The rise of smartphones and universal internet services has made keeping in touch while traveling abroad easier and more of a priority than it used to be. But for many travellers – business or leisure, increased connectivity can also present a potential minefield of hidden fees.
Should you buy an international roaming plan? And if you do, what does 100 megabytes of data get you? Perhaps you need a hot spot pass? Or a SIM card? If you don’t want an eye-popping phone bill, it’s necessary to decide before you travel.
Major domestic phone carriers offer prepaid voice and data packages designed for foreign travel that you can buy before you fly, the option many people feel most comfortable choosing. The cost of a text message or the cost per minute of a phone call is fairly straightforward. However, the cost of data -sending emails, posting photos on Facebook or Instagram, using GPS, searching the web for the addresses of restaurants and monuments is not.
How much data you use depends on a variety of things, including the resolution and size of your photos and videos. Always opt for the lowest when sending or uploading. Another way to save: When walking around a city, use offline mapping apps such as City Maps 2Go and OsmAnd, which can work without an internet connection. And, of course patience will save you money: Spend the day taking all the photos and videos you want, but upload them later using Wi-Fi at your hotel!
If you use a lot of data and want to avoid overage fees, your best bet is to turn off data roaming and buy an unlimited pass for citywide Wi-Fi instead. One company, Boingo, offers one-month unlimited mobile Wi-Fi access for two devices at more than 700,000 hot spots worldwide for USD 7.95. This is a recurring subscription, so if you want the service for only a month, you have to cancel, but there is no fee for doing so.
Wi-Fi opens up a whole new set of affordable uses for your phone, like making voice calls and texting. Download Skype before you travel and you can make free phone calls (as long as both parties are members). You can text free too, using apps like WhatsApp. Note, though, that calls and messages through these services are free only if you’re using them over free Wi-Fi. Data charges apply when you’re not.
In some cities, you don’t even have to buy a Wi-Fi pass, thanks to free public networks. Paris, for instance, has more than 250 free hot spots. Apps like Free Wi-Fi Finder, which works even if you shut off data roaming, can help you locate Wi-Fi.
**Article adopted from New York Times