Mobile data roaming charges on overseas trips are a perennial headache for frequent travelers. And it’s only going to get worse as our voracious appetite for data increases with new devices like the iPhone 6.
Of course, just turning off data roaming (or switching to airplane mode) is a quick fix to avoid any surprise charges when you get home. Or you could switch to T-Mobile’s unlimited global data plan. Or you could buy a local SIM card and pay local rates, but that means switching to a new phone number, which is probably too unwieldy for a frequent traveler on a quick trip.
But what else can you do to avoid exorbitant overages when you need data when you are in other countries?
Luckily, many cities are moving fast towards ubiquitous public wi-fi, which allow VOIP calls in addition to data usage. But until that becomes more widespread, here are some options…
Comcast customers traveling overseas will soon enjoy inexpensive wi-fi access via a new partnership between Comcast and Liberty Global, a giant cable operator in Europe with about 2.5 million hotspots in countries such as the UK, Belgium, Netherlands, Poland, Ireland and Switzerland.
For Comcast customers traveling to Europe, this looks like a solid deal and can be taken advantage of by downloading the Xfinity Connect App. Trials begin later this year (no hard date set yet) with wider rollout expected in 2015.
Similarly, Boingo provides access to more than a million wi-fi hotspots around the world for just $10 per month—you can sign up for just one month, or get a monthly subscription. (It’s a free benefit on some American Express cards- check yours here.) To find a Boingo hotspot, just download the Boingo Wi-Finder App to your smartphone, tablet, or laptop.
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Truphone is an interesting solution for companies with several frequent international travelers on staff who regularly rack up significant charges on overseas calls and data. With a corporate Truphone plan, companies provide frequent travelers with phones (including the new iPhone 6) that work seamlessly in the US and 66 countries. (Just turn on the phone when you land, and go…) Users have a local US number, and can add up to seven local numbers in other countries. Truphone’s benchmark monthly rate is $100 for 1,000 minutes, 1,000 messages and 1 gigabyte of data anywhere in the “Truphone World.”
What about those times you get lost in a foreign city...and there’s no one around to ask directions? In the past, you’ve likely just groaned, logged on to the local phone network and paid too much to access Google Maps. But you can avoid that– before you go out and about in a foreign city, save a local Google map to your iPhone when in a wi-fi zone for easy access: Here’s how to do that.
These are only some of the strategies to manage roaming costs while traveling. What other clever solutions have you come up with? Please leave your comments below.
–Nick Vivion & Chris McGinnis
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