Taking your mobile on holiday

Using your smartphone abroad

With the end of term approaching and parents gearing up for the annual holiday, it’s worth thinking about ways to reduce the expense of using your phone while sunning yourself with that Pina colada.

Here are our top tips to keep your phone (and your bank balance) happy abroad:

Roaming charges

This time last year brought significant changes to roaming charges. The new rules saw providers required to charge pay-monthly and pay-as-you-go customers the same price for calls, texts and data services as would be paid at home.

This is great news, but it’s worth checking with your provider as to whether they automatically apply ‘roam like at home’ service to existing and new customers. Check with them that this has been activated on your phone.

If you’re travelling outside of the EU, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein, roaming charges can be much higher. It is recommended to talk to your provider to get the best, available deals for the country you are visiting.

Alternatively, consider buying a sim for the country you are travelling to.

Try using wifi rather than mobile data

Using the internet on your phone can be prohibitively expensive when abroad so consider using wifi. Using the local public wifi network can be a smart way to save money. Often, you’ll find free wifi internet at hotels, pubs, restaurants as well as the airport and train stations.

As at home, it’s important to remember to keep a close eye on your data security when using public wifi abroad. Remember, any information that’s transmitted over a public wifi could potentially be intercepted and read by other people for possible nefarious reasons.

Whenever possible, only use wifi to visit encrypted websites or stick to a trusted VPN service.

Using VoIP

Consider using services such as Skype or WhatsApp over wifi for making calls -this can work out to be much cheaper than using your regular phone service. If you have a Microsoft Office 365 subscription, then check if you have an inclusive allowance of 60 Skype minutes to use every month.

Messaging apps

Again, consider using instant messaging apps rather than texts. Applications such as WhatsApp, iMessage, Facebook Messenger and Snapchat use your mobile internet connection or whatever wifi networks are available. This will allow you to bypass the charges you usually incur when sending a text message abroad.

Download maps to use offline

Smartphones are great for getting around and navigating abroad, and a good maps app is incredibly useful. Consider downloading maps over wifi beforehand to minimise the amount of time you spend online or on a public-accessed wifi.

Not only will you be able to use maps more safely, but it also minimises the amount of data you require. You can download maps for the areas you’re visiting by opening Google Maps app. Search for the place you’re visiting, click on the place, followed by the download option.

Keeping the power

Nothing becomes more irritating than running out of power. So, it is worthwhile investing in a portable battery pack to make sure you’re always charged.

Remember to pack the proper power adaptor and make sure you have sufficient power when at the airport. At times you could be asked to demonstrate the functionality of your devices at the airport as part of their security measures – so make sure it’s working!

Travel advice

It is worth checking out the Gov.UK foreign travel advice for the country you are visiting. It contains useful information about safety and security, local laws, entry requirements, health and many more.

There is also a useful foreign travel checklist issued by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

Thieves are abroad

Of course, it is sensible to take extra care with your device while abroad as thieves will target tourists.

Never let the phone out of your possession. Not only will you lose an expensive phone it could be used by thieves to run up huge bills.

Remember, you are liable for all charges run up on your phone when it goes missing until you report it stolen. So, to avoid such a situation contact your provider as soon as possible.

If you are with the likes of Three, Virgin Mobile, Vodafone, EE or O2 you should be responsible for paying a maximum of £100 for unauthorised usage outside of your allowance if you report the phone within 24 hours.

Once you have reported your phone missing or stolen your provider can bar your SIM and stop calls being made. Your provider can also block the device itself using its IMEI, a unique 15-digit serial number.

Your IMEI number is available under the battery or by keying *#06# into your handset. Make a record of this number separately and keep it safe.

You can also download an app which is able to trace your phone. Some apps can also allow you to remotely wipe details on your phone.

Finally, consider a mobile insurance policy. Check the terms and conditions of your existing policy, as you may already be covered. Remember to contact your insurance company if your phone is stolen or lost as soon as possible.

Image: Paul Townsend


A veteran freelance journalist writing extensively on internet news and cybersecurity.
Back To Top