30 Apr 2013

How to avoid global roaming hassles

Nothing ruins the memory of a trip more than coming home and discovering that you’ve run up an enormous bill for global roaming charges. Follow these guidelines to minimise your spend and avoid common roaming mistakes. For most people, the simplest way to avoid roaming is not to use it in the first place. Once you’ve boarded the plane, remove your SIM from your phone and don’t put it back in until you land. That doesn’t mean you can’t use your phone. Most smart phones will work perfectly well for browsing when connected to Wi-Fi.

1. Switch off roaming before you go

An alternative approach, and a wise precaution even if you do remove your SIM, is to disable overseas roaming before you leave the country. The method for doing this varies; typically you’ll need to either contact your provider by phone or change settings in your online account.

2. Use your non-phone channels

In the smartphone era, it’s worth remembering that not being accessible via a single phone number is not the restriction you might think. With Wi-Fi, you can still access email, Twitter, Facebook, and free messaging apps like Skype, FaceTime and WhatsApp.

3. Locate free Wi-Fi while travelling

During the day, look out for free Wi-Fi from cafes and other locations.

4. Update your voicemail

An obvious point, but some people forget to update their voicemail message. Explain to people that you’re travelling and not regularly checking messages. That will save on deleting lots of out-of-date messages when you return.

5. If you must use roaming then set up a data bundle

Most Australian telcos offer discount bundles for travel. If you know you’ll need data options, these can be worth checking out.

6. Don’t use non-essential apps or sites

If you are roaming, resist using your phone casually. Bookmark the mobile versions of sites you use regularly to cut bandwidth.

7. Think about using a prepaid overseas SIM

Another popular strategy is to use a prepaid SIM, either one you purchase in advance or one purchased where you land. This can be very effective, and your spending is capped (since all the value is prepaid). Just watch for these two common traps.

8. Make sure your phone isn’t network-locked

If you purchased your phone on contract, it’s likely to be locked to your provider network, and won’t work with SIMs from other providers. Always check before travelling.

9. Make sure you have the right frequencies

Especially with older phone models, make sure they support the mobile frequencies used in the countries you are visiting. If they don’t, you won’t be able to use a local SIM or roam with your own SIM.