Expats and their families and friends benefit from new technology advice

by Ray Clancy on July 26, 2013

Expats and their families and friends benefit from new technology advice

Expats and their families and friends benefit from new technology advice

It is the height of summer and many expats will have family and friends enjoying extended stays. They are being advised how they can use new technology to stay safe and also how to avoid excessive mobile and internet charges.

British people living overseas and their visitors can now get help from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on social networking and micro blogging site Twitter. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said that its new service offers an easy way to stay up to date with the latest advice about how to get help abroad. People visiting expat family and friends and holidaymakers will also benefit.

A spokesman said that the new Twitter service helps to ensure that British people travelling overseas have a trouble free trip, advising on passports, visas, travel safety, and more. In the event that something goes wrong, the FCO can be contacted on Twitter for support. ‘This service is provided by the FCO’s dedicated travel advice and consular teams, who are online to answer questions between 9am and 6pm weekdays, UK time, and aim to respond within 30 minutes,’ the spokesman explained.
‘Outside of these times questions are only answered in the event of a crisis situation. Others are picked up at the start of the next working day. Many questions about travel can be replied to on Twitter, but any inquiries that involve personal information are taken offline,’ he added.

Quote from ExpatForum.com : “Well we’ve been thinking of a move to Spain for months now, but recently we went over to Andalucia to thoroughly research areas to try and narrow down our choices, and to do four viewings on properties to get a feel for the market, and to try and get a better idea what we want from a Spanish property, and what sort of style, and location, we prefer.”

The new Twitter based service responds to increasing customer demand for more accessible information and services online. The launch follows a two month pilot phase to trial the service and train staff involved in the delivery. ‘This project is leading the way in providing consular services to customers more quickly and directly, and is part of the UK government digital by default agenda,’ said the spokesman.

It is estimated that around a million British people work abroad in Europe alone and their friends and families make up a large percentage of people travelling to Europe for extended stays. Grandparents, for example, often stay longer than just the normal two week holiday period and are perhaps more likely to need help when abroad. They are also being warned about eye watering mobile roaming charges when they use their mobiles outside of Europe. Since the beginning of July those travelling to countries within the European Union are protected from high mobile roaming charges as new caps will mean it costs just €0.24 per minute to make calls, €0.07 per minute to receive calls and €0.08 to send a standard text message.

Those who use the internet on their mobile will also enjoy greater protection from high bills as data charges are set to be capped at a lower rate of €0.45 per MB, as well as a €50 cap on overall data usage. These limits are also set to drop further in 2014. However, research from independent price comparison and switching service uSwitch warns it is a different story outside the EU, where European countries who are not members such as Croatia, Switzerland and Turkey still have high charges.

Spending a week in Turkey, for example, could result in a £281 mobile phone bill just from making and receiving two five minute calls, listening to a two minute voicemail message, sending five text messages and two photo messages each day. For smartphone users a modest weekly amount of video streaming, emailing, browsing websites and using VoIP services like Skype to keep in touch could reach £294 if users don’t keep their phone’s data roaming switched off and use free local WiFi instead.

‘Limit the damage by keeping data roaming switched off as much as possible. And, when it comes to calls and text messages, the best way to keep costs down to a minimum is to buy a local SIM card, put it in your phone and top it up. If you want to use the internet, wait until you can get WiFi at a hotel or café,’ said uSwitch’s technology expert Ernest Doku.

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