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Guide to Traveling to London With an iPhone – International Roaming

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Capitalizing on the popularity of my recent guide to London related iPhone apps, I thought it might be a good idea to put together a post about issues you’ll face traveling internationally with an iPhone.

Over the last two years, there have been several stories to hit the mainstream media talking about people who’ve gone a trip abroad, used their iPhone and gotten home to the shock of a $10,000 phone bill. While the iPhone is a revolution for travelers – due to the unfair pricing practices of AT&T, iPhone users must be careful on how they use their iPhone while traveling.

Here are some tips for making the most use of your iPhone while abroad – geared towards the UK and London.

Will Your iPhone Work in the UK?


How Will Traveling Internationally with an iPhone Cost?

Depends. Two issues here – calling and data roaming.

For International Roaming for phone calls you need to make sure international roaming is activated on your AT&T account. It’s also a good idea to pay for a package of minutes to use while you’re gone. They can be expensive but you’ll save money over going without an international calling plan. Also, you’ll need to be sure to cancel the plan once you return or they will keep billing you for it.

For Internaional Data roaming, you can also get a data package from AT&T. However, these packages is simply ridiculously priced.

AT&T International iPhone Data Plans

  • $24.99 per month – 20 MB Data Global Plan (20 MB of usage in over 90 countries*. Overage is $0.005/KB)
  • $59.99 per month – 50 MB Data Global Plan (50 MB of usage in over 90 countries*. Overage is $0.005/KB)
  • $119.99 per month – 100 MB Data Global Plan1 (100 MB of usage in over 90 countries*. Overage is $0.005/KB)
  • $199.99 per month – 200 MB Data Global Plan1 (200 MB of usage in over 90 countries*. Overage is $0.005/KB)

Using Airplane Mode

This is the nuclear option. If you don’t want any extra charges at all, the best way to ensure that is to put your phone in airplane mode for the duration of your trip. This basically turns off all data functionality (including wifi) on your iphone and pretty much turns it into an iPod Touch. While this may be useful and work with most London travel apps, you won’t be able to use the GPS functionality, which will be particularly useful in a confusing city like London.

To Turn on Airplane mode go to –> Settings –> Airplane Mode.

Turning Data Roaming Off

This is the best option for dealing with extra charges, simply turn off international data roaming. You will not be able to use any app that requires access to the internet unless you are connected to a WIFI hotspot. Even with Data Roaming turned off, GPS will still work.

To turn off data roaming go to –> Setting –> General –> Data Roaming On/Off.

Relying on WiFi

There are thousands of free WIFI hotspots in London and most hotels have free broadband internet. This means that you can safely rely on WIFI to handle most of your data traffic. So, either keep WIFI on at all times (which will drain the battery) or plan your data usage to be near a WIFI hotspot. And as Apple likes to say, there’s surely an app for that – for finding free WIFI in London.

GPS Usage

GPS does not use the cellphone data networks, so you can safely use it without incurring data charges. It will work even with international data roaming turned off.

VOIP – Skype

Even with an international calling plan, phone calls back to the US will be expensive. So, a great option will be to use a VOIP application like SKYPE that will mimic the functions of a telephone. As long as you are connected to a WIFI network, you can make international calls at a much cheaper rate than if you used the cellular network.

Choosing the right London iPhone Applications

When you’re shopping for London iPhone apps, be sure to buy apps that have most of the data within the application so that you won’t have to get to a wifi hotspot to use them. Most London iPhone guidebooks, London iPhone maps and London iPhone Tube Maps work offline so that you won’t need to access the data network in order to use them.

Click here for a guide to London iPhone apps.

Tracking your Data Usage

There’s an easy way to see how much data you’ve been using while traveling. On your iPhone, go to Setting –> General –> Usage and you can see how much data you’ve been using. It’s a good idea to reset these statistics before you leave on your trip so you have the most accurate numbers.

Here’s Some Propaganda from AT&T About Using the iPhone Abroad

You can travel the world with your iPhone

AT&T knows that the mobile Internet on your iPhone++ is indispensable to you. That’s why we want to remind you that international data usage is not covered under your existing U.S. data plan. Any voice or data usage outside the domestic coverage area is considered as an International Roaming charge.

International roaming and data usage is not covered under your existing data plan.

With iPhone’s many Internet-based applications, it’s natural for users to use more data on their iPhone than they would using other handsets or PDA devices.

International data roaming can get expensive quickly.

For example, opening an email with a 5 megapixel picture in it, or downloading a 3-minute video on YouTube, each takes about 2 MB of data. The cost would be almost $40, based on pay-per-use international data rates of $0.0195/KB.

What can you do to minimize your international data charges?

Turn Data Roaming “OFF”: Be sure to download and install the latest version of iPhone software from iTunes. By default, this setting for international data roaming will be in the “OFF” position.
To turn data roaming “ON/OFF”, tap on Settings>General>Network>Data Roaming

Utilize Wi-Fi instead of 3G/GPRS/EDGE: Wi-Fi is available in many international airports, hotels and restaurants to browse the Web or check email.

Turn Fetch New Data : Check email and sync contacts and calendars manually instead of having the data pushed to your iPhone automatically. This way you can control the flow of data coming to your iPhone.
To turn off the Auto-Check functionality, tap on Settings>Fetch New Data, change Push to “OFF” and Select to Fetch Manually
Consider Purchasing an International Data Package: Purchasing an international data package can significantly reduce the cost of using data abroad. AT&T now offers four discount international data packages.

Happy Travels!

Related iPhone Travel Accessories

Author: jonathan

Jonathan is a consummate Anglophile who launched Anglotopia.net in 2007 to channel his passion for Britain. Londontopia is its sister publication dedicated to everything London.

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  1. I don’t own an Iphone but would like to use when when in London for 3 weeks, any ideas about where I could rent one in London?

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