Use your mobile abroad and avoid roaming charges with Roamer app

When I landed in Qatar last Monday, I received the usual text message from Vodafone. It would cost me £1.65 per minute to make a call and a bargain £1.30 per minute to receive one. Data was £3 per MB and text messages were 35p. I could cap this at £5 per day with the Vodafone World Traveller plan but it is unlikely I would be using that much.

The mobile network I was using in Qatar was, of course, Vodafone Qatar so it can hardly claim that it is being forced to pay out huge sums to third parties to justify these prices …..!

By coincidence, I received some information last week about Roamer when they booked some advertising space. Roamer is an iOS and Android app which allows you to make and receive telephone calls from your regular mobile number when abroad at highly discounted rates. There are two ways to use the app, the most simple being over wi-fi.

When activated Roamer will handle your incoming calls for FREE (yes, you can answer calls to your regular mobile number for free) and enable outbound calls from as little as 1.4p per minute.

For those who require mobile internet Roamer links your regular mobile number to a local SIM card. This enables you to buy data at local rates and make and receive calls with your regular number without being in a wi-fi area.

Roamer image

The price differences in Qatar were startling. To call home Roamer charged just 13.3p per minute if I called a landline and 15p per minute if I called a mobile. These are substantial savings of around 90%.

I downloaded the app and gave it a go in Doha. It worked very well. You see a dialling screen which is almost identical to the standard iPhone one. All of your contacts have been imported so they can be accessed in the same way that you would when calling conventionally. The person at the other end of the call will see your regular caller ID and will have no idea you’re using the app. You even get 50 Eurocents (41p) of free credit when you download the app which would be enough for a three minute call from Qatar or a 12 minute call from the USA.

Alternatively, you can call over a wi-fi network which is what I did.  The call quality over wi-fi was very good, but it will be entirely dependent on the quality of your wi-fi connection. I used it twice in Qatar for calls to the UK.  I rang from the hotel so I was able to use Roamer via their wi-fi network. The two calls were for a combined 15 minutes and the total charge was a grand total of 12p, paid out of my free credit. Call quality via my iPhone was very good.  I would have got almost an hour of wi-fi call time from my free sign-up credit if I had wanted it.

I did not get a chance a try a call from a local SIM but Roamer claims it is handled over GSM and will be as good as your network connection. The cost of the GSM calls are more expensive than those over wi-fi, but the choice is there if you would prefer to pay the premium. As an example, calls from the US to a UK mobile number are 2.4p over wi-fi and 3.2p over a GSM network.

There are two things Roamer cannot do. It cannot send SMS messages and it cannot handle data traffic unless you have inserted a local SIM card. At present, it works purely for voice calls if you keep your UK SIM in your phone. I did not find this an inconvenience, however, since I had access to the hotel wi-fi for browsing.

The Roamer app itself is free and available to download from the App Store and Google Play. Once you’ve used your free 50 Eurocents you can top up using a credit or debit card or via PayPal. The credit does not expire and can be used in all destinations from trip to trip.

The Roamer website is here if you want to know more. Given that the app is free and that you will receive 50 Eurocents of credit which will not expire, there is no reason not to take a look.

£25 Amex cashback with London Restaurant Festival - and how to exploit it
Save £6 on Heathrow Express tickets (if you get up early)
About Head for Points

We help business and leisure travellers maximise their Avios, frequent flyer miles and hotel loyalty points. Visit every day for three new articles or sign up for our FREE emails via this page or the box to your right.

Comments

  1. TuGo allows you to do the WiFi calling bit (plus texts) if you are on O2 in the UK and acts like a virtual SIM card. Its main use is that it takes any call charges out of your contractual allowance so I often use it when I go away to make WiFi calls to the UK for free (as they are within by included minutes).

    • When using wifi also consider Tango for video calls. Quality tend to be better than skype.

  2. Jason Robinson says:

    No good for you in the UAE but I was recently in the US and ‘Feel At Home’ from three worked out very well for me :)
    http://www.three.co.uk/Discover/Phones/Feel_At_Home

    • sandgrounder says:

      Very good option, just buy a pay as you go sim and divert your regular number to it. I going to give this a go in Scandinavia next week.

      • I think you now need to have had your SIM for 60 days before you can use Feel At Home as a new customer. I popped into a Three store at the weekend, as I’m off to the US next week, but he told me of the rule change.

        • There’s nothing on the website to state that. It is the case that you must have been a Pay Monthly customer for 30 days to enable it, but as far as I know, there is no restriction on PAYG. But maybe they have just not updated their website yet.

          • Hmm. I might try again in that case.

            I was going on the advice from the usually accurate MSE, which gives the same advice as you about PAYG. But when I went to the store, the sales assistant said ‘no, it’s changed now, 60 day minimum’.

            (He may have been talking guff, of course!)

          • I got a PAYG sim from 3 and it worked fine in the US a week after buying it. I was told the wait period is for pay monthly only.

      • Lady London says:

        Be careful. I was an early user of Feel at Home in the USA. My need was for local calls within the USA and I gleefully dialled lots of local US numbers whilst in the USA. Only to find a huge cost for this. I was still being charged for making US calls as though I was in the UK I’d never call the US from the UK on a regular mobile network card.

        So the cost advantage on At Home only works for calls back to the UK. It does not work for local calls where you are. Data could not be made to work at all in the US on the data SIM I procured specially for the trip from Three. I have no idea why. If anyone has used At Home with better results recently especially on a data sim within the US then I might try it there again.

    • I was in Sri Lanka last month (on a bargain open-jaw FCO-CMB-LHR fare earning BAEC TPs and Avios!) and was amazed to find it’s a Feel At Home destination. Saved me a fortune.

  3. Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

    I found out last week that the Google Hangouts app has a companion app called Hangouts Dialler. This gets you completely free calls to the US and Canada using WiFi/mobile internet.

    • Google hangouts has to be the most complete solution for the type of scenario where WiFi is available. Not only are standard calls free to US/Canada, they are free to other Hangouts users.

      Hangouts can also send SMS/MMS via cell network or mobile data, or free via WiFi. It also includes free video calling, group or otherwise via mobile network or WiFi.

      Prices for non-hangout voice calls are also comparable to Roamer and the like, and integrates directly with your contacts. And yes, available iOS as well as Android!

      • If you’re lucky enough to have a Google Voice number, you can also use Hangouts to receive incoming calls made to a standard US phone number.

  4. Most of the solutions mentioned above feature calls over wifi (or Three), and Roamer to me at least is just another wifi app. I already have Skype which I use on wifi when I’m not using Three or Toggle.

    For light users, Toggle is worth looking at – http://www.togglemobile.co.uk . It’s PAYG and its USP is local numbers in up to 12 countries with calling rates between them of 3p/minute to landlines and 3p or 9p/minute to mobiles when using local numbers – see website. I have permanent US (New Jersey!) and Swiss mobile numbers for £5 p.a. Also free receiving in more countries.

  5. I’m going to the US on Saturday, currently on O2, will have wifi access a lot of the time. This topic seems like good timing :-)

    • O2’s TuGo is probably your best option. I’ve been using it to place GSM calls over both WiFi and 3G! And not only from my phone, but mostly from my iPad. You can also place calls over your laptop too. I’m a big fan!

  6. FishText works really well for sending texts abroad and also from abroad over the internet (GSM and Wifi). If you register your mobile number it also appears if it was sent from your normal UK mobile number, the rates are also pretty low as well. I have used this for a long time as a solution to the text messaging problem mentioned in the article.

  7. Just to let you know, Roamer is not the same as Viber because Roamer enables you to make and receive ‘normal’ calls to and from any number in the world – not just user to user voip calls like Viber, Skype etc

  8. Personally when travelling I just have a mifi device that a use for data, just add a local SIM card on arrival. As for phone calls, I just use FaceTime Audio (or video) over wifi (hotel wifi not the mifi data as the amount of data used can be a surprise, 1hr of FaceTime video was about 1GB last time I checked). Obviously this solution only works if both parties have iOS devices, the people I’d call do so its great whilst abroad.

  9. Christian says:

    I use Roamer regularly. It is not the same as others (eg Viber) as it handles call divert from your UK number to your local foreign SIM. It costs a little money to divert the call unless you’re on wifi. I find it inexpensive and works very well – my friends/family/colleagues are not aware that their call has been diverted (they call me on the usual number) and I don’t pay £3+/min to receive the call. Very nice service.