The High Cost of Roaming

Silves Town Square is a Delightful Place with Free WiFi

We all need to remember to pack our smarts when we leave on a trip.  I always think I do, and sometimes I’m surprised to discover that I only brought my brains – my smarts got left behind.  And nowhere is this more true than being aware of the high costs of data roaming charges for international travel.

Like on my recent trip to the Algarve.  Before I left home I downloaded a whole bunch of apps for my beloved iPhone.  I can now turn it into a flashlight, play a bunch of games, find free wi-fi spots, listen to CBC radio ‘live streaming’.  I even got an app that allows me to take pictures and then have them inserted into a map so that family, friends and clients can track my progress.  How wonderful!  What I totally forgot, despite being warned about the high cost of international data roaming charges, is that most of these apps use data transfer in order to function.  Duuh.

So I merrily explored the Algarve once again, vaguely aware that I was using my iPhone more than in the past but secure in the knowledge that I had all these new apps and had pretty much figured each of them out.  Roaming charges didn’t even register in my mind.

Now I’m not a stupid person.  I made no phone calls ‘cause they were $2.00/minute.  I sent no e-mail (but I did download my inbasket regularly, alas) and I was very prudent with my texting, using it only a dozen or so times at a cost of $.75/message.  My carrier had kindly reminded me to pay attention to these International travel pitfalls.  But I wasn’t very smart.

The penny never dropped that each time I searched for free wi-fi’s I was sending and receiving data.  The one or two times that I tuned into CBC Radio it never occurred to me how much data was flowing.  And that great picture taking/tracking app that I kept testing has been sitting unused since I got back 3 weeks ago.  Too much else to do.

My bill arrived yesterday.  My heart attack thankfully didn’t arrive, but the palpitations I received from looking at that bill are still echoing!  $600 in data roaming charges for a 2 week trip.  I doubt that I used my iPhone for more than 5 minutes a day.  Oh Lord, why didn’t I just go and pay €10/hr at an Internet café instead of trying to find something ‘free’, at a much higher cost.

So next time I’ll definitely remember my smarts.  I might even try to find an app that tells me how much I’ve spent in roaming charges!  My advice to you is put those wonderful electronic devices away.  Bring a laptop, go to an Internet café or one of the many town squares with free wi-fi, connect with people at home via Skype.  Enjoy knowing that you won’t receive any post-vacation surprises in the mail!

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