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Free to roam smallIf you plan to travel overseas for business purposes there will likely be a lot of things on your mind; which may not include global roaming charges when using your phone.

This article provides some tips on how to save money when traveling overseas by avoiding costly global roaming charges.

If you’re with Telstra, Optus or Vodafone, you can access a global roaming pack at an extra cost. For more information on these packs, ACCAN has written a blog article on global roaming options. Other Australian telcos will allow you to use your mobile phone overseas, however, be aware of the costs involved with this before using your phone in a different country.  These charges can be quite high and alarming, particularly since in many cases you don’t see the bill until you get back home – a nasty surprise for you or your boss.

If you’re a more budget conscious traveller, here are three additional options you have for using your phone while overseas:

Buy a local pre-paid SIM card when you arrive at your destination to access cheap local rates. This requires an unlocked handset and also a phone that is compatible with the mobile network you have selected, so have your handset unlocked before you leave Australia and check compatibility with the local provider before you buy their SIM. There are usually lots of alternatives to choose from and in many cases they provide significantly better value than using global roaming. If you purchase a local SIM be aware of what’s included in the package and who you can contact if you have issues with the service.  The advantage of a pre-paid account is that your risk is low if you have made a bad choice.

Buy a pre-paid roaming SIM card before you go from providers such as TravelSIM, GO-SIM, RoamingSIM or gotalk. Make sure you have all ID documents with you when you buy your prepaid SIM as you will be asked to supply this.

Take advantage of Wi-Fi hotspots. For the ultimate in budget communications when traveling, don’t activate global roaming or purchase a travel SIM and instead use local Wi-Fi hotspots to stay in touch with colleagues and loved ones while travelling. Lots of hotels now offer free Wi-Fi to guests, as do many cafes, restaurants and coffee shops. You might have to hunt these hotspots down, but it will save you money on global roaming costs. If you choose this option, choose the apps and online services you use carefully, as it is easier for hackers to eavesdrop on open Wi-Fi networks. Avoid online banking over public Wi-Fi or in busy public areas. Check out the mobile devices section of Stay Smart Online for the latest advice on how to keep personal or sensitive information secure online. If using Wi-Fi hotspots, consider making international calls using online applications like Skype or FaceTime.

Avoid using your data plan for GPS navigation if you are travelling by car or even walking using GPS, you don’t need to use up precious data.  There are apps such as Co-Pilot and MAPS.ME, which don’t require data to navigate. The apps are either free or low cost and you pay to download reasonably priced maps for the country you are in. These Apps have the added advantage of coverage in areas where there is zero or poor reception for your mobile data.