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Well connected – even when abroad

To avoid surprisingly high bills when you get back from holiday, it's best to plan ahead before setting off. Asking yourself a couple of questions before the trip is sure to be useful:

  • How do I want to use my smartphone or tablet while I'm abroad?
  • Am I mostly going to be making phone calls and sending the odd text message?
  • Or do I want to use mobile internet too?

Sometimes we intend to travel completely offline but are thankful when we have access to a map app, for example, to help us find our way. Here are some suggestions to help avoid an expensive souvenir from your trip:

Subscriptions and data packages

Before you leave, check with your mobile network provider about subscriptions with data packages for abroad. Check also how much additional usage will cost once your inclusive minutes and data are used up. The best thing to do is to set a limit on roaming costs. Depending on the provider, you may even receive a text notification once the limit is reached.

Switch off automatic updating

Deactivate automatic updates of apps and data when you are in a mobile network. It might also be worth switching off push notifications on your mobile for when, for example, you receive new emails in your inbox.

Roaming guide

Network providers also offer apps for improved cost control, which allow you to monitor your own usage as well as all available tariffs at any time. Swisscom, for example, now offers a Roaming Guide App for Apple as well as for Android devices. The great thing about this is that you can use this app even without access to the internet.

Free wifi wherever you are

Many businesses operating in the tourist industry already offer help against expensive holiday bills. Hotels, restaurants and shops offer free wifi as a matter of course. Unfortunately, these services often still only feature a small data volume, making it just enough for a couple of emails or Facebook posts. You can often see when free wifi is available by the Free WiFi logo at the entrance or simply on the menu board. Sometimes, the login details and password are printed on the receipt of your purchase, or you need to ask staff for the password. Some cafes and bars offer free wifi at reasonable speeds for up to an hour; after that, the connection speed is reduced.

Pre-paid solutions wherever you are

If you need more than stationary wifi, it might be worth buying a pre-paid SIM card with mobile internet for your time abroad. For this, however, you will need what is known as an 'unlocked' phone. This means you will have bought your phone independent of your phone provider or as part of a contract. Many seasoned travellers take their old unused phones with them for this reason. Share-happy internet users have gathered together a valuable overview of network providers with Pay As You Go products: Our own personal tip, the Prepaid-Wiki, allows you to choose your own destination. It then gives you a list of all providers with information on network coverage, network quality and the different pre-paid tariffs available where you are going.

Changes to roaming tariffs for Europe

From 1 July 2014, Swisscom will once again be cutting its standard prices for phone calls in Europe by 33% to CHF 0.50/min. A text from abroad is now only CHF 0.30, and at CHF 5 for 10 MB instead of previously CHF 7 for 5MB, customers can surf twice as much for less money. You also now have 30 days to use up the 10 MB (previously 24 hours). Those who regularly use their smartphones abroad can purchase one of the attractive data packages on