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What is Data Roaming? Tips for using your phone abroad

If you’re going abroad, you might be wondering if there’s anything you need to do to use your mobile phone in another country. There are many things to consider before travelling, such as your data allowance, usage, and which applications you’ll need to access while you’re away. In this guide, we explain exactly what data roaming is, as well as provide handy tips for using your phone on holiday.

What is data roaming?
What would I need to roam for?
Roaming with Asda mobile
Monitoring your usage whilst abroad
How much data do I need?


What is data roaming?

Data roaming is when you use your phone’s data, such as 3G or 4G, to access the internet whilst in another country, rather than through Wi-Fi. As soon as your phone connects to an overseas network, data roaming usage and charges can apply. The amount you are charged varies greatly depending on your current provider, your current deal, and which country you are in. 

When you’re roaming, you’re using your data allowance to access the web and applications on your phone. It’s important to understand how roaming works and what sort of allowance you have on your phone before going away. Without this knowledge, you might find yourself completely out of data, unable to contact friends and family, or navigate your new environment with your phone. 


What would I need to roam for?

Everyone uses their phone for different things, but whilst abroad, you’ll probably need your smartphone to access quite a lot of applications. While on holiday, you’ll need to turn your data on to complete the following tasks:

  • Browsing the internet - Safari, Chrome, Bing, Google, etc - to ask questions or find new locations
  • Accessing messaging apps, like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, to keep in contact with friends and family back home. You’ll also need to use your data to send an iMessage, if you have an iPhone
  • Refreshing and sending emails 
  • Using Google Maps, or another navigation app for directions 
  • Scrolling on social media
  • Playing videos or streaming music 

As you can see, you need an internet connection for most tasks on your smartphone. Typically, the only apps you can open and use without data are Notes apps (which won’t sync with your cloud storage without internet), your camera, some games, your gallery and clock, Contacts, and Health apps. 


Roaming with Asda mobile

With Asda mobile, you can use your selected bundle in 36 European destinations the same as you would at home in the UK (fair usage applies, see below for more details).

For a full breakdown of roaming rates, take a look here


All bundle customers have a 5GB data roaming limit regardless of the amount of data included in your bundle. Once you have 5GB of data you will be charged 10p per MB, the same as you would pay for data in the UK. You will receive notifications when you reach the 80% and 100% of the data limit.

Our monthly bundles are:

Bundle cost

Bundle type

Data allowance


















Unlimited (Up to 2 Mbps)






Unlimited (Up to 10 Mbps)



Unlimited (Up to 150 Mbps)

Roam Like at Home

The “Roam Like at Home” legislation that was passed in 2017 allows residents of EU member states to travel around to other member states without being charged any extra on their data usage, texts, and calls. 

Before this law was passed, people would have incurred extra charges, called ‘roaming costs’, when using their phone abroad. Since the UK has now left the EU, this protection against charges is no longer guaranteed. Instead, it is up to network providers to decide if they want to set roaming charges or not. 

With Asda, you can still roam like you’re at home in 36 different European destinations. 


My Account

Before you go abroad, use your online account to check, upgrade, or swap your bundle and data allowance. If you’ve never used My Account before, here’s everything you need to know

If you can’t access your online account whilst you’re abroad and you want to check your balance, text BAL to 2732. 


Monitoring your usage whilst abroad

You’ll want to keep an eye on your usage before going abroad (to pick the most appropriate data allowance) and whilst you’re away, so you don’t incur any additional costs when you return home. 

We have put together an in-depth guide providing you with all the tips and tricks you need to monitor and lower your mobile data usage, such as:

  • Connect to public Wi-Fi when possible to complete heavy-data tasks like downloading videos or pages to access offline
  • Use ‘Lite’ versions of social media apps, which are renowned for using up less data because they are simpler versions
  • Turn off automatic background refreshes for applications
  • Disable automatic updates
  • Set data limits
  • Turn off Bluetooth and Location services when not in use to save data
  • Install an ad blocker


How much data do I need?

It’s all good us telling you what to do with your data, but what if you don’t know how much you need?

We have a few guides that can talk you through how much you can do with a set amount of GB:


More resources

We have a range of other articles you might find handy to read before planning your trip abroad:

Follow us on Twitter for more helpful smartphone guides. 

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Solid service, good price. I work abroad but keep my UK number and buy a bundle when I'm back in the country.


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