Jonathan Jensen – Using your phone abroad

Jonathan Jensen’s Thursday slot – Roaming tips for both Normobs and geeks.

This week I’m returning to the theme of Normobs and some ideas for saving money when using mobile phones abroad. Last week an email from Ofcom dropped into my inbox. It linked through to a PDF that Ofcom has produced offering consumers (Normobs to us!) advice on how to get the best out of their mobile on holiday. It’s great to see Ofcom taking the initiative here because managing your mobile bill when roaming has always been something of a black art! Unlike our friends across the Atlantic the idea of being charged to receive calls has always been a shock.

Ofcom’s advice is a good start but it doesn’t highlight services that can make a real difference. Here are a few tricks I’ve used to save money on trips abroad.

• Replace your operator’s voice mail service with Spinvox. It’s much easier to receive your voice mail as a text message wherever you are, so this is one to use both at home and abroad.

• One of the benefits of being a 3 customer is access to 3 Like Home. With 3 Like Home you use your regular inclusive minutes and messages, on the local 3 network in Austria, Australia, Denmark, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy or Sweden. Plus, it’s also free to receive calls. Pity that Vodafone, with its huge family of networks, doesn’t do something similar.

• A second benefit of being a 3 customer is that their Tru Zone rates and elsewhere Truphone Anywhere allows you to make calls via a local in-country number.

• If you don’t mind changing your mobile number when you’re away and are travelling to a number of different countries then a travel SIM is a neat idea. Companies like SIM4travel provide you with a new SIM card that allows you to receive inbound calls free and make outgoing calls at lower rates. This can be a better alternative to buying local SIM cards for each country because you don’t end up with different numbers for each country. Of course you do need a handset that isn’t locked to a specific operator.

• And the best tip of all. Just leave all those phones and gadgets at home or at the very least keep them turned off and enjoy your holiday!

What are your tips for cutting the cost of mobile use abroad?

Ofcom’s advice in full:

1. Enable your mobile phone: Check with your mobile provider that your phone has been enabled to use abroad. Operators are obliged to provide this information to customers.
2. Check your handset: Check with your mobile provider that your handset will work in the country you are travelling to.
3. Check the prices before you leave: Contact your mobile provider to check your tariff before you travel to help avoid unexpectedly high bills.
4. Ensure you are getting the best deal: Check international packages offered by operators before you travel to ensure you are getting the best deal.
5. The pan European tariff only applies to voice calls: Remember that the pan European tariff (Eurotariff) which has helped to reduce the cost of calls, only applies to voice calls, not to texting and data downloads. It is available from all operators, across most European countries but is not available in Switzerland, Turkey or Croatia.
6. Check your bundles: Don’t assume that the price of calls made abroad are included in your bundled package.
7. Don’t forget voicemail: Remember that calling your voicemail from abroad can cost the same as making a call to the UK – check with your provider if in doubt. Unlike at home, you may be charged every time someone leaves a message on your voicemail . I f you want to avoid these charges, you can switch off your voicemail before you leave the UK.
8. Using mobile internet abroad: Be aware that when connecting to the internet via a mobile handset, dongle or data card (a portable modem which provides internet access via the 3G network) whilst abroad could cost significantly more than when using them at home.
9. The local SIM option: If you are out of the country for a long period time, it could be cheaper to buy a local SIM card that can be used in your handset or a local dongle.
10. Alert your operator immediately if your phone is lost or stolen: If your phone is lost or stolen when you are abroad remember that you could be liable for the cost of the calls made in that country. Make a note of the contact details of your operator before you travel to ensure that you can get in touch with them as soon as possible to report the loss.

You can find Ofcom’s brochure here.

Jonathan’s also at Sevendotzero.

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  • Jonthan, Great bit of advice however in regards to spinvox for a normob this is an expensive option as you have to pay for the call routed back to the UK (well you do on t-mobile), it is the same with t-mobile answer phone. My advice to any users who do not not need answer phone to turn it off!
    Secondly those of you of T-Mobile Flext when abroad shoud send messages through MMS they come out of your Flext allowance and are hence not really chargeable providing you have some flext balance left!

  • Hi rickyc. One way round the Spinvox point – if you don't 'need' to speak to callers when away is to divert all calls to Spinvox so your phone never rings. That way you avoid tromboning the call out & back.

  • nacho

    Agreed, Spinvox is too pricey for normobs
    It used to be free to receive calls for 02 costumers in tariff above 35 quid per month while in Spain, voicemail was also free and they special packages for abroad and they were competitive. Cannot find anything like that on their website. It seems to me that prices has gone up actually

  • nacho

    Update, o2 does offer the receiving calls for free in Spain option. Not on their website though, Option is free if you're in the 35 quid + tariff and a bolt-on of 5 pounds if you're on a cheaper tariff/.
    Problem is, it is only one country and for locals to call you it will be an international call. I've always wondered what's the point of having global companies (ie Voda, Telefonica, Deutsche Telekom et al) if you cannot get good international rates.

  • In the States I found it cheaper to buy an AT&T pre-pay phone with SIM than a SIM on its own. And Radio Shack were cheaper than either AT&T's stores or those of Best Buy Mobile.

    Both local calls and calls back to the UK were ridiculously cheap. So much so that I let a normob friend and husband borrow it when they were out there a couple of weeks later. They were impressed and said they'd be recommend it to others going out there.

    Maybe AT&T should set up a few shops in the London airports' departure lounges? ;o)

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