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A guide to roaming charges in Europe

Want the lowdown on data roaming? Here’s what you need to know about using your mobile phone in Europe.

Want the lowdown on data roaming? Here’s what you need to know about using your mobile phone in Europe.

Written by
Sajni Shah
Consumer expert on utilities and money
Last Updated
20 FEBRUARY 2024
5 min read
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What is data roaming?

Data roaming is when you use your mobile phone abroad to access the internet and use the mobile network data in that country. Every time you connect to the internet to check your email, Facebook or use Google Maps, for example, you’re using data.

However, it’s not just the internet – every time you connect to another network abroad to make a call or text, you’re roaming. And since Brexit, you’ll no longer be covered for free roaming under EU legislation, so you may face higher charges for using your phone in Europe.

While you’re abroad, it can be tempting to use data to upload your latest holiday pictures to social media, stream your favourite TV shows or create a personal hotspot. But before you do any of this, there are a few things you should know and check so you don’t end up with a large mobile bill.

How have data roaming charges changed?

When the UK left the EU, UK mobile users were no longer covered by EU free-roaming rules, which ban mobile network providers from levying additional roaming charges in the EU and European Economic Area (EEA).

Now, instead of being able to ‘roam like you’re at home’ (use your minutes, text and data as if you’re in the UK) it’s up to the individual phone operators to decide what they’ll charge for cross-border calls, texts and data usage. You’ll have to check with your phone operator to find out about any roaming charges you’ll potentially face while travelling.

Can I use my mobile in the EU?

Yes, you can use your mobile for calls, texts and to access the internet in the EU, it’s just that you might have to pay additional charges for roaming.

Always check what your phone operator is likely to charge you before you set off. Some providers offer additional data roaming as part of their contract deals – and not just for the EU. You may have to change or update your settings in the UK before you travel.

So, what happens now when I want to use my mobile abroad?

There’s no longer a difference between using your mobile in the EU and in the rest of the world – you can be charged for roaming everywhere outside of the UK. However, each operator might have different rules for different regions and countries.

Roaming charges can be higher when travelling, and you may want to talk to your provider, or check their website, to understand the best available deal for the places you’re travelling to. Your provider might offer special add-ons or plans with free roaming or roaming allowances built in, including some designed for frequent travellers.

Most providers send customers a message notifying them of basic pricing information upon entry to another country, However, it’s not required by law and cannot be relied upon. That’s why it’s so important to do your research before travelling.

How do the UK mobile networks roaming charges compare?

The table below gives you a quick glance comparison of the main roaming charges from the four major UK mobile networks. Details are correct at the time of writing, but offers do change, so make sure you check your provider’s website before you travel:

Network Europe Further afield
Vodafone Roaming included up to 25GB, after which charges will apply Rates vary per country
O2 Roaming included up to 25 GB, after which you’ll be charged £3.50/GB £1.99-£6 a day
EE £2.29 a day £25 a month
Three £2 a day £5 a day

What about fair usage policies for data roaming?

Most providers have a fair use policy, which enforces a limit on your data allowance when you travel abroad. In most cases, you’ll have to pay a surcharge for going over the limit, even if your UK data allowance is greater.

Fair use monthly data limits for the big four are as follows:

  • Vodafone – 25GB
  • EE – 50GB
  • O2 – 25GB
  • Three – 12GB.

To avoid extra charges for going over your data allowance limit, make sure you know which roaming product your provider offers before going abroad.

How else can you avoid roaming charges when travelling abroad?

It might be worth considering buying a SIM for the country you’re visiting, rather than paying your mobile provider’s roaming charges.

Also, be careful in places close to the borders of your provider’s free-usage areas, to make sure you’re not using a provider just the other side of the border. UK networks are no longer required to keep measures in place to help their customers avoid accidental roaming so, unfortunately, that’s now up to you to monitor.

Did you know?

According to research by Ofcom, 18% of holidaymakers are unaware of roaming charges when travelling abroad.

The regulatory body is proposing new rules to protect UK customers from unexpected charges and inadvertent roaming while abroad. Under the proposed new rules, mobile providers must inform customers of any roaming charges that may apply before going abroad. Mandatory alert protections might also be introduced.

How much will EU nationals travelling to the UK be charged?

How much EU nationals will pay for calls, texts and mobile data in the UK will depend on their operator. EU nationals coming to the UK should check with their network provider, before travelling.

How do I compare mobile phone deals?

It’s a good idea to shop around to find the mobile phone deal that could best suit you. Use our mobile comparison service to compare quotes.

Frequently asked questions

Do calls to the EU from the UK count as data roaming?

Any calls or texts you make from the UK to the EU or another international destination are not classed as roaming because you will be using your home mobile network.

Check your provider’s website for price details, or if in doubt, call them to clarify costs before making any international calls.

How can I find out how much my mobile provider charges for roaming?

Under Ofcom rules, your mobile network provider must provide details of its standard roaming charges on its website. If you’re at all unclear, call your provider before you travel to discuss what charges will apply to you.

Can my mobile network provider change their data roaming charges at any time?

If your mobile phone provider decides to change certain terms of your mobile contract, such as upping their data roaming charges, they must notify you at least one month before the changes come into effect and give you the chance to leave your contract if you decide it’s not for you.

But they don’t have to tell you in advance about any changes that are:

  • Purely administrative or have no effect on you
  • Made exclusively to benefit you as a customer
  • Due to a change in UK law.

Is free roaming likely to return?

It’s unlikely that free roaming will return as a universal benefit. It’ll be up to individual mobile phone operators to decide what version of roaming they want to offer and whether they’ll allow free roaming or not.

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Sajni Shah - Consumer expert on utilities and money

Sajni is passionate about building products, allowing Compare the Market to help you make great financial decisions. She keeps track of the latest trends and evolving markets to find new ways to help you save money.

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