwise extortionate bills and they must also stop the data loading once you’ve reached the limit – unless of course, you have agreed to unlimited data.


Using wi-fi on a phone whilst on a train


Set up your phone for international travel

It’s worth checking with your mobile phone provider before you travel to find out about their latest, most cost-effective data roaming packages. These are changing all the time and often include no extra charge to call and text back home or use your data in many countries.

If however you’re happy to holiday without amending your plan and purchasing roaming bundles then the following tips will help you avoid extra costs:

  • Turn off data roaming: Phones can have an uncanny habit of roaming automatically, particularly if you are staying near an international border. Make completely sure you’ve switched data roaming off when you leave the UK in order to prevent you from receiving data without realizing it. You then at least have the choice to switch it back on when you wish.
  • Invest in a pay-as-you-go travel SIM card:These are the latest solution to keeping costs low when travelling and they avoid the possible shock of an eye-watering bill on a contracted service when you get back home. Holiday SIM card calls can cost from as little as £0.03 per minute. To find the cheapest current rates, visit the websites of main providers like 0044, Global SIM card, Go-SIM and Lycamobile and make a quick comparison of today’s prices.
  • Download before you go: This avoids the expense and hassle of doing so on holiday. It’s best to get updated versions of the apps you want to use on holiday, ready for easy use before you go. Downloading an internet phone calling system like Skype before you set off gives you free online calls – all you’ll need is a quiet, free Wi-Fi spot to call from.

Keeping costs down once you’re there

Once you’ve bought your bundle or switched your roaming setting to off or done whatever it is to set your phone for your travels, there’s still a few things you can do to keep your phone bill down.

  • Buy a local SIM cards: Buying a local pay-as-you-go SIM card in the country you are visiting can be a cost-effective way to make local phone calls, skipping your home provider’s roaming changes. A local pay-as-you-go SIM card means your phone number will be different but you will pay local prices. If you have a dual SIM card facility on your phone, it makes things easier as you can use the local EU SIM card in conjunction with your UK one.
  • Make the most of free Wi-Fi: Most public places provide free Wi-Fi so remember to make the most of it to check your emails or send and receive all the data you want, absolutely free.

In the case of the unthinkable, make sure you’ve considered phone insurance for your trip abroad.