In case you don't know, Holly and I are heading off travelling around Europe in April. We're planning to be on the road up to eight months, so I've been doing some research into communications on the road.
Mobile phone companies are making ridiculous amounts of money from what they charge for roaming. Text messages cost 30p and data can weigh in at £16 a megabyte!
After rather a lot of hunting around, I've found there are other options. In fact, some of these options are worth considering for UK residents anyway as they're cheaper than most pay as you go tarrifs. Prices are in Euro unless otherwise specified.
I'm going to get two SIM cards, one for Holly and one for me.
My one is the GT-9 which costs €39 and gives you a UK mobile number. It does 26 cent/min calls to landlines (worldwide) and 9 cent SMS. It also allows data, so we can check our email and browse web. Downside is you pay for incoming calls (38 cent/min) while you're outside the UK and it has limited coverage so a couple of our destinations aren't covered: Belarus, Ukraine.
This would be worth exploring even if you live in the UK and don't travel all that much. 9 cent SMS, 26 cent/min calls to landlines or 39 cent/minute to mobiles is certainly cheaperthan Orange's 10p, 20p and 40p, what's more those rates are for calls and texts to anywhere in the world!
For Holly's phone, we'll get United Mobile for £29 which gives you a Liechenstein number. This has free incoming calls in all the places we'll be visiting (except Gibraltar, Ukraine and Liechenstein), coverage everywhere though in the abovementioned and some other places you need to pay for incoming, 49 cent SMS, 39 cent/min calls to Australia and UK or 59 cent/min calls to Australia and UK mobiles.
This way we've got coverage in all the places we're gonna be, can make calls at quite reasonable rates and can receive calls free (the caller needs to call Liechenstein, but the rate for people in Australia is the same as calling a UK mobile). Most importantly, SMS will be cheaper than it is in the UK and I imagine that's what we'll be using most.