How Brits can avoid high phone bills while travelling in Europe

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Man on cell phone

Last Updated on December 27, 2023 by Rikki

Learn how you can avoid those dreaded high phone bills while travelling in Europe as a Brit. Many people are unaware of roaming charges when travelling and rely on alerts from their network, which are no longer mandatory.

Understanding EU roaming charges can be confusing, especially since Brexit. This article will provide you with everything you need to know about EU roaming, where it applies, and how to avoid those unexpectedly high phone bills while exploring Europe.

Whether it’s prepaid add-ons, local SIM cards, or simply turning off data roaming, these tips will ensure you stay connected without breaking the bank.

Exploring Europe is a dream come true, but it can sometimes come with the minor hassle of phone bills skyrocketing. One way to sidestep this issue is by keeping your phone charged and using it wisely. Speaking of which, have you ever found yourself with a dead battery while on the move? Our review of the top 5 power banks might just be the solution to keep your phone alive and your bills low.

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Understanding EU roaming charges

What are EU roaming charges?

EU roaming charges refer to the fees that mobile phone users incur when using their phones while traveling in other European Union (EU) countries. These charges include the cost of making and receiving calls, sending texts, and using data services.

Which countries do EU roaming charges apply to?

EU roaming charges apply to all EU member states, which currently include countries such as Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom (until Brexit took place). In addition to EU member states, roaming charges also apply to Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein.

How do EU roaming charges work with Brexit?

Prior to Brexit, UK residents enjoyed the benefits of surcharge-free roaming within the EU. However, after Brexit, UK mobile phone companies are no longer obligated to provide free roaming in EU countries. The temporary protections that were put in place, such as the monthly limit on data charges and usage alerts, have expired. Therefore, UK travelers may now face regular roaming charges while in EU countries, depending on their contract and mobile provider.

Roam with ease: Introducing Drimsim & AiraLo’s budget-friendly options

For those seeking alternative ways to dodge high phone bills in Europe, consider using international SIM solutions like Drimsim or exploring eSIM options with AiraLo, which offer affordable roaming plans tailored for travellers.

How to avoid high phone bills on your present plan

Check your phone provider’s roaming plan

Before you travel, it’s important to check the roaming plan offered by your phone provider. Some providers offer prepaid add-ons that allow you to use data abroad at reduced prices. Familiarize yourself with the charges and options available to you to avoid any surprises when you receive your phone bill.

Consider prepaid add-ons

Many UK mobile providers offer prepaid add-ons specifically for roaming. These add-ons typically offer a certain amount of data, calls, and texts for a set price. By purchasing one of these add-ons before you travel, you can use your phone while abroad without incurring high charges.

Buy a local prepaid SIM card

Another option to consider is buying a local prepaid SIM card when you reach your destination. This option requires that your phone be unlocked. With a local SIM card, you’ll have a different phone number but can still use apps like WhatsApp and social media. This option can often be more cost-effective than using your regular phone plan while roaming.

Turn off data roaming

To avoid unexpected charges, it’s important to turn off the “data roaming” setting on your phone before landing or arriving in a foreign country. This prevents your phone from connecting to foreign networks and incurring additional charges. It’s also a good idea to keep your phone on airplane mode until you have access to Wi-Fi.

Use Wi-Fi whenever possible

Whenever you have access to Wi-Fi, try to connect to it instead of using your mobile data. Use Wi-Fi for tasks that require internet access, such as checking emails or browsing the web. This can help reduce your data usage and lower your phone bill.

Set a spending limit on your bill

To avoid any unexpected shocks when you return home, consider setting a spending limit on your phone bill. Most mobile providers offer tools or options that allow you to set a limit, so you don’t exceed a certain amount of spending while roaming. This can give you peace of mind and help you stay within your budget.

UK phone providers with EU roaming

The following UK phone providers still offer fee-free EU roaming as a standard feature:

  • Asda Mobile
  • GiffGaff
  • BT Mobile
  • Lebara
  • O2

Please note that this information is accurate at the time of writing, and it’s always a good idea to check with your specific provider for the most up-to-date information on their EU roaming policy.

Other UK providers, such as EE, Three, Vodafone, Tesco Mobile, TalkMobile, and Sky Mobile, may have reintroduced EU data roaming charges. The availability of free EU roaming may depend on factors such as the date you joined or upgraded your contract with these providers. It’s important to verify the current roaming policy with your provider before traveling.

Tips for using data abroad

Roam in Europe for reduced prices

Some mobile providers offer specific packages or add-ons that allow you to use your data in Europe at reduced prices. Check with your provider to see if they offer any options that can help you save on data usage while abroad.

Be mindful of data-heavy activities

When abroad, it’s essential to be mindful of data-heavy activities that can quickly consume your data allowance. Streaming videos, downloading large files, or using data-intensive apps can use up your data quickly and result in high charges. Opt for Wi-Fi whenever possible for activities that require a stable internet connection.

Unlock your phone for local SIM cards

If you have a locked phone, you may not be able to use a local SIM card while traveling. However, if your phone is unlocked, you can consider purchasing a local prepaid SIM card at your destination.

Turn off data roaming before landing

To avoid any unexpected charges, make sure to turn off the “data roaming” setting on your phone before landing or arriving in a foreign country. This prevents your phone from automatically connecting to foreign networks and incurring roaming charges.

Utilize Wi-Fi for data usage

Whenever you have access to Wi-Fi, make use of it for data usage. Connect to Wi-Fi networks in hotels, cafes, or other public places to browse the web, check emails, or use apps that require an internet connection. This can help you conserve your mobile data and avoid excessive charges.

Set a spending limit on your bill

Consider setting a spending limit on your phone bill to prevent any unexpected expenses. Check if your mobile provider offers tools or options that allow you to set a limit on your spending while roaming. This way, you can stay within your budget and avoid bill shock when you return home.

Other options to consider

Consider using messaging and calling apps

Messaging and calling apps, such as WhatsApp, Skype, or Viber, can help you stay connected with your friends, family, or colleagues while traveling abroad. These apps use Wi-Fi or mobile data, so connecting to a Wi-Fi network can help you avoid additional charges.

Purchase a portable Wi-Fi device

If you rely heavily on internet access while traveling, consider purchasing a portable Wi-Fi device. These devices allow you to connect multiple devices to the internet using a local SIM card or data plan. It can be a convenient and cost-effective solution, especially if you travel frequently or need a reliable internet connection.

Use offline maps and navigation

To avoid using data for maps and navigation, download offline maps before you travel or use apps that offer offline navigation. This way, you can still navigate and get directions without using your mobile data.

Additional resources for travelers

Check with your network provider for specific plans and charges

Before traveling, it’s advisable to check with your network provider for specific information regarding their roaming plans and charges. Mobile providers may have different policies and options, so it’s essential to have accurate and up-to-date information.

Research local SIM card options in your destination

If you plan on purchasing a local prepaid SIM card at your destination, it’s a good idea to do some research beforehand. Check the availability, rates, and coverage of local SIM cards to find the best option for your needs.

Read reviews and compare prices for portable Wi-Fi devices

If you’re considering purchasing a portable Wi-Fi device, read reviews, and compare prices from different providers. This will help you make an informed decision and choose the device that suits your requirements and budget.

By following these tips and being aware of the options available, you can avoid high phone bills and stay connected while traveling in Europe. Remember to plan ahead, check with your mobile provider, and make informed decisions to save money and have a worry-free trip.

Reducing phone expenses while traveling is just one aspect of managing your budget on the go. When it comes to booking your next holiday, avoiding common mistakes can further save you money. Discover insightful tips on how to make the most of your holiday budget in my latest post, and learn how some seemingly harmless errors could unexpectedly lighten your wallet.


Hi, I’m Rikki

I’m a passionate author and blogger, sharing my thoughts and experiences on life and travel.

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