Taking your smartphone on an international trip can turn into a harrowing experience if you are careless. This woman (via Times of India) who visited Japan will definitely vouch for it as she was slapped with a bill of over Rs 2 lakhs for using mere 277MB of data. Rekha's (name changed) complaint was trashed by the court and called it sheer carelessness. So, though your smartphone is important to stay connected, there are 5 things you must ensure so that phone bills don't dig a hole in your pocket.

Talk to your carrier

You can talk to your carrier or even check their website to know what the international roaming charges are and what your options are. The carrier has to activate roaming in order for you to us e it. Know the rates for activating roaming, charges for making calls, sending texts and data plans that they are offering.

However, this may not be enough. In Rekha's case, she had called the customer executive who had activated international roaming. She didn't know that the data would remain active throughout her Japan trip that lasted two months and assumed that it was deactivated.  On the other hand, Airtel argues that if she didn't require the data, she should have turned off roaming. The data was used by apps running in the background and so on, though she didn’t use any to make calls and so on.

Data roaming Settings

Whenever you don’t require data, you will have to uncheck roaming option otherwise keep it enabled (checked), which will differ for Android and iOS. iOS users can head to Settings and under Mobile data. And Android users have to go to Settings > Wireless & networks > More > Mobile networks and look to see if the data roaming option is checked or not.

International roaming plans

Mobile carriers now offer umpteen numbers of international roaming plans. You can choose a calling plan or a data plan or one offering both, according to your preference.  Overall, paying for a plan may be cheaper than simply activating roaming and waking up to a surprise amount. 

Data usage

You need to know how much data is being used. In the aforementioned case, Airtel claimed that they warned Rekha amount the increasing bill, while she said no alert was received. You can install apps or Android users can also use the default option that lets them keep a limit on data usage, so that you don’t go overboard or exceed it. There are many data manger apps such as Onavo, 3G watchdog and others.

Buy a prepaid SIM

Most international airports have counters that sell prepaid SIMs. All you require is a copy of your passport. These SIMs come in varying price ranges, offering data and calling for a week or a couple of weeks, and even data-only 4G cards are available. Data plans are handy as you can make calls via WhatsApp or other calling apps that require only data. However, you will have to check if the app or calling service is not banned in the country. Moreover, always run through forums to check which carrier is best for the region you are visiting. You can also choose to buy an international card in advance from companies such as Matrix.

Mobile Wi-Fi hotspot

While your smartphone with prepaid card should suffice, but if you have to connect multiple devices, then the mobile Wi-Fi hotspot is another option. There are companies selling portable, Wi-Fi hotspot devices that work across countries.