If you're packing your mobile phone on your travels this summer, make sure you don't come back with something nasty, such as thousands of pounds in 'roaming' charges.

These are the additional charges your operator piles on when you use your mobile phone overseas, and every year they come as an expensive shock to many Britons, says Harvey Jones.

They can quickly rack up if you use your smartphone to download a movie or music, browse the internet and watch videos, or upload pictures to Facebook.

Many Britons have racked up unexpected bills using their phone to search for directions.

Nearly one in six people say they have received an unexpectedly high mobile phone bill for usage abroad, according to new research from consumer champion Which?.

The good news is that from 1 July, the EU is cutting the maximum mobile data roaming charges by half, from around 36p per megabyte to around 16p.

At some point, they may even be eliminated altogether.

This will make it much cheaper to use maps, watch videos, check email and update social networks while travelling, but unfortunately only in the EU.

If you plan to use your phone in popular tourist destinations outside the EU, such as the US, Turkey, Tunisia and beyond, you don't have that protection.

You can easily run up bills of more than £20 a day just for calls, voicemail retrieval and text.

On top of that, you could pay another £5 for every megabyte of internet data, which is enough to view just 10 webpages, or stream a one-minute music video.

Many apps on your phone automatically update, swallowing megabytes of data in the process.

Users who opt out of their network's automatic mobile data limits could run up bills of nearly £5,000 in a matter of weeks, according to comparison site uSwitch.com.

Most operators now automatically cap your mobile data usage limits at around £48. But you can easily opt out of that, simply by replying to a text message.

You may find that tempting if you want to, say, Skype family and friends, or send a picture message via Whatsapp. But once you've opted out, you've opened the floodgates to massive charges.

Given how addicted so many people are to their smartphones, this is a major risk.

Travellers outside the EU should consider switching off their data roaming (Ofcom shows you how here), and make the most of free Wi-Fi in hotels and cafes instead.

More 'techy' users or those who travel regularly to the same country could buy a local Sim card, and top it up to access cheaper calling rates.

Alternatively, you can avoid all this by leaving your mobile phone quietly at home. After all, you're going on holiday to get away from it all, aren't you?

Read more articles by Harvey Jones here

 

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