International data roaming charges can be very frightening when traveling abroad, and even experienced, frequent travelers still sometimes struggle with this annoying issue. It’s quite often that travelers get caught off guard and didn’t know about the charge until they receive the bill later on.
Our cell phone and any mobile device connected to the internet, including wearables, are constantly receiving data whether you are using it or not. If you, for example, receive an email, then you might be eligible for international data roaming. There are also apps that run in the background, silently receiving data, they might also be the culprit of potential international data roaming charges.
Fortunately, this situation is not impossible to tackle, and there are various precautions that we can take to avoid roaming charges. Here are some of them.
Table of Contents
Switch To an International Data Plan
The absolute best approach to avoid international roaming charges is to ‘abandon’ your carrier temporarily and switch into a network carrier of your destination country. There are many ways you can do this:
1. If your phone/device is still using a traditional SIM card, then you can simply buy a prepaid card in the destination airport or even at your local market. They are generally fairly affordable and should be enough if you are only using your data for regular use.
2. Your carrier might offer an international plan. Simply give them a call before you leave your home country or check online for their international data plans.
3. If your device already has integrated eSIM or Apple SIM (for newer iPhones and iPad), then you can easily get a global data plan. For example, you can get an international eSIM data plan from Truphone that supports instant data connection in 113 countries all around the world. If you travel often and you do have an eSIM-enabled device, then this is the best, most versatile option for you.
Record a New Voicemail
People might call you or send you a text during your international travel, and both the caller and you might be eligible for roaming charges. Remember that playing back recorded voicemails might also cause a roaming charge.
To avoid this issue, record a new voicemail message before you leave, and ask them not to leave a message unless it’s an emergency. You can also leave your email address so they can still contact you.
Also, if possible, set up call forwarding if your partner is staying home, or if your business partner is willing to take work calls while you are away. Most network carriers offer call forwarding features, so check out with your carriers on how you can set up call forwarding.
While your carrier might still charge a small fee for every forwarded call, it is generally much more reasonable than international roaming charges. However, be sure to check for the exact fee for each forwarded call, just to be sure.
Setting Up Your Devices
Setting up your phone and all devices that are going to be connected to the network is very important in avoiding international roaming charges.
Even if you decide to get a local prepaid SIM card or get an international data plan, these tips can still help you by saving data from your international plan:
- Turn off data roaming: pretty obvious. With this, you can still get calls and text with Wi-Fi but your phone won’t send or receive any data outside your plan’s home location.
- Turn off automatic updates and downloads: Make sure all your apps don’t perform any updates and downloads, so you should turn off all automatic downloads on all apps.
- Stop background activities: There are a lot of apps that send or receive data in the background, so check your settings and toggle background data off.
Last but not least, make sure to monitor your data usage when going abroad, so you can see how much you are actually using. It might be a good idea to reset your data tracking just after you land, so it’s fresh.
Download Everything You Might Need Beforehand
If you need to download itineraries or booking details, make sure to do so before you leave. Also, if you plan to use Google Maps, you can download the Maps so you can use it offline.
Download any app you might need. For example, you might need a language/translator app, and review apps like Zomato or Tripadvisor. Minimize the need of downloading anything in your destination country, even if you are going to have WiFi or an international data plan.
Best Practices When You Are Abroad
Here are some important best practices to follow when you are already at your destination:
- Don’t answer any phone
Don’t forget that roaming charges also apply to those who receive international calls overseas. So, ignore any incoming calls. If you already record a new voicemail and/or have set up call forwarding—as we’ve discussed above—, then you are set.
- Texting is better
If you really require to contact someone from home, it’s better to text or send an email rather than making a call. Also, if you are traveling with someone but separated, make it a habit to text each other. This practice alone can save a lot of data.
- Chat via WiFi
There are various messaging apps that allow you to chat with others over the internet including public WiFi, like Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, and iMessage. They are an alternative if you don’t want to pay for SMS/Text costs.
While obviously international roaming calls can be annoying and even frustrating, there are ways we can avoid it, and most of them won’t be too much of a hassle. If you do travel a lot, however, the good and best way to avoid international roaming charges is to get a reliable international data plan like the one from Truphone.
International roaming charges can cost you a lot of money, and there are even many cases where people are charged tens of thousands of dollars for silly practices. Prepare ahead, and follow the tips above to avoid these annoying international roaming charges, forever.