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What is Data Roaming? Tips for using your phone abroad

If you’re looking to go abroad soon, you might want to know how you can use your mobile phone in another country. There are many things to consider with your smartphone before travelling away from home, such as your allowance, usage, and which applications you’ll be needing to access. 

Last updated: 14th Sep 2020 at 10:47am

What is data roaming?

Data roaming refers to any time you’re using your mobile network’s data to access the internet, rather than through a Wi-Fi connection. 

There are different ‘generations’ of data technology, but 3G and 4G are the most common, though 5G is starting to make an appearance on newer mobile devices. 

When you’re roaming, you’re using data to access the web and applications that require an internet connection. You’ll need to do this as you usually won’t be able to connect to any routers while travelling, except possibly with hotel or restaurant Wi-Fi. But if you’re backpacking, you often won’t have access to the internet without data. 

It’s important to understand how roaming works before travelling abroad, so you can keep in contact with friends and family, access maps and online menus, and discover landmarks or places to visit. 

Which applications use the internet?

Not quite sure which apps you can access without an internet connection? If you’re abroad and want to use any of the following phone apps, you’ll need Wi-Fi or data roaming switched on to do so:

  • Social media - Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and more. 
  • Chat - WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger
  • Google Maps
  • Emails
  • Browser/search engine - Safari, Chrome, Bing, Google, etc.  

Roam Like at Home

In June 2017, the European Union passed legislation that allowed residents of member states to “Roam Like at Home”. This means that the cost for data, texts and calls won’t be any different abroad compared to back in the UK. 

Previously, people would have incurred extra charges, called ‘roaming costs’, while using their phone abroad. This law makes it so you won’t pay any extra for your allowance, regardless of which EU country you’re in. 

How Brexit affects roaming charges

With the UK having left the EU, and no agreement currently in place, the ‘roam like at home’ law will no longer apply to UK citizens come January 2021. This means network providers will be allowed to charge you once again for using data abroad. 

Asda Mobile and roaming

If you have an Asda Mobile bundle, you can use your data, texts and calls in 50 European destinations at no extra cost. If your bundle contains unlimited calls and texts, then this will cover your usage while abroad. Whatever your allowance at home, you have the same deal on holiday. 

If you don’t have a bundle and you’re going abroad to somewhere in the EU, you will pay the same call, text and data charges as you would in the UK. With a pay as you go plan, you won’t go over your allowance, so won’t incur any surprising charges while away. If you have a recurring top-up or low balance top-up automatically set up, which you can control on your account, be mindful to either cancel this or be aware of when it will refresh. 

If you’re nearing your usage limit, Asda Mobile will let you know via text that you’re about to exceed your usage. 

If your destination falls out of the 50 we have, you can check our other international charges here

Using Less Data

If you’re on a contract with a set amount of data, you’ll probably be interested in learning how to be more efficient with your allowance while abroad. While it can sometimes be unavoidable to drain your data, there are a few things you can do to use less whilst on holiday:

  • Connect to Wi-Fi hotspots wherever possible
  • Use ‘Lite’ versions of social media apps, like Facebook Lite and Twitter Lite
  • Turn off automatic background refreshes for apps
  • Disable automatic updates for apps over data
  • Use offline mapping tools, like Citymaps2Go and HereweGo
  • Turn mobile data off when you don’t need it, rather than keeping it on. Once some websites have loaded, you can turn data off and still read the information
  • Download music playlists and videos ahead of time, and try not to stream anything unless absolutely necessary

My Account

Before you go abroad, make sure to check your balance.

Is there a spending limit on my account?

You can only spend what you have in your account, so whatever deal or bundle you stick to in the UK will still apply in EU countries. Unless you have automatic top-ups enabled, you will not be able to go over your usage. 

Can I top-up while abroad?

Yes. As long as you have registered your debit or credit card with us before you leave the UK, you can call 2732 from your Asda Mobile phone and top-up. Alternatively, access your account using data or a Wi-Fi hotspot, and top-up online. 

Can I check my balance while abroad?
You can text ‘BAL’ to 2732 from your Asda Mobile phone, call +447953962732, or go through your account to check your current balance. 

More travel tips

Traveling somewhere warm? Why not learn about how extreme temperatures can affect your phone? We’ve also put together a list of the best apps for a stress-free holiday.


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No contracts, no limits
No contracts, no limits

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

Roam like you're home
Roam like you're home

Use your bundle in 50 european destinations for no extra cost

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Speed and reliability

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Excellent service, extremely prompt reply and an incredibly helpful and friendly colleague, thanks.

Gerry, Fareham

One of the reasons I stay with asda mobile is the kind and professional treatment I receive anytime I have cause to make a call

Blantyre, Scotland

Excellent service.. advisor sounded alive and positive... Big thumbs up

Andrew, Gloucester

Best customer service ever! Wish your bundles weren't time-limited though.

Joe, Chester