10 ways to slash your mobile roaming costs
9th Mar 2009 | 12:45
Avoid expensive bills on the move by getting free and cheap calls
Travelling with a mobile phone is convenient, but it can be hideously expensive.
Perhaps you'll be using mobile phone in france or elsewhere. Often, you'll need the IQ of Stephen Hawking to unravel most tariffs for voice, data and messaging. Particularly annoying is the way you have to pay to receive calls when you didn't even want to speak to the caller.
Fortunately there are plenty of ways to take control of your roaming charges if you plan in advance. Just beware of spending a lot to save a little. Check these ideas out.
1. Buy a local SIM
This is common sense, but if you regularly visit one country and are travelling with your mobile, it pays to think about buying a local PAYG SIM. Obviously you'll need an unlocked handset. Not only does this make receiving calls free, but it enables you to use one or two other money saving tricks.
2. Use Wi-Fi where possible especially if it's free
Complementary wireless access with your coffee is increasingly popular in holiday destinations, but rather more rare in airports and business districts. Either way it's almost certainly cheaper than paying data roaming costs for your laptop and dongle, iPhone or other Wi-Fi enabled handset.
3. Get yourself an international SIM
Globe trotters can make savings using services such as Go-Sim or United Mobile. Rates are PAYG and generally substantially cheaper for data and calls than international roaming with your usual UK network.But do check the small print. Go-Sim advertises that it makes the receipt of calls free. Yep, it's free for you, but your mates have to phone the Estonian number attached to the SIM.
8. Challenge Jajah
This should be the perfect traveller's companion. Sign up for Jajah's PAYG service, register your phones and get a unique local number for each of your contacts. Call rates are pretty competitive, currently 2.2p to landlines and 15p to mobiles plus the cost of a local call. It's a shame that echo often seems to mar the quality of this VoIP-routed service.
5. Sign up for a Yac number
Yac has been around for years but it recently rebranded many of its services as eReceptionist. Although aimed mostly at businesses it offers a really useful free personal number service which can be routed through to a mobile number in many countries. Callers pay a premium rate which costs them slightly more than phoning a UK mobile but you pay nothing to receive calls. And you can divert calls to your UK number when you get home so you only need to give out one number.
6. Leverage the power of Three
If you're travelling regularly in Australia, Austria, Denmark, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy or Sweden, then 3 mobile's rates are pretty much unbeatable for PAYG or contract subscribers. Basically, you're treated as if you'd never left home, meaning you can use all your UK voice minutes and data allowances on Three's other networks. Some data services aren't available, but most are, including Skype calls.
7. Subscribe to Skype
You can't ignore Skype and although its rates for calling. Indeed, so many people use it that there's a fair chance you'll be able to talk with them for free. Of course, telecoms operators aren't too happy about this, hence the fuss about Nokia's N97 Skype deal. There is an official Skype client for Windows Mobile, but not for Symbian or the iPhone. To get round this restriction, try Fring; IM+ for the iPhone or Truphone as a Skype alternative. Few things can beat the pleasure of sitting in a beach-side cafe chatting away on free Wi-Fi. Bound to make your friends jealous.
8. Let voicemail answer your calls
This is probably the biggest single money saver and the simplest. Let voicemail answer your calls. Why waste time and money explaining you're abroad? Just find the cheapest way to check your messages as often as you want.
9. Turn your laptop into a mobile phone
Skuku uses a €20 USB stick or a €40 USB handset into which you insert your normal UK SIM. For €2 a day or €10 a month you can then make and receive calls or texts as if you were in the UK, even using up your monthly minutes. It is handy to keep your UK number and contacts list but as with all VoIP services you are reliant on the quality of the internet connection (and there's the hassle of switching SIMs).
10. Back to the phone box
Okay, this is supposed to be about mobiles, but there are times, especially if you're stuck out in the boondocks, when an old-fashioned public coin-op is the way to go. You'll probably find calling cards in local shops, but often the use of an access number is cheaper and easier. That might mean buying credits online or more conveniently paying a premium rate of typically in Europe of around 4c a minute. Check out services such as Dial Abroad.
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