6 tips to avoid high mobile phone charges abroad

Data roaming charges are set to be scrapped within the European Union by June 2017. This means you’ll be able to use your mobile in European destinations as you would do right here in the UK - so no more worrying about data limits, or making and receiving calls when you’re on holiday.

Data prices outside of the EU can be as high as £8 per MB

However, if you’re travelling outside of EU countries you could still be stung by roaming charges as smartphones seek out mobile connections - for instance, in order to install updates - so it’s easy to run up big bills. “Data prices outside of the EU can be as high as £8 per MB of data used – although there is a 50 Euro cap across all networks. This cap currently applies to roaming charges both inside and outside the EU but, beware that if you opt in to a travel package with your network you could be opting out of this cap – so always check first,” says Gautam Srivastava at MoneySuperMarket.

There are also concerns that the plans to abolish EU roaming charges may not happen in two years time. “We’ve heard this before,” says Ernest Doku at uSwitch.com. “Data roaming charges were due to be abolished in the EU at the end of 2015 and the U-turn confused and frustrated people. Let’s hope there’ll be no more backtracking.”

In the meantime, MoneySuperMarket offers tips to avoid a data roaming bill shock in Europe:

1. Before you go

Before you travel speak to your UK network and see if they have bundles for your destination. These can be really reasonably priced (normally around £3-£5 per day) and end up saving you a small fortune. Be aware though, some of these packages opt you out of the 50 Euro cap. If you only plan to make calls and text from your mobile, switch off data roaming in your  device settings before you leave home.

2. Find free Wi-Fi hotspots

Free WI-FI is readily available with hotels and restaurants of course – but now increasingly in pubs and bars, public spaces and even museums offering access. Ask around, you’ll be surprised by what you might find.

3. Use over the top services

Data usage is capped in the EU but calls and texts aren’t – avoid these inflated charges by downloading apps that use data calling/messaging such as Whatsapp, Skype, Viber and Facebook Messenger. With these apps you’ll be able to call and text but using data rather than your network. This is free if you’re connected to Wi-Fi.

4. Get a local SIM

If you don’t need to keep your number whilst abroad look at investing in a local SIM card. This will be much cheaper to make calls with within your destination and should come with a bundle of data. Be careful to check the call costs though as calling back to the UK could be expensive and if you give your number out those calling you will be charged international rates.

5. Mobile dongle

If you're looking at getting a local SIM card for your phone think about a mobile dongle or ‘hotspot’ – this is particularly useful if you’re travelling with others. With a dongle you can get a local SIM and transmit mobile data into your own personal Wi-Fi network. So rather than getting a new SIM card each, you can all log on to this bit of a kit. It won’t be incredibly fast but is great for browsing and doing simple tasks.

6. Download maps before you go

Maps use GPS to navigate rather than data – so if you download the maps you need before you go you can use them at no additional cost.

  • Check out the 10 best free travel apps here! Plus all you need to know about travel insurance and holiday money here.