When going on holiday, many of us spend hours writing and ticking off our holiday check lists, just to make sure we don’t forget any of our vacation essentials. Often this will include a valid Passport, holiday insurance, tickets or e-tickets, travel money, house and car keys, and the list just goes on. However, there’s one tiny item that most of us overlook, namely a Free SIM card. We’ll that was me until I went on holiday last year, and came home to a very depleted bank balance!
A Smartphone can be invaluable if you find yourself lost in foreign shores. Though in my case I wasn’t even lost, I just happened to use mine to find a few restaurants and check ou
t local train times in Barcelona. Happily oblivious to the fact that there would be a bill of over £600 waiting for me when I got home, which was actually more than my weekend away cost me in the first place! I’ve used a Smartphone abroad in the past, but not been charged much more than 20 Euros for the privilege. I received the customary “Welcome to T-Mobile Spain, here are our charges” message. Previously I’ve always had to instruct them to activate the charges. This time it appears as though it was activated automatically, the second after I started searching for the nearest El Corte Ingles!
Obviously I phoned my network as soon as I realised how much they were charging me. Despite being sympathetic to my situation they refused to budge an inch, and insisted that I had effectively activated roaming, just by using it! To cut a long story short, they finally capitulated when I then contacted a well-known nationwide consumer programme who got in touch and piled on the pressure. However, they were only prepared to reduce the bill to £200 as a gesture of goodwill. Keen to avoid experiencing this type of “bill shock” again, I set about understanding how such a huge amount was racked up without me knowing about it.
According to Ofcom, many Smartphones have apps that automatically search for updates every time the phone is on. This downloading all happens in the back ground, and you would be completely unaware that you were running up such a whopping great bill.
What’s the Best Advice?
The good news is that this scenario is relatively easy to avoid. The obvious thing to do is to leave your Smartphone at home. Although that pretty much defeats the object of having one in the first place. You could also switch off your data roaming, but again that sort of defeats the object....
One of the reasons data roaming is so pricey is that you are using another network to access your data, whilst still being billed by your current provider. You could try to use free Wi-Fi in hotels, restaurants and bars etc. (although I’ve nearly always has password problems with this)
Uswitch recommend that you talk to your current provide as many offer packages and bolt-on deals, but they won’t offer unless you ask them. O2 offer O2 Travel which charges £1.99 a day for 25MB of data, and Vodafone offers that same deal for £2 a day in around 38 European countries. Vodafone also have a specific Free SIM for travelling called an International SIM, where a £10 TopUp will get you 60 International minutes and £10 to spend on International texts and web access. Although, to be fair that isn’t going to get you very much at all as 1MB data will cost 70p and sending 10 emails in a day will cost £2.10, and that’s with the latest EU price caps applied.
Probably the best option is to get a Free local PAYG SIM card for the duration of your trip. Your phone will need to be unlocked for the SIM card to work, but that way you’ll only be paying the local rate for any of your mobile activities. As the Free SIM is PAYG, you’ll be safe in the knowledge that you’ll never have to worry about holiday bill shock again.
Sheridan has a wealth of experience working in both IT and mobile phone marketing, and has a keen interest in all technological developments. She currently writes insightful articles and expert review content for GizmoBird and other blog sites about interesting events in the mobile world.