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What Is Data Roaming: Using the Internet Abroad

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mobile phone in hand with a globe ready for data roaming

If you’ve got an overseas holiday coming up, you’ll probably be keen to know how you can stay in touch with friends and family at home. Data roaming is a great way to stay connected while travelling – and it's especially useful if you have an iPhone or an Android device. In this “What is Data Roaming” guide, you’ll find out what data roaming is and how to set it up on your mobile phone.

What Is Data Roaming?

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Data roaming is the ability to use your phone's internet connection while travelling outside of your home country. This usually means using a different network than the one you're currently connected to at home. For example, if you're in the UK but want to check email while on holiday in Spain, data roaming will let you do that.

In short, roaming simply means to use your phone whilst abroad. Your mobile provider will consider you as ‘roaming’ from the moment you turn on your phone overseas.

What are the Costs of Data Roaming?

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The first is the cost of using your phone's mobile data connection. This costs money every time you use it, and you'll usually have to pay a fee for each day you use data roaming, and you might also be charged per megabyte. This can quickly become expensive, even if you’re away for a weekend getaway the charges will soon mount-up.

However, there are some providers that will allow you to use your minutes and/or data allowance from your tariff when roaming - often those that have a presence in the country you’re travelling to, as the provider will connect to its own network.

In the table below, you can see much your mobile network charges for using data roaming.

Roaming Charges by Network
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 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.

Last updated: 24/06/2022

How Do You Avoid Being Charged High Roaming Fees? Firstly, make sure you have the correct international plan for your provider. Also, be sure to only use apps that are allowed on your network. If you’re away for any length of time, you could also purchase a local pay-as-you-go SIM card to swap-out your UK one for the duration of your holiday. Alternatively, you could switch off mobile data altogether and use the internet only when you’re connected to broadband wi-fi network.

What Are Some Restrictions on Data Roaming?

There are certain restrictions on data roaming that may apply to your device or destination. For example, some networks don't allow heavy users to roam – this means that you can't use your phone's full data capacity while Travelling Overseas.

Additionally, some countries have strict limits on how much data a user can consume in a day. This means that if you're planning on using your phone a lot while travelling, it might be best to get a plan that has unlimited usage or buy a local SIM card to cover your stay.

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Setting up Data Roaming on Your Mobile Phone

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In order to use data roaming on your mobile phone, you'll first need to set up your device. This can be done in a few different ways, but the most common method is to go to your phone's settings and enable data roaming. It will also depend on your device, setting up an Android for data roaming is slightly different to how you set up an iOS device.

In addition, you might need to set up data roaming with your provider before you travel. This is usually something that can be activated through your provider’s app, website, or even via SMS - though it does vary depending on your provider.

What Is Data Roaming on iPhone?

If you’ve got an iPhone or iOS device, you’ll want to know what data roaming is on an Apple device and of course, how to activate it. First of all, there’s nothing extra special about data roaming on iPhones, you will still be charged the same as you would on any device that’s roaming. The only difference is what you need to do to make sure your phone is ready-to-roam, this involves a few simple steps.

To enable data roaming on your iPhone this is what you should do:

  1. Open Settings and scroll down to Mobile.
  2. Tap Data Roaming and turn it on.
  3. You'll see a message telling you that data usage will be higher during data roaming sessions.
  4. Click accept
  5. Data roaming is now active on your iPhone

Once you arrive at your destination, you might need to double-check your settings again to make sure you’re getting the fastest data roaming connection possible. To do this you will need to set your data roaming ‘profile’. You can choose between the following two options:

  1. Global roaming profile
  2. National roaming profile

If you have a Global roaming profile, your iPhone will automatically switch to using the strongest network connection available when it's outside of your home country. This is the default profile, and most people will only ever need to set this up if they're travelling to a country where their provider doesn't have coverage.

If you have a National roaming profile, your iPhone will only use the networks provided by your provider while you're travelling. This might be a better option if you're travelling in a country where there are multiple providers with different networks, or if you're stuck in an area with bad mobile reception. You'll need to set up this profile each time you travel, and it will override the global roaming setting on your phone.

To choose the option you’d like to enable, make sure that data roaming is turned on by following the steps above. You can then select which roaming profile you want to use.

What Is Data Roaming on Android?

If you're using an Android phone, your data roaming settings are controlled by your phone's manufacturer which means the steps to activate data roaming on Android can vary slightly between devices and isn’t as straightforward as setting up data roaming on iPhones. However, it is generally quite similar between Android devices - often just the wording or an extra click here and there.

Activate Data Roaming on Android Cheat It’s worth mentioning that many newer Androids have a search bar in the settings, so you can quickly search for “data roaming” or even just “roaming” and you’ll be able to skip through some of the steps.

Follow these steps to turn on data roaming on your Android device:

  1. Open the Settings menu
  2. Click on SIM cards & mobile networks
  3. Open Advanced settings
  4. Next, open Data roaming
  5. Click International roaming and turn it on
  6. You'll need to confirm that your provider will charge you a fee after you turn on international data roaming
  7. Data roaming is now active for your Android device

The above steps are based on a Redmi Note 10 Pro running MIUI Global 12.5.7 Stable.

Do I Need Data Roaming in the UK?

No, you don't need to use data roaming in order to use your phone if you’re normally resident in the UK.

If you’re not a UK resident, and are coming to visit the UK for a holiday, you should check with your provider in the country you reside to find out how much you’ll be charged for data roaming in the UK.

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If you’re planning to visit the UK on a long-term basis, you should consider Getting a UK SIM Card or even an as it will work out cheaper. In addition, you can check out our How to Settle in the UK Guides to find out everything you need to know about coming to the UK to live and work. And don’t forget to Compare Broadband Providers to find the Cheapest Broadband for your new home.

What Does Brexit Mean for Roaming Charges?

In June 2007 the EU brought in regulations to cap the maximum rate that mobile providers across the EU could charge customers for roaming. This regulation was adopted by all member states, including the UK at the time, and was welcomed by international travellers who, up until then, had faced extortionate bills in the post shortly after returning home.

When the UK officially left the EU on January 1st 2021, UK mobile providers were no longer obligated by law to permit free-roaming across the EU. Most providers have now brought back charges for roaming in the EU, yet there are still some providers that have made a pledge to keep roaming free for their customers.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Does Data Roaming Mean?

Data roaming is the process of using your mobile data connection when you're outside of your home country.

What Is the Difference Between Mobile Data and Data Roaming?

Data roaming is the term used to describe using your phone's mobile data connection while travelling outside of your home country.

Mobile data, on the other hand, is the term used to describe using your phone's data connection.

Should I Have Data Roaming On or Off?

There is no right or wrong answer to this question. Ultimately, you'll need to decide whether or not you want to use data roaming while travelling. However, it's helpful to have it enabled in case you need it.

Is Data Free on Roaming?

Most providers will charge your home mobile provider a fee for using their networks abroad. However, there are some exceptions. For example, some providers might offer free data roaming for customers who are travelling to a country where they are a local provider.

You should always check your provider's website to find out if you’ll be charged for data roaming whilst abroad.

How Do You Use Data Roaming?

When travelling abroad, you'll need to select which networks you want to use. Some mobile phones even allow you to specify which apps are allowed to use your data whilst roaming.

Can I Text if Data Roaming Is Off?

You may be able to send and receive text messages if data roaming is switched off, however your phone will still need a mobile signal. This means you will need to activate standard roaming at the very least to be able to connect to a network in your destination country.

Be warned, this may come at an additional, often daily, cost.

How Do You Know if Your Phone Is Roaming?

Your phone will tell you if it's currently roaming. You'll see a message in the status bar stating that your phone is using data from a different network. Additionally, your phone may slow down or stop working while roaming.

The services and products mentioned on this website may only represent a small selection of the options available to you. Selectra encourages you to carry out your own research and seek advice if necessary before making any decisions. We may receive commission from selected partner providers on sales of some products and/or services mentioned within this website. Our website is free to use, and the commission we receive does not affect our opinion or the information we provide.

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