Have you ever carefully budgeted for a trip abroad, only to be surprised by an off-the-charts phone bill upon your return home? Even a quick phone call back home or to a friend can rack up huge charges. When a phone goes into roaming mode, it can also be extremely expensive to use WiFi services or other data.
Fortunately, The European Commission has just passed a ruling which caps roaming costs within Europe. If you’re going further afield, however, data roaming charges still can cost you an arm and a leg. Fortunately, there are a few tips which can help reduce your phone charges so that you can enjoy your holiday without any costly surprises down the road.
Local SIM Cards
One easy way to cut down on your phone charges is to purchase a prepaid SIM card in the country you are travelling to. These allow you to use your own cell phone to make local calls as needed. The per-minute rates on these prepaid options can be quite high, so it’s good to shop around to find one with affordable rates. For example, you can call South Africa with Lebara or other prepaid providers from home or abroad, at reasonable rates. Texting tends to use up less of your prepaid data, so this can make your package last longer. You’ll need to have your phone unlocked before you can use foreign SIM cards, however.
Use International Calling Cards
Another way to cut costs in addition to choosing to call India with Lebara or other prepaid providers is to purchase an international calling card. These give you a PIN number which you can use at payphones or within your hotel. Be sure to compare rates carefully, because these can vary widely. Some calling cards will charge you an extra connection or maintenance fee.
Do your Research
If you were planning on using your Smartphone to look up things to do while abroad, it’s better to do this ahead of time and save it to your phone. That way, you can access your maps, guides, and music offline without incurring data roaming charges.
Visit Optimised Sites
If you do use your phone to go online, avoid busy sites or those that require you to download attachments. You’ll also want to visit sites that have been properly optimised for mobile use, because these will use far less data.
Use VoIP Services
Voice over Internet Protocol services like Skype and Viber allow you to make phone calls abroad for free, provided the recipient of your call uses the same service. These can be accessed from internet cafes or hotel computers if you need to get in touch when travelling.
Of course, the best way to avoid hefty phone charges when travelling is simply to ditch the phone entirely. Taking some time out from technology can be refreshing and leave you with a lighter bill at the end of your journey.
Image by Matt Preston