How to stay connected abroad without breaking the bank
Staying connected while you travel has become a non-negotiable part of corporate travel – and, let’s face it – leisure travel too! However, with the exorbitant call and data fees many service providers charge, many travellers are wary of using their smart phones abroad. To make sure you can stay connected without breaking the bank, Corporate Traveller have put together some expert advice:
First things first – will your phone work overseas?
With the rapid advancement in cellular technology, phones are built to work abroad. If you have an older phone it may be worth making sure that the technology won’t let you down when you reach your destination.
- First, find out whether your phone has GSM technology (if it works with a SIM card, you’re good).
- Next, make sure your phone supports the frequencies used in your destination. Here is a list of global frequencies, but you could also just ask your service provider.
- Finally, ensure that your phone is not ‘locked’, meaning that your network provider prevents the use of your phone on another network. If your phone is unlocked, you will be able to use another provider’s SIM card in your phone.
Roam if you must
Although roaming has gotten easier and more cost effective over the years, your cellular plan may not apply overseas which means the rates for calls and data will be much higher than you’re used to.
There are enough horror stories of people returning home to cellular bills of thousands of rands to make you think twice before you roam. Even with special travel packages, roaming remains the most expensive way to stay connected while you travel.
Remember that you may need to activate international roaming at least seven days before you leave the country.
Get a local SIM
In most major destinations, getting a SIM card is uncomplicated. Simply pick your package from the airport vending machine or kiosk, and you’re good to go. It may be a good idea to test the card before you leave the kiosk so that the vendor can assist you if necessary.
Alternatively, you can purchase a global SIM card online from a specialist service provider before you leave, but this is a more expensive option than buying when you get there.
The down side to a local SIM is that you’ll have a new number, and you may need to buy a new SIM every time you cross a border. The advantage is that you’ll be paying local rates.
Use free Wi-Fi
Free Wi-Fi is the obvious alternative to roaming, and with most hotels, restaurants and conference venues offering free Wi-Fi these days, there’s no reason not to stay in touch. If you need Wi-Fi when you’re on the go, use your Fon network details to access over 20million Wi-Fi hotspots worldwide.
Just think of all the possibilities opened up by WhatsApp for instant messaging and voice calls when you only have Wi-Fi access. You can still share all your fantastic holiday photos, catch up with friends and family, or give a colleague a call without breaking the bank.
Stay cost savvy
Here is our list of top tips for staying in touch without breaking the bank:
- Download the apps and maps you need before you leave. After video and audio streaming, maps eats up the biggest chunk of your data.
- Don’t stream video or music while roaming internationally.
- Make sure that your travel apps are available offline.
- Set your mail settings to ‘fetch’ rather than ‘push’ mails to you.
- Reset your cellular data stats so that you can accurately track your data usage.
- Disable automatic updates and downloads.
- Beware of accidental roaming when you’re close to a border and your phone picks up a network in another country.
- Skype and Google voice are great alternatives to voice calls. It’s not free, but the rates are low and the quality is excellent.