We’ve all done it: saved hard for a trip, carefully worked out a budget, and – for once – stuck to it, and then what happens? You find it has been blown apart by an unexpectedly large mobile phone bill. Ask 99 per cent of the population what they know of roaming charges and international call tariffs and you will see the confusion bedazzle their brains and cloud their eyes. It’s a bewildering subject, but one worth looking into before you jet off, and here are our top five tips to help you on your way.
1. Consider roaming costs when choosing a provider. These vary greatly, but you might find that one provider can save you some important pennies, depending on where you plan to be. For example, if you are travelling around the US and Canada, then Virgin wins out over the other five leading mobile providers for roaming costs.
2. Investigate bolt-ons to your existing contract. Most mobile phone providers will offer a cheap international tariff that you can add on to what you already pay for. Again, these will vary according to destination so it is best to ring up your provider and see what they can do for you.
3. Would a local PAYG Sim do the job better? If you are spending a long time in one country, it could well be cost effective to buy a local Sim card, meaning that local calls are much cheaper and you shouldn’t be charged for incoming calls (but check this as it is not always the case). Do bear in mind that you may have to pay up to £20 to unlock your mobile if using another provider’s Sim, but there are websites that allow you to do this for free.
4. Do you need voicemail? To receive incoming calls while you are away, your mobile will connect with the foreign mobile network and you will be charged as such. If you need to receive calls, then deactivate your voicemail diverts; this way, you can decline to answer the call and you will not be charged for the caller leaving a message. If you don’t need to be in contact, then set incoming calls to be diverted directly to voicemail and the foreign network need do no costly work in connecting. Finally, be aware that listening to your voicemail while abroad costs the same as an international call to the UK – avoid if possible!
5. Make use of the Internet. By using websites such as Rebtel, you can route your calls through the Internet making them ‘local’, thereby saving yourself a good sum. Services such as Skype have revolutionised contact between friends and family overseas: as long as your recipient is signed up to Skype on their PC or smart phone, you can enjoy free phone or video calls – and with no time limit, you can wax lyrical about your adventures.