How to beat roaming charges

Just when we thought mobile service providers were making it easier for travellers to limit roaming charges while overseas, Telstra has announced that it will increase the price of its International Travel Pass. The pass, which is designed to enable travellers to use their own phones and numbers when overseas, includes an agreed amount of data. And while Telstra has backed down on plans to increase charges for exceeding these limits, it’s still wise to manage your data usage.

Here are five steps you can take to limit your usage while travelling overseas.

1. Turn off data roaming
It is always important to make sure that you turn off your data roaming on your phone when travelling outside your network. This enables travellers to avoid roaming charges, as it negates the charges passed on from the local operator to your home network to access the network.

2. Free wifi
Take adavantage of free wifi when you travel, from local cafes to libraries and even many public areas, the list of wifi hotspots is growing rapidly.

There are some great apps right now, which you can use to communicate with people while overseas using wifi hotspots. Instant messaging apps, such as Flexiroam, WeChat and Whatsapp let you send messages, pictures, audio notes and video messages with friends, via wifi. Viber is free and lets you call, text or send pictures using wifi. It should be worth the price of a coffee just to access the wifi.

3. Disable push notifications and auto-synching
Do you really need to know every minute of every day who is saying what on Facebook and Twitter, or that someone has played a blinding score on Words with friends? While notifications are nice to have, they do consume a considerable amount of data, so switch off notifications before you travel.

4. Be aware of how much data you’ve used
If you are going to use your data abroad, make sure that you keep track of the amount of data you use. With an iPhone, you can simply go to Settings > General >Cellular Usage and reset your data statistics.

For Android, you can simply go to Settings>Data Usage>Select the date range for your trip.

This will allow you monitor your data usage and you will be notified once you begin going over your data plan’s limit.

Alternatively, you can download a data tracking app such as Onavo that allow users to check data usage and view data consumption of various apps, games and sites. It’s got all the essentials, including the ability to set alerts and time periods to match your billing cycle. And, it’s dead easy to install and run. An interesting feature on Onavo is the Data Usage feature that differentiates between cellular and wifi data use, so you’ll know when you’re paying for cellular or when you’ve got a free connection.

5. Buy a local sim card once you’ve landed

This one is a popular option for most travellers, it’s a cheaper option too but it can also be the most difficult. Purchasing a local sim card means that you will also get a new local phone number. You might need to compare a few mobile networks to find the best option for you. However, adding to the challenge is the language barrier, making it difficult to discuss the different options available with local sim providers. If you decide to buy a prepaid international sim card for travelling abroad, you’ll need to look into getting an unlocked GSM standard phone.

Or, you may wish to download an app, such as Flexiroam, which gives users access to local numbers internationally, enabling them to make calls and access data. Available to download free on the Google Play and Apple App Store, Flexiroam App users are able to purchase dedicated local numbers from up to 55 different countries, giving users an instant global presence for as low as US$1 per month. Flexiroam App features off-net calls, enabling calls from app to landlines and international numbers for as little as US$0.01 a minute.

Interested in this? You may also wish to read the following articles

Travel SOS – No more bill shock

Maps minus roaming charges

Europe ends mobile roaming charges

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