Saving on Mobile Charges when Travelling Abroad
Mobile Internet refers to Internet access via a mobile device, such as the smartphone or laptop. Heard of people being charged for expensive roaming calls and mobile internet when they are abroad? Real case scenario: one of my clients received a 5-figure mobile phone bill after a 2-week overseas business trip.
How can you avoid sky-high bills while still making calls and staying connected throughout the trip?
Just recently, I travelled to several places to take a break from work. Being passionate about work, I still wanted to attend to emails, messages and a very important project.
To stay online in another country, I do not have the luxury of using my local number as the primary line to make calls and surf the internet as the charges would have been exorbitant!
That is why I bring a second phone with me when I am abroad – a small basic phone with extraordinarily long battery life to save the hassle of carrying the heavy charger everywhere. It might cost between RM70-100 for a decent set and you could borrow if you do not want to buy one. Remember to turn off mobile data on your phone if you are overseas to avoid extra charges.
Many airport terminals, or at least the ones that I have been to, have a mobile phone kiosk at the arrival hall giving out free SIM cards. Don’t think twice, take it as you will need it later. I swapped my SIM card from my smartphone to the secondary phone and used the new SIM card on the smartphone.
Because I will only be receiving calls and texts on my primary number but I need the mobile data from my new SIM card. These cards do not usually come with usable credit and you need to top-up at the nearest convenience store or at the kiosk itself. The only settings you need to configure is the mobile internet to get online. For this, read the instructions on the package, call the hotline or get the person from the kiosk to help.
For inbound travelers to Kuala Lumpur, AirAsia has taken a step further to market their Tune Talk mobile package. They will hand it to you on the flight itself and you can top-up upon arrival at LCCT.
How much would it cost?
In Sydney, I subscribed to Virgin Mobile and it cost me AUD19 for approximately AUD10 worth of call/text credit and 1GB of Internet!
While in Phuket, I paid 350 Baht for a postpaid package from AIS for 150MB data and 150 Baht calling credit… if I remember correctly.
How does Mobile Internet help when travelling?
One of the most important apps that I need when travelling to foreign soil is the default GPS app (Maps) on the phone. In Sydney, I walked a lot in the city centre and the GPS guided me without missing a single junction. In Phuket, it saved me from being lost in the middle of nowhere late at night when I travelled alone to another beach on a motorcycle. Trust me, you do not want to lose your way on a remote island in the middle of the night when you can see nobody for the next few kilometers.
As for lodging, the Agoda app helped a lot in searching for hotels nearby. I like to experience different atmospheres at different places in the city, so I quite enjoy changing hotels, as if a nomad. With Agoda, I can view hotel information, reviews, prices and even book a room from my mobile phone. As a result, I moved to 3 different hotels in 4 nights.
Trying good food is a must when I am traveling. The recurring question in my mind is, what is good here? Would they charge me more because I am a foreigner? Besides reading the menu and getting recommendations from the stall owner, I usually use my assistant, FourSquare. With it, I am able to read tips from others and this can almost certainly guarantee a satiating meal within my budget.
Enough about Mobile Internet. How about phone calls? No doubt, calling home to speak to your loved ones on the new line can cost a lot. I use the Skype VOIP service and it costs as low as USD0.023/minute which is less than RM0.10/min after conversion. Inexpensive enough? There is a catch to use Skype calls, though; you need a very good mobile Internet connection. Besides that, I also stay in touch with my friends on WhatsApp, email, etc.
Well, I hope this article has been useful. If you have any other tips, do let me know in the comments section. I would love to hear from you!