How to Save Money on Your Data Roaming Charges when Traveling this Holiday Season

5 Top Tips on How to Avoid Phone Bill Shock

Smartphone _tourist

It’s holiday season again.  Many are packing the suitcases to travel abroad for vacations and some well-deserved R&R. For many people, the idea of traveling without their smartphones is beyond unthinkable. They are lifesavers when traveling abroad - navigating maps or checking where the best restaurants are in the area. Data roaming service is not for free and it can come with a hefty price.


Reports show that an average smartphone user uses 500MB; data roaming rate could go for as much as £7.50/MB especially when traveling outside of Europe. This amount can quickly add up as users may not always realise how much data they can consume. The last thing you ever really want upon returning home is being slugged with a hideously high mobile bill.


First, what is data roaming?

When you browse the net, receive calls, check your emails or do anything that requires connecting to the internet, your phone sends and receives data over your cellular network.  Roaming is the word used to describe using your phone outside your carrier coverage through another mobile network while still being billed by your normal provider.


However, there is good news:

Fortunately, EU Roaming Charges will be a thing of the past beginning June 2017.The European Union is set to abolish data roaming charges in all 28 member countries to improve communication and e-commerce among users of data roaming in the continent. There will be a 14-month interim period where telecom operators will have to reduce surcharges by as much as 75%. Here are the max rates:

• 3.5p (€0.05) extra per minute for calls

• €0.02 extra per SMS sent

• €0.05 extra per MB of data used


The lower rates will not take effect until April 2016 and data roaming fees won’t be completely gone at least in the next two years. Until then, you have to watch out your for your phone usage to avoid falling victim to shocking fees.


Here are 5 tips to avoid getting a shock from international data roaming charges:


Wifi Girl#1 Use Wi-Fi. Always.  

In a study by OFCOM, the top causes of high roaming bills among UK consumers are social networking, apps, browsing the net and checking emails. Try to get by with just using wi-fi. Hold off from uploading that selfie that you snapped or updating your Facebook status - these things can wait until you are able to connect to free internet.


Finding Wi-Fi hotspots when you’re on-the-go could be quite a challenge though. To help you with that, I recommend downloading Wi-Fi Finder app ahead of time. The app could help you locate nearby wi-fi hotspots - both free and paid, from around the world. The app will use your GPS location so it can run offline; the hotspots will be displayed on a map so you can make your way towards them.  



Map _navigate#2 Navigate offline

I am very reliant on Google Maps whenever I travel as it’s the easiest way for me to find routes to my destination or just to know exactly where I am. Doing a turn by turn navigation through the app can however incur expensive roaming charges but fortunately, there is a way to save and cache map offline so you don’t need to be connected to the internet each time you need to check it. Here’s how:



  • Launch Google Maps and search for your destination

  • The map will show you the area that you searched for, with the name of the place shown on the bottom of the screen. Tap the name.

  • Hit the three-dot icon in the top-right corner of the screen and select Save Offline Map


Google has announced that a fully offline Google Map will be available later this year. For now, this is your best bet.


App _girl#3 Check your phone settings

It’s self-explanatory that the easiest way to avoid roaming fees is not to roam at all. To make sure that your device is not racking up phone bills without you knowing it, turn off cellular data on your phone and switch off push phone notification and auto-synching. Sometimes the apps on your phone could drain mobile data by automatically updating and downloading when the data connection is on. Tinker with your phone to make sure that it only updates itself when it’s connected to Wi-Fi



To turn off data roaming

For Apple users: Go to Settings General – Network – Data Roaming and the button should be OFF

For Android users: Settings – Mobile  Network

To disable apps 

Apple:  Settings – Mobile and individually disable apps

Android:Settings – Data usage, tap the three dots on the top right and choose Restrict background data. Apps that you are not currently using will not use any data.


Toursit Phone#4 Buy a local sim

Buying a local pay-as-you-go sim could be your cheapest option especially when you frequently visit the same country or if you will be staying for a while. Although you will be using a different number, it ensures that you pay local prices for the data usage and local calls. Beware though of the international charges you can incur when calling home. Be sure to check with your carrier first if your phone is  “unlocked” from its home network before buying a local sim.


Vacation#5 Unplug

We live in a world immersed in technology all the time: social media, emails, phones, tablets, name it, we always find our faces buried in our little screens. The whole point of traveling is to unplug, relax and have new experiences. If you are spending most of your time oversharing on  Facebook, updating on Instagram and tapping your screen on Twitter the whole time, you are missing out a lot on being present in the moment. Connect with the locals and surroundings. Disconnect from your phone and I guarantee, you won’t have to worry about coming home to high phone bill.