A woman’s dream Caribbean holiday turned into a nightmare as she was hit with an excessive bill upon her return. The 24-year-old woman, Molly Saxton, was hit with a £1,100 ($1,300) bill after she accidentally used her phone’s data roaming while on a cruise in the Caribbean.
She Made a Costly Error
Molly had purchased a data and text bundle before she left, but she didn’t realize that her phone would automatically connect to maritime roaming when she was out of range of her home network. Maritime roaming is much more expensive than standard data roaming, so Molly’s bill quickly racked up.
Molly explained, “‘The high costs were down to excess use of the data and text bundle as well as accidental roaming while at sea. I had no idea that your phone could automatically connect to maritime roaming in this way; neither did my friends or family.’
Maritime roaming is the ability to use your mobile phone’s data, calls, and texts while you are on a ship or other vessel at sea. This is made possible by satellite networks that provide coverage to ships even when they are far away from land.
Maritime Roaming Is Much More Expensive
Maritime roaming is much more expensive than standard data roaming. This is because the satellite networks that provide coverage to ships are much more expensive to operate than the terrestrial networks that provide coverage to land.
The cost of maritime roaming varies depending on the carrier and the plan you choose. However, it is not uncommon to see prices of up to $10 per megabyte for data and $1 per minute for calls.
Molly Was Expecting Some Extra Costs
Admitting that she did expect some extra cost, Molly told Metro, “I had a feeling that I’d exceeded these but didn’t worry too much, as I expected my phone provider to place a cap on spending, or at least notify me if I was running the risk of using too much.” It seems that she was expecting too much of her provider, as not all companies will inform their customers if they go over a specific limit.
Her Bill Was 3290% Higher
Molly usually paid around $40 per month for her cell phone bill, so when her bill came through over $1200 more, she was left in shock as we have learned, $10 per megabyte for data and $1 per minute for calls, which would explain the high costs at sea.
Her Cell Company Was Helpful
Luckily for Molly, her cell company agreed to pay half of the bill, but she was very lucky and will take it as a lesson learned. Molly said, “‘Now, when I go on holiday, I really limit my phone use, and will only really use it when I know I can connect to WiFi in bars, restaurants, or hotels.” If you find yourself in the same predicament, it could be worth talking to your provider to see if they can offer any help.
Advice to Travelers
Molly’s story is a cautionary tale for other travelers. If you have a trip planned and you are not familiar with your data package, you should follow our advice below.
Things You Can Do to Prevent It
- Check with your phone company to see if they offer a data roaming plan for your destination. (Most domestic service plans do not cover usage abroad.)
- Turn off data roaming if you’re not using it.
- Connect to WiFi whenever possible (Most cruise ships offer free WiFi in public areas).
- You can connect to the cruise ship’s WiFi while on board, but you will have to purchase an internet pass.
- Be aware of the high costs of maritime roaming.
- Make sure you know your phone’s data usage limits.
- Set up alerts so you’re notified when you’re nearing your limit.
- Use a travel SIM card if you’re going to be using your phone a lot.
What Else Can You Do
- Use a travel SIM card that offers a maritime roaming plan.
- Be aware of the high costs of maritime roaming and use your phone sparingly.
- Check with your carrier to see if they offer a cruise plan. These plans often offer lower rates for data, calls, and texts while you’re on a cruise.
- Be aware of the local calling and texting rates.
- If you have any films, music, or books already downloaded, you can still use offline applications whilst in airplane mode.
If you do end up with a large bill for data roaming, you can try to negotiate with your phone company to get a lower price. You may also be able to claim a refund from your travel insurance.
By following these tips, you can avoid getting a surprise phone bill on your next vacation, as Molly did.
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