Taking your phone overseas?

smartphones1A friend of mine, recently retired, is planning an overseas holiday and was wondering what the best way of staying in touch with the family and business interest were that would not send him into bankruptcy. Having read some of the stories coming out in the paper of horrendous bills incurred when ‘roaming’ on the mobile phone overseas, it was a good question and one not that easy to give a straight answer to.

That is because where you are going and for how long you plan to stay in one country is quite important for finding the better affordable solution, and each phone connection provider has its own plan which in turn may depend on the contract or plan you have with the provider.

dumbphoneMany of us do not necessarily need a smartphone with internet connection for checking our emails or social media on a regular basis but may wish to take the old cell phone along so we can text to or receive sms from back home as well as make the occasional call to people here or wherever we find ourselves.

To do either our phone needs to be able to ‘roam’ onto a local network where we are, and from there the call/text is routed back to NZ and then to the recipient. We first need to check that our phone is set up to roam and we can do that by checking at the nearest phone store or where you bought your phone from. Alternatively, if your connection is with Vodafone call 777 and ask for roaming to be added, if it is a Telecom unit it should already be roaming ready, but it doesn’t hurt to check.

Other providers may require you to get and set up a voicemail pin if you need to access voicemail whilst away and do it before you leave the country! Best to check out their websites for full details.

roaming-windSo now we are ready and if your phone is on prepay you have checked to see if where you are heading is one of the Auto-roaming countries. Autoroaming means that you can hop off the plane and start using your phone right away. If you are going to text remember to add the country code before the number  [NZ= 0064 and then no 0 before the number, i.e. 0064 2x xxx].  It is free to receive a text message, but not free to send.

Vodafone has daily roaming available in 17 countries for the on-account mobile phones and cost $5 a day using the minutes included in your plan and texts or data, and connection kicks in when you dial up from your new location.

WiFi.pgFor Telecom phones you can download a Roaming app that has all the prices for the places you can roam and is available for iPhones, Androids or Windows 8 phones., and remember that voicemail pin if you need it. iPads and some Android tablets cannot receive texts but there are ways around that and if you need it visit http://m.telecom.co.nz/yt on your device and log in. Be sure you are connecting on the mobile network and not WiFi which requires your mobile number and password].

Telecom customers on Pay Monthly or Prepaid [or business] has a cap of $150 applied to your device for international calls and texts and usage then stopped. A text will be sent with a link to let you increase the cap if required.

2degrees has similar arrangements and also require you to set up a voicemail pin before departure and to turn on the voicemail service when you reach your destination.

For other providers like Orcon, Compass, CallPlus, Skinny and M2 check out their websites for further information.

Bill-ShockTo avoid the dreaded ‘Bill Shock’ from your smartphone constantly checking for emails and downloading files which can chew through enormous amount of megabytes of data costing you the Earth there are some sensible things you can do.

1. Know the cost for calling, texting and data.

2. Avoid internet browsing, and Google maps can chew through a mass of data.

3. Turn off email ‘push’ function, reset phone to manual. Reduce email setting to header only.

4. Switch off data roaming. You can still make calls and text.

5. Consider buying a cheap phone at your location or a SIM card to fit your phone, might be much cheaper than paying the roaming rates, but remember to tell others your new number from the new SIM card/phone.

6. With the Skype app installed you just need a WiFi connection and you have free calls anywhere, also the VIBER which works also with data and text and you can also use it in NZ to phone and text free.

As you can see giving advice isn’t straight forward, it does depend on whether you just want to be able to text your loved ones or the occasional call at your location, or whether you need a bit more regular contact or the full monty.

If you are needing help to decide what is best for you talk to SeniorNet Kapiti, or call your phone provider [if you don’t  mind waiting in the queue], or check out their websites.

Happy travel.