The roaming charge is an additional cost charged to your cellular account when you use your cellular network outside the home country of the network.
When you are traveling to Europe, roaming can be a much more complex issue when you move between different countries (like the norm when we travel to the EU). This is why in this guide, we will discuss how to manage data roaming on your iPad while in Europe.
Roaming charges can be quite confusing, and even experienced travelers can sometimes get caught in these annoying roaming charge issues. However, with simple enough preparations and being a little careful, we can safely check our emails and access the internet with the iPad without breaking the bank.
Switching Off International Roaming On Your iPad
Before anything else, the most surefire way to prevent accidental international roaming charges is not to use the cellular network at all when you are in Europe. If you are using an older cellular iPad with a SIM card tray, then you can simply take your SIM card out of your tablet before you go overseas just to be sure.
However, if you are using a newer iPad with embedded Apple SIM or eSIM, then you can’t use this method. Here is how to switch off data roaming on your iPad:
- Go to your Settings App
- Select Mobile Data, then Mobile Data Options
- Toggle off Data Roaming (green to white)
Voila, now you won’t use your data plan while traveling abroad to Europe. You can now treat your iPad as a WiFi-only device. Just in case, you might also want to turn off Location Services, push notifications, and automatic updates. It’s important to note that the iPad’s Location Services, while mainly relying on GPS, might use mobile data to improve location accuracy.
Our recommendation is to update everything on your iPad (the iOS and all Apps) a day before you leave your home country. This will help avoid potential security exploits while eliminating the need of updating your software while in Europe.
However, if you still need to use your internet while traveling and can’t rely on WiFi alone, there is also another option, as we’ll discuss below.
Switching To An International Data Plan
Another important approach is to get a data plan that covers your destination country in Europe. There are several ways you can do this depending on several different factors:
- If you are using an older iPad with a SIM card tray, then a popular (and effective) approach is to buy a prepaid card of the destination country. These SIM cards are usually available in the airport and even in the local market. They are typically very affordable and should cover your basic tourism needs.
- Check whether your current carrier is offering an international data plan. You should give your carrier a call and ask whether they offer an international data plan. The prices might vary between the carriers, and you should compare the potential cost with the next option below.
- If you are using a newer iPad that offers an integrated Apple SIM or eSIM, then you can get an international data plan from companies like Truphone. Truphone offers a data plan that covers 113 countries (for iPhone) and 48 countries (for iPad), so if you travel often and plan to use your iPad often, then this might be the most cost-effective option for you.
Finding WiFi In Europe
Most restaurants, coffee shops, and accommodations in Europe do offer WiFi. However, some accommodations charge fees. Obviously the reliability of these WiFi connections will vary depending on the establishment. Some would be great, and in other places they might be less reliable.
If you are going to rely on WiFi a lot (i.e. you are not going to get an international data plan), then you should ask about it when you book your hotel. You should make sure that the WiFi is going to be available—and reliable— in your room. Make sure to ask about the network name and password of your room’s WiFi when you arrive at your hotel.
When you are outside your hotel, the most reliable WiFi networks are usually at cafés, restaurants, and bars. Typically they will tell you their WiFi passwords if you buy something.
Other Tips To Avoid Data Roaming
Here are several precautions and tips you can use while traveling in Europe to avoid unwanted data roaming charges:
. Download Everything You Might Need Before You Leave
You might need to download your booking details and itineraries, so make sure to download them before you leave your home country.
Also, download all apps you might need, like a translator app (if required), review apps like TripAdvisor or Zomato, and other specific apps for your destination country. Also, if you plan to use your Google Maps, then you can download the Maps beforehand so you can use it offline.
In short, minimize the need of downloading anything in the destination country. Even when you’ve decided to invest in an international data plan, doing this can minimize your data usage so it’s more cost-effective.
. Record A New Voice Mail If Necessary
People might call or send a text to your iPad. In these cases, both the caller and the receiver (you) will be eligible for roaming charges, and not the caller alone. Playing back recorded voicemails might also end in a roaming charge.
So, you might want to record a new voicemail message before you leave your home country. On the new voice mail, tell them not to leave any message unless it’s an absolute emergency. You can also leave your email address on your voicemail so they can still contact you (you can download your emails over WiFi).
. Text and chat apps
If you really need to contact someone from your home country, you should text or send an email rather than making any call. There are various messaging apps like WhatsApp, iMessage, and Facebook Messenger so you can also avoid SMS costs.
While obviously, international roaming calls can be annoying and even frustrating, there are ways we can avoid it, and most of them won’t be too much of a hassle. If you do travel a lot, however, the best way to avoid international roaming charges is to get a reliable international data plan like the one from Truphone.
International roaming charges can cost you a lot of money, and there are even cases where people are charged tens of thousands of dollars for silly practices. Prepare ahead, and follow the tips above to avoid these annoying international roaming charges, forever.