Some advice for travellers with Mobile phones:

Its so annoying when you’re overseas, and someone from back home calls and wakes you up at 3am as they do not realise you’re in another time zone . There are times that you DON’T want to be disturbed, and times that you make yourself available that do not always fit in with office-hours back in your home country.

So – my best advice, always, when travelling overseas is “Be the one in control of the calls”.

Before you leave, set a voicemail that says “I’m overseas in a different time zone. Please leave a message, and I’ll respond as soon as I become available”

-what that does is first up, saves the cost of answering the call (because you pay international rates to receive calls); voicemail retrieval is far cheaper.  Secondly, you’re not called at awkward times.

Travellers don’t always understand the costs, but its simple, really; With your mobile on roaming, if any leg of your call crosses an international border, (be it outgoing call or incoming call) you will pay for the call at international rates.  If you call someone within the country, or someone within the country calls you, you only pay a local-call rate.

That’s for Voice.   Now add Data… if you have not turned “Mobile Data” off, your phone will still download emails, attachments, update facebook, run GPS, possibly google maps and stuff too – all of which can use HUGE amounts of data at enormous expense.   Using the mobile for these internet services whilst overseas is hugely expensive.  Best advice here is to turn mobile data off, and use internet kiosks or laptop and free wifi in hotels, starbucks etc.   Better yet turn “mobile data” off, but leave “wifi” on, so that you can join free wifi zones as they appear, and use their internet, rather than your expensive mobile data.

If, however, the traveller absolutely *must* have their number available all of the time, and email etc constantly live-updated, then the next best thing to do use get a second SIM-card especially for that purpose:  Either buy one at destination or buy a travel-pack before you depart.

You set a call-forward on your existing mobile number to the new SIM mobile number. That way people call the number that they know, you pay a call-forward fee to the new number (which is cheaper than roaming rates) and you consume/top-up as needed on the Travel-SIM.

TravelSIMs are available in prepaid packs form most travel agents.  Optus and Vodafone international roaming charges are cheap as well, some with daily rates that allow unlimited calls and data. Certainly worth a look, but don’t get locked into a 24-month plan if you’re only going away for a month !

So what about VoIP as an alternative to Mobile phone calls ?

One thing to be wary of, in terms of Data consumption – VoIP (be it Skype, or other SIP-client/softphone or your PABX’s ability to have remote voip clients) – uses bandwidth. If you’re using mobile data, you’re paying for data instead of a phone call. International data rates may not make it as cost effective as a voice call.  Another thing with VoIP/SIP over foreign networks, is that it doesn’t always work; Some networks lose packets in net-address translations, and some networks simply restrict SIP-traffic because they don’t want their mobile data networks to be used to defeat their voice-call revenue.  Yes, it will be cheaper, but no, there are no connectivity guarantees as there are with ‘proper’ mobile voice calls.

The traveller can use, e.g. a skype/voipstunt account on their mobile when travelling (they can forward their mobile number to a subscribed Skype number, for example) and they can dial out cheaper on skype/voipstunt account to anywhere in the world ; but the call will use mobile data, for which they are best buying a local SIM-card with Data pack on arrival in their destination (or buy the TravelSIM before they depart) .