by Dale Robinson


1 April 2022


Making plans to travel this year? Want to take advantage of the ability to travel after a couple of years of being stuck at home?

You’re not alone!

Thousands of Brits are planning a getaway this year, with many choosing the EU as their destination.

But not everything that has changed was due to the pandemic. Some changes happened before that, such as the reintroduction of charging for data roaming. We asked to help us understand the new rules.


What is data roaming?


Data roaming is the ability to use your phone data while outside the country, or ‘geographical coverage area’, as phone providers like to refer to it.

For most of us with a standard phone contract, our geographical coverage area is the United Kingdom.

While we were in the EU, we could use all the minutes, texts and data within our contract at no extra charge – now we can’t; we have to pay an extra fee to access them, the roaming charge.

The world according to mobile phone networks is divided into 3 area

  • Home: you can use all your included voice, text and data allowances for free
  • The EU: used to be free to roam, but now includes charges
  • The rest of the world: where you must pay a roaming charge to be able to use your phone abroad.

Why has my network started charging roaming fees?


When the UK was part of the EU, we were also subject to EU legislation.

One piece of legislation was a ban on roaming charges and roaming within the EU was included within a standard phone contract.

As the UK is no longer part of the EU, we are no longer subject to that legislation and mobile phone providers have been allowed to charge for roaming again since January 2021.


Are there any providers that still offer free roaming?


All but two UK networks now charge for data roaming within the EU – only O2 and Virgin Mobile have yet to reintroduce roaming charges.

That may change, but for now at least, they still offer free roaming.

Three, Vodafone and EE all charge £2 per day for roaming within the EU, with a few minor exceptions.


Are there other ways to avoid roaming charges or reduce costs?


There are a few simple ways to avoid, or at least minimise data use when travelling.

  • Set data usage caps: after all the public furore around bill shock back in 2011/12, the networks introduced a usage cap to help prevent it. This is usually applied by default to help prevent stupendous bills when you get back from holiday. Check yours is active by calling your network before you leave.
  • Download large files before you leave home: download all the movies, books and music you want for your trip before you leave home. If you plan to navigate using Google Maps or another map app, download the offline version before you leave.
  • Using public Wi-Fi: If you do want to use the internet while travelling, try to use Wi-Fi at your accommodation, on trains, in airports and in coffee shops. Always protect your phone by using a VPN, but make full use of public Wi-Fi where possible to skirt mobile data charges.
  • Avoid data-heavy apps: Avoiding apps that use a lot of data while you’re travelling is another way to minimise data use while abroad. Apps such as YouTube, social networks and any website that has auto play video can all quickly use a lot of data. Avoiding them can really help!
  • Local or world SIM cards: If you’re away for a longer period of time or are a serial traveller, you may want to invest in a European or SIM card at your destination.
    You’ll need to check your phone is unlocked and can use other networks and check local prices, but it’s definitely a viable option!

About the author

This article was written by Jamie Kavanagh, Contributor at Jamie specialises in making technical subjects understandable to all and spends his time writing technical articles, training courses and blog posts.

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