What data roaming charges should I expect?

Harvey Jones 25 July 2022

Data roaming charges are back after Brexit—check what charges you could be facing on your next holiday with our handy guide

British holidaymakers got used to using their mobile phone for free when travelling in Europe, but that has changed after Brexit. Phone companies have started charging for data roaming again, which means you could return home to a shock bill unless you check what yours charges. 

Those travelling further afield who use their phone as normal could be in for an even bigger surprise, as bills total as much as £757 for a single week. Here’s what you need to know. 

You may now pay for data

Most phone contracts allow users to send unlimited calls and texts while in the UK, and browse the internet up to set monthly limits, free of charge. 

Plane in the sky

After Brexit, many major phone suppliers have reintroduced roaming charges

When we were still part of the EU, this was extended to Europe, but the major suppliers have started charging again after Brexit. EE, Three and Vodafone will all charge for European usage, although 02 and Virgin continue to allow customers to roam as if they were still at home (within limits). 

You need to know what your network charges, as it will depend on when you signed your contract, so check yours before you leave. 

There are limits to charges

Woman calculating bills

No one wants to come home to huge phone bills!

We have all heard horror stories of people using their phone overseas and returning to a bill running to thousands of pounds. 

To reduce the risk, regulator Ofcom has set a monthly cap on global data roaming charges of £45 plus VAT, which adds up to £54. Providers must alert you as get close to the limit, and again once you hit it. After this, you cannot use your phone, unless you opt in and pay charges. 

"We have all heard horror stories of people using their phone overseas and returning to a bill running to thousands of pounds"

Firms must also publish roaming charges on their website and send customers an alert with pricing information when they travel overseas. However, the data roaming cap does not include calls and texts, which can cost a fortune outside the EU. 

Here's what phone firms charge

What you pay depends on the mobile supplier, when you signed up to your contract and which deal you chose. 

EE 

Pay monthly customers who joined EE or upgraded their contract from July 7 2021 must now pay £2 a day to use their usual data allowances in 47 European countries. Those who joined before will escape pay roaming charges. 

Alternatively, EE users can escape the charge by purchasing its Roam Abroad add-on, which costs £10 a month. This is likely to work best for those who travel abroad regularly, rather than taking just one or two trips a year. 

Three

Three customers who took out a new contract or upgraded from October 1 2021 will pay £2 per day in the EU and £5 a day outside the EU, under its Go Roam plan.  

Those who took out a contract before October 1 2021 are unaffected, as are pay-as-you-go Three customers. 

Vodafone

Vodafone pay-monthly customers who joined, upgraded, or changed their plan from August 11 2021 will pay a daily £2 charge in Vodafone’s European roaming zones.  

Users only pay on days they actually use their phone but may accidentally trigger daily roaming fees when apps use mobile data abroad. Vodafone customers can cut the cost with a European Roaming pass, which costs £8 for eight days, and £15 for 15 days, across 49 destinations. 

Anyone whose Vodafone Pay monthly plan started before 11 August 2021 will continue to avoid these additional roaming charges, but only while they remain on their current plan. 

EE, Three and Vodafone all waive EU roaming charges in the Republic of Ireland

Woman frowning at phone

What you pay depends on the mobile supplier, when you signed up to your contract and which deal you chose

O2

O2 has not reintroduced data roaming charges. Customers travelling to the EU get a 25GB monthly data limit. Once they breach that, they pay £3.50 per GB. 

Those travelling outside Europe should consider the O2 Travel Bolt On, which costs £6 a day for unlimited usage, plus free calls and minutes. 

"Be particularly careful when travelling outside the EU, as prices can rocket"

Be particularly careful when travelling outside the EU, as prices can rocket. Among other phone companies, Virgin allows customers to use UK allowances as normal while in the EU. 

Outside Europe

Once you travel outside Europe, things start to get really expensive. Again, what you pay varies depending on the supplier. 

They can be very expensive. Virgin users travelling to Egypt, Morocco, South Africa and the UAE will pay £5 per minute for calls and 60p per text message. Using 1GB of mobile data, making 20 minutes of calls and sending 10 texts a day could cost £787 in a week, Uswitch calculates. 

Similar usage with Vodafone would cost a maximum £42. With such glaring differences, it’s easy to get caught out, so roam carefully. 

Read more: Your summer holiday money guide

Read more: How to claim money for flight delays

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