Even when on holiday abroad, it's tempting to use your mobile to check emails, update your Facebook status or access local maps or restaurant reviews. What many travellers don’t realise, however, is that your usual internet allowance package from your mobile operator doesn’t apply when you’re outside your home country.
Using your mobile on an overseas network (but still being billed by your existing provider) is known as ‘data roaming’ and, for the unwary holidaymaker, data roaming charges can lead to unexpectedly huge phone bills.
Recent EU legislation capped the costs of data roaming within the Eurozone, but with the data still being charged per megabyte and 1MB roughly equivalent to reading just eight web pages or viewing two photographs, it’s easy to see how costs can soon mount up.
Skyscanner invites Mike Newman, CEO of my1login, the world’s most secure free online password manager, to share his top 10 expert tips for keeping your data roaming charges in check the next time you travel:
1. Download in advance
Before you leave, research your destination online and download maps and travel guides to your phone that can be used offline once you arrive. The same applies to your in-flight entertainment: download your music, films or even the latest Skyscanner travel podcast, before you leave the country.
2. Check your settings
Some smartphone apps will continue to download expensive data abroad whether you’re actively using them or not. The best way to avoid this is to turn off your ‘data roaming’ setting completely – ask your operator for instructions on how to do this if you’re not sure.
3. Use wi-fi
Accessing the internet through 3G or 4G on your phone costs you money, but using a local wi-fi hotspot generally doesn’t. Research how to turn off your 3G/4G and turn on your wi-fi before you leave.
4. Bundle up
If you have a rough idea how much data your likely to need while you’re away, all mobile operators offer fixed-cost data bundle packages that can be purchased in advance.
5. Switch your SIM
You can buy pre-paid SIM cards that offer good rates on overseas web access - but you will need to have you phone ‘unlocked’ before you can use a different SIM.
6. Only use mobile sites
Many popular websites now have mobile versions designed for smartphones which require less data than the standard web version. If your favourite sites have mobile versions, use them.
7. Don’t open attachments
Downloading attachments to emails can be a big drain on your data usage so, unless it’s something crucial, wait until you get home to open any.
8. Mind the kids
If your children are fans of online gaming or social media, don’t be tempted to keep them quiet by handing over your phone – it could cost you dear!
9. Keep your phone and your reputation safe
Losing your smartphone or having it stolen abroad can lead to others running up huge data roaming bills. Even worse, it could do serious damage to your reputation if passwords to your email and social media accounts are stored on your phone. Keep your phone secure on your travels and use a free password manager to protect your online identity.
10. Leave your phone at home
If your travelling isn’t business-related, you could always take a break from your online life for a week or two. Or could you?
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