How to avoid paying data roaming charges on your next overseas trip part 2 – while you are there [UPDATED]

This posts follows on from part 1, titled “How to avoid paying data roaming charges on your next overseas trip part 1 – before you go” and has been updated in August 2013 to reflect pricing changes and more tips from my travels.

Now you have your unlocked phone, cheap 2nd phone, local SIM card and MiFi, outlined below is how I am planning to set up my communications for an upcoming trip to the US as an example of how you can put this all together for your next trip.

[Top tip] When travelling anywhere, I always pack a UK 6 way powerboard, with the appropriate UK adaptor on the end.  This means that I can just plug in my normal UK adaptors, and not have to pack an adaptor for every device.  My standard setup would be 2 USB chargers, laptop power supply, iPad charger and MiFi charger – that’s 5 sockets, with no need for 5 corresponding adaptors.

NOTE: DO NOT DO THIS IF YOU ARE TRAVELLING FROM OR LIVE IN THE US. US power boards are designed for 110V circuits and plugging one into a 220/240V socket in Europe/Asia could be fatal.  If you live in a region where the power supply is 220V, it is perfectly safe to plug your 220V rated board into a 110V US socket.

Shown below is how I am going to set up my phones and MiFi on my next trip to San Francisco. Click the image below for a larger view.

overseas-setup-2013

The Blackberry Q10 on the left is my normal UK Vodafone mobile.  As I will be roaming in the US, I don’t want to pay roaming charges when people call me from the UK.  Also as San Francisco is 8 hours behind London, chances are that most calls will be made while I am asleep.  Therefore I will divert all calls to my live message service in the UK, All Day PA.

They run a very cost effective and professional service. I simply divert all of my calls to my All Day PA number, and set up a greeting online.  The greeting will be read out by a live operator informing callers that I am travelling, but still picking up messages.

The operator will then take a message (and check any name spellings, and confirm the phone number etc), then email me the message instantly.  As I will be on free Hotel WiFi (checked ahead of my trip), or prepaid MiFi, the message will cost me effectively nothing.

Compare this with having to make an international call back to your voicemail, listen to it, listen to it again to get the spelling and the number right etc – all at around £1.35/minute.

In the middle of the picture above is my second “international” phone – an HTC One X.  I have my Truphone SIM permanently in this phone.  It means that when I am in London, clients can call my US number, and for just 10p per minute, the call gets through to my One X.  When in the US, UK callers can call my normal UK number, and if I am awake I divert it to my UK Truphone number, and my phone rings in the US, all for just 10p/minute.

Having a US number when dealing with clients in the US is essential in my mind. I would feel guilty giving out my UK mobile number as the only way of contacting me while in someone else’s country knowing they would be incurring international rates when calling me.

A local US number also tells those I am dealing with that not only am I a professional traveller, but I want them to be able to contact me easily.

On the right of the picture is my E587 MiFi that I picked up in the US in 2012. It is already set up to work on the T-Mobule network and I get some pretty impressive “near 4G” speeds on their HSPA+ network.

T-Mobile is my operator of choice, because they allow me to top up my mobile broadband SIM card before I travel, and buy a 5GB data bundle for just $50.

They also allow me to pay with my UK credit card. When I was using AT&T, I could only purchase more data by visiting a store in person, or using a Virtual Visa card.

When the E587 MiFi is up and running (generally I turn it on just after we have landed),  connect my BlackBerry Q10, iPad, via WiFi from the MiFi for the duration of the trip when I am not in range of free WiFi.  Having prepaid for 5GB of data up front, I now don’t have to worry about any further charges, and I can connect all of my devices safe in the knowledge that I know exactly how much my data is costing me – just $50.

Hopefully this has provided some tips to help you save money and time on your next trip.

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Based in London, Andrew is an internationally renowned thought leader in the field of social business and social media networks. Andrew is a Global Partner with IBM, with a focus on Social Business.



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  • http://stuartward.wordpress.com/ Stuart

    I have used your idea of a power board in the past, but these days with everything coming with USB charging, I just take my laptop charger and charge everything else with USB cables from the laptop. Works fine for me.

  • http://twitter.com/ilicco/status/68353304412950528/ ilicco elia (@ilicco)

    @marcsettle @Britt_w part 2 is here http://t.co/ZLml3vk (cc hat-tip @andrewgrill)

  • http://twitter.com/Britt_W/status/68355583044100096/ Britt Warg (@Britt_W)

    V useful – both now bookmarked, ta! :) RT @ilicco: @marcsettle @Britt_w part 2 is here http://t.co/ZLml3vk (cc hat-tip @andrewgrill)

  • http://www.karimboubker.com Karim Boubker

    I also found it useful to use Fonmigo (http://www.fonmigo.com/) on my trip to London. It’s an easy way to rent a local smartphone or a mobile wifi to get rid of nasty roaming charges!

  • Ray

    “NOTE: DO NOT DO THIS IF YOU ARE TRAVELLING FROM OR LIVE IN THE US. US power boards are designed for 110V circuits and plugging one into a 220/240V socket in Europe/Asia could be fatal. If you live in a region where the power supply is 220V, it is perfectly safe to plug your 220V rated board into a 110V US socket.”

    Actually, its the other way around. What you need to be concerned with are amps, not volts. 220v runs at half the amperage and the wiring inside the European power strips cannot handle the loads imposed by the draw with 110v.

    What you are suggesting is dangerous. Trust me, I know both as an engineer and as a resident of both the USA and Europe.

    [London Calling response: the powerboard from the UK I am using is rated at 13A and has a 13A fuse in it - it should be ok for laptops and phone chargers]

  • henry44

    “US power boards are designed for 110V circuits and plugging one into a 220/240V socket in Europe/Asia could be fatal”

    You’ll find most electronics now support volts from 100-240V. Look at the label on your plug or device to make sure.

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