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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Holiday hangovers: How to avoid a massive mobile phone bill when travelling abroad

Avoid unnecessary cell phone charges by notifying mobile service providers of travel plans
Turn off global roaming before travel
By Laura Ginn

It's not uncommon to read stories in the press about poor unfortunate souls who unknowingly ran up massive mobile phone bills because they uploaded holiday snaps to their Facebook profile whilst lying on a beach in Marmaris, or downloaded a cute film to entertain their fractious kids in a Spanish hotel room.

The sad thing is that this trauma could have easily been prevented if the users had simply followed a few simple protocols. So if you are travelling abroad, check out these simple tips for avoiding a post-holiday mobile bill shock horror.

Will your mobile work?

One way to avoid running up any kind of bill is when you belatedly discover that your mobile doesn't even work abroad. This is actually more common than you might think. Global roaming is often deactivated by default, so in order to be able to use a mobile abroad you need to notify your network that you are travelling to foreign shores. All it takes is a quick telephone call to customer service and then you are free to call and text the moment your flight lands.

Turn off global roaming

No matter how big the data allowance you have in the UK, once you leave the country all bets are off. From that point onwards, everything you download will cost you—and it won’t be cheap.  Even if you have no intention of using your phone abroad, it does make sense to have it just in case of emergencies. So, once you have activated global roaming, turn it off before you land. This can be done via your mobile phone's settings. You will still be able to access your email and internet pages via a Wi-Fi connection, however, so don't panic.

Check for free Wi-Fi hotspots

Lots of hotels and self-catering accommodation places offer free Wi-Fi to their guests. This means you can update your Facebook profile and catch up on your favourite YouTube channels for free. So make good use of free Wi-Fi wherever possible and do not be tempted to turn on global roaming, no matter how desperate you are to download important emails.

Sign up for foreign usage packages

Networks usually offer cheap packages for foreign usage. Instead of being charged the usual rates for making calls and sending text messages abroad, you can sign up for a bundle and enjoy a cheaper rate. This may work out cheaper for you if you anticipate making lots of calls during your trip overseas.

The right package

  • PAYG - PAYG phones are great if you can't afford any unexpected bills. You only pay for what you use and if your credit runs out, you can't use the phone. Yes, it really is that simple.
  • Contract Mobiles – Mobile phone contracts mean you are tied in for a specified amount of time, typically two years. It does mean, however, that you can have the latest handset.
SIM Only deals – This arrangement is a lot more flexible. The best SIM only deals give you free minutes, text and data, but you aren't locked in for a long period. On the downside, you won't be given a new handset.

About the author: Laura Ginn is a writer. She regularly travels abroad for work assignments, which means she needs to take her mobile phone with her at all times. Her mobile contract recently ended, but because she is still happy with her iPhone, she opted for a SIM only deal on a rolling contract.

* Image license: Lusi, RGBStock royalty free

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