We’ve read the horror stories about people returning home from their dream holiday to find they’ve spent thousands on data. It’s remarkably easy to incur these charges, depending on your provider. Some UK networks (such as EE) won’t let you use the internet at all until you’ve bought a package. Others (such as 3) allow you to use data freely unless you call them to set a spend limit.
What Is Data?
Any content you send or receive that’s not a phone call or a text message is data. Browsing the internet, sending WhatsApp messages, downloading and using apps, syncing email and weather. A lot of this happens in the background – convenient when at home, but a potential nightmare when abroad.
How Can I Avoid Unexpected Charges?
There are a few simple things you can do to avoid any nasty surprises. I chatted about these on Good Morning Britain with Ben Shephard and Kate Garraway.
1. Switch ‘Data Roaming’ Setting Off
In your phone settings, look for ‘Cellular’ or ‘Mobile Data’. It may be called something similar depending on your phone model. In there is a switch called ‘Data Roaming’. When switched on it allows usage of data over the cellular network, which will incur charges. Switch this off to know for sure that your phone is not using any data abroad. You can then switch it on for short periods should you need to, for instance, to search for a restaurant. Be aware that when you switch it on other apps and services will update and sync in the background, so switch it off as soon as you’re finished.
2. Use Wi-Fi Whenever Possible
Take the opportunity to send photos, sync email and browse the web when availing of free Wi-Fi networks in public places.
Wi-Fi is internet access that relies largely on the landline telephone network. It is then distributed to laptops and phones by a wireless router in the home, office or public space. Whoever owns the router pays the bills, not the end user with a phone or laptop. This means that logging on at a café or hotel is free, unless payment is clearly requested to obtain access.
If the Wi-Fi network has a padlock symbol next to it in the list of available networks, ask a member of staff for the password.
3. Call Your Mobile Carrier Beforehand
If, like me, you hate the thought of being without Google Maps and TripAdvisor on holiday this tip is for you. Call or go on your carrier’s website to set up a package. Some will offer daily allowances with a daily charge, and some will offfer a total amount of data for the duration of your stay. Think about how much and how regularly you’ll use data services when choosing. And make sure your usage is capped at the package allowance, so you’re cut off when it’s used up.
4. Know How To Check Balances & Buy More Data
Every carrier has an app or website for its customers to check their allowances and buy more. Download and login to the app at home before leaving. If it’s a website, load it in your phone’s browser so it’s in your history, or even better add as a favourite.
You’ll need to not be on Wi-Fi when accessing these as they identify you by your data connection over the mobile network. They never charge for accessing this, even when abroad.
So in conclusion, being a little bit prepared is the key. The internet is hugely useful when abroad for finding your way around and communicating. Spend a little time before you go and you can enjoy these benefits without the huge bills!