Roam­ing far from home can be an ex­pen­sive ex­pe­ri­ence for the techno-trav­eller

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - MERRY KIRK­WOOD

JUST as more ex­cit­ing tourist­friendly soft­ware — in­clud­ing tan­ta­lis­ing apps for smart­phones, tablets and note­books — is be­com­ing avail­able, ac­cess­ing such data while over­seas can be a drain on the hip pocket.

Myr­iad travel apps (in­clud­ing Live Flight Tracker, Wi-Fi finder, AroundMe and Of­fMaps) are now pop­u­lar ac­ces­sories, su­per­sed­ing guide­books and maps. Packed with up-to-theminute in­for­ma­tion on ho­tels, restau­rants, bars and ac­tiv­i­ties, they help trav­ellers quickly feel at home in new des­ti­na­tions.

But the tech­no­log­i­cal ca­pa­bil­i­ties we en­joy within Aus­tralia cost more as soon as we ven­ture over­seas. Na­tional pric­ing plans no longer ap­ply; Aus­tralians down­load­ing data, mak­ing calls, send­ing text mes­sages or email­ing from abroad are in largely un­charted ter­ri­tory. We are au­to­mat­i­cally linked to dif­fer­ent lo­cal telco rates and it’s dif­fi­cult to keep tabs on ex­pen­di­ture.

Re­cent re­search by the Or­gan­i­sa­tion for Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion and De­vel­op­ment con­firms what we have long sus­pected: Aus­tralian trav­ellers reg­is­ter in the top five among 34 coun­tries on mea­sured in­ter­na­tional roam­ing rates, pay­ing up to $20 a megabyte.

The re­sul­tant bill shock has led some fre­quent fly­ers to leave their mo­bile de­vices at home.

But cost-ef­fec­tive tech­nol­ogy use is pos­si­ble. The Aus­tralian Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Con­sumer Ac­tion Net­work (ac­can.org.au) sug­gests check­ing in ad­vance a provider’s roam­ing charges in each coun­try, switch­ing off data roam­ing and au­to­matic email down­loads in net­work menus (for iPhone, switch to ‘‘fetch’’) when not in use, and us­ing SMS in­stead of mak­ing phone calls. Other tips in­clude down­load­ing apps be­fore trav­el­ling for off­line use, as well as seek­ing out free WiFi ac­cess.

Some trav­ellers play it safe by rent­ing pre­paid phones (with data up­load) over­seas, but this negates the seam­less ben­e­fits of us­ing per­sonal tech­nol­ogy. It’s a case of techno-trav­eller beware.

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