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Save money on data roaming and calls when travelling

Know your options when it comes to using your phone abroad, so you don’t spend more than you have to.

Amy Smith
Amy Smith
Updated 08 January 2020  | 4 min read

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The cost of being connected

Using your mobile phone abroad used to be very costly and an overpriced data roaming bill isn’t something your travel insurance will cover.

Luckily, the rules around data roaming are changing, with data caps and like-for-like data charges helping to control your costs when you're overseas.

Key points

  • Britain is no longer part of the EU so you could potentially end up paying roaming charges whether you're travelling in the EU or beyond
  • In January 2021, major UK mobile companies decided not to apply extra charges within the EU - that could change any time
  • There will still be a cap of £45 a month on data roaming charges abroad and text alerts that tell you when you’re close to your data allowance

The end of ‘roam like at home’?

Since 2017, calls, texts and data usage in the European Union, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein have cost the same as in the UK – that could change at any time now that the UK's left the European Union.

Major phone operators didn't immediately apply roaming charges after the Brexit transition ended on 31 December 2020. But there's no longer any legal right to ‘roam like at home’.

If you’re going on holiday outside the EU, roaming charges are usually very high.

Roaming after Brexit

Since January 2021, it's been up to the network provider to decide how much they charge.

Each provider could decide to reintroduce roaming charges at any time, so make sure you check what yours charges before you go away.

Data roaming cap

Wherever you travel, there will still be a mobile roaming data use limit of £45 per month.

This means you’ll receive alerts when you’ve used 80% and then again at 100% of your data allowance, so you don’t accidentally overspend.

You can find out more about the rules on data roaming abroad on the government’s website.

Do I need a roaming add-on?

If you’re using data anywhere that your provider charges for roaming, you’ll need a data roaming add-on to avoid potentially high data charges.

You can buy a roaming add-on before you travel so you know exactly what you’re getting, or when you get to your destination.

Buying a data roaming add-on abroad means the price will vary, depending on which country you’re in.

 

How to save money on roaming

Calls, texts and data use in countries where your provider doesn't include free roaming will not be charged as the same as in UK.

Here’s a few ways to save money while using your phone abroad:

  • Use hotel wi-fi and Facetime/WhatsApp for internet calls and messages, instead of spending money on texts and voice calls.
  • Buy an international SIM card, or a local SIM card from the place you’re travelling to, so you can be put on a deal specific to the region you’re visiting.
  • Download any apps you need before you set off on your trip, to avoid unnecessarily wasting data when abroad
  • Make sure you have a cap on your data, so you will never spend more than the set limit
  • Turning off notifications, closing background apps and disabling data-hungry apps can all help to limit your data usage

Your phone will need to be ‘unlocked’ for you to use a different SIM card and you’ll usually have to have ID to buy one.

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