Mobile phones have become an essential part of our daily lives. But when you’re traveling abroad, especially overseas, it can be tricky to stay connected without racking up a huge bill.
Whether you’re looking to keep on top of your work email, or you just want to use Facebook to keep friends updated on your travels, here are four things you should do if you plan on using your mobile phone outside the U.S.
Call Your Carrier
Fox News suggests calling your carrier before traveling to see if your mobile phone will work abroad, and to get a rundown of any associated fees. If your phone won’t work, or if the charges are too hefty, consider renting or buying a phone when you arrive at your destination. You may also be able to save money by getting a local SIM card — that’s the tiny card in your phone that holds your subscriber info and phone number.
Turn Off Your Data Roaming
You may think simply leaving your phone in your pocket or purse will prevent you from racking up fees, but email and other apps may automatically update, using data even when you think they’re resting. The Wall Street Journal points out that turning off the data-roaming option in your phone’s settings will prevent your email and other programs from updating continuously without your permission, saving you from potentially costly roaming fees.
Use WiFi Instead of Roaming
Without data- and voice-roaming, your phone can’t do anything that requires an active connection. However, many mobile devices now come with wireless capabilities, allowing you to do many of the things you can do with an active data connection. If available, USA Today recommends using WiFi instead of data-roaming so you can check email, use the Web, and broadcast photos of your travels across your preferred social media platforms at no extra charge.
If you need to make phone calls to stay in touch with people back home, USA Today points out that Skype has a free application that’s compatible with most smartphones. Using the app over a data connection while abroad can be expensive, but if you use it over a wireless Internet connection, the cost will be much lower. Just be sure to read the terms closely before so you know exactly how much you’re paying.
Do you use your cell phone when traveling abroad? What steps do you take to ensure you don’t end up with a huge bill?