In today’s world, it’s unthinkable to travel without a mobile phone in hand – but who wants to come back from a relaxing vacation to heart palpitations caused by a sky-high phone bill because of international roaming charges? Depending on what kind of usage you need during your travels, you may be able to significantly reduce or even avoid roaming changes completely!
Not Answering is Not the Answer
While it seems like simply not answering the phone would eliminate most roaming charges, your phone company still handles calls made to your number, which are then forwarded to the local telephone company wherever you are. Once your phone signal is picked up by that local telephone company network, you’re on the hook for charges.
One option is to set up call forwarding before you leave. Send incoming calls to a non-mobile number with voicemail. You can check your messages from a landline phone while you’re away. There may be a charge for call forwarding from your mobile phone so it’s a good idea to read the fine print on your plan, although the cost is probably still less than the roaming charges.
Go on a Data Diet
Another strategy is to turn off cellular data and data roaming on your phone. You’ll also want to turn off background data (so that Facebook isn’t roaming along quietly on the sly). These are settings you’ll want to adjust directly on your mobile phone. Generally, you can find them through the Settings (or similarly named) screen. If you’re having trouble, check the manual for your phone or call your cell service provider.
Travel in Airplane Mode
Keeping your phone in airplane mode and sticking with WIFI access only can also help you cut down or eliminate roaming charges when traveling internationally. Use Internet-based messaging apps if you need or want to communicate with friends and family you’re traveling with or back home. Examples of apps you can use include WhatsApp, SnapChat, and iMessage.
Download one or two in advance of your trip, and practice using them so you’re comfortable getting messages out quickly; your access to WIFI may be limited while you’re traveling. You may also want to make sure that the folks you’ll want to contact at home (or fellow travelers) also have these same apps for ease of communication. Downloading these apps on the fly while you have only a few minutes of wifi access at a cafe will only stress you out!
Checking with your mobile phone company can be a good idea. Some companies offer specific pre-paid roaming plans or short-term add-ons that offer you cell phone usage but in a budget-friendly way. Try to call a couple of weeks in advance, in case some changes can only be made at the beginning of a new billing period.
Pre-Paid SIM Cards
Going a step further, you can purchase a pre-paid SIM card for your unlocked phone, swap it out before you leave the country, and carry on with your normal cell phone usage; a SIM card is the piece of technology that lets the phone connect to a mobile network. SIM card plans can be purchased for talk, text, and data usage (or just talk/text and just data). Or, skip fussing with a SIM card and simply rent a mobile phone that includes a specialized plan that covers international communication.
With a little planning ahead, it’s possible to enjoy international travel without the headache of high roaming charges on your mobile phone. Whether you turn off roaming and go WIFI all the way, or carefully choose a roaming plan, pre-paid SIM card or rental cell phone, you’ll feel much better knowing you won’t come home to any surprises.