There’s an app for that. Or not

By | Category: Travel rumblings

With the increased use of iPhone and smartphone apps these days, there are many apps available for travellers to use while away.  For example, currency converter apps, hotel/flight finders, hotel review apps, transport booking apps.  However, what most travellers don’t realise or come across is the increased cost of using such apps when travelling outside of Europe.

Prior to travelling, we can spend increasing amounts of time using smartphone apps to search for flights/hotels and assume that we can use these apps just as easily when abroad.  I was also looking forward to travelling and being able to instantly share quick travel pictures/updates with friends/family via social networking sites such as Twitter. Ah, but that’s just not the case.  While travelling in India for two months, I discovered that updating my Twitter feed once and checking Facebook for a few minutes cost me as much as £18. One word: ouch! We take 3G for granted here, but switching on a 3G data connection (data roaming) for a few minutes can turn into a rather expensive experience.

However, it’s not just the social aspect: while travelling through India there were many occasions when we thought to ourselves, “let’s just check the current currency conversion rate” or “let’s check TripAdvisor to see this hotel’s reviews before making our final booking”, – only to realise that to do so would mean switching the data roaming on, ultimately resulting in a hefty mobile phone bill! This became a major annoyance that quite often resulted in me ranting at various people “why, why bother having all of these wonderful apps to help travellers if you can’t use them while you’re travelling”.

Rant over! Apps aficionados should bear the following in mind:

  • Check with your mobile phone provider what the charge is per MB for data roaming while abroad (e.g. O2 charge £6 per MB).  Also check if there is a cap on the data roaming limit.
  • Find out how ‘data hungry’ common apps are, that you would wish to use: e.g. apps incorporating lots of images (think Facebook) will use more data.
  • Look for free wifi hotspots when abroad: most McDonalds and local coffee houses offer free wifi for a short period of time.  Most hotels have WiFi but the cost of using this can vary ( in India hotel WiFi costs ranged from £1-£26 for 24 hours of access).
  • If you’re intending to stay in one country for some time, think about swapping the SIM card in your phone with a local SIM card and 3G data plan.
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