how to save yourself money on your overseas phone bill

Once upon a time, I had a near $400 phone bill that I ended up paying in full.

True story.

It was the first time I’d gone to the Netherlands in 2013. I didn’t exactly ‘plan’ to use my cellphone. After all, coming from North America, I so conveniently assumed that Europe would be dotted with many wi-fi hotspots like North America. The truth is, not so much – if I recall correctly, the hostel I was staying at had spotty wi-fi and this was before the time I’d figured out how to download maps on Google Maps. So I literally had to run everything on roaming data (big opps!) lest I got lost somewhere. And even with my data on, I roamed into some highly questionable alleyways in Amsterdam. Oh yes, misadventures.

Now fast forward 2015, I’m armed with more knowledge than before and I’m smart enough to research ahead of time.

1. Pre-purchase roaming data plan: It’s aways good to check with your cell service provider, as most have travel packages you can buy ahead of time. They usually come in 100mb, 200mb or even 1G bundles, depending on the length of your stay, you can purchase accordingly. And I know for my service provider, these only cost around $30-100, depending on which option you chose. It’s such a better alternative than coming home to a $500 phone bill. $100 vs. $500 is a no brainer.

2. Google ahead of time: if you’re like the rest of modern humans who are more or less addicted to the internet then you’ll be doing yourself a favor in mapping out coffee shops with free wi-fi ahead of time. While Starbucks exists elsewhere in the world, they however don’t offer reliable wi-fi. Trust me, I’ve been there. What I’ve found interesting is that, sometimes, when you’re abroad you’ll find that other places do offer wi-fi (albeit it could be spotty) i.e: when in Stockholm, I learned that 7-Eleven offers wi-fi. Or, there are establishments such as bars or pubs that also offer wi-fi and as always, it doesn’t hurt to ask the establishment for the password nicely, I’d say you have a 70% chance of success.

3. Download your maps on Google ahead of time: for those of you who don’t know, you can keep offline maps on google. The idea here is that you’ll download your map when you have wi-fi connection, and then when you’re without the built in GPS tracker on your smart phone will help you navigate on the saved map, eliminating the need for data usage (so you can save the data for random pictures uploaded to Facebook, or status updates…or you know, your usual instagram scroll-then-likeathon.)

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