Avoiding Bill Shock And Saving On International Roaming Charges

You’ve landed in Heathrow and all you can think about is what you might’ve missed while in the air somewhere over Africa. “Perhaps someone’s written on my wall”, “I wonder if my last Tweet got an RT?”, “I hope my Mom didn’t see that wall post from Wesley”.

Cellphone Roaming Tips

With bated breath you wait for the chief air hostess to sound the call that you’re now allowed to turn your phone on. Finally the cabin door opens and her voice booms over the loudspeaker like gospel and your phone lights up, excited chatter and bustling around the aircraft cabin is lost on you as your phone comes to life in a flurry of beeps; signaling text messages, missed calls and push notifications… all thanks to the international roaming you activated before you left South Africa. The first thing you do is sign into Facebook (or Twitter if you’re a little more refined like me) so you can let your friends know that you’re now overseas, away from them, in another hemisphere… even your toilet water flushes the other way. How cool are you?

As you Facebook that first nugget of self-indulgent  ‘worldliness’ you’re already thinking about the amount of comments and Likes it’s going to illicit from your poor desk jockey mates.

While you’re basking in social media glee, your service provider is smiling all the way to the bank as your Tweets and Facebook (over) shares line their pockets while you remain blissfully unaware checking in to Heathrow Airport with a million other travellers.

International Roaming

I am not in. Leave a message

Avoid bill shock* when you get home by leaving a voice message on your phone informing your peers that you’re currently travelling the world and are only reachable by SMS or not at all. Sure you might have hundreds of texts and voice messages by the time you get home but time spent away from technology can only be good for your health and you’ll probably experience a lot more without virtual distractions.

*Evan Haussmann’s November 2011 Getaway Magazine article defines bill shock as a very expensive and disturbingly common condition travellers experience upon receiving there extortionate cellphone bill when they return to their home countries.

Go cosmic with a space age satellite phone

Probably not a good option if you wander outside our borders once in a blue moon but definitely worth considering if you’re the global nomad that rushes off to Full Moon Parties in Thailand at the drop of a hat. The initial investment is significant but is quickly overshadowed by its ease of use and cheaper rates if you travel… a lot.

Check out www.skygistics.com

To the phone box Guvnor

Public call boxes are readily available when you travel and are one of the cheapest options if you’re looking to phone your friends in far off places. Buy a World Call Card before you leave and you’ll be able to spend up to 20 minutes on the phone from London to South Africa for the price of a 2 litre Coke.

UK Phone Box

Do not Disturb – Skype

The friendly free VoIP service from Skype has changed the way we communicate and can also be used from yourSkype smartphone.

If you’re looking for a little more clarity when you call then buy some Skype credit and you can call landlines and cellphones from overseas cheap, cheap.

Download it for free at www.skype.com

Find the Free Wi-Fi

If you’re travelling in developed countries then chances are there’s going to be free Wi-Fi in many public places; and if you can’t find them don’t worry… there’s an app for that.

Don’t be afraid to abuse the free Wi-Fi on your Blackberry, iPhone, or Android.  As long as your phone displays the Wi-Fi sign then you’re successfully plugged into the ‘matrix’ my friend… free of charge. Most of the free Wi-Fi can be found in coffee shops, upmarket shopping malls and hotels.

Free Wi-Fi Sign

Just a tip, any hotel that’s not offering free Wi-Fi in 2011, at least in the lobby area, should be ashamed of themselves and are probably not worth staying at.

Breakout the Retro Phone

Those with chronic Facebook addictions take note. You know that old phone from 2004 that’s gathering dust in your drawer? Breathe some life into it (with your wall charger) before you leave and I guarantee you’ll only use it when you really need to.

Firstly it’s not as shiny and user friendly as it once was when compared to your new smartphone. It’s also not as easy and in some cases impossible to use Facebook and other social media platforms, making it a lot less of an attractive option when travelling. Sure you can make/receive calls and texts but it’s not going to be possible to upload photos and videos, check in and be a general social media nuisance. Breakout the retro phone and force yourself to leave the smart one behind… just remember to take your sim card.

Images:  Dan Brickley | Alex Pang | Russell Jarvis Travelstart | Daniel Bowen

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