How to avoid charges when taking your phone abroad

How to avoid charges when taking your phone abroad

The schools have officially broken up, and the sun is well and truly out. So if you are one of the hundreds of people fleeing the unpredictable weather by going abroad this summer, check out these simple tips to ensure that you do not end up paying more than you bargained for in roaming charges!

1.     Turn off data roaming

The first thing that you should do as soon as you step off the plane is to turn off your data roaming. Roaming is essentially the term given to using another mobile phone network to surf the internet, download games or receive emails. Some phones turn off data roaming automatically in order to stop you incurring extra charges, but as network providers can make a profit on you using another network’s service, this isn’t always the case.

Even if you are not actively using the internet or opening your emails, some smartphones install automatic updates without you even noticing, which is why it is so important to turn off your data roaming whenever possible. The option to do this is often found in your mobile networks settings.

2.     Avoid making or answering calls

It may sound obvious, but avoiding making or receiving calls abroad is one key way to reduce the cost of using your mobile phone abroad.

While most are aware that making phone calls when you are on holiday can be expensive, but many people do not realise that they can be charged for simply receiving them. Furthermore, for the majority of users who are used to having ‘free’ minutes included in their mobile network packages, the concept of being charged for making a phone call can often be overlooked.

The good news is that all UK networks have been forced to limit the amount that they can charge for making and receiving calls and text messages. Currently, you cannot incur charges of more than 24p +VAT per minute to make a call, and no more than 7p + VAT to receive one. Also, networks cannot charge more than 7p to send a text message.

However, by making even a short phone call, the charge per minute can soon add up. Also, the limitations put upon mobile phone networks only applies to roaming inside the European Union, so travelling to the USA, Asia, or Australia, for example, can incur even higher charges.

The best way to avoid incurring any extra charges at all is to make phone calls via your hotel telephone, or better still, to buy an international phone card for use in telephone boxes. It may feel like you are stepping back into the past, but believe me, it’s a sure way to keep track of your expenditure.

3.     Avoid using the internet

If you follow rule 1 then this shouldn’t be an issue. However, if your trip is for business, or if you need to find out vital details about your travel arrangements, sometimes using the internet while you are abroad just can’t be helped.

If browsing the internet really cannot be avoided, try to use WiFi as this is generally free. If your airport or hotel does not offer free WiFi access, you will be alerted to the fact and asked to pay a fee, which avoids costs adding up without your attention.

Alternatively, most hotels allow you to access computers in the lobby, or failing that, internet cafes are frequently dotted around tourist areas.

Although UK mobile networks are obliged to stop internet access in the EU when your bill has reached up to £44, this can still be a hefty shock on top of your monthly contract rate, and this rate can go much higher if you are outside of Europe so should be avoided at all costs!

4.     Shop around

Another way to avoid paying mobile phone charges when abroad is to shop around for the best mobile phone rates abroad.

If you are a frequent traveller, it is wise to investigate all of your options. For example, many mobile phone networks offer additional travel bundles which can be added to your monthly contract for a pre-agreed price. Sometimes called Bolt-ons, these bundles are available at different rates depending on the country you are visiting and the network you are contracted to.

If you are planning to spend a lengthy time abroad, it may also be worth purchasing an in-country or international SIM card which you can insert into your existing phone and use at a reduced rate. These SIMs can be cheap to buy, and are especially useful if you are planning on using your phone to contact other people who are travelling in the same country as you. 

5.     Turn your phone off!

Finally, the ultimate way in which to avoid all mobile phone charges when you travel abroad is to simply turn your phone off. Nobody wants to be on holiday with that person who seems glued to their Blackberry or iPhone while they are sitting by the pool, so unless it’s a business trip (in which case let the company pay!), switch your mobile phone off, and enjoy your trip!

For many of us these days, browsing the internet for the latest Facebook or Twitter updates is second nature to us, so avoid the temptation by putting your phone in your suitcase once you have arrived. The football scores can wait!

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