Mobile phones overseas

I was chatting with some friends over dinner last night and realised I had forgotten to share a little tip I learnt when last overseas.

Nokia E71Anyone who has travelled abroad with global roaming will recognise there’s a large cost for convenience. If you’re an Australian who is travelling in say, Singapore, and one of your mates in Australia calls your mobile, and you answer, your mate will be charged for the Australian portion of the call while you’ll be charged for the international (Australia to Singapore) portion of the call. This means taking calls overseas can be an expensive past time, especially if it’s your mate who talks and talks and talks, before you can even tell her you’re overseas!

It’s a slightly different story for text messages (SMS). In most countries, it’s free to receive a text message on a foreign phone so texting has been the communication method of choice for travellers. The catch, of course, is the cost of texting on your Aussie phone while on foreign soil. The last time I checked with my Australian carrier, it cost 75 cents to send a text message while overseas, which is a good three times the cost of a text message in Australia.

After a day of sending about fifteen text messages to a friend while I was on foreign soil, I realised I blew through more than ten dollars very quickly. I then remembered I could email! While the cost of data while roaming overseas is much more than when back home, it’s much cheaper than texting. If memory serves me correctly, I pay around 1 cent per kilobyte and given the 160 characters you can type into a text is much less than 1kb, the data rate can go a long way. (Obviously there’s a communications overhead and you could get in trouble if you decide to download that 2 megabyte attachment from the office.)

So there’s my tip. If you’ve got a BlackBerry or email-enabled phone, it can be much cheaper sending emails overseas than texting. (Oh, and if you’ve got a GPS-enabled phone, the A-GPS feature that uses the data network helps you find your way around really quickly!)

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