Data roaming charges: How to avoid a big phone bill

Stay connected on holiday without the huge phone bill.

06 Jul 2021

How much will it cost to use my phone abroad?

When you’re safely allowed to travel abroad again, you’ll probably be using your phone for lots of things - from sharing social snaps on social to searching for that hidden gem of a restaurant. You can end up using lots of data during your stay, so let us show you how to avoid getting a big bill as soon as you arrive back home!

What are roaming charges?

Whenever you use your phone abroad to make a call, send a text or connect to the internet, you’re connecting to an overseas network provider, rather than the one you pay for at home. Depending on which country you’re in, you might incur extra charges on top of the usual amount you pay.

If you’re in a European country, it’s good news. The EU abolished roaming charges back in June 2017, so you’ll be charged the same rate you would if you were using your phone at home in the UK. This is correct at the time of writing, but we do know some mobile operators are planning on re-introducing roaming charges in 2022. So please check before you head off on your travels!

If you're travelling outside the EU, it all depends on which local provider your network has chosen – and there are no restrictions on how much they can charge you.

How can you cut your phone bill?

If the country you’re in hasn’t abolished roaming charges for UK travellers, it'll be more expensive to use your phone there. That’s why we suggest you do things a little differently when you’re abroad, to avoid running up hefty mobile bills. Here are a few top tips…

Use your phone wisely

Cut your data usage while you’re abroad with these simple tips:

  • Make sure your apps are closed – some of them might be running in the background and using up data without you realising it.
  • Or switch off data roaming altogether – you’ll still be able to make and receive calls or texts if you do this.
  • Log on to a secure Wi-Fi network so you're not only using 3G or 4G. Lots of public places have free networks you can connect to.
  • Keep an eye on your data usage while you're on holiday instead of waiting until you get home – and avoid any surprises when your bill arrives.
  • Download any travel apps and maps you’ll need before you go – then you won’t have to use any data for Google Maps, or to browse the internet looking for local travel information.

Pick up a pay-as-you-go SIM card

Swap out your current SIM card for a cheap pay-as-you-go one that you can pick up when you arrive at your destination.

Then, just top it up and enjoy domestic rates instead of expensive UK ones – that way you’ll know exactly how much it’s costing you. This is a great option if you'll be ringing or texting people who live where you're visiting.

Tip: Before you travel, text the new number out to people who might need to contact you and leave it on the voicemail of your UK phone number.

Get an international roaming deal from your network

For a one-off price, some providers will give you a certain amount of minutes, texts and data when you travel abroad. Watch out though – if you go above that, the prices can be really high. Other providers will let you use your regular UK allocation for a small fee.

Using your mobile Wi-Fi device or dongle abroad

If you've bought a mobile Wi-Fi device or dongle, how much you'll pay abroad depends on your network provider. You may also find there are different rates for pay-as-you-go and pay monthly.

We hope you find the above useful. Here’s one final piece of advice. Always check your mobile network’s roaming rules are before you travel. They do vary between networks, so make sure you know the score. That way, you’ll avoid any nasty surprises on your bill.



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