Cheap Options for Using Your Mobile Phone Abroad

With the summer season fast approaching, many people are starting to prepare for a holiday abroad. Taking your own smartphone on your travels is preferred, after all, our smartphones have become an integral part of our everyday lives.

Last updated: 17th May 2019 at 8:36pm

We use our mobile phones to call family and friends, check-in on social media, post on Instagram, text, chat, and surf the web. Once you know that you are going abroad on a holiday, for work, or to visit family that has moved overseas, it is time to understand the costs of using your mobile phone abroad. Here we take a look at the cheapest way to use a smartphone travelling, both within and outside of the EU.

Using your smartphone in an EU country

On 15th June 2017, the last roaming charges were abolished for people travelling to the 28 EU (European Union) countries. The initiative is called Roam Like at Home and all new and existing mobile phone contracts are automatically Roam Like at Home contracts.

Roam Like at Home countries include:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • United Kingdom

Roam Like at Home means that your voice calls, text messages (SMS), and data services cost the same as they would if you were using them in your home country. If you have a contract including free calls, texts and data, then you can use these in Roam Like at Home countries. If you have a pay as you go or prepaid bundle, then once again, you can use the allowance that is provided.

If you have no bundle or allowance, then calls, texts, and data are charged at the same rate that they would be, if you were still in the UK.

While you are abroad, you will not be charged for receiving calls, just like you would not be charged at home in the UK. However, calls that you make from home (UK) to abroad are not regulated and covered in any way by the Roam Like at Home scheme.

Choose a Bundle

If you just topped up £10, for instance (with Asda Mobile Pay As You Go), you will be charged 8p per minute, 4p per text and 5p per MB of data.

However, by choosing a bundle you will get more texts, minutes and data for your money. Asda does the popular £10 bundle which comes with 600 minutes, 3GB of data and unlimited texts. At Asda’s standard rates this amount would cost a lot more than £10. In fact for £10 you can only get 125 minutes of call time, whereas the bundle offers 600 minutes of call time with texts and data on top!

Roam Like at Home exceptions

There are two exceptions to the Roam Like at Home scheme. The first is that the scheme is designed for periodic travel, so if you move out of the UK to reside or work in another EU country, then Roam Like at Home doesn’t apply.

The rule that governs this exception states that you must spend more time at home than abroad. Mobile phone operators can check your home and abroad usage over a four-month period and if they feel that you have spent more time abroad, then they might contact you to clarify your situation, which you must do within 14 days.

If this situation applies to you then you can take out a new contract in the EU country you are in and enjoy Roam Like at Home if you visit the UK or another EU country.

Alternatively, you can continue to use your UK mobile phone plan and incur a small roaming charge that is capped at various levels. These charges are as follows:

  • 3.2 cents per minute (+VAT) for voice calls
  • 1 cent per text message (+VAT)
  • €4.5 per GB (+VAT)

The data roaming charges are set to decrease over the following few years. These charges will become €3.5 per GB from 1st January 2020, €3 per GB from 1st January 2021, and €2.5 per GB from 1st January 2022 (+VAT).

The second exception to the Roam Like at Home scheme is based on a fair usage policy on data. A mobile phone operator can inform you in advance of their fair usage policy and they must send an alert to you if you reach this limit. After this point in time, your data will incur a roaming fee of the same rate as described above.

Using your smartphone outside of the EU

Many UK mobile phone networks have extended their roaming abroad policies to give you the Roam Like at Home charging policy in countries outside of the EU 28. These countries are different for each network, so you should refer to them for the exact details.

If you are to use your mobile phone outside of the EU then you will incur a higher rate for your calls, texts, and data. You can minimise data costs by using free public Wi Fi.

If keeping your phone number is not crucial, then you can get a free pay as you go SIM for your phone or buy a cheap pay as you go phone, in the country that you are visiting. This will reduce the cost of calls you make within that country.

No contracts, no limits

With no contract you have the freedom to flex your usage whenever you need to.

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