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Mobile Roaming Explained

What is mobile roaming?

If you travel abroad and use your phone or laptop whilst on a foreign network, this is known as international roaming. Sending and receiving SMS text messages whilst roaming abroad is called SMS roaming. Data roaming refers to the use of mobile data services whilst abroad.

What is mobile roaming?

In the past consumers have been charged a significantly higher rate for using the internet, making calls and sending texts when they’re in the EU than when you're in the UK. However, June 2017, EU legislation introduced the end of data roaming charges in the EU.

By law all networks let you use your monthly allowances in 28 EU locations. These are:

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK.

Roaming outside of the EU

If your travels take you further afield than Europe, then the EU regulations no longer apply and, unless specifically stated by your provider, you will be charged for your calls, data and texts. The price can often be very high.

How can I avoid roaming costs?

If you do choose to use data in a country that isn't covered by the EU legislation law , here are some simple tips you can follow that can help reduce your data use and cut your bill.

  • Where possible use wi-fi. Wi-fi hotspots are usually available in hotels, coffee shops and restaurants along with many other locations.
  • Turn off automatic app updates, and set your phone up to manually rather than automatically retrieve emails and attachments.
  • Avoid uploading or downloading large pictures or video files if you are using mobile data, as these can quickly rack up a bill.
  • Make sure any automated updates that work in the background such as Twitter and Facebook are turned off.
  • Consider buying a local SIM. To keep the cost of calls and texts messages down, it’s a good idea to buy a local SIM card and top up with pay-as-you-go credit. However, to use a local SIM, you’ll need an unlocked handset.
  • Check if your network offers a roaming add-on. Most carriers now offer the chance to pay a bit extra and get an add-on that will provide you an allowance of data, texts and minutes to use abroad.
  • Download city or area maps before you leave for your travels or do so when you get to your hotel wi-fi. Great offline maps app include: Cities Maps 2Go, MapsMe, Skobbler’s ForeverMap.

Android users benefit from Google’s own Google Maps download service. You can pre-download maps covering a 10-mile radius.

Google Maps download service

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