Avoid a mobile holiday hangover

Despite moves to cut the cost of calls and texts abroad, access to voicemail and to the internet via smartphones from outside the UK still amount to big bills. Our money expert finds out how to keep the costs down
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Using a mobile abroad can feel like posting your credit card and PIN details on the internet: you’ve no idea how much it will cost, but you know it will be expensive.

Despite a move by the EU to cut the cost of calls and texts abroad, you still need to take care to avoid a big bill. The worst culprit is accessing the internet outside the UK. More than 80 per cent of smartphone users have been caught out when holidaying abroad, with £100 bills not unusual, according to research by Carphone Warehouse.

Despite this, most phone owners still intend to use their mobiles to go online while on holiday this summer.

How to keep costs down?

Text and cheap calls: remember you’ll have to pay to receive calls, but it’s free to receive a text, so ask friends and family to contact you that way. Give them an access code (find one for your location at msecallchecker.com) and a landline number for your hotel or base abroad and they’ll be able to call you in most destinations for pennies.

Switch voicemail off: networks make you pay for it as if receiving a call - and if you’re expecting to make or receive lots of calls, ask your network for a bundle. In Europe, for example, Orange offers its £5.10 Europe Traveller bundle with 200 minutes at the reduced price of 27.4p/min (instead of 36.6p/min), plus 200 minutes of received calls for free. Vodafone’s free passport add-on means calls cost a 75p connection charge plus your standard home rate.

Switch of data: to minimise your internet bill, switch off data connectivity before you take off. That way, you can connect via local wifi spots, rather than the expensive 3G network, or just turn on data for brief periods when you need it, rather than having emails constantly landing and costing you money.

Roaming costs are falling: data roaming costs differ according to your location and network. Vodafone, for example, charges £1 a megabyte up to 5MB, then £5 for every additional megabyte after that in Europe. There is some good news: it should be cheaper next year. Mobile phone companies in Europe will be forced to cap the amount they charge for overseas data roaming at 80p per megabyte from July 2012, under new EU proposals.

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