Traveling overseas doesn’t have to mean expensive phone charges. You want to stay in touch with family and friends while you’re away — and you certainly don’t want to break the bank doing it. Planning ahead can save you a lot of trouble and extra money. However, if you go unprepared, be prepared to be charged a bundle. Ready to take steps to ensure you don’t get charged unnecessary fees while staying in touch overseas? Read on.
1. Call your service provider
According to Melanie Pinola, an About contributor, first contact your service provider to ensure your phone will have service in the place you’re traveling to. Make sure you get all of the details on your overseas coverage. Can you make calls? How will it affect your data and text messaging services?
2. Be aware of roaming rates
You’ve discovered your phone will work overseas. That’s great, but now your big challenge is to review the rates for using your phone in the area you’ll be. “Keep in mind that you may be charged for incoming calls and text messages, which means you don’t have complete control over your roaming costs,” according to Fox News. If you have any questions or need clarifications on your coverage, ask. Don’t assume anything because that could lead to huge phone bills. Your final question to the carrier needs to be how your unlimited plan translates overseas. Will you be charged per minute? How does Internet usage come into play? Have the international customer care number on hand in case you have questions while you’re traveling.
3. Look into international data packages
Many companies will offer data package add-ons, which will save you the headache of dealing with fees. You’ll be happy you’re paying a flat fee, rather than being shocked when your next bill arrives. AT&T offers several different add-ons for someone traveling overseas.
4. Turn off data roaming
Now that you have the basic information, it’s time to start thinking ahead. When you’re overseas, there is a good chance your mobile network provider will be out of signal. In order to use data (think texts, apps and Internet), your phone will roam as it looks for a different network’s signal. That’s when your carrier can begin to charge you high data roaming fees, which is why the easiest answer is to turn off data roaming, according to the Better Business Bureau.
5. Use Wi-Fi
“Where possible only browse or download when using your Apple iPhone’s Wi-Fi connection. Users are not billed for data downloaded over Wi-Fi,” according to PC Advisor. The only charge you might see is a Wi-Fi hotspot charge, and you’ll be informed of that be-fore you start using the connection.
6. Put your phone in airplane mode
Airplane mode turns off cellular and data modes and typically leaves the Wi-Fi on, Pinola writes. This will leave you with wireless Internet access, meaning you can go online without stressing about data roaming charges.
7. Disable push notifications and auto-syncing
Every time you get an update from your phone regarding a new email or Facebook or update, it requires data usage. If you have an iPhone, change this by going to settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > Fetch New Data, according to Mashable. If you have an Android, go to Settings > Accounts & Sync, and turn off Auto-Sync. These things might not seem like major changes, but it’s all saving you money.
8. Buy a SIM Card once you land
This is often your cheapest option. But, a little patience is required. When you purchase a local SIM, you get a local phone number with it. “If you decide to buy a prepaid international SIM card for traveling abroad, you’ll need to look into get-ting an unlocked GSM standard phone. We recommend asking your provider if your phone is ‘world-compatible,’” Mashable writes. Some world-compatible brands include OneSimCard, Maxroam and Telestial Passport.
9. Use Skype instead of making phone calls
Skype or TruPhone charge as little as $.02 for calls to regular phones. There’s also Boingo Wireless — for just $7.95 per month you can sign up with Boingo for unlimited access in hotels, restaurants, cafes, airports, and more in more than 70 countries, according to Business Travel. “Smartphone and iPhone users should consider using Skype or similar VoIP products if or when they’re around Wi-Fi hotspots. When they work, it’s hard to beat the value of a VoIP solution,” Business Travel writes.
10. Track your usage
No matter how many fee-saving techniques you use, it’s still important to keep track of the data you’re using. That way there won’t be any surprises on your bill. Also, Fox News says that when you’re traveling internationally, charges might not appear for five months. Have documents detailing your usage, so you’re not trying to think back to months ago when your bill finally does arrive.