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A Guide to International Roaming Charges

Top Tips

The Top 7 Things You Should Know

  1. Think about getting a foreign Sim if you plan on having a long trip.
  2. Sending texts is a cheaper way of staying in touch with home than calling.
  3. Read-up on your providers rates before you head overseas.
  4. Consider getting a specialist international Sim.
  5. Even using your UK phone in Europe can push your monthly bills up markedly.
  6. Your provider may be able to offer you a special deal, but may be unwilling to make it obvious to you.
  7. Downloading your favourite TV show to watch on holiday is one of the easiest ways to rack up a huge bill.


Introduction to Roaming Charges

Quite simply, roaming is the term used by the world's telecommunications providers for when customers connect to networks outside of the country their service is registered in. So, for example, if a consumer with a UK mobile phone uses it to make call home while on holiday in Spain (and therefore using a Spanish network) then they will have to pay ''roaming charges'. As well as calls from a mobile, roaming charges can also apply to text messages and mobile internet use. If you intend to travel a lot, don't forget to factor in roaming costs when looking at mobile phone deals. It might be cheaper to compare phone prices in the country you will be visiting if you intend to spend a large amount of time there.


Consumers in Europe are protected from astronomical mobile charges by European Union legislation, which has been in place since 2007. Under the rules, the cost of both receiving and sending calls from one of the 27 EU member states to another is capped at around 40 pence and 15 pence, respectively. Additionally, the cost of using SMS is also capped at just 10 pence per message.

Rest of the World

Outside of Europe, no such price protection is in place for Britons opting to use UK-registered mobile phones. Indeed, roaming charges can vary markedly across the world, making it imperative that you check rates with your provider before you go, so as to avoid returning home to a shockingly-high bill.
That said, roaming charges can be said to be gradually falling all over the world as communications become more-prevalent and telecoms providers continue to team-up with one another.

Mobile Internet

As with calls and SMS, telecoms providers also charge higher roaming rates for accessing the internet on a handset outside of your home country. And, again, while legislation is in place to ensure that rates are kept to a reasonable level whilst roaming within the European Union, charges can soar once you are out of the EU-zone. As before, it pays to read up on applicable rates, preferably before you travel, but certainly before you go online overseas.

Top Tips

There are a number if simple steps you can take to avoid racking up large mobile phone bills. For instance, sending text messages can be a far more cost-effective way of staying in touch with friends, family or colleagues back home. Alternatively, consider buying a foreign Sim card if it's likely you will be using your phone to make local calls while away; for a small upfront investment, you can make considerable savings. Additionally, most telecoms companies also offer international products, mainly geared towards jet-setting business users, but also potentially useful for travellers too.

Further information

Read up on the history of roaming charges with the help of the BBC and learn how to keep your bills down with the MoneySupermarket.


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