5 Ways to Keep Mobile Phone Costs Down when Travelling

You wouldn’t dream of packing your bags without tossing your smartphone in. So it’s important to remember that staying in contact with loved ones back home can come at a high cost. Updating your Facebook status, texting your friends, and using GPS to search for directions can all come back to haunt you when you return home to a staggering phone bill.

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Before you hit the road, call your mobile carrier to find out about associated international charges. Some service providers offer pay-as-you-go options or international plans, which can be an easy way to reduce costs. By tracking your data usage and keeping the following tips in mind, you can use your phone abroad without paying an arm and a leg.

#1: Turn off Data Roaming

Data roaming charges aren’t as high as they used to be in many countries, and will vary significantly depending on your destination and service provider. This is one of the primary reasons why a traveller’s phone bills can be so shockingly high, however, so it’s best to switch off your phone’s data roaming function if possible and leave it off for the duration of your trip.

#2: Text Instead of Call

Texting tends to cost far less than placing international phone calls, particularly if you avoid lengthy chats. It’s free to receive texts in most cases, and sending a few texts won’t cost too much. If you want to send a quick message or let your family know you’ve arrived at your destination, texting can be one of the easiest ways to do so.

#3: Purchase an International or Local SIM Card

If you plan on using your phone to place calls while you’re away, then it is probably worth your while to look for alternative options. You can buy a local SIM card at your destination, or look for an international SIM card before you leave. In both cases, you’ll need to have your phone unlocked before using the SIM card. An international card is usually the better option if you’ll be backpacking through several different countries, rather than buying separate local cards in each destination. Either option will be cheaper than using your regular phone contract for an extended period of time.

#4: Use Free Calling Apps

A golden rule of communicating abroad is to use free Wi-Fi wherever you find it, not only to check emails but also to place phone calls. There are numerous free calling apps which allow you to place cheap or free calls to other users of the same network. Some allow you to call specific destinations.

For example, there are specific apps like NetTalk allowing you to place low cost calls to the USA. Skype and Google Talk are both good free options if your contacts are using the same network. If you want to call landlines or mobile phones outside of the Skype network, international rates can be as low as 2 cents per minute. Be sure to download these apps before you leave, to avoid using valuable data.

#5: Avoid Downloads

Using your phone to read emails or post status updates won’t eat into your data, particularly if you make use of free Wi-Fi. However, it’s best to avoid opening large attachments or streaming video on your phone unless you want to pay the price when you get home.

By using these alternatives and keeping an eye on your phone use while abroad, you can avoid surprises and keep your budget in check.

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