We’re very lucky in the UK when it comes to mobile phones and the mobile Internet.

You can pick up a Pay As You Go phone for a few pounds and it comes with credit already loaded. Sign up to a contract and you’ll be offered free laptops or iPods. Top up your phone and you’ll get even more credit – for free.

And the same can be said for mobile Internet – I recently purchased a T Mobile USB modem. It cost me £30 plus £2 per day for PAYG Internet access. All very straight forward, and if I’d been looking to renew my mobile contract, I would probably have got it for free.

So when I arrived in Vienna at the weekend I thought I’d buy myself a USB modem for use in Austria. I am here for a week in order to write my first book (which will be published by Hot Hive in the autumn). My mother has a lovely flat in the centre of town so members of the family are often here and Internet access would be handy.

My mother and I set off for the Mariahilfer Strasse (Vienna’s Oxford Street) on the hunt for mobile phone shops. As well as my USB modem we also wanted an Austrian SIM card so we could reach each other without calling via the UK.

Easy you’d think. Not so.

It took us over three hours, and an ice cream, to get it sorted.

Austrian’s don’t get the great deals we do when it comes to mobiles. Nor do they have the kind of choice we have.

A USB modem is the equivalent of £60, the minimum top up is £20 and you get one gigabyte (or two gigabytes if you sign up to the 3 Network) and you must top it up again within 12 months or you lose your credit, the modem stops working and you have to buy a brand new one!

A SIM card was £10 – no phone, just the SIM card. Again, if you don’t top it up within 12 months you lose any credit and the SIM will stop working, so you’ll lose that number.

The Austrians I spoke to couldn’t believe what a good deal we get in the UK and how free and easy the Telecoms companies are with SIMS, incentives and PAYG deals.

However there was one oddity that seemed better for the Austrians than us Brits. The USB modem I eventually bought from 3 will also work in the UK – for no extra cost. But, had I bought it in the UK, it would not work in Austria! Does that make sense?

All in all I feel very lucky – I live in a country with wonderfully cheap mobile deals AND I’ve got a USB
modem for use here, which means I’ve been able to sit in the beauty of Schönbrunn and write my book.

About the Author:
Chantal Cooke is a professional journalist, author and co-founder of PASSION for the PLANET

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