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Archive for February, 2011

Travel Tips: The art of Roaming – your phone in europe

From the Tech Corner:

A lot of people have been asking about how best to communicate / use their phones while on tour.  So here is a few pointers on keeping the suprise phone bill to a minimum:

If you do nothing, and use your phone as you do at home, you will cry when you get the phone bill – the rates for calls while overseas, texting and data are astronomical – so beware.

If you do nothing – expect to pay $2 a minute for voice calls, $0.75 per text and about $2 for every email sent or received (depending on size).

All carriers (Bell, Rogers, etc.) have plans to help using your phone in Europe a little less expensive (note – this means ‘less’ expensive – not free).  When we look at the possible causes of surcharges – there are 3 main areas we need to tackle:

  1. Voice Calls
  2. Text Messages
  3. Data /emails/browsing

If you have a phone with WiFi (Blackberrys, Iphone, etc.) – your best bet is to try and disable the data on the phone – so emails, etc. only can be obtained when we are in WiFi zones (every hotel except possibly Ritten).  This will still allow you to get texts and voice calls.

Along with this, the carriers are friendly enough to offer you some pre-paid solutions to reduce the charges.

For Bell, you can pay $10 a month (i.e. cancel at the end of the tour), and get text messages reduced to $0.25.  Along with that, they offer a calling package for $20 that reduces the voice rate to $1.33 a minute.  Read more here: Bell Travel info

For Rogers, you can pre-buy some minutes, and assure a lower rate – however the lowest you can get the rate down to is $1.07.   Likewise, you can pre-pay for data, if you want to get your email while over there – and not wait for Wifi hotspots.  And again, the same is available for text messaging – for $25, you get 75 free sent messages, and pay $0.33 for messages beyond that.  Info on Rogers Travelling – click here: Rogers Travel Info

Lastly – if you want to make calls – and have now realized that even with pre-planning, and pre-paying you are still stuck paying over $1 a minute – there are other options for MAKING calls (no matter what if someone calls your phone number, if you answer it, you will pay)….

For contacting loved ones while away, creating a Skype account allows you to chat from any computer, and if you have any of a blackberry, Iphone or Android device – you can call back to phone numbers with rates around $0.02 to $0.03 a minute.  In this scenario, you download Skype to your smartphone – and then can call any phone number in the world (you have to pay for the minutes in advance).  Or, if you call to someones computer – it is entirely free….. Additionally, while at a computer, you can use the microphone/speakers of the computer (and for that matter webcam if it is enabled) to place calls back home.    Most of the internet cafe’s or hotel computers are fully setup to make Skype calls – including video-chatting.

So, to answer the common question, of what am I personally going to do……

1) Going to pre-buy the $20 of voice minutes with Rogers – that will give me 15 minutes of cell time – enough that I can use it in an emergency, can check voicemail, etc…

2) Going to disable Data for the entire time I am there – I will only use data services (email, browser, reading the news, etc.) when I can find free Wifi (which again is all hotels except Ritten)

3) Going to pre-buy 75 Text messages for $25 – that way as we are out and about, I am still free to use text messaging to arrange meeting spots, etc…

4) Going to use skype to make calls whenever possible (Skype needs Wifi to stay free/cheap) – I will likely call home using skype exclusively. 

That’s about it – I’d say with these 4 steps in place, I expect to see a bill of under $100 for the time we are over there (on top of my regular bill that is)….

If you are in doubt, and/or don’t need your phone – then leave it turned off!!!  That is the only sure way to not accidentally incur charges.

And as zzivio would say:

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