/ Technology, Travel & Leisure

*Warning*: could you end up with mobile bill-shock?

Eu roaming

In the past, I’ve tried to avoid nasty surprises on holiday by refusing to use my mobile outside a wi-fi zone, so it’s nice to think that with new EU roaming regulations in place, I have a bit more freedom. But, this change hasn’t necessarily ended bill-shock…

Having recently returned from Greece and experienced the delights of reading restaurant reviews, booking an excursion and checking the news from the comfort of the local beach, I can say I’m all for fairer rules for roaming.

But the one thing I had to keep reminding myself was ‘yes, Greece is definitely part of the EU’ (it’s amazing what the threat of bill shock can do to your memory). But, you still need to be on the ball when using your phone abroad.

Random roaming

If you’re holidaying close to a border, or even on a cruise, you could find that while you may be within the EU, your phone has had other plans and connected to a network outside of the EU.

And some places that you may think are included under these rules – Turkey, for example, could trip you up. Turkey isn’t a member of the European Union and therefore isn’t counted under the new EU rules.

Another thing to look out for is calling abroad from the UK. Watch out in particular if you’re with one of the ‘big four’ operators as well. We checked to see how much it would cost to call a Spanish mobile from the UK, and even though Giffgaff, for example, uses O2’s network, it charges its customers 9p a minute to call a Spanish number compared to £1.50 with O2. And this is a common trend.

Navigating the rules

At present, prices, deals, add-ons and included destinations vary so much across every provider it’s a nightmare trying to find the best deal, and there’s no obvious reason why things have to be so complicated. Without paying careful attention to what your provider offers you it could end up costing a fair whack.

For example, roaming outside the EU in some of your favourite holiday destinations could cost up to £18.75 for a single megabyte of data, or £5 for a minute on the phone. Plus there’s the concern about receiving calls and how much that might cost as well.

We’ve looked at costs for all the main networks in non-EU holiday destinations to find out which mobile provider is best for holidays, and found some rather nasty surprises.

You’re safer staying closer to home, but our guide to EU roaming and international calls explained still reveals some uncomfortable truths. For example, if you get complacent and blast through your included bundle on holiday in the EU, ‘regular’ costs vary quite a bit – from 55p to 3p a minute for calls, in fact, and 10p to 1p for one megabyte of data.

How do you fare using your mobile travelling abroad? Do you just avoid it altogether, have you changed since the new regulations have come in, or been hit by unexpected bills? What do you think providers could and should be doing to make our lives easier?


As usual all companies take you money from you in any way they can both legally and some using very dodgy methods Just beware all the time

When I visited Budapest in April my mobile company, Orange, stated a phone call would cost 4p a minute anywhere in the EU. When I visited Germany after the 15th of June, Orange stated that now roaming charges had been abolished it would cost 40p a minute! Please can anyone explain why the dropping of roaming charges in the EU is a good thing?

Hi Philip – I think you’ll find that under the new arrangements any calls you make will come out of your inclusive package. I imagine that if you go over your inclusive minutes that’s when you’d be charged 40p/min. Most people have hundreds of inclusive minutes each month. I suppose if you have an extremely limited package ie very few inclusive minutes you could end up paying more, but I would have thought that the vast vast majority of people will save a lot under the new rules.

Ian says:
8 August 2017

The regulations fix the specific issue of excessive bills while roaming. Competition had failed to do so. Calls, texts and data usage in the EU now costs the same as whatever deal you have when using your phone back home in the UK.

Within individual home country markets, competion sees a wide variety of services with an even wider range of prices. In fact, it might be argued there is too much choice and poor understanding of how to compare competing offers.

The changes have introduced one element of simplicity – a bad deal for UK calls, texts and data usage has become a bad deal for use throughout Europe. The usual way to pay for usage is an “unlimited” deal for around £10 on a SIM-only contract or for around £15 on pay-as-you-go.

Chris says:
8 August 2017

When we were in Rhodes in July, my wife’s phone latched onto a signal from Turkey so you still have to be vigilant when roaming near the borders of the EU.

Hi Chris, the same happened to me in Rhodes a few years ago. Has your wife had any additional charges? How did you know that it had connected to a Turkish network – I can’t recall if I had a message from my provider to tell me so or not.

I use a PAYG SIM on the Three network. It is very inexpensive – 3 pence a minute for calls, 2 pence for a text message and 1p per megabyte. So far So good.

However, it makes eye-wateringly high charges for a variety of national and international calls. usually unjustified by any extra costs to them,
This would be acceptable if they provided a list of all these premium/rip-off numbers but they do not, and will not even when asked for one.
Instead, they have a difficult to find, on-line facility for you to input a specific phone number, for which it is then supposed to provide the cost. Ridiculous even if it always worked, but more often than not it doesn’t.

This is clearly a devious and antisocial scheme to bring average overall usage costs up to those of other suppliers, with the added frustration that it is a lottery how long your credit is going to last.

The economist Adam Smith said long ago that “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.”

Ho Hum.

I guess that this is how Three are able to offer such cheap prices for calls and texts. I work on the basis that calls to 01, 02, 03 and 0800 numbers are OK to call on a mobile and anything else needs to be checked.

Going to Bulgaria shortly – have a sim package only with Sky ,Have I got to be careful when ringing back to U.K.
And using so called free wi if in hotel