Avoid nasty surprises when travelling with your cell phone.

You may have read in the media or overheard people at social events talking about going overseas for a holiday or a business trip only to return to find their cell phone bills running into thousands of Rands, much to their shock and disbelief.

Taking and using your cell phone overseas, commonly called international roaming, is one of the fastest ways to rack up an extremely high cell phone bill. It is difficult to keep track of and even know what your cell phone bill will add up to.

With international roaming enabled, you will automatically connect to the local cellular network of the country you are in which your local cell provider has partnered with. Using data for social media and making voice calls while connected to the roaming network can be extremely costly over a short period of time.

Let's look at some of the ways you can reduce the costs of international roaming:

  • Not all the networks are the same

Before you activate international roaming, it is advisable to do your homework and find out which networks are the most cost-effective when you are abroad and rather than automatically connecting, manually link your cell phone to the cheapest network option when you arrive. International roaming rates can vary quite dramatically dependant on the network your phone connects to.

  • Restrict data usage

As stated above, international roaming can be very costly, and, depending on where you are and what network you connect to, the data rates could be anywhere between R100 to R300 per megabyte. Rather use your data sparingly for social media updates, or alternatively connect to Wi-Fi wherever and whenever you can.

  • Buy and use a local SIM

Often overlooked, but try and buy a local SIM card when you arrive. This will make your cell phone usage much more cost effective as you will be charged local rates for calls and data usage. A lot of frequent travelers use dual SIM phones so that they can receive voice calls on their regular cell number, but are also able to make local calls with the local SIM.

  • Avoid making local calls using your regular SIM card

Although some networks offer cheaper rates for local calls while abroad it can still be very expensive depending on where you are. In some countries, local calls can cost in excess of R15 per minute. If you choose this option, be smart and connect to Wi-Fi if possible and call friends and family over WhatsApp, Skype or Facebook.

  • Be wary of incoming calls

Answering calls from friends and family at home can be very expensive whilst traveling abroad. Rates can be as high as R30 per minute to receive calls. If you are going overseas, rather inform your loved ones and friends that you will be away for a few weeks overseas and advise them to SMS or use WhatsApp to contact you during this period.

  • Disable voicemail whilst abroad

Many people are unaware that if you are out of the country and someone calls and leaves you a voicemail then you will be charged for the call. The costs can add up as you will be paying international rates for those voicemails. Turn off your voicemail facility until you return.

  • Investigate international roaming packages

Many networks are aware of the expense and are now offering international roaming packages which enables you access to cost-effective rates depending on the country you are visiting. Consult with your cell phone service provider to see what they have to offer.

  • Receive rather than make a call home

If you need to contact someone at home whilst you are overseas, in many cases, it works out more cost effective to receive a call than to make a call. Once again it is dependent on where you are, calls could cost upwards of R23 to make a call, whereas the cost could be as little as R6 a minute if you receive a call.

Be aware of these cost-saving ideas to avoid a nasty surprise when you return home.

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