Travelling abroad? Don’t get caught with a sky-high phone bill.

Travelling abroad can be a relaxing or exciting experience which no one wants to return from to find a bill in excess of TT$30,000. Overseas, your smartphone can become an important lifeline to keep in touch with family and friends. At home, you know your average monthly phone bill however there can be different rates, which may be considerably higher when you are abroad.

You might be wondering “what uses all this data to cause such a high bill?” Well various functions of your smartphone may need access to the internet to work properly. Your smartphone uses the internet to send and receive data for many activities, such as, updating your messages/emails, downloading images and videos, updating your location, browsing the internet, updating apps and more.

Unless you turn off data roaming before you travel, your smartphone could be downloading data throughout your stay without you realizing it. This also applies for tablets. If you do not properly monitor your data usage or configure your phone before travelling, you can end up with a very high bill. This is the main concern for postpaid users. Pre-paid users would have burned through the amount they topped up with.

Checklist:

  1. Contact your provider: Tell them you will be travelling and ask if there is anything you need to do to ensure you get service when you’re abroad. Ensure you know all the applicable rates and details of your post-paid or pre-paid plan to confirm what it does and does not cover.
     
  2. Monitor data usage: Check your smartphone’s settings to see which apps use data and exit them when you’re done to avoid it using data in the background. If you're not using Wi-Fi, avoid data-heavy activities such as watching videos, updating social media with photos or downloading music. Also, if you are checking emails, avoid opening large attachments.
     
  3. Use free Wi-Fi but cautiously: Certain places may offer their customers free Wi-Fi however this Wi-Fi could be unsecure and allow hackers to easily steal your information. Generally, we would highly advise against doing online banking, entering your credit card number or other highly sensitive information on these types of Wi-Fi networks.
     
  4. Stop syncing: Make sure automatic syncing for apps such as iCloud, Google+, Dropbox etc. are off. Every time your phone connects these apps will sync the data on your phone to the app's server, this can be a big data hog.
     
  5. Install only apps you trust:  Look at the app reviews and understand the permissions you’re granting it. Malicious apps have been known to frequently send data, thereby increasing your data usage.
     
  6. Quickly cut connection to networks: Switching to Airplane mode cuts your phone’s connection to cellular and Wi-Fi networks. Once in this mode, you can only connect to Wi-Fi networks. You can also turn off your phone and turn it on only when necessary, just be sure it doesn’t start with data roaming enabled.
     
  7. Walk with coins: Many places still have payphones. It is always a good idea to have a backup means of communication, so ensure that you have enough coins to make a phone call from a pay phone. They can usually be found in airports, hotels or shopping malls and can be a much cheaper option than calling from your cellphone. 

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