Roaming for Less
Mobile roaming simply refers to using your mobile phone outside of the UK. Frequent travellers, whether for business or pleasure, will know how expensive mobile roaming fees can be. If you're looking to use your mobile phone whilst you're out of the country, here's everything you need to know...
Basic Mobile Roaming
The majority of people can simply take their phone out of the UK and use it. Pay as you go customers are generally not allowed to do this, but if you have a phone contract, then you usually can. You will have to call your operator and check that roaming is enabled for your account, since most operators don't switch roaming on by default to stop customers unintentionally getting huge bills. However, once you're abroad the calls you make and texts that you send will not count towards the monthly limits on your phone contract, you'll have to pay for them in addition to your regular monthly fee. And not only will you be paying premium rates on calling minutes and text messages, but you'll also be paying to receive calls and messages. This is why mobile roaming is so expensive. It's extraordinarily easy to run up charges just by using your phone normally.
The Cheapest Way to Get Service
By far the cheapest way that you can get service whilst abroad is to go to a local operator in whichever country you're visiting and buy a SIM card and get a cheap pay as you go plan. This will enable you to pay local prices on calls, texts and even on data. You will need to make sure that your phone is unlocked in order for this to work. If you bought your phone from a mobile operator or got it as part of an incentive contract deal, it may be locked to that operator. This will mean that the phone will not accept a SIM card from any other operator. You can check this by borrowing a SIM card from someone who uses a different operator from you, putting it in your phone and seeing if it works. If it doesn't work you will need to get your phone unlocked, either at a mobile service centre or through your operator. However, when you buy a local SIM card you will get a new phone number. This is going to mean that you'll need to switch your UK SIM and your local SIM back and forth a few times each day to make sure that you don't miss any calls or texts. This can be pretty inconvenient, and you'll still risk missing important calls and messages.
With Dual SIM Phones UK and Local Cards Work Together
The solution to this is to get a dual SIM phone. With dual SIM phones UK and local SIM cards will work simultaneously. You can put both cards into your phone and never miss a call or message again. Of course, buying a new phone is going to be a big investment, so this isn't really a solution for a casual holiday maker. But for people who often travel, especially those who often travel to the same country, using dual SIM phones UK and local SIM card capabilities will be more convenient and cheaper than any other option.
Roaming Packages for Casual Travellers
If you're just going on holiday or on a business trip, you're probably not going to want to invest in a local SIM card or dual SIM phone. In this case, you can get cheaper prices by getting a mobile roaming package from an operator. Most operators have these packages, which are usually add-ons to regular contracts, and prices will vary by operator and depending on where you're travelling to. Orange has a great mobile roaming package, for example. For just five pounds a month you will be able to pay the same rates on calls and texts inside the EU as you pay inside the UK. This might not be as cheap as buying a local SIM card, but it will certainly be a lot cheaper than using your regular phone plan whilst you're out of the country. Call your operator and ask what's available to you before you leave.
Roaming and Mobile Data
So far we've talked a lot about calling and texting, but not much about mobile data. This is for the simple reason that connecting over a 3G network whilst you're out of the country is prohibitively expensive, and generally really isn't worth it at all. The only truly affordable way to get mobile data outside of the UK is to get a local SIM card. It's best to switch off your 3G, and use WiFi where it's available, or just go to an internet cafe. Don't waste your money on mobile data whilst you're abroad.
There is one thing that you should be aware of, depending on where you're travelling to, and that's the possibility that your mobile phone won't work at all. Mobile operators broadcast a signal that your phone picks up and uses to get reception. Unfortunately, in different countries mobile signals are broadcast on different frequencies. If your phone is not equipped to deal with the mobile frequency in a country it will not work, and the only thing that you can do is to buy a new phone. UK phones will generally work within Europe and in some other countries. They may not, however, work in America or many Asian countries. You'll need to check the mobile frequency of the country that you're going to (this information should be readily available online) and then check the owner's manual for your phone to see if that frequency is supported. You can minimise the risk of your mobile not working by making sure that you buy a quad band phone. These phones will support the four most common frequencies used, and will therefore make sure that your phone functions in around eighty five per cent of the world.