International Roaming: a Guide to Travelling with Your Mobile Phone
Whether you’re jetting off on holidays or you travel for work, it’s important to stay connected, but it’ll cost you. What will your mobile phone provider charge you whilst abroad? We share our savvy tips and tricks for using your mobile phone abroad, and break down how international roaming works. We’ll cover mobile roaming in the EU, how to turn off mobile roaming data and guide you through the roaming policies of the UK’s main providers.
International roaming refers to the use of your mobile phone when outside of the country in which your SIM card or phone plan was issued. Once you connect to a mobile network outside of the country you live in, you could be subject to different phone charges.
When you use your phone abroad, you’ll automatically connect to a local mobile phone network and from that point on, you are roaming. Whether you are sending or receiving calls and texts, or accessing the internet through your phone, you can be charged differently than at home.
Roaming tips and tricks
- Connect to free wifi in your hotel or hostel, or even in airports, cafes, restaurants, shopping centres or museums. Keep an eye out for the wifi symbol on signs, or suss out free wifi by heading to the settings part of your phone and checking to see what wifi signals show up in the list. You can even check before you book your accommodation if it has free wifi or not. If you’re connected to wifi you can then opt for free social messaging apps like whatsapp to stay in touch with your loved ones, rather than being charged for calls or texts.
- Check destination pricing before you set off, that way, if you need to connect, you’ll know what you’re in for.
- Make sure your phone will work overseas. Its rare that phones won’t automatically switch to roaming nowadays but it’s worth checking in your providers destination charges if your destination is included.
- Purchase a roaming bundle. Most providers offer either international roaming bundles for pre purchase or offer fixed daily rates for roaming abroad. You never know when you might need to use google maps to find your way around.
- Buy a local or international SIM card to use when you reach your destination. If you can’t purchase one beforehand you’ll be able to get one once you’ve arrived. If you’re travelling to multiple destinations in one trip (lucky you) then you might be better off opting for one international SIM that you can use everywhere.
- Prepare for your trip from home by downloading any series, movies, music or electronic books you might want to access offline when you’re on holiday. Services like Netflix or Spotify premium allow you to download content to your device to have for later.
- Close data-heavy apps when you’re not using wifi to preserve your precious data allowance. Certain handy travel apps like google maps use up a lot of data, and it’s easy to leave them running in the background without realising it. Most phones now have the capability to show you which apps take up the most data, and making the most of this feature could save you money come your next phone bill.
- Download your maps with Google maps. So many of us rely on mobile maps to get around these days, especially when were in a foreign city.
Check your data usageMost mobile devices will allow you to check your data usage in the settings section, usually under cellular data or mobile data. This can be a good way to keep on top of your usage when you’re travelling abroad.
Mobile Roaming in the EU
Thanks to EU regulation it is currently illegal for any UK mobile phone provider to charge international roaming fees within the EU. Calls to mobile and fixed phones as well as text messages and data use incur the exact same charges as they would back home in the UK.
Not only will outgoing calls, texts or data use cost the same as in your home country but so will any incoming calls, texts or data.
Mobile Roaming After Brexit
If you’re wondering will happen in the inter-European travel sphere after Brexit, you’re not alone. As of yet, nothing is set in stone, but once the UK exits the EU, roaming rules may change significantly. This all depends on the type of deal - or lack thereof - that the UK strikes with its European partners.
An amicable, close post-Brexit relationship may mean that current roaming rules are maintained.. On the other hand, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, European mobile phone providers could potentially charge UK carriers whatever they like to provide signal to their customers. As such, fees could increase drastically.
Providers like Three, Sky Mobile, O2 and Sky Mobile have all released statements claiming that they have no current plans to resume roaming charges after Brexit. Three stated that as the “global leader in international roaming [that] now offers roaming at no extra cost for its customers in over 70 destinations including Brazil, Singapore, the US and Australia. We’re committed to eradicating excessive roaming charges and will retain this great customer benefit regardless of Brexit negotiations allowing our customers to continue using their usual allowances when they travel within the EU".
Turning Roaming On and Off?
If you’re outside of the EU and you don’t want to be charged for roaming it’s really important that you change your settings so that roaming is switched off. Normally roaming is switched on as a default setting on mobile devices. Check your device’s roaming settings by following the instructions below.
Apple products have different settings structures to Android devices, follow the steps below if you have an iPhone:
- Open the settings app by clicking on the icon containing silver gears.
- Tap on the section called ‘Mobile Data’.
- Turn off your mobile data by sliding the switch to off.
- Tap on the words Mobile Data Options and turn Data Roaming off.
Needless to say, Android phones vary greatly. The term Android encompases several different brands but the steps users need to follow to switch off international roaming remain relatively consistent. Follow the general steps below:
- Open the settings app on your Android mobile device (usually the settings app icon image will resemble gears).
- Find the section that says ‘Cellular networks’ or ‘Mobile networks’. On certain Android phones, there may be a ‘Battery & Data Manager’ section that you'll have to enter to access an option labeled ‘Data Delivery’. You'll then need to adjust your roaming options from there.
- Find the section that says ‘Data Roaming’. If data roaming is switched on you will see a tick next to the word data roaming, press on it to remove the tick.
Roaming Destinations: Provider Guide
Here at Selectra, we’re all about saving you time, so we’ve put together a list of the roaming destinations for each of the main providers - save your precious time for planning your trip instead! The information included below is for Pay Monthly customers. If you would like to know more about a provider, click on the name of the relevant provider to learn more.
|Provider||Included roaming destinations||Other roaming Destinations||Cost|
|Vodafone||Roam-free destinations: Austria, Azores, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canary Islands, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech, Republic, Denmark (including Faroe Islands), Estonia, Finland, France (including Corsica), French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Guernsey, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Isle of Man, Italy, Jersey, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madeira, Malta, Martinique, Mayotte, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Reunion, Romania, San Marino, Saint Martin, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain (including Balearic Islands), Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Vatican City.||104 destinations with roam-further.||Roam-free destinations are free of charge. However, for an additional £6 per day another 104 roam-free destinations can be accessed.|
|Tesco Mobile||Home from home roam to all EU countries as well as Gibraltar, Guadeloupe, Guernsey, Iceland, Isle of Man, Jersey, Liechtenstein, Madeira, Martinique, Mayotte, Monaco, Norway, Reunion, San Marino, St. Martin, St. Barts, Switzerland, Vatican City.||Home from home roaming is free! Tesco mobile customers receive the same charges they would at home for no additional cost.|
|Sky Mobile||All EU countries.||USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Qatar, Switzerland, Thailand, Hong Kong and Turkey.||Free within the EU and £6 pounds per day for additional destinations with Vodafone Roaming Passport Plus.|
|Giffgaff||Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus (South), Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland (including Aland Islands), France (including Corsica, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mayotte, Reunion, Saint Martin and additionally, Saint Barthelemy), Germany, Gibraltar, Greece(including all islands), Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy (including Sardinia, Sicily, and additionally, San Marino, Vatican City), Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands (excluding Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten), Norway, Poland, Portugal (including Azores, Madeira),Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain (including Balearic Islands, Canary Islands, Ceuta and Melilla), Sweden.||No extra cost, charges match those of the costs you pay in the UK.|
|Virgin Media||Within the EU only.||If you’re roaming outside of the EU you will be subject to charges and the amount depends on which country you are in. Here are Virgin’s roaming charges.|
|O2||All EU countries, Argentina, Honduras, Australia, Madagascar, Botswana, Mexico, Canada, Myanmar, Chile, New Zealand, Colombia, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador, Paraguay, El Salvador, Peru, Greenland, Rwanda, Guatemala, United States, Guinea, Uruguay, Guyana, Venezuela, Yemen.||Included in the cost of all plans when within the EU. For the additional countries listed there is a daily allowance of 120 minutes and 120 texts, and data is uncapped. Countries that aren’t listed here require an O2 travel bolt on for £4.99 per day in selected locations.|
|EE||All EU locations for no extra cost.||EE pay monthly roaming destinations; Zone A countries are: USA, Armenia, Australia, Canada, China, Israel, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Russia, Singapore, Turkey, Ukraine. Zone B countries are: Argentina, Bermuda, Colombia, Ecuador, Gabon, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Moldova, Mongolia, Nicaragua, Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Thailand, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, Isle of Man. For more information, including Zone C and D locations, click here.||EE roaming prices will depend on the country and what zone you’re in. Use the EE roaming checker to search for the country you’re headed to.|
|Three||Three Go Roam destinations include; Argentina, Honduras, Australia, Madagascar, Botswana, Mexico, Canada, Myanmar, Chile, New Zealand, Colombia, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador, Paraguay, El Salvador, Peru, Greenland, Rwanda, Guatamala, United States, Guinea, Uruguay, Guyana, Venezuela, Yemen.||No extra cost, charges match those of the costs you pay in the UK.|