Pay Less For Mobile Data Roaming With These Tips

Heading abroad for your next holiday, and hoping to spend your hard-earned cash on something more exciting than your phone bill? Then take charge of international roaming on your mobile before you leave on that jet plane, to avoid unwelcome bill shock on your return.

When you take your mobile phone abroad, you no longer use your regular operator’s network for calls, SMS or web browsing. You instead “roam” on to a network local to your destination. Your normal rates no longer apply, and you’ll be charged more and per megabyte for mobile browsing – even if you have an unlimited data plan at home. That’s a fast way to burn through your credit or send your phone bill through the roof.

So, how do you browse abroad without breaking the bank? These tips should help you to keep on top of data roaming during your next holiday getaway:

1. Plan & research

Before you jet off on your journey, find out if your mobile operator offers international roaming plans, which often offer huge savings for data bundles. Whether or not you change plans, on arriving at your destination, take time to read the welcome SMS from your temporary network, as this message usually lists data costs.

2. Heads to the clouds

Use a cloud-based mobile browser, which shrinks the webpages you visit before they land on your phone. That way, your phone has fewer megabytes to load – saving you money, time and frustration. For example, a good browser crunches down webpages to as little as 10% of their original size, and features a data counter that shows the number of megabytes you’re using. Crunched down webpages also help you get more browsing out of your data-roaming bundle.

3. Bare essentials

When you activate roaming, enable only the essential data services on your phone – like your web browser and email – to avoid other apps pulling in updates and large volumes of data in the background. Use a browser rather than apps to view your favorite web content. (And remember that holiday roaming is not the time for streaming video or downloading files.)

4. Turn on Wi-Fi

For the web without data-roaming drama, browse for free via your phone’s Wi-Fi connection. Wi-Fi is typically available in airports, hotels and cafés, or you can make use of apps like Wi-Fi Finder to locate your nearest hotspot. A cloud-based browser is also handy for speedier surfing on crowded, sluggish Wi-Fi connections.

“When I’m abroad, and need to check something online like a bus schedule or hotel reservation, I don’t want to spend a lot of time and money fussing about with my phone,” says TV travel guru Ian Wright. “I may not understand this cloud-based stuff behind browsers, but if something will save me some time and money on my journey, I want it now. It’ll be the only app you need when traveling.”

Imagine you voyage from the UK to the vacation paradise of Mauritius, and pay £7.50/MB for data while outside Europe. It costs you £3.28 (448 KB) to open the Facebook app, or £4.39 (599 KB) to visit the Facebook Touch homepage with a regular mobile browser. However, it’s £0.67 to open the same page with Opera Mini, which shrinks it to 92KB. So you can visit Facebook on Opera Mini 4.9 times more than via your app, and 6.5 times more than on your regular browser, for the same roaming price.

People today want to be connected at all times, even with the higher price of holiday roaming. You want to keep in touch with friends and family (or even the office) while on break, plus go online to map out your next sightseeing stop, check out restaurant reviews or check in early for the dreaded flight home.

With so many ways to reduce your international roaming costs, there’s no need to switch off your phone while and live in fear of your browsing bill. A browser that outsources the loading of webpages is a handy solution for international roaming, and means faster and cheaper internet when you travel.

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Jan Standal has led the product management team for Opera's consumer products since 2006, has headed the developer relations team. He is now in charge of the Products, Desktop team. Before this position, Jan worked for three years with Opera’s mobile customers like Nokia and Motorola, and then two years with Opera's corporate strategy. Even before joining Opera Software, Jan worked with Web technologies, education and ‘bleeding edge’ future technologies’. Jan holds a Bachelor degree in IT management from the Norwegian School of Management.