How to avoid costly telephone calls abroad

Making or receiving calls abroad can add a small fortune to your telephone bills. Here's our guide to avoiding these costs.

By TTM on 10 August 2009 in Travel Articles

Mobile phone charges fell for millions of holidaymakers across Europe from 1st July 2009, after new regulations come into force to drive down the cost of roaming. "The roaming rip-off is now coming to an end," said EU telecommunications commissioner Viviane Reding in a statement. "Expect the new roaming rules to make it much cheaper to surf the web on your mobile while abroad in the EU." 

This may be so, but if you like to natter on your mobile while abroad bear in mind the following: every time you receive a call within the EU a thirty minute call can cost you around £12. Every time you receive a call while you are abroad, you pay around £5 for a thirty minute gossip. When using your phone outside the EU expect far higher charges. These fees are called 'roaming' charges.

You will usually get a welcome text from your network when you arrive at your destination abroad. From the moment your mobile receives a signal from the foreign network, you will be at the higher roaming rates. Wha's more, when you get back to the UK, you should wait until your phone acknowledges the UK network otherwise it will think you are still abroad, and roaming charges will apply.

Top tips for avoiding high roaming charges

1. Calls are expensive and to avoid astronomical bills you are better off texting. Texts from the EU should cost around 10p each and a little more outside the Euro zone.

2. Why pay when someone calls you. Tell your friends, family and colleagues to text you. Receiving a text is free.

3.  Be sure to ask your network what cheaper 'roaming' deals they offer that help the cut the costs of using your telephone abroad. You may be surprised.

4.  If you intend to use the phone alot abroad, consider getting a SIM card. Go for a Pay As You Go Sim or a special international SIM. This will dramatically cuts your costs.

5. If you phone is Wi-Fi enabled then download Skype or Sipgate and call home for pennies. Then you can sit by the pool and natter for hours.

6. Ask your network to temporarily turn off voicemail because you will be charged (up to £1/min) to recevie a voicemail and then pay again to retrieve it.

7. If you take a phone just for emergencies, then turn it off while still in the UK and keep it turned off until you need to use it. That way your phone will think it is still in the UK and voicemails you received will not be charged for.

8. If you have to download emails, a laptop or an internet cafe would be a better alternative to using your phone cost-wise. If you still feel you must use your phone to retrieve emails then set io 'download headers only'. This lets you see the subject line and you can decide if you want to download the rest of the message. This way you can avoid having to pay data download charges for spam and other unimportant emails.

9. Using hotel phones have always been astronomically expensive. Charges of £5 per minute are not uncommon. Feel free though to receive calls on your hotel bedroom phone as these are free.

10. Consider using a cheap foreign calls access number.



The new tariffs for making and receiving calls in the EU include the following maximum costs:

- making a call while abroad will cost 37p per minute
- receiving calls will cost a maximum of 17p per minute
- sending a text message from another country inside the EU will cost 10p
- Data transfers will also fall dramatically, with a megabyte of data costing 85p


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