When it comes to hidden extras, the mobile phone industry is a gold medal winner.

Last week, we found out that global roaming charges are costing Australians $46 million a year – with an average charge of $278.

Did you know that it costs up to $3 per minute to call and $4 per megabyte to post a selfie from your Bali poolside villa? Holidays may be a time of indulgence, but this is one splurge you probably don’t want to make. 

Here are some tips to avoid it happening to you:

Know what you’re getting into

Whistleout provides a great overview of what the major providers charge, and some provide travel packs and data bundles.

If you’re an existing customer, Vodafone offers the best value plan at $5 per day to use your phone as if you were in Australia. And it’s free in New Zealand. 

This only kicks in if you use your phone on that day, so if you leave it switched off you won’t pay a thing.

A three-week trip to Singapore and South Africa using Vodafone’s roaming plan cost me $150 for 44 minutes of calls, 13 texts and 390Mb of data. I kept the phone switched off for 8 days. Based on average roaming charges, this could have set me back $440.

Buy a SIM card

You can get very good value if you buy a SIM card at your destination. This isn’t available everywhere, though, and you seldom need a local phone number unless you’re staying for a while.

Buying a pre-paid international SIM before leaving Australia is one of your best options, with no nasty bill surprises at the end of your holiday. These SIMS only work in unlocked phones and getting yours unlocked could set you back between $50 and $150.

Rely on WiFi

If you don’t want to shell out on roaming or data bundles, WiFi is widely available depending on where you’re going. But be aware that your phone could be performing background updates and syncing files even once you lose the network.  

Choice offers some tips for preventing stealthy data costs when your phone does its own thing. Switching to airplane mode is usually a good start.

Play it safe

Another failsafe way is to dumb it down completely. Dust off the old Nokia (or borrow one from Mum and Dad) for emergency calls and texts and use a tablet or laptop where there’s wifi.

Lastly, you could just switch it off and go out of range completely. Enjoy the moment you spot that buffalo instead of losing it to the search for the right Instagram filter. Our money’s on this one.

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