If you're anything like me, your mobile phone is your main mode of communication, the camera you use most often, and your entertainment center. So when you travel you want to use it just like you do at home.
There's only one problem – the cost.
It's not always cheap to use your cell phone in Ireland – but with the proper planning you won't be surprised with a nasty sticker shock on your next bill.
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Tips for Using Your Mobile Phone in Ireland
Roaming and data charges in Ireland can break your budget if you're not careful. These tips will keep you connected affordably.
- Turn your data off when in Ireland! Or keep your phone in airplane mode. Every little ‘ping' counts against your data plan- and international roaming will result in a higher-than-expected bill when you return home.
- Contact your cellular provider and inquire about using your mobile phone in Ireland. Confirm that your device is compatible with GSM (Global System for Mobile) used in Europe, and then inquire about an International calling plan which includes both talk minutes and data. Some providers also have a ‘use it like you do at home' option for an additional cost per day. (More on this below.)
- Purchase an Irish SIM card. This only works if your phone is unlocked (US phones under contract usually aren't- ask your service provider if yours is unlocked or can be). You can pick up a prepaid SIM card at the WH Smith Shop or the Left Luggage store in Dublin airport, or at any Tesco, Three, eirMobile, or Vodafone retailers. Learn more about SIM cards here.
- Buy a cheap prepaid phone when you arrive. It's just handy to have a phone – you may need to make quick calls to B&Bs for directions or to make reservations for a tour or dinner you just found out about. If you don't need a ‘smart phone', you can pick up a disposable prepaid phone at Tesco locations throughout Ireland.
- Rent a mobile wifi unit. Most car rental companies now offer the option of adding a mobile wifi unit to your rental. Their rates, however, are high. For mobile wifi in Ireland I recommend Wifi Candy. Their prices are affordable and data is unlimited for the duration of your rental. Just set your phone settings to ‘wifi calling' to make phone calls or use a calling app (below).
Tip: WifiCandy also offers Call Candy mobile phone rental with up to 150 international calling minutes including calls to the United States & Canada.
- Use free wifi and connect with Skype, Facetime, or Google Voice. You'll find free wifi all over Ireland – in your B&B or hotel, many restaurants, and even stores offer connectivity. Keep your wifi turned on and set to notify you when it is available.
I, personally, use the combination of a mobile wifi unit, wifi calling with WhatsApp or Skype, and free wifi.
Tips for Making the Data Last
Using limited data on your mobile phone?
- Decide what apps you really need- and then turn off or remove all the others.
- Turn off instant notifications and app syncing.
- Turn off the data or use your phone in airplane mode. Only turn off airplane mode to make calls and turn on data when needed.
- Sync email, check Facebook and reply to Twitter over a wi-fi network.
- Use a data usage counter like My Data Manager (available from iTunes or the Play Store) to monitor your usage.
- Don't forget: if you go over your data limit, you are charged at the international roaming rates in your contract (so watch those numbers!)
My Thoughts on Mobile Phone ‘Use It Like You Do at Home' Plans
There is no doubt that being able to use your mobile phone in Ireland like you do at home is incredibly handy! But is it the best option for you?
Verizon coverage in Ireland: Verizon offers TravelPass for $10 per day.
AT&T service in Ireland: AT&T has International Day Pass for $10 per day.
Using TMobile in Ireland: T-Mobile's Magenta Plans have a few options and also begin at $10 per day per device.
If you are in Ireland for 8 days, these international plans will cost $80, if you use the phone daily. Charges only accrue when you use your phone.
But, that deal is only for your phone.
If everyone in your group has a phone the $10 per day per person adds up quickly!
For approximately the same cost you can rent a personal wifi unit from Wifi Candy and connect 10 devices to it- phones, tablets, laptops, even cameras!