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Cheap Mobile and Data Roaming

Use your phone abroad for less, incl roam free trick

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Nick and Megan F | Edited by Steve N

Updated 2 May 2017

phone charges abroadIf you're not careful, you can rack up a bill of £100s or even £1,000s using your mobile abroad. Receiving a call can cost as much as £2.50/min, while in some places you'll pay £6/MB to surf the web – yet there are simple ways to slash the cost.

In many countries, there's an easy trick to get free roaming simply by swapping your Sim. Elsewhere, it may be best to keep your phone turned off or stick to free Wi-Fi – but if that's not an option, we'll show you how to use your phone as cheaply as possible.

Brexit Impact

The European Union is set to ban roaming fees within the region from June 2017, yet when we leave the EU (which won't be for a while yet), we'll be outside this. It is unclear what will happen then, but we'll update this guide as soon as we know more.

Quick tips to cut the cost of using your mobile abroad

Use your mobile abroad and you'll be "roaming". That's when you connect to an overseas network and calls are routed via that network provider instead of your home network, at a vastly increased cost.

It doesn't just happen abroad – you could be on the White Cliffs of Dover and connect to an overseas network without realising. A 10-minute call from your mobile could cost up to £1.60 when travelling in Europe (though EU roaming charges will be largely, if not entirely, scrapped in June 2017), or a whopping £25 outside Europe, while data costs are even more inflated.

The cheapest way of using your phone abroad depends on which network you're with and where you're going – options include a trick to get free roaming in 50 destinations, roaming add-ons for use within and outside Europe, and for frequent travellers, specialist local and global Sims. First, though, check these quick tips to keep your post-holiday bill to a minimum:

Switch off data roaming and use Wi-Fi – for calls as well as web browsing

There are two ways to access the internet via your mobile while abroad. You can use your mobile's 3G or 4G signal, in which case you'll pay your mobile provider (a lot) for data usage. Or you can connect via Wi-Fi, wirelessly hitching up to a local broadband connection.

If you can, it's best to switch off data roaming and rely on Wi-Fi when you need it. It's usually faster and much cheaper – in fact, you can often find free Wi-Fi hotspots in bars, hotels and cafes. Remember also that much of your phone's functionality doesn't rely on an internet connection at all – eg, if you want to use it for music, games, photos etc.

Wi-Fi doesn't just offer a cheap way of browsing the web – you can use it for calls too. If you've got a smartphone and free internet access, download an 'internet-to-phone' calling system like Skype before you go. If the person you're calling also has Skype, you'll simply need to find a free Wi-Fi spot to call for free.

Alternatively, Rebtel allows anyone with web access to make cheap or even free calls via normal landlines or mobiles, meaning you can use a hotel room phone. For other apps and more tips, see our Free Web Calls guide.

Additional tips:

How to turn data roaming off on your phone

Turn off automatic app updates

Don't download attachments and manually retrieve emails

wifi abroad

EU roaming fees are being phased out – but watch out for charges of up to £2.50/min further afield

If you're travelling in the EU, the good news is that from 15 June (and soon after in non-EU member states Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway – but not Switzerland), networks won't be allowed to charge customers to use their monthly allowance when roaming in the region (though there's a catch when it comes to data).

Until 15 June, what you pay – whether you're a pay-monthly or pay-as-you-go customer – is exactly what you'd pay in the UK, plus a surcharge, up to a certain amount. This means if you have a monthly allowance, as long as you're still within it, you'll only pay the surcharge.

More details on what you'll pay in the EU

Yet outside Europe costs can skyrocket to £2.50/min (eg, in Cuba on EE) or an eye-watering £6/MB (eg, in the US on O2). Given a 30-minute TV programme can be 500MB, that could add up to an astronomical £3,000 (though in practice the monthly spending cap would kick in before hitting this).

Furthermore, it was announced in the 2017 Budget that the Government plans to introduce UK VAT on roaming services used outside of the EU (it's already applied within it) – further adding to the cost.

See what the major providers charge within and beyond the EU

You'll pay to receive calls, but not texts – so get friends back home to message you instead

If you use a UK number while abroad (including a local or global Sim with a UK number), it won't cost friends and family at home any more to call you. They'll be charged the standard domestic rate. However, you will pay to receive calls when you're roaming abroad, and although this is capped within Europe, it can cost as much as £2.50/min elsewhere.

You can avoid this by buying a local Sim card when you arrive at your destination, giving you a foreign phone number – but then those at home will be charged international rates for calling it. If you've Wi-Fi or data access, get them to call you via Skype or some other VoIP service, avoiding these costly rates.

However it's free to receive texts anywhere worldwide, so ask friends to message you, not call. Then, as it can cost as much as £1/text to reply outside Europe, condense your reply (lrn 2 spk txt) and it's still relatively cheap. Don't go back and forth, though.

Alternatively, use your mobile as a pager – get people to text if they want to chat and then use a cheaper way to call back.

Beware voicemail – outside the EU you can be charged £2.50/min just to receive them and another £1.50/min to listen

EU regulations mean your provider can't charge you when someone leaves you a voicemail if you're travelling within Europe. However you can be charged if you listen to a voicemail message – within Europe, it'll be capped at the usual call rate but speak to your provider before you go to see how much it'd be.

Outside Europe it can be much more expensive. Outrageously some networks – notably EE and Virgin Mobile – will actually charge you if someone leaves you a voicemail, whether you actually listen to it or not. Furthermore the amount you'll be charged is not capped so you could find yourself in a spot of bother if anyone decides to leave you a message.

If your network charges for this it's safest to disable voicemail for the duration of your trip. You should be able to do this by calling customer services. See our new Beat the Voicemail Roaming Trap guide for more information.

Beware watching TV, films or downloading music

This one's simple – never, ever use your network's 3G signal to download or stream films, TV or music when you're abroad. Doing so can use up huge chunks of data, potentially leaving you with a bill of £100s or even £1,000s when you return.

If you do have a Wi-Fi connection, though, it's a different story – though if you're paying for it still beware of how much data you're downloading as charges can add up fast.

There's a €50 data roaming cap but add-ons often opt you out, so watch out

While roaming rates are only capped within Europe, thanks to EU regulations even if you're roaming OUTSIDE Europe, providers now have to cut you off when you've used €50 (around £51 including VAT) of data in a month (see the Data charges slashed MSE News story).

You should only get charged more than this if you've explicitly agreed that you're happy to go over the limit. This can be a useful backstop given it's often unexpected data charges that result in massive post-holiday roaming bills – but there's a catch:

If you sign up for a network's roaming add-on, you may also be opted out of the EU €50 cut-off limit.

So read the T&C carefully before taking one of these bundles and keep a close eye on your data usage, otherwise you could arrive home to a big bill.

Got a Kindle Keyboard? Pack it for free web access

If you've got an older model of the 3G Kindle Keyboard, don't forget to pack it before you go, as it offers free mobile internet access across most of Europe and other countries around the world (see coverage maps).

The idea is that while overseas you can download books or newspapers at no additional cost, even without a Wi-Fi connection.

In the "experimental" option in the menu, however, there's also a web browser. It's black and white, and pretty basic. You can't watch videos or high-end graphical content, but for scanning info sites it's functional. It's also good for checking web-based email accounts like Gmail.

wifi abroad

Get special apps to compress the amount of data you use

The currently free app Onavo says it compresses data downloads for other apps like Facebook, so you can do more with your download limit. It works in 90 countries around the world, which will help minimise expensive roaming rates.

Onavo says it could reduce data usage by 80% and is totally secure as it doesn't store your data. It can't compress downloads for apps that stream content like the BBC iPlayer or YouTube, or VoIP apps like Skype. It's available for iPhones and Android. Onavo says it will start charging a subscription but it's free for now.

Alternatively, web browser Opera also offers a free data compression app for web surfing. The "Mini" mobile version of the browser is available for iPhones and Android phones.

iPhone users: update your software

wifi abroad

All iPhones have a function which allows you to switch off data roaming, which should mean no data charges when away.

However, in the past complaints flooded in from MoneySavers saying they have taken the necessary steps to disable roaming and have still been charged, so here's what you need to do:

  1. Ensure software is up to date. Plug your phone into iTunes and follow the on-screen prompts to download any software updates before you go.

  2. Check data roaming is off. Switch off data roaming BEFORE you leave the UK, and keep it off. While it is on, some apps trigger data downloading even when you're not browsing the web. You may also be downloading emails inadvertently. When you buy an iPhone, data roaming should be "off" by default. You can check by going to Settings > Mobile, and move the Data Roaming slider to "off".

Download maps on Wi-Fi before you go

Google Maps, available on iOS, Android, and (unofficially) Windows Phone, now allows you to store maps for offline use. Since data isn't required for the GPS function on a smartphone, this means you can navigate around the place you're visiting without paying roaming charges.

When you're connected to Wi-Fi, open the app and search the area you want to save. Once it's on-screen click on the bar that has the place name you search for and then select the menu button in the top right hand corner. To save it select Save Offline Map. For more information see Google help.

Many travel apps work this way and some, such as Time Out's app, include reviews.

wifi abroad

Keep your phone secure in case the worst happens

Losing your phone or having it stolen is enough to ruin anyone's holiday. You obviously hope it'll never happen – but there are practical steps you can take now to limit the damage to your wallet if it does.

  1. Consider insurance. You should always take out travel insurance if you're going abroad, but many policies don't cover gadgets, or if they do, the cover is often very limited. The alternative is dedicated mobile phone insurance that covers loss/theft – our current top pick for most phones, Insurance2go, includes cover abroad for up to 90 days a year. Always think about whether you really need mobile phone insurance before shelling out for cover.

  2. Lock your handset. Many people instinctively lock their phone – this is especially important to do if you're abroad, where you may be more vulnerable to theft and (thanks to roaming charges) the consequences of the loss may be more catastrophic. Here are screen locking instructions for iOS (the Find My iPhone feature is also useful), Android and Windows Phone.

  3. Lock your Sim. Even if your handset is locked, it's still possible for those with light fingers to remove the Sim and use it in another phone, potentially racking up huge bills on your contract. To prevent this you can lock your Sim with a PIN which will be required whenever it's put into a new device. Follow these steps if you've an iPhone, Android phone or Windows Phone. Also see the MSE News story Mugging victims chased for £1,000s.

If your phone does end up getting stolen, make sure you report it to the police and let your network know as soon as possible. This is important for preventing unauthorised use of your service, and may also be critical for insurance claims (most insurers only give a 12-hour window to report an incident after it occurring).

Roam free in 50 destinations incl the US, Australia and most of Europe

wifi abroad

When it comes to making roaming affordable, Three is leading the charge. Its Feel At Home* feature allows those on 'Advanced' (but not 'Essential') pay-monthly plans and pay-as-you-go users to access their allowance of minutes, texts and data abroad in a wide range of countries, exactly as they would in the UK – and if you're not already a Three customer, there's a trick to get this for free.

Having been extended in early September, this now works in 50 countries and territories, including the US, France and Spain. Recent additions also include Greece, Germany and Portugal. See the full list of countries covered.

All roaming fees in Europe are being scrapped from mid-June anyway, but this is great news for those going away before then or to a destination outside the EU which won't be covered by the ban. Here's how it works:

  • Any calls or texts to UK numbers and any data used comes from your allowance (though you're charged international rates for dialling non-UK numbers, eg, if you call the restaurant down the street from your hotel). Receiving calls and texts is also free.
  • If you have international roaming activated on your account, Feel At Home should work automatically when you arrive in one of the countries covered. You'll get a text confirming there's no extra cost for calls and texts to the UK, and another with international rates.
  • You can only use 3G data abroad, even if you get 'superfast' 4G in the UK. Three says there's no need to turn 4G off to get online in a Feel At Home country though, your handset will just connect to 3G only.
  • 'All-you-can-eat' customers can use up to 12GB, 3,000 mins and 5,000 texts abroad – so your allowance isn't technically unlimited, though in practice it should be plenty.

Any other restrictions?

Not on Three? Get a free pay-as-you-go Sim

wifi abroad

Even if you're not a Three customer, you can grab its Feel At Home offer. Just order one of its free pay-as-you-go Sims to pop into your handset while you're away. Here's how:

  • Step 1: Order a free PAYG Sim from the Three* website – it'll work in any unlocked 3G or 4G phone, and using it in the UK costs 3p per minute for calls, 2p per text and 1p per MB. You can also buy one in store – it normally costs £1, but the fee's waived if you top up at the same time. You will need to top up with a minimum of £10.

  • Step 2: To use Feel At Home, you'll then need to use your credit to buy a Three add-on bundle of calls, texts and data. They cost from £5 to £25 – as an example, £20 will get you 300 minutes, 3,000 texts and 12GB of data. To do this, log in to your 'My 3' account, or call 333 using your new Sim.

  • Step 3: Your Sim should already be activated for international roaming, so Feel At Home will work automatically when you arrive in any of the countries covered. You'll be able to use the allowance in your add-on in the same way as in the UK.

To do this you might have to unlock your phone though – as some networks can take up to 10 days to do this, make sure you leave plenty of time.

Quick questions

Is it free to unlock my phone?

Will I have a new number?

Is it worth switching to Three for free roaming?

Three's Advanced tariffs (which allow free roaming) aren't bad.

For example, Three's 'Advanced' 600 mins, unlimited texts and 8GB of 4G data 12-month Sim is £12/mth. That's a few pounds more more than its £9/month 'Essential' plan (which excludes free roaming and tethering) with unlimited mins and texts and 4GB (4G) on a 12-month contract.

Whether it's worth switching for the roaming depends very much on your circumstances though. If you travel often and are free to switch it's worth considering (but do a full comparison) – if not, you might be better getting a pay-as-you-go Sim as above. Bear in mind too that all providers must remove roaming fees in Europe from June anyway.

Add-ons to cut costs within Europe

June 2017 will see an end to roaming charges in Europe, but until then, costs are capped (see above). But that can still add up to a hefty bill, especially if you're used to unlimited allowances in the UK.

As Three's Feel At Home feature works across Europe, you may be best off getting a Three Sim if you don't already have one.

Otherwise, if you're a monthly contract customer it's worth checking if you can get an overseas calls, texts and/or data allowance, or add-on, from your network. Here are the major mobile providers' offerings:


Pay £2/day for unltd texts and calls & from £1/day for 50MB/day


EE customers can choose from three bundles covering calls, texts and/or data for while they're travelling in Europe.

  • Euro Talk and Text Unlimited* gives you unlimited calls and texts to European numbers (incl UK) while abroad in Europe for a flat rate of £2/day. Once you've opted in, the add-on applies automatically once you start using your phone in one of the available countries*.

  • Euro Pass* lets you pay £4/day for unlimited calls and texts, plus 500MB of data per day (data speeds will be slowed down after the first 100MB). Once you've opted in, the add-on applies automatically once you start using your phone. This bundle is for pay-monthly customers only.

  • The £1 Euro Data Pass* is for those who only need a small amount of data (or are on an EE Extra plan and get minutes/texts included in Europe anyway) – it costs £1/day and gives a 50MB daily allowance in the EU. Alternatively, there's a £3/day Travel Data Pass* that gives 500MB. These add-ons apply in the same way as the Euro Pass.

How do I use it?
  • For the Text and Talk package and the Euro Pass, you'll only be charged for the days you make or receive calls or send a text. If you're planning on sending just a couple of texts or a quick call, consider paying standard European rates as they may be cheaper.
  • The following countries aren't included: Albania, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cyprus (North), Faroe Islands, Gaza Strip, Georgia, Israel, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Turkey, Ukraine, West Bank.
  • You can't use internet abroad without a bundle, so when it runs out you have the option to buy another or stop using data altogether.

Pay £1.99/day for unltd data, 120 mins & 120 texts


O2 pay-monthly customers roaming in Europe can pay £1.99 a day for O2 Travel* and get unlimited data, 120 minutes to make calls to European numbers and receive calls, and 120 texts to European numbers. This has now been extended to Turkey (£3.99/day), and a host of other non-European destinations.

For pay-as-you-go customers, calls back to the UK and within Europe cost 4p/min, receiving calls is free and texts cost 1p each. Plus you only get 100MB of data – if it runs out, you have to buy the add-on again to get more.

How do I use it?
  • Opt in by texting O2TRAVEL to 23336 (on pay monthly). Pay-as-you-go customers should text TRAVELON to 21300.
  • You'll then be charged on any day you make a call, send a text or use data. You can receive up to 120 minutes' worth of calls a day without triggering the charge.
  • Data for pay-monthly customers is unlimited but O2 says it may slow speeds if you use more than 150MB of data in a day (50MB if video/music streaming). Tethering is not permitted.
  • If you're on pay-as-you-go and you reach the daily limit, the service will stop. If you want to use more you can reset your allowance for another £1.99 by texting MORETRAVEL to 21300 or wait for your allowance to be reset automatically at midnight.
  • Not all European countries are included. See a full list on O2's website.

Pay £3/day and use your UK price plan in Europe


Vodafone customers who signed up to one of its 12- or 24-month 'Red' or 'Red Value' plans after 5 May 2016 get inclusive roaming in 40 European countries.

For everyone else, they can pay £3/day to use their UK price plan in Europe with the Vodafone EuroTraveller* add-on. You'll only be charged on the days you use your phone and can receive calls for free.

If you're on a 4G contract and travelling in one of the eligible countries, you'll also get 4G when roaming if you pay for EuroTraveller.

For pay-as-you-go customers, the add-on's* slightly different – you pay £3/day to take your Big Value Bundle minutes and texts with you, and you get 100MB of data for each day you use your phone while away.

How do I use it?
  • To opt in to Vodafone EuroTraveller*, call 5555 or text ADD to 40506 from your Vodafone phone before you go. If on pay-as-you-go, text EURO to 2345 or call 5555.
  • A day is classified as midnight to 11.59pm, local time.
  • The following countries aren't included: Belarus, Gaza Strip, Georgia, Israel, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Ukraine, West Bank.
  • EuroTraveller uses your UK price plan's inclusive allowances. If you exceed your inclusive UK allowances, you'll be charged as if you're still at home.
  • By opting in to Vodafone EuroTraveller*, you'll automatically opt out of the monthly spend limit for internet in its Europe Zone.

Pay £5/day for unlimited EU data


If the country you're visiting is one of Three's Feel At Home destinations (which now includes most of Europe), you can use your UK minutes, texts and data allowance for free without having to buy a pass. If you need more, or you're on an Essential plan, the Euro Internet Pass gives you unlimited access to mobile data for £5/day.

How do I use it?
  • Buy the pass before you travel. To get it, visit the Three mobile site. If not, Three will send a text prompt to buy it when you first turn on your phone in an EU country.
  • The add-on can't be used in a number of European countries – see the full list.
  • Standard EU roaming charges apply if you don't buy a pass every day. Before your Euro Internet Pass expires, you'll receive a text with the option to buy another pass for the following day. You won't be charged after your pass expires until you buy another pass or accept standard EU roaming charges.
  • You can't use it for video streaming or tethering, and streamed music may not play as well as in the UK. If you have an active Euro Internet Pass and you travel to a country where the pass isn't valid, you'll be charged for data at standard EU roaming rates.
  • Three allows you to have one of each add-on per month, which means you can't use the Euro Internet Pass alongside the International Saver, for example.

Add-ons to cut costs outside Europe

Outside the EEA it's a different story altogether. Providers can charge what they like for calls, texts and data, and other than the €50 (roughly £51 incl VAT) monthly limit on data charges, costs aren't capped (and if you take out an add-on, you may be opted out of this cap anyway).

Some providers charge as much as £3/min to make a call and £2.50/min to receive a call, and it's easy to rack up bills running into £100s.

Forumite shockedandstunned really suffered:

Just got my stepson's phone bill and it's over £4,500. He's been to Turkey for 2 weeks and left data roaming on/been on the internet, as it's all data charges. – shockedandstunned

The table below shows just how steep the cost of using data outside Europe can be:

Data roaming costs outside Europe compared (incl VAT)
EE1 O2 Three Vodafone
US N/A £6/MB Free2 £3/MB for up to 5MB, then £15 for every 5MB after3
India N/A £6/MB £3/MB £3/MB for up to 5MB, then £15 for every 5MB after3
Turkey N/A £6/MB £3/MB 45.9p/MB4


£6/MB Free2 £3/MB for up to 5MB, then £15 for every 5MB after3
China N/A £6/MB £6/MB £3/MB for up to 5MB, then £15 for every 5MB after3
Table updated May 2017. 1EE customers can't use the internet on their phone abroad unless they buy a data add-on. The company says this is to prevent users running up large bills. 2Comes from your allowance (3.3p/MB if you exceed this); £3/MB if you're on an Essential plan. 3Or £5 a day to use your allowance if you took out a contract after 12 April 2017. 4Or 'free' if you took out a contract after 12 April 2017.

How to cut the cost

The first thing to check is whether the country you're heading to is covered by Three's Feel At Home service.

Australia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Israel, Macau, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and the US are covered outside Europe, as is Switzerland – if you're going to one of those destinations, you may be best off getting a Three Sim if you don't already have one. (If you're heading to the States, also see our US Roaming Tips guide.)

Otherwise, if you're a monthly contract customer it's worth checking if you can get an overseas data bundle from your network. We list the major providers' offerings below – bear in mind though that even buying a bundle can work out expensive (some cost a gargantuan £120) so you may be better off keeping your phone off or sticking to free Wi-Fi.


Pay from £5/day for unltd calls and texts


EE customers can buy varying packages of minutes and texts to make or receive calls anywhere in the world to or from the UK, and add a data bundle on top.

  • Pay-monthly and pay-as-you-go EE customers can sign up for a roaming data add-on* when travelling outside Europe. Bundle costs and lengths depend on the country you're visiting, so check with EE* before you go.

  • If the country's in the EE's 'World Select Zone' (Australia, USA etc) you can text 'WORLD' to 150 and you'll pay £5/day for unlimited calls and texts. Data add-ons vary; full details can be found on the EE website*.

How do I use it?
  • The data add-ons can only be purchased while abroad – turn on data roaming and open your browser to purchase.
  • Once you've used the allowance in the data bundle, you'll be given the option to buy another. If not, the internet will stop working.
  • Once 'World Select' has been activated it will continue to be on until you text 'STOP WORLD' to 150.

Pay £5/day for 25MB/day or to use your UK allowance


Vodafone customers have the option of paying £5/day to use their normal UK allowance (including data) while abroad or paying the same price to opt for a specific data bundle.

  • If you're travelling to one of 60 selected countries, including Australia and the US, you can also opt for Vodafone's WorldTraveller* add-on. This costs £5 and lets you use your UK allowance of minutes, texts and data without any additional roaming fees. If your plan at home gives it, you'll also get 4G data if you're travelling in one of 60 eligible countries.

  • Vodafone's Data Traveller* add-on can be used outside Europe in any country in its 'Rest of World Zone 1', and gives 25MB/day for £5/day. If you use more than this in a single day you'll pay standard roaming rates. The cut-off limit is £39.33/month (including VAT) – if you want more data, you'll have to arrange it with Vodafone.
How do I use it?
  • To get WorldTraveller, text ADD to 40508 from your mobile. See Vodafone* for more details. You'll be charged £5/day every time you use your phone – it's a good idea to do all your calls/texts/web surfing on one day, or limit it to just a few days of your trip, so you're not charged every day.
  • A day is classified as midnight to 11.59pm, local time.
  • Call 191 free from your Vodafone mobile to opt in to Data Traveller. Then, you'll only pay for the days you go online. Once you've used your allowance you'll pay standard data rates – £3/MB up to 5MB, then £15 for every 5MB thereafter.

Pay £4.99/day for unltd data, 120 mins & 120 texts


Recently extended to cover roaming in a number of countries outside Europe for pay-monthly customers only, O2 Travel* costs £4.99/day (£3.99 in Turkey) and gives you unlimited data, 120 minutes to make local and UK calls and receive calls, and 120 local/UK texts.

If you don't opt in, standard charges of £6/MB apply, or you can opt for its Data Abroad Bolt-on* (though it costs a whopping £120/month for 200MB, so we wouldn't recommend it).

How do I use it?
  • Text O2TRAVEL to 23336 to activate it, or add the bolt-on in your My O2 account. It can take up to 24 hours to be applied.
  • You'll then be charged on any day you make a call, send a text or use data. You can receive up to 120 minutes' worth of calls a day without triggering the charge.
  • Data is unlimited but O2 says it may slow speeds if you use more than 150MB of data in a day (50MB if video/music streaming). Tethering is not permitted.
  • See a list of included countries on O2's website*.
Key points:

REMEMBER! Call and cancel your package when you get home

Can you use these data add-ons with tablets?

Frequent traveller? Consider switching to a specialist Sim

If you're a frequent traveller, plan to use your phone a lot or are going away for a bit longer than usual, you may be better off getting a specialist Sim.

If you're not travelling to one of the countries covered by Three's Feel At Home service and can't rely on free Wi-Fi, this may be the most cost-effective way to get online. But it can be a fiddly process, and there's no easy solution to finding the best deal. With most Sims, you'll also need an unlocked mobile (or mobile device).

There are three main options:

  1. A PAYG local Sim (bought on arrival). If you regularly visit the same country, the cheapest way to get online (if you don't have Wi-Fi) is to buy a local Sim when you arrive at your destination. Though this is the very cheapest way, it is a bit of a faff, and you may prefer to have something set up before you go. More info.

  2. A pre-paid local Sim. For those who regularly visit one country or go for quite a while, the alternative (a lot less hassle) is to buy a local Sim for the country you're visiting before you go, and load it with credit. More info.

  3. A pre-paid global Sim. If you're travelling to multiple countries, a global Sim might be more suitable. More info.

If you're after a specialist Sim, you'll need to weigh up what's best for you. Think about the calls you are making – if they're mainly calls to the country you're in, a local Sim could be best, but then you'll have to pay international rates to phone home. Also bear in mind that it is likely to be easier to top up a global Sim online.

PAYG local Sims

Switch Sim For The Cheapest Deals

The cheapest option is to buy a Sim card when you arrive at your destination.

To get recommendations of PAYG overseas Sim cards, Wiki Resource is a good tool, although its accuracy depends on how up-to-date people have kept the info. Use the list on the left-hand side to pick a country, and it'll show you available PAYG data Sim options, where to buy them when you arrive and how to get connected once you get the Sim.

Alternatively if you're willing to do a little more legwork yourself, Wikipedia lists the mobile networks available in every country:

France | Spain | Germany | Poland | Greece | Turkey | Australia | USA

There's also a useful list of overseas networks on PrepaidGSM.

Once you know which providers operate in the country you're travelling to, it's possible to compare deals on their sites before you go, and buy a PAYG Sim card when you get there.

Warning! In North and South America, you'll need a 'tri-band' phone in order for it to work there (elsewhere in the world, you only need a dual-band phone). While most modern smartphones are tri-band, always check whether your handset is compatible with local networks before purchasing a foreign Sim. For more info see Carphone Warehouse.

Pre-paid local Sims

This is a specific Sim card for the country you are going to, which gives you a new UK number to give out to friends and family, so they can call you while you're away, without it costing them. If you travel frequently, to a few different countries, it means buying a few Sims and giving out lots of different numbers.

To get recommendations of pre-paid overseas Sim cards, PrePaidGsm is a good tool, although its accuracy depends on how up-to-date people have kept the info. It lists countries by continent – simply click on one and it'll show you available pre-paid Sim options, any special rates and useful info like activation fees and card validity.

See our pre-paid local Sim top pick

Global Sims

Here you use a specialist multi-country Sim card. While not as cheap as a local card, you only need to buy it once, and keep the same UK number wherever you are, making it more convenient (see Cheap International Sims).

The cost of calls, texts and data is different depending on the country you're in, so always double-check the price first.

See our global Sim top picks

How to complain about your mobile provider

The mobile industry doesn't have the best customer service reputation and while a provider may be good for some, it can be hell for others. Common problems include limited network coverage, slow data speeds, unexpected charges and more. It's always worth trying to call your provider first, but if not then…

Free tool if you're having a problem

This tool helps you draft your complaint and manage it too. It's totally free, and offered by a firm called Resolver which we like so much we work with to help people get complaints justice.

If the complaint isn't resolved, Resolver will escalate it on your behalf to the free Ombudsman Services (or CISAS if you're complaining about Virgin Mobile).

Important: if your issue is about a voucher or incentive that was part of an MSE Blagged deal, then instead just let us know by emailing as that's usually quicker.

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