Ask Adrian: Our tech expert addresses your trickiest technology problems
Q: I've booked our family holiday in Spain for July. Both my kids have phones and tablets and there's no wifi in the apartment we're renting. I don't want to go hunting for wifi hotspots all the time. Is there any way I can avoid paying a fortune in roaming charges?
A Yes, although you'll probably have to purchase a local sim card and you may need to bring an extra phone. Don't bother buying extra EU data "add-ons" from Irish operators as they're too expensive.
In theory, roaming charges are to be abolished across the EU from June 15 this year. Unfortunately, it's really only for phone calls and SMS texts. There are big exceptions in the roaming law for data and online access from phones. So while your kids can make old-fashioned telephone calls back to Ireland free of charge, they probably won't be able to use Facetime, YouTube, Netflix or Snapchat in the same way they would at home.
I'm assuming that your kids have prepay phone plans that cost €15 or €20 per month. If so, they're very unlikely to have anything more than a few hours' worth of phone data (in total) when in Spain. As an example, 3 Ireland gives €20 per month prepay users 60GB of online access per phone in Ireland, which is easily enough for almost anyone's monthly needs. But the operator says it will restrict this data allowance to just 2GB when travelling across the EU. To put this into perspective, 2GB divided into two weeks means about 20 minutes per day of Facetime, YouTube, Netflix or Snapchat. After that, you'll get hit for extra roaming fees.
This might come as a disappointment, especially since you may have been hearing about the abolition of roaming fees in the media. But what wasn't reported was that the EU quietly did a deal with mobile operators to let them off having to give you all the data you'd normally get at home.
That being the case, what are your alternative options? The most practical one is to create your own mobile wifi hotspot with a local sim card. There are two ways of doing this. The cheapest is by converting any old smartphone you already have into your family's holiday wifi device. To make this happen, you'll have to buy a local sim card in Spain. Put the local sim card into your old phone and turn on the phone's 'personal hotspot' feature. This now lets other phones (or tablets or laptops) connect online through the first phone's generated wifi signal (which is really the mobile network signal of the local operator). If you don't have an old phone to do this, you'll need to buy a dedicated mobile wifi router gadget. They generally cost between €60 and €100 and are designed specifically to connect multiple devices through a single sim card.
To get a reasonable amount of data will cost you at least €30 (and up to €60) for the prepay sim card from any of the local networks. In my experience, you should budget for at least 10GB of data between you for every week you're there (if you have a large family or are heavy social media or Netflix users, it could be more than that). As with mobile data speeds in Ireland, networks can vary by location (and even within buildings) so this solution will work better for some than for others.
RECOMMENDATION: Simyo 10GB prepay 4G sim card (€45 from simcard.spainsur.com) and TP-Link M7350 4G Mobile WiFi (€85 from Maplin).
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