Travellers need to take responsibility for bill shock too


WhistleOut
26 February 2014

Despite widespread changes in the cost of Australian phones in foreign countries, the risk of bill shock still looms. Travellers need to arm themselves with information before boarding the plane.

If you’ve travelled overseas in the past few years, chances are you packed your smartphone along with your mini tube of toothpaste and travel-sized mouthwash. It’s equally likely you switched it on at your destination and were flooded with emails or quickly posted an obnoxious arrival message on your Facebook wall. After all, how much can these little things cost?

A colleague of mine once travelled to Paris with his family, and spent a short portion of a lazy afternoon scrolling through Lolcats pictures. He estimates he browsed for about 20-minutes, his telco calculated it a bit differently, and so when he arrived home he found a $600 phone bill waiting for him. For Lolcats.

As we all know, this isn’t an isolated experience. Travel website TripAdvisor says that 27% of people it surveyed didn’t know how much data they use each day, but that over 55% of the same people check business emails during a trip overseas.

So here’s the thing: we can scream all day long about how we think the cost of international roaming is too expensive, or we can make sure we understand how much roaming will cost before we leave. We can turn off roaming if we think it is too expensive, or we can manage our use and make sure we only use what we are prepared to pay for.

There’s never been a better time to study these prices either. Last year, each of the major Australian telcos reformed their roaming charges, and though some of these changes didn’t make the cost any cheaper, they all made the rates much easier to understand.

And of course, if you’d prefer to dodge these charges altogether, you can follow our guide to turning roaming off and considering alternatives.

At the end of the day, international roaming is expensive. The telco you are signed up with in Australia needs to negotiate with overseas telcos and the result may never be as cheap as we think it should be. But this doesn’t mean we need to completely relinquish control and responsibility.


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