How to save on call costs while traveling

Cheaper overseas calls to/from the UK

I recently went on holiday to South Africa to see my family and introduce my son to all his aunties, uncles and cousins. I’m quite a thrifty person and try not to waste money so the trip was planned well in advance to try get the best flight prices. We even booked some accommodation in advance to take advantage of a weaker currency (I booked a safari when it was R24 to the pound a few months back, on our holiday it was about R18). I even saved big on currency conversion as I have a credit card that charges no ATM fees or conversion fees and uses a genuine exchange rate.
After all this planning it would be a shame to waste money on calling costs which can be extortionate.  My mobile phone would have cost 80p a minute to make a call!

I needed to call my family to discuss our plans before we arrived and my wife needed to keep in touch with her granny whilst we were away so it was important we found a solution to keep costs down. Here are my tips based on my recent experience.

1)      Call over Wi-Fi when you can. With things like WhatsApp, Skype, FaceTime even messenger you can call each other for free. If you both have Wi-Fi (i.e. not using your data allowance) you can use several apps to make calls. Unfortunately for me this wasn’t really an option as my brother and my wife’s granny have no Wi-Fi at home!

2)      Make sure your phone is not SIM locked and get a local SIM card when you are abroad. When you are travelling around whilst on holiday you usually need to make a few local calls (see if attractions are open, hotel information etc.) so instead of using your UK SIM, use a local Pay-As-You-Go one that you top up. You can also use your local SIM to call the UK as it’s sometimes cheaper. In my case my UK SIM would cost 80p a minute to call the UK, the local one would cost about 7p (depending on currency fluctuations).

3)      Save on your mobile data/Satnav hire. Whilst travelling from place to place we needed a Satnav or Google maps for directions. Satnavs are quite expensive to rent with your car hire firm & Google Maps use mobile data (though I think you can save directions offline) which is not too bad if you have a local SIM. My plan, which worked well, was to download the HERE maps app on my android phone, then download the South African map (about 500MB) to use offline. So on our travels around the Western Cape, Cape Town and Garden Route I set HERE maps to offline mode and then searched for directions. Sometimes I needed to go online to find certain less popular places, but we could normally do this when we had Wi-Fi.

4)      Sign up to your mobile providers travel bundle. Now this one is my last choice as it could be the most expensive (depending on how many calls you make). My provider charges a flat fee per day and you can use your monthly minutes/texts/data while abroad.

I hope the tips above help you save your money for something more worthwhile, like a Boerie roll and a bottle of Castle lager!