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Off on holiday? Follow our tips to avoid a big mobile roaming bill

Published: 20 July 2023
Last updated: 20 July 2023

The summer holiday season is starting, which means lots of us will be digging out our suitcases and sun cream and heading off on a break overseas.

Over the past few years there have been some changes to mobile roaming charges by many of the UK’s mobile phone firms. So, it’s important to be aware of how you might be charged for using your mobile abroad – especially as those charges are likely to be different since the last time you travelled.

Nobody wants to receive a larger-than-expected mobile bill when they get back from holiday. For information on the changes brought in by the major mobile providers, see our guide to what they’re currently offering.

But it’s also worth considering the steps you can take yourself to reduce the risk of facing a big bill for mobile roaming. Here are a few simple tips to take before and during your trip.

Check charges before you travel and set a mobile bill limit

Always check with your provider before you travel, to see if roaming charges will apply in the destination you’re heading to. Check how much they cost and any usage limits you need to be aware of – and ask your provider if you have the option to apply a spending cap to your roaming data, or set a mobile bill limit for the duration of your trip.

Buy bundles to save costs

If you do need to use your mobile on the move when abroad, check if your provider has any offers to help you reduce your roaming charges. This could be, for example, a daily or weekly charge that allows you to use your usual home allowance or the option to buy roaming add-ons for a set number of calls, texts, or data.

Turn off mobile data

If you want to avoid high roaming charges, make sure you turn your mobile data off on all devices before you arrive at your destination. You will still be able to make and receive calls (and be aware that charges will apply for these), but you’ll need to connect to Wi-Fi to use any online apps.

Download before you go

If you want to avoid data charges, download any favourite playlists, podcasts or TV shows you or your family want to watch or listen to, before you travel.

Connect to Wi-Fi to reduce your roaming charges

Make use of Wi-Fi. Hotels, apartments and public spaces may offer free Wi-Fi, so make use of this when travelling to avoid paying for data. Apps like FaceTime, WhatsApp and Skype can all be used with Wi-Fi, helping you to stay in touch with friends and family.

If you're not using Wi-Fi, avoid data-heavy activities

Examples include watching videos, updating social media with photos or downloading music. Also, if you are checking emails, avoid opening large attachments. Another option might be to consider buying a SIM for the country you are visiting.

Don't forget the kids

Before you travel, check whether your children’s mobiles will be subject to roaming charges. If they are, make sure you follow the above tips on their phones too, to avoid their roaming charges from racking up once you’ve landed at your destination.

If you still have questions about what roaming charges might apply for your trip, speak to your mobile provider.

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