Data roaming charges: How to avoid a big phone bill

Stay connected on holiday – without the huge phone bill. Here’s our guide to texting, calling or browsing the internet abroad… 

05 May 2016

What are roaming charges?

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


How much will it cost to use my phone abroad?

If you're travelling to Europe, you're less likely to be hit by a big phone bill. As of 30th April 2016, caps came into force on roaming charges in Europe – which means no network provider can charge more than a certain amount.

Make sure to check before you travel though, as the caps only apply to all of the 28 countries in the EU. Here's the latest maximum limits (source: Moneywise):

  • Making a call - 4p a minute
  • Getting a phone call - 1p a minute
  • Sending a text - 2p
  • Downloading data/browsing - 4p per MB

From June 2017 roaming charges will be completely abolished in the EU – so you’ll be charged the same rate you would if you were using your phone at home in the UK.

However, it gets a bit more complicated if you're travelling outside the EU. In this case, it all depends on which local provider your network has chosen – and there are no rules about how much they can charge you.

How can you cut your phone bill?
Until roaming charges are abolished everywhere, it'll still be more expensive to use your phone abroad than at home.

So you might still want to do things a little differently to save on your bills, even if you're staying in Europe. You have a few options…

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 into the nearest 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.

Want to know what deal you can get from the UK's big 4 networks? Here's what they're offering at the moment: 


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.

Want to stay connected while you’re abroad? Check out our mobile broadband devices


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