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