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Your Mobile travel companion
How to use data abroad

Your mobile device can help you make the most of a trip abroad without running up big data costs. However the key thing is to make sure you know when your phone is sending and receiving data.

Streaming video or downloading big files uses a lot of data but your mobile device also does things behind-the-scenes that can drive up your bill without you realising it. Automatically updating apps and automatically downloading emails can be big culprits. Turning data roaming off under the Settings menu on your device stops it from using data. If you do this, any app or email service that needs to use the internet will have to prompt you to turn data roaming back on. It’s easy to do and it means you know exactly when your device is using data.

When you travel in the EU, your network operator is obliged to cap the amount you are charged for data at 50 Euros (around £40). After this they will stop your data service and send you a text message to warn you when you reach 80% of your limit. You can also speak to your operator beforehand to set your own data limit. And why not look into any data bundles that could help to make your limit go further on your trip? Since data roaming in the EU is more expensive than in the UK, you may find you reach your limit faster than you expect.

If you’re travelling outside the EU, the cost of data is even higher and your operator isn’t legally obliged to stop charging you. Some networks do voluntarily operate a similar cap and warning system. You may even be able to set your own data limit if one isn’t applied automatically. Bear in mind that some countries within and around Europe are not in the EU so won’t limit your charges automatically. These include Norway, Switzerland and Turkey.
Your 5-Step plan to keeping data costs down:
Switch off data roaming in the Settings menu of your phone
Do this before you step on the plane (or before you turn off airplane mode on your device after you land at your destination). Without data roaming, you cannot run up a data bill without realising it. You can easily switch this feature back on if you need it.

Make sure that apps don’t update automatically
You can usually disable automatic app updates in your Settings menu. Make sure you don’t have apps running in the background that my update their content automatically (if you switch data roaming off it will prevent them from doing this).

Choose apps that can work offline
Many of the apps that can add most to your travel experience don’t need to use data all of the time. In our list below, we’ve picked many that can be just as useful when you are in offline mode.
Disable email push notifications
Disable the 'push' or 'auto-check' option on any email accounts that you have on your device. This will prevent you from receiving large emails without your knowledge (and eating up your limit). As an alternative, you can disable your email accounts while you are abroad.

Use Wi-Fi when it’s available
Keep an eye out for Wi-Fi hotspots (see our recommendations below for an app to help you with this). Wi-Fi is free to use and often faster when it comes to data.
Now you've got your data under control - make sure you pack the best travel apps
Make sure you get full value from your apps when you are abroad. Our ideas will help you to get more from your travels without eating up your data limit.

Seek out Wi-Fi
If you’re soaking up the delights of a foreign city then you are probably within reach of a free Wi-Fi hotspot to check emails or send messages and pictures without paying to use a 3G network.
Wifi Finder Wi-Fi Finder
iPhone / iPad, Android FREE

With a database of over 650,000 Wi-Fi hotspots in more than 144 countries, Wi-Fi Finder is your first stop for tracking down a free Wi-Fi signal wherever you are. The app uses the GPS function on your device to track down the nearest hotspots and display them on a map. It will tell you exactly what kind of location they are (restaurant, café or hotel, for example), and provide you with directions and phone numbers to call ahead.

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Talk the talk like a local
Foreign language phrasebooks are much more useful when they can speak and tell you exactly what a phrase is supposed to sound like. We’ve picked out two that don’t require an internet connection so won’t run up your data bill whilst you are talking the talk.
Lonely Planet Lonely Planet phrasebooks
iPhone / iPad, Android From £2.99

With audio recordings of over 600 phrases, the Lonely Planet phrasebooks are great for perfecting your pronunciation in your hotel room – or if it’s easier, just tap what you need to say on your device and let it do the talking for you. On the Lonely Planet site, you’ll also find Offline Translators, which enable you to type or speak a phrase you’ve heard or seen – and get a translation straight away. Download the phrasebooks and translators you need before you leave and you won’t need to incur any data fees using them abroad.

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CoolGorilla Coolgorilla phrasebooks
iPhone / iPad, Android, Samsung, Nokia From FREE

As the name suggests, Coolgorilla phrasebooks are a bit more funky than their Lonely Planet equivalents (and can be quite amusing as well). These apps are less definitive, more focused on travel essentials, with the occasional chat up line thrown in. Some cost £1 but many are free to download – and as with Lonely Planet, they work offline so don’t run up data charges.

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Get off the beaten track
Real tips from real locals are a feature of these innovative guides for helping you to get under the skin of your destination.
Tripwolf Tripwolf
iPhone / iPad, Android FREE

Don’t be fooled by the lack of a price tag: this award-winning app really pulls its weight, drawing together tips from locals with info from the Marco Polo and Footprint travel guide series. It works offline – so download the app and the relevant maps before you leave home and you won’t need to use data roaming to access it whilst you're abroad. You can have fun with the Augmented Reality feature that gives you a different way to locate points of interest nearby – and you can post your own reviews to share with the Tripwolf community (although you’ll need to turn data roaming on and incur charges to do this abroad).

Spotted by local Spotted by Locals (coming soon)
iPhone, Android (PDFs available for other handsets) FREE

Spotted by Locals is a great concept in travel guides that uses a network of trusted local contributors in over 41 European cities to give in-depth, personal and properly authentic recommendations on what’s hip and happening right now. It’s great for giving you a slice of genuine local life within your destination – and with integrated maps and good use of GPS, the app versions are an original way to explore. Spotted by Locals works offline to avoid data roaming charges and its guides are also available as downloadable PDFs if your handset doesn’t yet run the app.
EveryTrail EveryTrail
iPhone (£2.49), Android (£2.55)

Heading out for a hike abroad can be a daunting prospect – but not with EveryTrail loaded onto your mobile device. This is a highly-rated app that flexes every bit of mobile technology available to help you embrace the great outdoors wherever you are. And it’s not restricted to the countryside – you’ll find great walks around top city destinations as well. Before you leave home, download maps with suggested routes and tips from other travellers and then use GPS to track your progress against them. You can also upload videos and pictures of yourself as you travel (although this involves turning data roaming on and running up charges). Because EveryTrail has many different features, it’s a good idea to turn data roaming off – so that the app has to prompt you to use the internet. Although a free version is available for iPhone, it’s better to pay for the Pro edition so that you can use the maps offline.

Goop Goop
iPhone £2.49

If you’re going to have a local guide to New York City then you may as well make it an A-list celebrity and style icon. Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop website gives her own unique take on what to get up to in the City that Never Sleeps – and her app has plenty of really good, up-to-the-minute, insider info: from the hippest playgrounds to visit with kids to hidden boutiques, neighbourhood walks and useful numbers for your little black book. Watch this space for Los Angeles and London guides coming soon.

Socialise and share whilst on the move
If you're in the mood to mingle whilst on holiday or just want to stir up some envy amongst those left back home – then try these hot social apps. A word of warning, though, by their very nature both of these will incur data charges when you upload or share, unless you can find a Wi-Fi hotspot to use.
Instagram Instagram
iPhone, Android FREE

Currently one of the world’s most talked-about apps, Instagram creates beautiful shots that recapture the feel of old film cameras and provides you with a quick, easy way to share them. It will turn your holiday snaps into works of art.

Blendr Blendr
iPhone, Other handsets (via Facebook)

One of the hippest, semi-virtual social networks, Blendr puts you in touch with fellow members nearby and helps you identify where people like you are spending their time. You can share photos, chat online and arrange to meet up. The privacy settings mean you retain control over who can track your location and get in touch with you. It’s a great way of meeting people who share your interests when you’re exploring a new city.