Vodafone has launched a 'free' roaming offering in 40 European countries, although some customers can expect to start paying more from next April when the telecommunications giant scraps its 'Fixed Price Promise'.
Existing customers will have to upgrade to one of Vodafone's new plans if they wish to take advantage of the roaming benefits, after the network refreshed its range of Sim-only and handset contracts to include roaming as standard in much of mainland Europe.
The move follows the latest round of EU roaming caps on 30 April, and Tesco's announcement of its 'Home From Home' offering allowing its customers to roam at no extra cost in 31 European countries, while EU roaming charges will be scrapped completely from June next year.
Meanwhile, Vodafone has followed in the footsteps of the other big networks and scrapped its 'Fixed Price Promise' - a move that will mean customers face an increase in their bundle price in line with inflation each year starting from April 2017.
However, those who took out contracts before 5 May will not see any increase in cost within the minimum term of their deal, though they may see rises once they're out of their minimum term.
For more on price increases and other tips see our Cheap Mobiles guide.
Who can get 'free' roaming with Vodafone?
Anyone looking to take out a new contract can get one of Vodafone's 'Red' or 'Red Value' bundles (not all its plans offer the 'free roaming' feature) and will benefit from inclusive minutes, texts and data to use when roaming in 40 European countries.
If you're an existing Vodafone customer you can upgrade to one of the new plans. Doing so will likely lead to an increase in the monthly price you pay, however, Vodafone says this would not extend the minimum term of your contract.
How does the new roaming arrangement work when in one of the 40 European countries?
The data allowance you'll get is not the same as the allowance you'll get at home – it's typically between a fifth and a half of the UK allowance. Once you exceed this, your data will be cut off until you agree to pay standard roaming rates or buy an extra roaming bundle.
Inclusive minutes and texts are to standard UK mobiles and landlines or to any standard landline or mobile in any of the included countries, while you're roaming in one of those countries at that time. The offering does not include international calls and texts from within the UK.
Is it worth it?
From 15 June 2017 operators will not be permitted to charge roaming fees to their customers in the European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA). So although some of Vodafone's included countries are not within the controlled zone, for many the benefits will be superfluous within a year.
Additionally, Vodafone's standard price Sim-only deals are not the most competitive on the market, and other providers, such as Three with its 'Feel at Home' offering, allow roaming at no extra cost in countries outside of the EU, including the US and Australia, without imposing lower allowance limits when roaming.
Existing customers, however, may be able to haggle a better deal if they call up – Vodafone was voted one of our top providers for haggling with in a recent MSE poll, with 77% reporting success.
You're more likely to get a better deal if you're past the minimum term of your contract; see Haggling with Service Providers for tips.
It's also worth bearing in mind that contracts that include handsets are typically expensive and you'll usually pay less buying the handset upfront and pairing it with a cheap Sim – see our Cheap Mobile Tips for more on this.
Will my monthly bill go up?
Under the regulator's rules, mobile networks are allowed to increase your monthly bundle price in line with inflation each year if it warns you of this before taking out a contract. Historically Vodafone has chosen not to do this, protecting its customers with its 'Fixed Price Promise'.
However, anyone taking out a new contract or upgrading as of 5 May will see an increase in their monthly bill every year in line with inflation, as customers of other networks such as EE, O2 and Three, already do. Vodafone will use official RPI figures (a measure of inflation) published in March and apply any increases in April each year, starting next year.
Vodafone says existing customers who signed up before 5 May will not see an increase in their monthly bills during their minimum term, though they may face inflationary hikes after – you would be free to leave at that point however.
What does Vodafone say?
A Vodafone spokesperson said: "Customers can take their home plan abroad at no extra cost to more than 40 destinations across Europe, of which 29 offer 4G roaming.
"At the same time, these new bundles will see new contract terms, which will include an annual inflation linked price increase. There will be no price rises for customers whose agreements are covered by our Fixed Price Promise.
"We know it's never popular to see mid-contract price rises introduced. However, the UK continues to be one of the most competitive markets in the world and these changes will allow us to maintain the massive investment in our UK-wide network and to offer the services that our customers expect from us."