Cheapest ways to use mobile broadband abroad
If you're heading overseas this year, make sure you don't pay a packet for using mobile broadband by nabbing a speciaist tariff or dongle.
If you’re heading off on holiday and want to post regular Facebook updates and Tweets to tell your friends all about it, you’ll probably need to use the internet on your mobile.
But stories of “bill shock” might be putting you off. Every year thousands of holidaymakers return from trips abroad to find they’ve been charged hundreds, or even thousands, of pounds for using the internet on their phone while they’re away.
We’ve looked at your options if you can’t survive without access to the internet on your phone while overseas and the costs involved.
Use your normal tariff
One option is simply to carry on as normal and just use your phone to access the internet like you do at home. Easy.
However, be aware of the massive costs involved if you go down this route. If you have a tariff that includes a certain amount of, or unlimited, data the small print will say this is just within the UK. The moment the plane lands you’ll start paying extra for data use.
If you have a smartphone accessing the internet in the background, sometimes without a user’s knowledge, just turning your phone on can turn it into a financial liability.
Within the EU, Vodafone charges £1 per MB up to 5MB, then £5 per MB after that. Orange and O2 both charge £3.07 per MB. Outside the EU, the costs soar. Vodafone charges £3 per MB up to 15MB then £15 per 15MB. Orange charges £8 per MB and O2 £6 per MB. Ouch.
But what does 1MB get you in terms of browsing? The answer is not much; a couple of minutes on Facebook looking at status updates and photos and you’ll have used 1MB. A one-minute YouTube video will use 2-4MB. So a quick YouTube clip could cost you a whopping £32 on Orange outside the EU.
You’ll be better off turning off data roaming on your phone while abroad and looking at another option.
Get a bolt-on service
Most networks offer bolt-on packages that you can add to your normal tariff. But although this will save you money compared to standard rates, it’s still an expensive option.
For iPhone customers who wish to use data while travelling there are a range of “bolt ons” available from O2. O2's Heavy User Bolt On increases your standard data limit while abroad from 50MB (for £40) a month to 200MB (for £120) a month. Once this has been reached data roaming will stop.
Orange offers Travel Data Bundles. There's a 30MB daily bundle for £3/day, or you can spread that 30MB out for a month for £15.
For Vodafone customers, Vodafone Data Traveller costs £2 a day (midnight to midnight, UK time) for 25MB in Europe. The same plan costs £5 per day for the rest of the world.
Wi-fi is the cheapest option and means relying on wireless internet while you’re on holiday. As well as being free in many cases and fairly cheap in others, wi-fi is generally a lot faster than 3G internet.
Wi-fi spots can be found in many hotels, cafes and pubs with lots of establishments offering it free to customers. However, you’ll need to remain in the wi-fi hotspot for it to work so it’s less “mobile” than mobile broadband.
If you set your smartphone to identify wi-fi networks it will let you choose which one you join each time you attempt to access the internet.
This is easily the best option and needing a wi-fi hotspot to get online will stop you being obsessed with email or Twitter when you should be working on your tan.
Get pocket wi-fi
Pocket wi-fi rentals provide you with wireless internet via a device you carry with you and fits in your pocket.
Available from www.tepwireless.com pocket wi-fi allows users to connect to the internet via a local mobile network while abroad – rather than their home network - and only pay local rates.
The device has been popular with American visitors to the UK and Europe for some time but Brits can now hire a Tep dongle to take to Europe.
Costs vary depending where you go and how long you hire the device for but you can get unlimited internet in Germany, for example, from £3.07 a day assuming you hire the device for 15 days.