If you are travelling within the European Union (EU), communicating via, or using, cell phones has become cheaper, after the EU directive on lower roaming regulations came into effect on July 1, 2013.
The 28-member EU has got the roaming charges for calls, texts and data transfer drop by up to 91 percent compared to the rates of 2007.
A breakdown of the reduction:
Calls – price for incoming calls capped at 7c per minute plus VAT (down from 8c/min). Outgoing calls are capped at 24c per minute (from 29c/minute). Try xe.com for currency conversion.
Text – 8c plus VAT (down from 9c/text)
Data – 45c per MB (from 70c/MB)
The new directive also calls on the providers to alert users when their agreed limits are about to be crossed.
But while this is the maximum price the providers can charge, the European Union hopes they will further reduce the prices, in the spirit of competition.
And there is more to come. Starting July 1, 2014, the charges will come down further.
Also, on yet another major development, on Tuesday, July 9, the European Parliament started deliberations on doing away with the roaming charges concept altogether within the member states. With the parliamentary elections due next year, there is a strong feeling there will be action on this front.
For travellers from outside, there are three options to do calling while travelling:
Set up a roaming plan from your home country provider
Buy a SIM card locally and use.
Set up Skype or similar program.
1. Buying up a roaming package from the home country provider is the easiest. There are various packages and one can choose the best. But this is not always the cheapest.
2. In almost all European countries, and in fact in many other parts of the world as well, it is very easy to buy a SIM card. Most news vendors, telecom shops and sometimes even convenient stores sell them.
The cards usually come with some credit and you will have to call a number to activate the line.
Once you have activated, you can also check card balance. Once that is about to end, you can buy a new charge card, and call a provider number to add the charge.
Of course, using these cards can be a little expensive than having a fixed contract with a local provider but it still will be cheaper than having a roaming package from the provider of your home country.
When it comes to Europe, there might also be major providers who can offer the same rate for multiple countries. This comes in handy if you are travelling across the region.
3. Skype can be the cheapest as skype-skype calls are free. But you can also buy credits to make calls to non-skype account holders. But you will need a wifi hot-spot to make the calls.