Any of our readers that travel abroad frequently will probably know that it can be rather expensive to use your phone abroad, if you stick with your current mobile phone operator. And even with charges coming down in the coming years in Europe at least, for most people the high price of roaming and using data is set to be a reality for the foreseeable future.
Some companies provide dedicated travel SIM cards, that you can order before you travel, with discounted rates that are somewhat cheaper than your own mobile company provides – a pretty good idea if you want to avoid paying through the nose for roaming charges, data and incoming calls.
On a recent trip to Hong Kong, I was fortunate enough that the hotel I stayed in provided a free mobile phone and data, but even though fairly convenient for checking Google Maps and using the Internet, I would still have preferred to use my own phone with a competitive data package.
According to recent surveys, it appears that the average smartphone owner uses more than 500 MB of data each month. And outside Europe at least, high roaming costs of more than £7 means that the cost of using your phone abroad can balloon very quickly. Most people do in fact use their phones abroad (with around 40% turning them off), so anything that can reduce costs is a welcome move.
Of course, there are the usual tips that we advise you follow where possible: such as using Wi-Fi when available, checking your roaming and data settings before you go, avoiding video streaming sites such as YouTube, and using mobile websites only if possible.
You can also switch to one of the aforementioned travel SIMs such as those provided by GO-SIM. Why use such a service? The benefits of this particular provider are many:
- GPRS data is available in over 175 countries
- 3G data is available in 90 countries
- Competitive rates from 35c per MB
- It is prepaid, so no large unexpected bills when you return home
- No contracts, no credit checks and no monthly fees
- Works with all handsets, except Blackberry email.
GO-SIM also recognises the fact that many travellers have specific needs.
For example, travelling to Europe alone is best served by GO-SIM’s Europe SIM Card, which has low rates for around 25 European destinations and costs just £14. Included in the package is the equivalent of $10 worth of credit. If you’re after more than just a SIM and would rather also take a phone along with you for the duration, GO-SIM also has a couple of interesting bundles: the Europe Travel Pack (Europe SIM and $50 of credit for £38), the Europe Lite Pack (the Europe SIM + a dual band phone for £22), and the Europe Smart Pack (which includes the Europe SIM and an Android smartphone for £45).
The Europe SIM deals allow you to make and receive calls at 25c per minute, as well as $0.25 per MB of data. Furthermore, it can also be used in a few key destinations in their “Global Zone” such as USA, Russia, Australia and South Africa.
For visitors to the US, GO-SIM offers a USA-specific 4G Sim Card, with access to 4G and unlimited calls and texts as well as reasonably-priced international calls:
And for backpackers or just anyone travelling around the world, the International SIM Card option (£14) provides the best deal with coverage in more than 195 countries. Again, costs seem pretty reasonable with calls costing 12p per minute, free receipt of text messages (on a UK number provided), and data from 20p per MB.
Just after Data?
Of course, many of us don’t care too much for sending messages and making phone calls. Our data habit is perhaps the most important aspect of using a mobile abroad, and it’s not always easy to find a fast and reliable Wi-Fi connection.
GO-SIM offers a Data SIM card, with 3G connectivity in more than 55 countries (and GPRS where that’s not available), and like the rest the SIM itself comes in three sizes (Standard, Micro and Nano) to fit any device.
Here’s the lowdown on price and data allowance.
GO-SIM also tells us that anyone who buys a SIM can use the JT TravelApp to check usage and recharge any of the SIMs they offer – it’s available on Android and iOS.
If you have any experience with GO-SIM, or can recommend any other ways you’ve found to use your mobile abroad without incurring huge roaming charges, let us know in the comments section below…