If you're heading off on a break over the half-term holiday and don't want an unexpected data roaming bill when you return here's some great advice to help you save while you stay connected. Using your smartphone, tablet or lap top abroad incurs data 'roaming' charges, where data consumption is channeled through a local network and you pay a premium compared to your normal rates.
Consequently many travellers risk returning home to find the cost of their mobile bill is more than what they paid for their flights!
What are data charges?
Data roaming, in contrast to mobile phone roaming, represents an increased risk of 'bill shock', with unexpected charges of hundreds, or even thousands of pounds.
EU countries are subject to a cap on roaming charges, which means companies can charge no more than £0.16p per MB of data, but that's still £160.00 for 1GB of data in the EU. However, in long haul destinations the risk is even greater as the EU caps do not apply – data can cost as much as £7.00 per MB which can really rack up a bill if you're not careful.
How to pay less for data:
Turn off data roaming:
By far the most sensible solution, but if you really need to stay connected, be sure to disable data roaming when you don't require it. And, just because you're not surfing or sending emails, it doesn't mean your software isn't consuming data and running up a bill. For example, an email app will constantly check for new messages and can cost up to £2.00 per hour.
Turn off automatic app updates:
Many operating systems will look for updates and then download them – without your knowledge. These updates can amount to significant data consumption, so you could be running up huge bills without knowing it. Switch off this function the moment you board the plane.
Buy a bundle from your phone operator:
You can save on data roaming by checking out bundles on offer from your mobile network. Most operators have deals for EU countries and these can cut the cost of using data to around 5p per MB but you'll often need to look for them or ask. Your operator will also offer non-EU data bundles.
Opt in to your data cap:
Contact your mobile network and make sure it provides a data cap - this sends a warning when the cost of your data consumption hits a specific level – usually around 50 Euros. It will then ask you to either agree or decline more data – or opt out to prevent any further charges.
Use free wi-fi hotspots abroad:
This is a great way to stay in touch with friends, family and colleagues, without incurring any charges.
Buy a local or international data SIM card:
When travelling outside of Europe, this can be a great option. Buying a data SIM card (http://www.dataroam.co.uk/) card on a local network, or an international data SIM (http://www.dataroam.co.uk/pages/international-data-sim-cards), can slash data costs by up to 90 per cent, when compared with roaming charges. You'll need to have an 'unlocked' device to accept the new SIM or use a mifi device and connect to your own personal hotspot via the data SIM inside.
Download an app to compress data:
There are a few that can do this but with a free app, such as Onavo, and you can cut your data use by up to 80 per cent. This app compresses the data required to use apps for sharing photos, browsing the web and more.
Regardless of your destination or the length of your stay its worth doing a little research before you travel as it could save you a fortune while you're away.