Roaming data charges and how to avoid them

Roaming data charges and how to avoid them

May 27th, 2015

1 in 5 Brits spend 5x the average mobile bill while on holiday.

Why is this and how can this be reduced?


Data roaming charges

Image Credit: Kai Hendry

Let’s take a look.

Going abroad and using your phone can be pretty costly thanks to “roaming” charges. A roaming charge is an additional cost forced by your network operator and is the result of the cost of partnering with foreign companies to provide signal.

Due to the immense costs that roaming entails, studies have found that around 37% of Brits completely switch their phone off when going abroad with 47% of EU citizens not accessing the internet at all when away from their home country.

It’s unfortunately a necessary evil within the world of network operators, but this isn’t to say that it’s unavoidable. There are a number things that you can do to avoid ramping up huge roaming fees.

Re-evaluate your usage


Data usage

If you’re reading this article then you’re likely a lover of all things social media. Social media is great for keeping in contact with people, but often in our abundance of accessible internet we overuse it.

We’re not saying that you should cut down on the number of selfies that you upload, but maybe they can wait until you have access to WiFi? Apply this sort of mindset to all of your social media activity and you’ll soon find that your charges are cut down significantly.

The amount that you pay is directly proportionate to the amount that you do online. As such, cutting down in every regard is going to save you a lot.

Find WiFi hotspots


Free WiFi Zone

In a lot of countries in the EU there’s a significant push for small businesses to open up WiFi hotspots. As a result free and open WiFi is likely just around the corner (both figuratively and literally!)

As you go about your day keep your WiFi turned on and note down any places that offer up free WiFi. When you next need internet access you’ll know that you can go there, buy yourself a drink or snack and just relax for a while, safe in the knowledge that your usage isn’t costing you anything more than that beverage did.

Some places may not even require you to purchase something: a lot of parks and open spaces around the world now have WiFi coverage available for all. Remember to take note of these locations so that you can return later on.

Turn off background data


Background data

Background data is the data used by apps that aren’t presently opened / focused. An example would be Facebook that checks for new notifications and messages almost constantly throughout your day.

Turning off background data does mean that you’ll have to check for notifications on apps such as Facebook and Twitter manually, but it’ll save you a fair amount of money in the long run for only a little bit of extra work.

Switch to a travel plan


Many sim cards

A lot of operators such as Three and Vodafone offer “travel plans” which offer greatly reduced prices when abroad on texts, minutes and data.

Switching to one of these for the duration of your travel could save you a lot more cash than almost any other option that isn’t completely turning your phone off.

It will mean that you have a different number for the duration of your usage but that’s a small price to pay for how greatly reduced the rates are on a travel sim.

Use VoIP



VoIP (voice over IP) services such as Skype or Google+ Hangouts allow voice and video calls over the internet. If you’re on WiFi then this can be a life saver as rates are around 35p/minute for roaming voice calls.

Be wary when doing this, however; if you’re not actually on WiFi then you’ll end up ramping up a greater cost than a voicemail might. Skype runs at around 50kbps or roughly 3MB per minute of voice calling. 1MB of roaming data can cost as much as £3!

If you are abroad and wanting to use VoIP on data, then we highly recommend using Hangouts over Skype; it uses on average 32kbps or 240KB per minute (Approx. 0.2MB) compared to Skype’s 3MB.

Cutting off completely: cold turkey


Man holding a mobile phone

Going cold turkey on your mobile may- in some cases- be the best option. It’s the only way to ensure that you spend nothing at all and don’t spend your whole holiday or trip worrying about it.

It may not even be that bad, either! Studies claim that a world exists outside of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, although we’re yet to discover it.

Got any other tips or tricks for cutting down your roaming data charges? Let us know via Twitter or Facebook!

Looking to go abroad and need a travel plan? Check out our SIM comparison tool for finding out what’s best for you!


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