The pros of taking a PAYG phone while you travel 

June 27, 2017


True (sad) story:

“I’ll always remember snorkelling off Koh Phi Phi in Thailand. It wasn’t the crystal clear waters, or the snowy white sand. It was the fact that I inelegantly dropped my phone down the loo just before I went, rendering my plans for photographing fish redundant.

“That untimely plop meant that all records of my paradise holiday remain only in memory. Because I hadn’t brought another camera. Plus, I had 14 months left on my phone contract so had a fine time sorting that out when I got back.

“The moral of the story? I should have left my iPhone 7 and my contract, safely in a drawer at home and invested in a Pay As You Go handset, the loss of which wouldn’t have ruined my holiday (well, not enough to make me cry).”

We don’t want this cautionary tale to be yours.

Holidays are about getting away, relaxing and discovering new places and cultures – not spending our time panicking about losing our expensive handsets/sorting out the painful admin if your phone does get lost, damaged or stolen on your travels. So a PAYG SIM phone might just be the answer to all of your prayers especially if you’re a commitment-phobe

Who says we left PAYG phones in the ’90s?

Remember the halcyon days of Nokia 4210s and the moments of ignominy when we realised we couldn’t reply to the cute guy from Year 11 because we’d run out of credit? PAYG phones have come so far you won’t even recognise them. You can get amazing deals on data that render your photos Instagrammable in even the most remote or iffy Wi-Fi places. We’re not talking just a bit of data, either.

Isn’t that likely to bankrupt me?

That’s the best bit. Unlike roaming fees for data on contracts (which can become eye-wateringly expensive if you forget to turn it off – or you’re not a Three customer in one of our 70+ Go Roam destinations around the world where you can use your phone just like you do back home at no extra cost), your PAYG SIM isn’t infinite and won’t accidentally trip you up. When the data’s gone, it’s gone. You might have to buy some more to cue up the finale of Better Call Saul, but you won’t get a nasty surprise in your bill when you return to Blighty.

Plus, bundles of data are really affordable. Three offers unbeatable rates with £25 top-up for Unlimited data for the hungrier among you. Plus, unlike other providers, you can use your Three data abroad at no extra cost. Just remember to activate your SIM in the UK before you leave.

But I’m on holiday, I don’t need oodles of data

Until you’ve found yourself at an airport in a remote area of India at 3am and the taxi you thought you’d arranged to your homestay hasn’t turned up and it’s searingly hot and your toddler is screaming with over-tiredness, you won’t realise quite how valuable having data that works almost anywhere on your phone can be. Trust us.

Even if the phone stays off and in your pocket the whole holiday, it’s comforting knowing that it is a living link to Google, which can help you find a solution to otherwise impossible problems when you need it.

Maps, booking apps, flight details, addresses and TripAdvisor-style review sites are essential when you’re travelling. Even the most organised person can forget something vital. Having it all at the tip of a touchpad could well salvage a holiday nightmare.

What about calls?

Like data, calls and texts with Three cost exactly the same abroad as they do at home in over 70 destinations around the world. So fill your boots. Text your pals to make them jealous, improve a dodgy trip with soothing phone calls to your BFFs and generally lose the anxiety that comes with being away (like a case of serious FOMO about what’s going on at home) by making sure you’re up-to-date with everyone important.


But I want to use my phone to take pictures

While bringing an expensive device abroad is great for capturing those memories, when it ends up swimming with the fishes you might wish you’d invested in a spare.

There are plenty of affordable and good-quality PAYG mobile phones available. The Samsung Galaxy J3 is strong, reliable, has good battery life and an 8MP camera, making it a great-quality phone.

Another good option for those primarily interested in photos would be the LG K3, which is excellent for selfie-lovers as it comes with a high-performing 5MP camera.

If you already have a spare phone, simply get a free PAYG SIM, pop it in and you’re good to go.

Simplicity phoning

In this age of complex 36-month contracts with built-in perks, it can be something of a relief to sign up to a PAYG phone. Almost like a holiday in itself.

There are no complications, no hidden fees. Just get a SIM, plug it in, pay the money and if you don’t use it the credit will still be sitting there in six months’ time.

For the regular traveller this is great as you can leave the PAYG in the drawer when you’re not jetting about the place and it’ll be a nice bonus when you realise you still have £ left to spend. A bit like finding a tenner in an old coat.

Plenty more fish in the sea

We’re all extremely fond of our phones. Studies repeatedly show that we check them a gazillion times a day and communicate with them more than our partners.

But leaving your first love at home and having a fling with something, well, a little easier to replace can be liberating and is a definite bonus when you’re visiting uncharted climes with dangers and adventures untold.

If it gets stolen, lost or you drop it while snorkelling, it’s easy to cancel and retrieve your credit and your number. Plus, if someone has nicked it they can’t rack up ginormous phone bills on your time as the money will eventually run out.

Lovelier still, your trusty old – or brand, spanking new – phone will be waiting for you when you get home. What a reunion that will be.

Main pic: Unsplash via STIL