I'm going on a trip to Europe for two months. I'll be backpacking through a number of countries and I'll need to do a lot of research on the road to resolve everyday travel hiccups (even with months worth of advanced travel planning). As a Gen-Y I have a serious internet substance dependency and feel I'll need to be connected beyond the hostel hotspot, which is sketchy at best.
Ideally I want to be able to use my iPhone with a data only plan to access maps, google translate and possibly share a personal hotspot (though this isn't a must) throughout Europe without coming home to a phone plan bill that'll bankrupt me. For this reason I think whatever the solution is, it needs to be prepaid. Is this even possible? Have I asked too much? Please hack my trip, I need your help! Sincerely, Internet Substance Abuser
Young traveller image from Shutterstock
You have a few options when it comes to using data overseas. Depending on which telco carrier you're currently with, you can make use of your existing mobile service. For example, Vodafone offers a deal where you can pay $5 extra per day to be able to use global roaming on your existing mobile plan and it will be charged as though you're making calls and using data locally in Australia. That only works with certain Vodafone mobile plans so it's best to check the website for more details on that.
It is imperative that you check the global roaming costs from your existing provider if you do wish to go down this route. Many telcos charge exorbitant prices for their standard roaming arrangements. Do your research first to avoid becoming one of those thousand-dollar bill shock horror story victims.
Another popular way to use data overseas is by using travel SIM cards. There are a bunch of companies out there that specifically cater to the global roaming market and issue SIM cards that can be used overseas. While the plans that are offered through these services are not comparable to the rates you get charged on mobile plans that you use locally in Australia, they are still quite affordable.
Globalgig does offer some competitive data-only global roaming plans. For mobile data usage across Europe, plans start from $20 a month (it's sold as a three-month contract) for 250MB and that will work across 36 European countries.
Bear in mind that you have to consider how much the excess data charges are. For Globalgig, it's $0.25 per MB. The best thing to do is to comb through the terms and conditions carefully before committing to these services to make sure they suit your needs while you're travelling overseas.
You can try getting a prepaid SIM card when you arrive in Europe. The only risk is that the SIM card may not be compatible with your current phone because different countries use different spectrum bands and technologies for their telecommunications networks.
Hope this helps and have a wonderful time exploring Europe!
Got your own question you want to put to Lifehacker? Send it using our contact form.