How can I avoid overseas data roaming charges?

Whether you’re looking for a hotel, trying to communicate in a foreign language or simply phoning home, your smartphone can be vital when abroad. However, using it to send or receive data via foreign network operators can incur high data roaming charges.


Here are five tips to help ensure you avoid any sky-high data roaming charges whilst travelling:


  1. Check before you travel: Most mobile phone contracts do not cover usage in other countries, so speak to your operator before you travel about reducing costs. If you intend to use the internet while abroad, you should ask for a flat rate or capped data package, paying a fixed amount each day, week or month for mobile internet use.
  2. Make sure data roaming is switched off when abroad: To do this you need to locate the ‘Mobile Data Settings’ on your handset, (these are in the ‘General Settings’ of an iPhone), then switch data roaming off. Apple switches data roaming off by default when you’re abroad but it is still a good idea to check. Android users will need to uncheck data roaming from the ‘Mobile Networks’ settings list.  
  3. Buy a local SIM: You can avoid high data roaming charges by purchasing a Pay as You Go SIM card when you reach your destination. Often these are available from phone shops or newsagents. Before you leave your home country, check with your network operator that your phone has been unlocked. Otherwise the new SIM will not be recognised.
  4. Download maps before you set off: Accessing local maps is one of the main reasons for using mobile internet abroad so if you know the areas you want to visit, you can download the maps you need in advance. Android users can do this by opening the Google Maps app, selecting ‘My Places’ and scrolling down to the ‘save a new offline map’. Other offline map services such as Nokia’s Here also offer downloadable interactive maps from across the world.
  5. Make the most of free wi-fi: Wi-fi access is becoming increasingly common all across the world in a broad range of hotels, cafés, shops and other locations. Checking your email or browsing online is best done from these free wi-fi networks. However don’t log into any sensitive services like online banking over public wi-fi networks, as transmissions can potentially be intercepted. More advice on using public wi-fi safely can be found here.