It’s hard to drag yourself away from the internet even when on holiday, especially if you’re taking a longer trip or thinking about travel as a lifestyle, but don’t put yourself into debt over it. Using mobile internet outside the UK – known as roaming – can be costly if you’re not careful, but there are some ways to save a few quid.
What you’ll need to use roaming
In order to use a smartphone or mobile broadband device for internet outside the UK you’ll need to check with your provider to ensure that your current plan allows it. Monthly contracts should usually work but your network may require you to ask permission to roam first, and perhaps purchase an add-on for international use. When it comes to pay-as-you-go, some networks do not permit roaming at all.
Be sure to confirm pricing too. The charges for using roaming data vary depending on where you’re going, and as not every place allows roaming the network will be able to tell you if they have an agreement for a particular country too. You can also use the Broadband Genie Roaming Tool to quickly compare costs and coverage for all networks for just about every location in the world, so everyone in the group you’re travelling with can see costs all at once.
And remember to check that your smartphone, dongle or tablet will be compatible with the local network. There are different frequencies used for networks across the world and so not every device will work in every location, or may only be able to provide a slower internet speed. Generally this not a problem if you are traveling within the same region (for example, from the UK to a holiday in France or Spain) but can be problematic when further afield.
10 money saving roaming tips
1. Use a roaming bundle
Networks often provide bundles of data specifically for use when roaming, and these should be a lot cheaper than the equivalent per-MB charge.
2. Compress Data
Get yourself a mobile browser that will save you money. You can save up to 90% of data traffic by using the Opera Mini browser. Also apps such as ‘Onavo Extend’ compresses all data you use, so will save you even further roaming costs. The app is free to download and can help you reduce data usage by as much as 5 times, keeping your bills lower than ever.
3. Watch out for free roaming extras
Some networks have free roaming as part of their contract deals, and that’s worth taking into consideration if you’re shopping for a new provider and will be travelling frequently. Three has its ‘Feel At Home’ program where there are no roaming fees for selected countries, while EE gives all its customers 100MB of free data within Europe each month.
4. Disable updates and notification
If you decide to have data on, turn off all automatic app updates and notifications. Otherwise, that 150 MB update can be very pricey if you don’t change the setting when traveling abroad.
5. Download before you go
Make sure you download what you need before you leave home, including apps, books, films or music, plus city maps, guides, etc. Always make sure to check any downloads are complete before you leave the country.
6. Get a local network SIM
For frequent travel or a long stay, it might be cheaper and easier to buy a local network SIM to use their pricing rather than paying your home network’s roaming fees. To do this you’ll just need a device which is SIM unlocked and supports the network’s frequencies.
7. Join a specialist roaming provider
There are a few firms which offer data and calling packages specifically for international use. They’re often geared toward heavier usage and can be much cheaper than roaming fees. Sometimes they will simply provide a SIM to go in your own hardware, but may also sell or lease the hardware and offer airport pick up and drop off.
8. Automatic image upload
This is easy to forget about when travelling abroad. Make sure to turn these settings off immediately if you use Dropbox, Facebook or Google Plus as they can automatically sync any photos taken on your phone. Get around these roaming costs by adjusting your settings so the automatic image upload only happens when you’re connected to wifi.
9. Use off line travel apps
You’ll discover plenty of brilliant travel apps all available to download, but how many of them work whilst you have no internet connection? Save money while travelling by making sure all your travel apps are available offline, you can test this by turning your data off before you travel.
10. Use free Wi-Fi
Not my favorite tip, since I never like to turn internet access off. If you absolutely want to avoid roaming fees altogether, make use of wireless hotspots in bars, restaurants and hotels. Many hotels offer Wifi in public areas and rooms. It’s often free, but even if you need to pay a little extra it’s probably going to be cheaper (and maybe faster) than roaming.
Do you have any money saving roaming tips to add? Let us know and we’ll include them above