Calling home from abroad: mobile roaming charges
Vacationing in Western Europe isn't for sissies anymore. Between booking a car for hire in Spain and trying to avoid nightmare mobile phone bills, scaring off a pickpocket or two almost sounds quaint.
Although price caps on international roaming went into effect last month, capping calls made within the EU at 43 cents (37p) per minute, and calls received in the EU at 19 cents (16p), there are still significant variations in charges from one provider to the next. And since price caps are given in Euros, the sterling to euro exchange rate affects Britons' actual charges too.
There are a few ways you can reduce costs for roaming while you're on the continent this summer. Vodafone has waived roaming charges until 31 August for those with the Vodafone Passport scheme. New Vodafone customers are automatically signed up for Passport, while existing customers who don't have Passport must opt in by texting "passport" to 2345 for pay as you go customers, or to 9788 for monthly billed customers. There's a link in the righthand column that you can click on to get the full list of countries covered by Passport.
All the major networks except for 3 offer travel bundles. T-Mobile (which recently increased outgoing calling rates in Europe to 43p per minute) offers a package called Euroboosters which costs £5 to £30 in selected countries. Here's the breakdown of travel add-ons and bundles:
1. The T-Mobile Euro 10 pay-as-you-go Booster costs £10 and allows 34 minutes of outgoing calls, 78 minutes of incoming calls and allows you to send up to 60 texts.
2. O2's My Europe Extra package costs £10 per month for calls that cost 25p per minute to the UK and most EU countries and free incoming calls.
4. Vyke Mobile is a downloadable app for your phone (click here to find out if your phone is compatible) that uses your mobile phone's WiFi connection to send calls and messages rather than your mobile operator. The website says:
Because Vyke Mobile uses your phone's WiFi connection to connect to the Vyke network whenever you're in a hotspot, there are no international roaming charges to pay when you send messages or call using Vyke Mobile's WiFi feature from overseas
As an added incentive Vyke is giving away a Nokia E75 with a £25 credit to every 2,000th customer to sign up.
All this assumes you're going to be talking on your mobile phone a lot when you're on vacation, but of course, not everyone does. When all is said and done, if you do not plan to make more than a couple of brief "I've arrived" calls while you're in other countries, you may come out better just going ahead and paying the roaming charges.
Coming up: International SIM cards for traveling with your mobile.