Most of us use the internet everyday. Whether we’re checking emails, talking to friends, calling a cab or downloading flight tickets, we’re all reliant on the ‘Net. And it’s revolutionized how we live.
The estimated total number of global internet users in 2017 topped 3.5 billion. A study by GlobalWebIndex suggests that, between 2012 and 2014, the number of hours we each spend online increased from 5.55 to 6.15 a day. Sounds like a lot, right? But the internet isn’t just for browsing anymore. We clock up those hours following driving directions on Google Maps, streaming music to the kitchen stereo, or watching films on Netflix. If we were honest with ourselves, most of us would agree we spend far longer than one-third of our waking time online.
Until we travel abroad. Getting connected in another country is difficult, time consuming and, — more often than not — extortionately expensive. In the EU, data roaming (ie., using a local carrier to access internet on your phone) is capped at US$0.05 per MB. That’s around one minute of music streaming,. If you want to download a high resolution image, you’ll be looking at 2-3MB (or $0.15) — it soon adds up.
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Calling or receiving messages is even pricier. Call roaming charges vary widely between carriers and countries. In the UK, Greece, Germany or Malaysia, for example, roaming charges average US$2.00 per minute. In the US, Canada and Japan, that figure rises to US$3.00 per minute. Russia and Mexico are even more expensive, at an average of US$5.00 and $4.50 respectively.
The trick to avoiding these costs is to connect to the Wi-Fi in hotels, bars, restaurants and other public venues, and use internet based messaging apps to communicate with those at home. A 2013 Telcompaper Survey found that, of 800 frequent travelers, 71% relied on call roaming to stay in touch. A much smaller proportion (8%) used apps like Viber, Skype and WhatsApp to keep costs down, while 10% bough a local SIM, and 11% owned an international SIM (allowing them access to services at local prices). Of these frequent flyers, 85% said their roaming usage was influenced by providers’ transparency over roaming costs.
Given that that the majority of these regular travellers were likely professionals with company resources — and more flexibility than the average tourist — this study goes a long way towards demonstrating how big an issue internet connectivity is for those visiting a foreign country. Until carriers bring the prices down, accessing emails, streaming music pool-side or uploading the perfect #holidayselfie is going to continue to be a headache for tourists the world over.
Article by Volterman