December 1, 2013
The advice that follows is intended to help those among us who work and travel internationally as a career, but I would suggest that the advice is more universal than this; it applies to anyone with an intention to visit family overseas this Christmas or those of us lucky enough to be heading abroad to catch some winter sun. Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, data roaming charges can be a debilitating hog on your resources. I write from the personal perspective of a manager who travels routinely between London, Munich and Seattle, but who has managed to save myself a lot of cash over the last few years.
The EU is planning to ban big data roaming charges by spring 2014, but in the meantime, many of those unreasonable costs still exist and can “get you” when you least expect them. Typically, when you are in dire need of communication with little other recourse than your handheld device. There are providers out there specifically created to specialise in cheap provision of wireless Internet – like mobi-data who offer very the cheapest roaming rate of anyone else I have researched at 15p/MB – but if you’re with a standard provider, what should you do to keep your doormat free of shocking phone bills when you get home? Here are a few key steps I recommend you follow:
Take some time to look up the roaming rates for your destination. Your provider should display them on their website or be able to tell you if you inquire. If you will be needing data while traveling, make sure you talk to your network provider about it; they may be able to offer you a special bundle which will keep a lid on any mad data roaming charges.
If you are not going to be using data when you travel make sure you inform your network provider that you will be leaving the phone off and/or unconnected during your stay.
If you’ve sworn off using data during your travels, make sure you turn roaming data off before you leave. This gives your provider absolutely no excuse to charge you. Make sure you don’t get tempted to go online by printing out all of the maps and information you will need before you leave home. It is incredibly easy to forget about your roaming being active once turned on even for a few minutes. Vigilance is key.
If you are going to need data while overseas, keep your eye on how much you’re using and make sure you know the rate you are paying. Reset your data usage counter before you leave so you know exactly how much you owe.
If you don’t want charges but do need data, make sure you only access it via free Wi-Fi connections in places like cafes, hotels and airports. Keep your roaming data turned off to make extra sure you don’t spend an accidental fortune…
For longer stays, pick up a local SIM when you reach your destination, this will eliminate the need for roaming charges and keep your data costs at a normal level. If you are a regular globetrotter, a global SIM could be the answer, pick one up in supermarkets and phone stores.
Come home to a crazy bill? Don’t take it lying down. Get in touch with your network and ask them to explain your charges; if you don’t get a satisfactory answer or feel cheated, lodge a formal complaint. If this has no effect, get in touch with the Communications and Internet Services Adjudication Scheme (CISAS) or Ombudsman Services: Communications. Both of these services are free and impartial and, if you’ve been unfairly billed, they will rule in your favor and your network provider will need to cough up.
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