How to avoid roaming charges when travelling outside the EU

How to avoid roaming charges when travelling outside the EU
Daragh Cassidy
Head Writer

Thanks to EU rules, we no longer need to worry much about roaming charges in most of Europe. But if you’re travelling outside the EU (and that now includes the UK) hefty fees could apply. So how can you avoid them?

We rely on our phones for so many things nowadays that it's almost impossible to get through a single day without using one, especially when abroad.

Whether it’s looking up places to eat, researching tourist attractions, checking flight information, getting directions, checking the local weather, or texting your travel companions to arrange where to meet, you’ll likely need to use your phone every day when on holiday.

But roaming charges when outside the EU, especially for downloading data, can be huge.

However there are ways to keep the cost down and ensure you don't come back from your trip with a huge phone bill. 

1. Buy a local SIM 

If you’re going to be in the States or Australia or somewhere outside the EU for a long period, consider buying a local SIM so that you don’t have to worry about roaming charges at all.

However, your handset will need to be unlocked i.e. not tied to one network for this to work. So check with your provider in advance.

2. Use the free local Wi-Fi 

Whether it’s in the hotel, the restaurant or the airport, it goes without saying that you should use the local Wi-Fi as much as possible.

3. Turn off data roaming entirely 

It’s very easy for your phone signal to flip between Wi-Fi and data roaming if you’re not careful, especially if there’s a weak Wi-Fi signal. To avoid this, go into the mobile data settings on your phone and turn off the data roaming option completely.

This way the only time you’ll be able to download something is when you’re connected to Wi-Fi. 

4. Don’t pick up! 

Remember, you’ll be charged for receiving calls as well as making them outside the EU.

So don’t answer the phone unless it’s urgent. 

5. Use Whatsapp

Calling ain’t cheap if you’re outside Europe.

For example, to make or receive a call will cost €1.99 a minute in the USA or Canada with Clear Mobile and GoMo and €1.41 a minute with Vodafone. While a text will cost 39 cent to send with GoMo and Clear and 30 cent with Vodafone.

Go somewhere very exotic and you'll pay even more. 

Try to call or send messages over Whatsapp using Wi-Fi to avoid racking up nasty charges.

Or, at the very least, sign up to a roaming packing with your existing provider...

6. Sign up to a roaming package 

As mentioned above, out-of-bundle roaming charges can be eye-wateringly expensive. But you can ease the burden by signing up to a daily roaming package with your provider.    

For example Vodafone's RED Roaming package gives you unlimited calls and texts to the country you're in and to home and 500MB of data for €3.99 a day in the USA and Canada and €4.99 a day in Australia. 3 has a roaming pass that's also €3.99 a day in most countries and offers 1GB of data, 

You'll only be charged for the days you use the service.

Remember though that the daily fee period usually applies from 12am to 11:59pm IRISH time and not the time of the country you're in.

7. Download media and files at home

Streaming or downloading data-heavy content like videos and large files will eat through any data allowance you have very quickly.

Download shows, movies, music and podcasts while you’re still in Ireland so you can enjoy entertainment even when offline.

Additionally, it’s a good idea to download maps and important documents, such as boarding passes, before you leave. For example, Google Maps allows you to download and store maps for offline use.

8. Check out Holafly

If you have a phone that accepts an eSim, then check out Holafly.

An eSIM or embedded SIM is a digital version of the physical SIM card you're more familiar with.

eSIMs are built/embedded into all newer smartphones. They're programmable remotely via software and identify your phone virtually in order to provide a mobile connection. This means you don't have to purchase a new physical SIM card if you want to change phones or switch mobile provider.

Holafly is an international eSIM shop for more than 160 destinations. It’s simple to set up and provides access to lots of 4G data around the world. At the moment it's selling 10 days of unlimited data in the USA for $34 or just under €30 for example.

Its eSIMs only provide data in most countries though. So you'll need to use Whatsapp for texts and calls. But it's still great value.


Finally, take particular care if going on a cruise and when in the sky. 

Cruise ships and airlines aren’t usually covered by networks’ roaming schemes – especially when it comes to data usage. 

When you’re at sea, there’s a risk that you could inadvertently connect to a ‘maritime network’, which are satellite-based services that charge huge rates.

Read more

As well as wanting to avoid roaming charges, you'll also want to avoid foreign exchange fees. 

Here's our guide on how to avoid foreign exchange fees when travelling abroad.
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