New Which? research shows the startling difference that providers can charge for using your mobile phone around the world, as it calls on the government to publicly commit to prioritising free roaming in post-Brexit trade deals.
Ever the unprepared traveller, the surprise €30 visa fee stung at the Turkish border.
This was soothed a little when I turned on my mobile phone and received a text from my provider, Vodafone, telling me not to worry about roaming charges because Turkey is in its Euro Zone.
As most of my recent travel has been to Europe, which has enjoyed free roaming for almost a year now, it hadn’t even crossed my mind that roaming charges still existed beyond its borders.
Fortunately, my lack of research paid off and I was able to scroll social feeds and stream videos for the duration of the trip without the fear of landing a massive bill the following month.
My co-travellers on other networks weren’t so lucky – they either had to do what they could when they found open wi-fi networks or pay the roaming charges.
And in Turkey, these can be extortionate, as a Which? member discovered when they were charged £500 to make calls from the country to the UK to sort insurance cover following a hospital visit.
On another recent trip, this time to New York, it was me who was caught out by mobile roaming charges. My co-travellers’ mobile phone plans included Roam Like at Home in the States, but I was left lost without map apps, stranded without Uber and abandoned without instant messaging.
I didn’t dare turn on data roaming for fear of the ‘bill shock’ on my return. And chatting to a colleague, it seems this would have definitely been the case. Following a recent short trip there, where my colleague made a few necessary phone calls, checked their maps occasionally and made one Uber booking, their bill came to £80.
For some, a forced phone break might be a blessing in disguise, but being connected is such a vital part of modern life that I found it more restricting than relaxing.
How are you meant to make a call in an emergency family situation? There are hardly any pay phones around any more, so your only option is to turn on your data, make the call, then brace yourself for the bill.
Of course, you could also pack several Sim cards with different networks in the hope that one of them offers Roam Like at Home, but that seems ludicrous.
Call for free global roaming
We recently analysed the wildly varying fees tourists can face when using their phone in more than a dozen countries outside of the EU, including Canada, India and Turkey.
We found there was a significant variation in cost according to the network provider and the country visited when using a mobile device to make a call, navigate using Google Maps or load a webpage abroad.
We’re now calling on the government to ensure free roaming is maintained post-Brexit and think there’s a real opportunity to extend the benefit worldwide in future trade deals.
That way, we can spend more time enjoying our holidays and less time worrying about how we’ll stay connected when we’re on them.
Is free mobile roaming important to you? Is it a consideration when you’re choosing a destination to visit? Or do you relish the forced mobile phone and data break when you’re outside of the Euro Zone?