A simples guide

A guide to data roaming charges

Holidays and trips abroad are great and they’re even better when you can upload a few photos from your phone onto social media – just so your friends back home can see how much fun you’re having. But you might not be so smug when your next phone bill comes and you see how much you’ve been charged for using your phone abroad. But knowledge is power and this is how you can help make sure high phone bills won’t ruin your holiday memories.


What is data roaming and what are data roaming charges?

Data roaming is what you do when you use your phone abroad, whether you text, email, call, pick up a voicemail message or upload something onto social media – you’ll be data roaming.

As odd as it sounds, ‘data roaming’ is actually quite an accurate description of what your phone is doing when you use it outside of the UK. Because you’re not on home turf, you won’t be connected to your usual network, and if you have a smartphone it’ll use its initiative to roam the airwaves looking for an internet connection it can use.

Data roaming charges are simply what you’ll be charged for using your phone abroad. It’s worth knowing that any apps downloading in the background (something that probably happens all the time at home without you even realising it) will count as data roaming and you could be charged for this automatic phone action.

lady on phone

Will I be charged for using my phone in the EU?

You could be, but it’ll depend on your service provider who can add a surcharge on top of your usual domestic call charges, but the good news is that the surcharge is capped. So if you are within your inclusive minutes, you’ll just pay the surcharge (obviously if you exceed your allowance you’ll be charged accordingly). The data roaming surcharges are (excluding VAT):

• €0.05 (about 4p*) per minute for making calls
• €0.01 (about 1p*) per minute for receiving calls
• €0.02 (again, about 1p*) for texts
• €0.05 (about 4p*) per MB of data

Some phone deals won’t charge you any extra at all for using your phone in certain countries – something to bear in mind if you’re a keen traveller and about to choose a new phone package.

All mobile phone providers have to set caps on data roaming charges (typically about £40) and let you know when you reach it – if you’re not bothered about this then you can switch this function off but be aware that charges can quickly rack up if you’re a heavy phone user.

From 15 June 2017 EU data roaming surcharges are due to be scrapped – surely that’s worth a holiday to celebrate?

mobile phone

What about charges for using my phone outside the EU?

Well, this is where you’ll need deep pockets because you probably will be charged if you don’t already have some sort of international data roaming package in place with your provider. Calls can cost you up to £2.50 a minute or £8 per MB of data you use, so unless you want your phone bill to be bigger than the cost of your holiday, perhaps consigning your phone for ‘emergency use’ only might be a wise move.

So how can I avoid data roaming charges?

Of course if you’re worried about being slapped with a massive phone bill on top of your other holiday expenses, then you can try and avoid costly data roaming charges in the first place; here’s how:

• Switch off data roaming – you’ll be able to turn this off in your phone’s settings, this will ensure that any background apps that use the internet won’t have access to it – so you won’t be charged.

Use free wi-fi – lots of cafes, restaurants and hotels provide free wi-fi so it’s worth using these hotspots if you know you need to surf the web, call or text your friends and family back home or check some emails.

• Data roaming add ons – check with your service provider, they may offer additional bolt on packages that let you use your phone abroad within certain allowances.

• Buy a local SIM – if you really can’t bear to part with your phone for a week or so then you could consider buying a local pay as you go SIM card, you can then manage your spending and use your phone. You’ll need an unlocked handset though.

Getting the best mobile phone deal

Choosing a mobile phone deal might not be quite as exciting as choosing a holiday, and sadly we don’t compare holidays, but we do compare phones, mobile providers and tariffs – so if you want to see if you’ve got the best package deal out there, then start comparing today, and don’t forget to send us a postcard.

*taken from Ofcom, prices correct as at May 2016