Fly high, but keep your phone bill grounded

Plan carefully, and you can prevent a trip turning into a mobile phone bill nightmare, says Kate Hughes

Millions of us will make a break for foreign climes this summer, forking out an average of £2,100 for a holiday for a family of four, according to the Office of National Statistics. So the last thing we need while enduring the post-holiday comedown is a huge mobile phone bill for calling envious friends and family from the beach.

The good news is that the European Union has succeeded in curbing the costs of calling within the EU area, with the "Eurotariff" introduced last summer. The costs of texts are expected to go the same way.

But in the meantime, providers can hit holidaymakers and business trippers hard with call, text and data download costs, and your usual mobile habits in the UK could cost thousands of pounds from overseas.

Last summer, the EU imposed a cap on the amount a mobile provider in a member country could charge for calls made and received abroad. You should not pay more than 49 cents (around 35 to 38 pence) per minute to make a call and around 24 cents (18 to 19 pence) to receive a call per minute.

But making calls while abroad does not fall into any prepaid "bundle" of call minutes, so you will pay extra for the calls regardless of whether you have any free minutes or not in your package. And for now, any international text message will still cost you between 25 and 40 pence.

And that's not all. "It is common practice to charge a full first minute for any national or roaming call made, regardless of length," warns Ed Richards, chief executive of the communications regulator Ofcom. "If the call lasts longer than a minute, the remainder is charged per second or, sometimes, per 30-second interval. This means that a 20- or 30-second call could be charged as if it took one minute."

The cost of downloading data while roaming is the stuff of nightmares. It costs between £3 and £8 to download one megabit of data – that's the equivalent of one photo message. Trawling the internet or downloading a few emails to your blackberry could easily cost you £50 a time. Woe betide you if you download that essential last episode of The Apprentice – a couple of hours' worth of BBC iPlayer and you could very easily come home to a bill for thousands of pounds. Outside the EU things get worse as, generally, the further from the UK you get, the more expensive using your mobile becomes.

"We have concerns about the high cost of text, data and voice roaming," says Richards. "Before travelling, consumers must check their tariff and ensure that they are aware of the cost of making calls, texting and downloading data in advance."

"Racking up extortionate bills on your mobile is easy," adds Rob Barnes of price comparison site Moneysupermarket.com. "But by doing a bit of research, and being careful with your mobile usage, you can save yourself a nasty shock when you get your next bill."



Myth busting

"Assuming that you are saving money on expensive calls by texting or getting your friends and family to call you is a very common mistake," warns Barnes. "Because international text message costs are for now uncapped and unregulated, engaging in a text conversation with someone could cost you more than briefly calling the person. And people often don't realise that when someone calls them, the recipient, and not the caller will be charged the extra cost of the international call over the UK call."

Calling your voicemail is also a big no-no as this is a call to the UK. Recording a voicemail greeting, asking callers only to leave urgent messages, may mean that you don't waste cash retrieving messages from friends innocently asking whether you fancy a drink at your local pub while you are in Cambodia.



Passport control

Before you go, check out the international packages offered by the UK mobile networks, such as Vodafone's Passport service. These arrangements must be put in place before you go away. A month's roaming tariff can be anything up to £3, but can be free depending on your network. If there is a monthly charge, you will have to actively cancel it when you get home otherwise you will continue to be charged.

"This is probably the best option for you if you are going to be away for a while and will be using your phone a lot," says Barnes. "Otherwise, the cost of the service may not be worth it."

International networks, such as T-Mobile, which operates in the United States and Europe as well as the UK, may also offer better deals. Calling the UK from the US for example, will cost around 50p a minute, one of the cheapest rates available.

Dropping out

If you are overseas for longer than a few weeks, a local SIM card may be a better solution than using your regular phone provider. "Buying local SIM cards for your destination country will remove the international call cost altogether because when calling within that country, you are on a local not international call," Barnes suggests.

"This is most suited to travellers who are away from home for a few months, and may be calling friends in the local area."

A number of providers sell local and global SIM cards, such as Story Telecom (www.story telecom.com), Go-SIM, ( www.gosim.com) and Sim4Travel ( www.sim4travel.com) as well as the national networks in your destination country. Some even allow you to keep your existing number when you switch.

But one of the cheapest ways of calling internationally is to bypass the networks all together. Millions of people worldwide have come round to the voice over internet protocol (Voip), which allows users to call each other via the internet for free.

Although newer mobiles often have internet connection features, operating Skype from a mobile is a task for experts. But late last year, the 3 network released the Skypephone, a 3G internet phone with Skype capability. It means that as long as you are in a Wi-Fi area, you can contact other Skype users for free, or call non-users for only three or four pence. The Skypephone costs pay-as-you-go customers £49.99 and is free for contract customers on 3. Go to www.three.co.uk/personal/mobiles_/skype_/index.omp for more information.



For more information about the Eurotariff, go to http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/activities/roaming/index_en.htm

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
video
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Extras
indybest
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
sport
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sport
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Sport
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan stars as Christian Grey in the Fifty Shades of Grey movie
filmFirst look at Jamie Dornan in Fifty Shades of Grey trailor
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Junior Research Analyst - Recruitment Resourcer

    £18000 - £20000 per annum + OTE £25K: SThree: SThree Group has been well estab...

    Senior Analyst - Financial Modelling

    competitive: Progressive Recruitment: This really is a fantastic chance to joi...

    Associate CXL Consultant

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: CXL, Triple Po...

    Business Anaylst

    £60000 - £75000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: Business Anal...

    Day In a Page

    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform