data roaming mobile internet traveling tips

Data Roaming: Key Tips for Using Mobile Internet While Traveling

Using your mobile phone to go online while traveling outside of Switzerland can generate exorbitant data roaming fees. Read these key data roaming tips from moneyland.ch before you take your next trip abroad.

Get informed with these 10 key tips for data roaming savings. You can find key tips for saving on telephone calls while roaming here.

Tip 1: Do not surf at standard rates

Avoid going online with the standard roaming services which your mobile phone connects to when you enter new countries. Mobile service providers charge very high data roaming fees when you do not have a mobile plan which includes data roaming and you have not bought a supplementary data roaming package. Depending on how much data you use, you can end up paying hundreds or even thousands of francs. Get informed about the most affordable roaming packages before you travel.

Tip 2: Buy data roaming packages

Always use data roaming packages to go online while traveling abroad.

Small data roaming packages for use in most European countries with 100 to 200 megabytes of data are available for under 10 Swiss francs. Larger packages with 1 gigabyte of data cost between 30 and 60 francs. For the sake of comparison, according to official price lists of several mobile service providers you would pay more than 1000 francs for 1 gigabyte of data roaming at standard rates without a data roaming package. Salt would charge you 2950 francs for this amount of data roaming at standard rates.

Some service providers also offer affordable data roaming bundles for use in countries outside of Europe. There are mobile service providers which offer 1-gigabyte data roaming packages for specific countries outside of Europe for under 50 francs. Some mobile service providers like Sunrise do not have data roaming packages for many countries outside of Europe. Customers are charged high, standard roaming fees when they use mobile Internet in those countries. According to Sunrise price lists, customers pay 15,000 Swiss francs per 1 gigabyte of data roaming in many less-traveled countries.

The roaming comparison from moneyland.ch clearly lists current prices and conditions.

Tip 3: Do not buy more data than you need

Data packages are practical in that they can save you money, but one key aspect of data roaming packages which is not consumer friendly is the fact that they expire. Most data roaming packages sold in Switzerland are only valid for one month. The terms and conditions used by Salt and CoopMobile are even less customer friendly: Packages are valid up until the ninth day of either the current month or the following month, depending on when they are purchased. If you bought a data package on June 8, for example, you would have to use it within two days, after which it would expire.

Because data packages expire, you should avoid purchasing more data than you will use within the validity period. If not, your unused data will expire and you will end up paying more than you would have had you bought a smaller package. Note: The SimplyMobile mobile service (a Swisscom brand) is currently the most customer-friendly in this regard, offering data packages which do not expire.

Tip 4: Use free wireless Internet connections

Make full use of free wireless hotspots. Complimentary wireless connections are available in many locations, including many restaurants, hotels, cafés, supermarkets, busses and trains. By using wireless networks for the bulk of your data needs while traveling, you can avoid high roaming fees.

Tip 5: Use local SIM cards and pocket hotspots.

Local prepaid cards are offered in many countries and provide a logical alternative to roaming. This is especially true when you travel to exotic locations for which Swiss mobile service providers charge high roaming fees.

Another option is to use pocket-sized wireless Internet hubs. These devices connect to the Internet through a separate SIM card and act as wireless hotspots. Pocket hotspots are available for under 100 francs at electronics dealers. The advantage of using these devices is that you can use a local SIM card for data and surf at local rates while still being able to receive calls through your Swiss phone number (your Swiss SIM card remains in your phone).

Tip 6: Avoid unsolicited roaming fees

If you do not want to use data roaming while traveling abroad, make sure to completely switch off mobile data on your phone. You should also disable 4G connectivity. You can continue to use wireless local area network (WLAN) connectivity to connect to the Internet.

If you do not deactivate mobile data, your mobile service provider may bill you for data roaming service connectivity even if you do not use the Internet while traveling. This is caused by a flaw in the design of the 4G mobile data standard. Many mobile service providers do not pass on these unsolicited fees, but some (Salt, for example) have not resolved this issue.

Tip 7: Track your data status

Maintain a constant overview of the amount of data which you have already used throughout your trip. Most mobile service providers provide this service through an app. Some Swiss mobile service providers like Swisscom and Sunrise provide a “cockpit” which can be accessed online.

Tip 8: Do not use data roaming to stream music and video

Streaming videos (on Youtube or Netflix, for example) involves large data transactions. Streaming music (via streaming services like Spotify, for example) or radio shows also involves large amounts of data. While traveling abroad, only stream video and audio through local WLAN connections. Streaming using mobile data will rapidly deplete data roaming packages.

Tip 9: Be cautious of mobile plans which include roaming

Many mobile plans include complimentary roaming, but these are often relatively expensive. There are also major limitations: the amount of roaming data is often limited. Swisscom, for example, places an annual limit on the amount of roaming which subscribers receive on a complimentary basis.

The data roaming entitlements included in some more affordable mobile plans are only valid for a fixed number of days. Other mobile plans include a monthly data roaming allowance. In this case, you pay for data roaming as part of your mobile plan subscription fee, regardless of whether or not you actually use roaming in any given month.

In many cases, it works out cheaper to use an affordable mobile plan which does not include complimentary roaming and then purchase optional roaming packages when you travel abroad.

Tip 10: Compare mobile plans

Some plans and prepaid services deliver exceptional value for use within Switzerland but charge high fees for roaming and roaming packages, making them a poor choice for international travelers. For example, Swisscom customers may pay less than 20 Swiss francs for 200 megabytes of data roaming in Vietnam. By contrast, if you used a plan from Wingo – a budget brand powered by Swisscom – you would pay a hefty 139 francs for the same service. Conducting a comprehensive mobile plan comparison can save you real money.

More on this topic:
Guide to roaming for telephone calls
Roaming rate comparison
Mobile plan comparison

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The moneyland.ch magazine provides accurate, unbiased information on topics related to finance and money. In addition to research and expert interviews, the magazine contains numerous financial guides.