Published: 26 April 2022

As all UK covid travel restrictions are lifted and, for the first time in two years, many consumers return to holidaying abroad, there is a new restriction that could be costly – the return of European mobile roaming charges.

Until now these had been a thing of the past, but following the UK’s departure from the EU, some mobile operators are re-introducing fees for using mobile data.

We take a look at data roaming charges and how you can mitigate against a hefty bill.

What are the changes?

Since 2017, the EU introduced a policy known as ‘Roam Like at Home’, which meant you could use your UK allowance of minutes, texts and data without paying extra charges in all EU countries (plus a few more, including Norway and Iceland).

However, since Britain left the EU, some of the main providers – Vodafone, EE, Three and Sky Mobile – are all introducing charges in European countries, unless you joined or renewed your contract after a certain date (EE: 6th July 2021, Vodafone: 11th August 2021, Three: 1st October 2021, Sky Mobile: tbc). It is possible that other networks will also follow.

The charges are around £2 per day, with some companies offering special ‘bundles’. Check with your operator if you will be affected and what the charge will be for using your phone in Europe.

Can you avoid the European charges?

If you’re with one of the providers who plan to start charging for European usage, if possible, don’t renew your contract and just let it roll so you keep your data roaming benefits. You could also consider changing to one of the providers that isn’t charging for European use.

How to be mobile smart when travelling abroad

Aside from Europe, it’s also worth remembering that roaming costs internationally can be expensive – some suppliers charge as much as £7/MB and £3 per minute to make or receive a call. Many popular destinations are included in these charges, so always check with your network provider. To help avoid any shock bills, it’s worth revisiting these basic tips on how to use your phone abroad if you are going to be paying additional fees:

  • Turn off roaming – this is the safest way to ensure you don’t incur any charges.
  • Use Wi-Fi whenever possible – this is available in most hotels, restaurants and cafes so take advantage whenever you are in an internet accessible venue.
  • Use free apps to make calls – when you have access to Wi-Fi, use ‘internet to phone’ calling apps such as WhatsApp or FaceTime on Apple devices.
  • Download documents and entertainment before you travel – everything from boarding passes, maps, films and music.
  • If you do need to use data roaming, check with your provider before you travel – see if there is a ‘bundle’ you can buy.
  • Be careful on cruises or travelling at sea – it’s very easy to accidentally connect to a ‘maritime’ network or a country network where charges apply.

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