Holidaymakers stung by overseas mobile costs

Man shocked by mobile bill

Holidaymakers are being caught out by high mobile phone bills on their return to the UK.

Nearly half of Brits (49%) have had to stump up extra for post-holiday mobile phone bills, according to comparison website uSwitch. The average bill is a massive £149.

A record 33 million Brits plan to take their mobile phones on holiday with them this year. That's 10 million more than in 2010. But 42% admit to not checking the cost of using their phone abroad.

Getting burnt abroad

The advent of smart phones and the high cost of data roaming charges are "the biggest ways to get burnt while abroad," says Ernest Doku, technology expert at uSwitch.

Almost a quarter of owners (24%) plan to use social network sites such as Twitter and Facebook while away; 33% will check personal emails; and 14% will log on to their work emails.

"Turn off the internet on your phone when you're not using it or online services such as email will update automatically," warns Doku.

"It may be hard to resist telling friends about the hotel on Facebook or Twitter, but it's best to avoid such sites. They are heavy on the visuals, and data is charged per megabyte," he adds.

But even non-smartphone users can be caught out simply by leaving their phone and voicemail switched on.

Brian Boroff, managing director of new mobile phone comparison site, also advises holidaymakers to check which countries are included in their call plans: "If you are travelling in Europe, you may cross borders into countries outside your plan, where the costs are extremely high."

How to keep your mobile phone bill down: 

• Contact your provider: Before you go away check what the costs are and if there's a way of limiting them.

• Buy a local SIM: For cheap local call costs and texts get a local SIM. Your phone will need to be unlocked first.

•Buy a roaming package: If you intend to use the internet or have a smartphone, roaming packages will keep your data charges in check. All the main mobile providers, O2, Vodafone, T-Mobile and Orange, offer roaming packages.

• Fix a cap: Ask your mobile phone network to limit your data usage to a certain level.

• Turn off your voicemail: As well as switching your phone off when you don't use it, ask your provider to switch off its voicemail service. Even if you don't listen to your voicemail, you will be charged as if you had answered the call.