Hi Frugalistas! For most of us, travelling in Europe comes at a hefty cost. Regardless of your budget, there are some easy things you can do to save money. Save money on the things that “don’t” matter, and you therefore have more money for a better hotel, a better restaurant, a splurge experience, or save the money to spend next time. One way that I find easy to save money is with phone calls. Using cheap and often free technology I keep my telephone costs to a bare minimum, and you can too!
First things first. I always look for a hotel with free wifi everytime I travel. Even many short term rental apartments offer free wifi now, making it even easier to avoid charges. If I genuinely cannot find a hotel in my preferred location in my budget, I don’t panic. In Europe hotel room prices can be quite soft unless you are travelling in high season. I email the hotel, and enquire about the cost of wifi, and whether they would be prepared to throw it into the room rate, seeing as I am travelling out of high season. I don’t mention I’m a blogger, so don’t use that as leverage. Usually I get my wifi for free.
Here are 5 easy phone hacks that make saving money easy:
1. Turn off the data on your smartphone
I learnt this lesson the hard way. When you are out and about turn your data off, so you don’t pay the roaming charges. Many, many cafes and other destinations have free wifi in Europe, making it is easy to access that mobile app, or post that Facebook photo. Login to your (free) wifi at the hotel, and you can easily avoid unbudgeted phone bills.
2. Use a VOIP phone
Setting up a VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) account on my iPad has revolutionised the way I communicate with family at home. Setting up the account before you leave home is easy, and costs just a few dollars a month while you keep your account active.
The great advantage of this method of phoning is that you only pay for a local call regardless of where you are in the world when you call home.
All you need is a (free) wifi connection, and the world is literally your oyster. I find this particularly good for phoning work and elderly parents who don’t necessarily have access to Skype and other free options.
Don’t use your VOIP line to call European numbers – it will be charged as an international call!
3. Buy a local SIM card
Buying a local SIM card will be the cheapest and most convenient way to make local calls if you are planning on making a lot of them. Just remember you need to buy one each time you change countries, unless you want to pay the international roaming rate.
The other thing to remember is to have an unlocked phone to put it in. I use an old phone that I have kept especially. (North American readers may need to check the compatibility of their phones with European SIM cards and may need to purchase a cheap handset in Europe).
Remember hotels charge at least twice the price of the call to use their phone. Avoid the hotel phone wherever possible!
If you are only planning on booking restaurants or tours it’s even cheaper – ask your hotel reception to call for you. Then you pay nothing.
4. Use Skype or Facetime
Videoconferencing via Skype or Apple Facetime is also free if you use your free hotel or café wifi. Pre-arrange your time to call to make it easier. Then chat away for as long as you like. The only downside of Skype or Facetime is that the connection can sometimes be poor, particularly if the weather is bad at either end. If that becomes a problem for you with Skype, simply turn the video function off and use it as a free phone.
WhatsApp is a free app that you can use to SMS other people who also have the app installed. I use this app quite regularly to communicate with friends in Europe and it works very well. Much better than the older Viberr, you can even send photos as an attachment as long as you have a phone connection.
There is no reason to spend big money on phonecalls in Europe. These are the tools I use to keep my costs down. If you have any other travel phone hacks, let’s share them!
Author’s note: photos mine unless credited otherwise