'Free' mobile navigation hits hard abroad

'Free' sat nav on your mobile phone isn't quite that if you take it out of your home country, according to new research by - you guessed it - a sat nav company. Indeed, Garmin claims your phone bill can be more expensive than the cost of their fuel used for the journey.

Garmin found that using one of the most well known turn-by-turn navigation services on a mobile phone (Google if you must know) generated a bill of £36 in data roaming charges for a journey from Calais to Paris. That's 185 miles, which is where that 20p per mile charge comes in.

According to Garmin’s Head of Communications, Anthony Chmarny: 'Using free satellite navigation isn’t as free as it would like to make out, especially when you are using your mobile phone abroad.  Many of the well known navigation products use the mobile phone network to download maps as they go, meaning people could end up with a nasty shock when their mobile phone bills arrive – the costs could be double that of the fuel used for the journey they were navigating.

'We tested the route from Calais to Paris four times and each time it came up with the same results:  between 12-13 megabytes of data per journey.  On a pay as you go mobile phone this meant £36 to £39 to get from Calais to Paris – some 185 miles on a contract plan the cost is a little less, but still equates to £24 to £26 per single journey.'

New EU legislation complicates matters further. With a €50 data cap, you might even be cut off in the middle of your journey - although you can ask for this cap to be removed.

Garmin obviously wants you to be aware of this because it sells sat nav systems, which, if you're going abroad, certainly offer better value and probably more functionality than some free systems. Although to be fair, the company also sells mobile phones, like the recently-reviewed Garmin Asus Nuvifone M10, should you want something that falls between the two devices

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