Having suffered quite a bit myself, I have devised a few workarounds to reduce data costs while abroad. In this article, I share 4 of them.
Buy a Local Prepaid SIM
Most travel blogs would tell you to get a local SIM as soon as you arrive in a foreign country. It would even be better if you did prior research on that country’s mobile service provider options to single out the best deal.
Doing your research early will enable you to establish beforehand, the rates, extra services, special running promos and even SIM card sizes that providers support. For instance, some phones like iPhones only use a nano-SIM. If you have a Samsung Note II or III, then you may need a micro-SIM.
Getting a local SIM card enables you to enjoy much cheaper local rates. In a place like Kenya where the Internet infrastructure is reasonably established, this means the ability to reliably browse, update your blog, share your latest safari exploits and a host of other things, at quite affordable data rates.
Turn Off Data Roaming
Always consider enabling Airplane Mode on your phone (on Androids, it is called Flight Mode) when travelling abroad. This mode disables all your calling, messaging, data network features like Wifi and Bluetooth. You can still enable Wifi when your phone is in Airplane mode and look for a facility that offers free Wifi Internet access.
If you are coming to Kenya, most restaurants now offer free Wifi, I like Java’s the best. You can also find affordable Internet access in most shopping malls in Nairobi. Wazi WiFi, for instance costs only KES 50.00 for a whole day of Internet access. Pay KES 500.00 and you get connectivity for a whole month! Wazi claim to have over 300 such hotspots around the country.
Disable Push Notifications and Auto-Syncing
One thing with smartphones is a certain degree of ‘intelligence’ that works for you in the background while you do other things. One of these intelligence features is the automatic email, Facebook and Twitter alerts which all require data.
Always remember to turn off auto-syncing when you travel abroad. On iPhones go to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > Fetch New Data to turn off Push Notifications. For Androids, go to Settings > Accounts & Synch and turn off Auto-Sync. The iPhone and the Samsung Note II and III allow you to even turn off this for individual apps.
Maximise on Wifi
Remember in an earlier blog post I mentioned how I try as much as possible to stay in an accommodation facility that has Wifi? It is because Wifi facilities in most hotels, at least in Kenya, are provided free to resident guests.
With free Wifi, you can make use of great apps to communicate with people while abroad. WhatsApp, for instance lets you exchange messages, pictures, audio notes and video messages with friends. Viber does the same.
If you follow these 4 ways to reduce data costs during your international travel, you will most likely find yourself with enough change to buy a few souvenirs for friends and family while keeping everyone at home glued to your blog or social network site. Try them out and let me know how it goes.