Using Your Mobile Abroad

Posted on: 18 June 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

Cut the cost of phone calls while on holiday.


Pay-as-you-go customers are hit hardest by expensive overseas call charges, having to spend as much as £1 per minute to make and receive calls in Europe, and more around the world.

Mobile users not only have to pay to make calls, but also to receive them. Get people to call you and they'll pay only the mobile rate, though you'll pay to receive the call it will cost less than calling them from abroad. Texts are free to receive.

Within the EU, mobile networks must now offer a tariff that charges a maximum of €0.49 or 38p per minute to call and €0.24 or 19p per minute to receive calls, excluding VAT.

Before you travel, find out from your network what tariff you are on, and how much calls will cost from your planned destination. It's worth looking into roaming packages as they may lower the cost.

Sign up for a roaming bundle such as O2's Chosen Country tariff, which once subscribed to, can save over £1 per minute. Vodafone also offers a Passport service with similar savings, yet people should be aware these require a monthly fee to be paid or a one-off set up fee. Remember to cancel later if you no longer need the service.

For frequent travellers, a local country or global SIM card can cut the cost of calls. This option is consistently cheaper than calling via one of the UK networks and could bring the cost of making a call from Europe down to just 22p per minute with no charge to receive calls.

Using a SIM card means people will have to call you on a different number. You will need to make sure your phone is unlocked before you can use one.

A global SIM card can be used in many places around the world, and you'll be able to keep the same telephone number wherever you travel. However, they are not normally usable in the USA, and if you're only going to one place a local country SIM will probably be cheaper.

A local SIM card is equivalent to buying a mobile in that country, so calls within your destination may be very cheap, but if you want to call home it's likely to be much less of a saving.

If you decide to stick with your existing tariff and just use your phone for emergencies, it should select the right overseas network automatically, but if it doesn't you could end up paying more. Watch out for this with Vodafone and Virgin.

The cost of voicemail is also high, so turn it off, tell people not to leave messages, or answer your phone.

You can ask people to call you on a landline, such as your hotel, as they will be able to access cheap foreign phone calls from their landline in the UK.

Another option is to buy a phonecard, which is easy to use by dialling a number to access cheap calls abroad.

If you are staying somewhere with internet access, you can use Skype or a similar VOIP program to make calls over the internet. Obviously you should probably not use your mobile for web access and emailing as the cost is likely to be high.

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