Welcome to our gap year guide to mobile roaming. Of all the kit you’ll be packing for a gap year abroad, a mobile phone, tablet or laptop are among the most essential. Not just to keep in touch with friends but also for staying current events, research and advice.

It can even help save money. You can use apps like Skype and WhatsApp to make calls and send messages without paying for calling minutes.

Taking a mobile device overseas is a great way of staying on top of things. However if you’re not careful you could find yourself facing unexpectedly large bills for the amount of data you use. This is a key consideration for anybody going overseas and particularly those on a tight budget.

Gap Year Guide to Mobile Roaming 1: Costs…. and staying in control

Travellers in EU territories are broadly protected from prohibitively high charges thanks to laws capping roaming data prices that were brought in by the European Commission in 2009. Outside the EU the charges vary from country to country so it’s really important that you know exact costs for each place you are visiting. Your network may offer an international data bundle that is cheaper than simply using roaming. In fact, some providers insist that you have to buy a bundle before allowing you any international data use at all.

You may find that your network provides free international data as part of your current package. 

Gap Year Guide to Mobile Roaming 2: Pay as you go and specialist roaming services

On a Pay As You Go SIM  it may be possible that it doesn’t include any international roaming support. You’ll need to check this before you go. If it doesn’t provide support, consider picking up either a new PAYG SIM from a network which does permit roaming. A rolling monthly deal means you can cancel once home.

Costs can vary depending on whether you’re using roaming internet on a smartphone or a mobile broadband device. Be sure to confirm that with your network. If travelling as a group you may prefer to use something like a tablet or Wi-Fi dongle to share a single connection. 

If your trip is going to last for a while then you might find that using a local mobile provider could work out cheaper than your home network. Make sure that your device is network unlocked before you set off, otherwise you’ll find your access blocked.

Another option is the aforementioned specialist roaming services. If you plan on going online frequently or on downloading large   data plans which can be in several companies. These are generally cheaper than using your network’s roaming package for the same amount of data.

Gap Year Guide to Mobile Roaming 3: Blind spots and wifi hotspots

Always keep in mind that when it comes to roaming there can be no guarantees. Devices may not work on certain networks due to differing frequencies and standards. Broadband speeds may be slow or the signal occasionally non-existent. If you’re relying on internet access do some research ahead of time and prepare backup options. Wi-Fi hotspots are now common across the world, and often free to boot. If you want to keep spend to an absolute minimum this may be the cheapest way to stay online while travelling.

If you’re really lucky, your parents may offer to help cover the costs, in return for a promise of a once weekly Skype and a few emails. 

This blog has been written by Broadband Genie. They have a Roaming Costs Tool to help with choosing a provider for international use. It’s a quick way to compare international data pricing from the UK’s four main providers for your destination.

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