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On July 1st, the EU slashed the rates mobile companies could charge for data roaming.

The maximum your carrier can now charge is 45c per megabyte, down from a whacking 70c.

That price is going down to 20c per megabyte on July 1st 2014, before bureaucrats try and force through the complete scrapping of data fees by the end of next year.

But until then, you need to be wary of using your phone to connect to the web via 3G and 4G when abroad.

Here are our five key tips to ensure you don’t come home to a monster mobile bill.

1 Buy a local SIM

local sim telefonica

This is the smartest way to get around data fees, especially if you’re out of the country for a decent length of time.

PAYG SIMs are usually free and costs are limited to local rates, so you won’t end up getting hit for absurd fees.

Just remember to ask for a SIM with a data plan when you do go and buy one. If you’re heading to the US, simcardguru.co.uk sells a T-Mobile SIM with $10 worth of credit for £26.

That’s far cheaper and easier than getting hold of a SIM in the States and will get you around five days of use before you need to top up. Plus they deliver in quick sharp time.

2 Snag a pass from your network

travel smartphone

Three offers an unlimited daily EU roaming package for £5.

This is ideal if you’re popping across to the continent for the weekend and want to stay abreast of your email, check the latest cricket scores or scour maps for the best places to go.

T-Mobile offers 30MB for £1, while Vodafone’s £3 per day offering lets you use your UK package when out of the country.

O2’s £1.99 a day deal, for a measly 15MB, works automatically if you go abroad and use data.

Orange offers 20MB a day for £1.

Be aware that roaming fees soar outside of the EU, so check with your operator before jetting off.

3 Offline maps

google maps traffic

Google Maps for Android (and now iOS too) offers you the chance to cache offline any area or city you fancy.

This means that you can save the mapping data of an entire city to your device, letting you get around without having to fire up your data.

You can triangulate your position using your phone’s signal, and although it’s not accurate with data off, you can at least see where you’re going.

Nokia Here Maps also offers an offline function, which even works with its new LiveSight feature.

4 Check your roaming is switched off in Settings

settings iphone roaming

It may sound obvious, but double-check this before you leave the country.

Data roaming should always be set to ‘off’, but you can see if it is easily in the settings menu in both iOS and Android.

With the latter, simply tap More… and then Mobile Networks to toggle data roaming on or off.

In iOS, the same function can be found within the General menu in settings.

If you’re feeling extra cagey, then simply turn off all cellular data. This can be easily done within the settings menu of iOS.

5 Check rates before you go

checklist

Just because the EU has slashed rates doesn’t mean things won’t vary. Network charges can be higher thanks to tax, or in some cases lower.

Remember that it will be much more expensive to use your phone in the US or Asia than within the EU’s borders. 28 countries make up the EU now, including latest addition Croatia.

So if you’re planning some time in the Balkans this summer, you may find your phone bill won’t end up as hairy as you first thought.

Want to know more? Check out uSwitch Tech technology expert Ernest Doku's video guide to roaming costs

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