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Revealed: The hidden cost of using your phone in Europe – here's which providers offer truly free roaming and how to avoid getting stung

If you're heading to Europe this summer, check your mobile provider's roaming policy before you go – or you could get stung with unexpected charges. New (MSE) research reveals how some networks limit the amount of data you can use for free when travelling – even if you have roaming as part of your bundle – and not all providers make it clear that they do this. 

Update: 24 July 2023: From today, Asda Mobile has told us it will make changes to ensure its 5GB data roaming cap is clearer on sign-up. 

In addition, telecoms regulator Ofcom has announced that mobile providers will need to send tailored roaming alerts, including specifying any fair use data limits, under new plans. It comes after our research showed existing info isn't clear enough. See Roaming shake-up for full info.

Offering to let you "roam like at home" in Europe has become a selling point for many mobile firms. This should mean you can use your normal allowance of calls, texts and data without paying extra.

But MSE can reveal that Asda Mobile, Giffgaff and Lycamobile, plus iD Mobile for the majority of existing customers, severely limit how much of your normal data allowance you can use abroad under strict "fair use" policies – despite offering inclusive roaming.

Meanwhile 12 other firms – more than half of which supposedly offer inclusive roaming – also have caps (though they're less restrictive). See our firm-by-firm round-up below to check your provider's policy.

In addition, some providers don't make these fair use policies clear when you sign up, while others don't explain these caps in the texts you're sent when you arrive in Europe. 

If you're looking for a new mobile plan or handset, use our Cheap Mobile Finder to compare the latest deals.

'Fair use' data caps: firm-by-firm roaming policies

When you use your phone in Europe (the exact list of countries and regions included under 'Europe zones' can vary by provider, so check first), how much data you can use may be limited by your network's roaming fair use policy. 

To help you avoid getting caught out, we've researched and compiled the policies of over 20 different major mobile providers, ordered from most to least restrictive:

Data roaming limits in Europe

Provider Free roaming included Fair use data cap Fee if you exceed the data cap Default spend cap per billing period
🟥 Very restrictive - capped at 5GB or a % of your allowance/monthly payment
Asda Mobile 5GB 10p/MB (£102.40/GB) £40
Giffgaff 5GB 10p/MB (£102.40/GB) £45
iD Mobile If you joined or upgraded on or before 20 June 2023: A % of the cost of your monthly plan. Eg, If you have a £10 plan with 10GB of monthly data, you can use up to 7.72GB in the EU

If you joined or upgraded on or after 21 June 2023: 30GB 
0.25p/MB (£2.56/GB)

Lycamobile Varies depending on your plan. Eg, Its 10GB plan has a 3GB cap 15p/MB (£153.60/GB) N/A
🟨 Some restrictions - caps apply but they're much more generous
1pMobile 14GB 1p/MB (£10.24/GB) N/A
BT Mobile 50GB 13.06p/MB (£133.73/GB) or 10.83p/MB (£110.90/GB) (2) £35
EE If your UK allowance is 50GB or less: your roaming cap is the same as your UK cap

If your UK allowance is more than 50GB: your roaming cap is 50GB
0.36p/MB (£3.69/GB) None - you'll need to set yourself
Lebara 30GB 9p/MB (£92.16/GB) £25
O2 25GB £3.50/GB £43
Plusnet Mobile 15GB 10p/MB (£102.40/GB) £10
Smarty 12GB N/A (3) £45
Superdrug Mobile 12GB N/A (3) £45
TalkMobile 15GB 0.6p/MB (£6.14/GB) £50
Three 12GB to 15GB depending on your plan 0.3p/MB to 0.5p/MB (£3.07/GB to £5.12/GB) depending on your plan £45
Vodafone 25GB £3.13/GB £39
Voxi 20GB N/A (3) N/A (3)
🟩 No restrictions - 'fair use' policy not applied
Ecotalk N/A N/A £50
Sky Mobile N/A N/A £45
Tesco Mobile ✅ (4) N/A N/A None - you'll need to set yourself
The Phone Co-op N/A N/A None - you'll need to set yourself
Virgin Mobile N/A N/A £52.50
Zevvle N/A N/A None - you'll need to set yourself

(1) Offer 'free' roaming in Europe still. (2) 10.83p/MB in destinations listed as being in BT's 'Zone 1b'. (3) No extra costs but you won't be able to use any data once you've hit the cap without buying an add-on. (4) Pay monthly customers who joined or upgraded on or after 16 June 2022 get inclusive roaming in 48 destinations until the end of 2023. From next year, this will be axed. 

Outside of Europe, inclusive roaming isn't typically offered and charges and add-on bundles vary by provider

In the UK, there aren't prescriptive fair use caps in place for data use, though providers may curb what they deem to be 'excessive' use. 

Some providers aren't very transparent about these caps and charges in Europe – so double check before you go

We found that European data roaming caps aren't always clear when you sign-up

Our research shows that two of the providers with the most restrictive policies – Asda Mobile and Lycamobile – don't make fair use caps initially clear on their websites when you sign up, as shown in the screenshots below.

Meanwhile iD Mobile, which recently changed its policy so that customers joining or upgrading on or after 21 June 2023 have a much less restrictive cap (something the provider now makes clear on its website), previously did not make this transparent.

  • Asda Mobile

  • iD Mobile

    The screenshot below was taken before iD Mobile changed its policy for customers joining or upgrading on or after 21 June 2023. The previous, more restrictive policy still applies to those who signed up before this date and was not clearly outlined to them at the time:

  • Lycamobile

We also found that the texts you get on landing in Europe don't always clearly explain data limitations

When you land, if you have signal, your network will instantly send you a text message outlining the country you've landed, what part of your allowance you can use and if there's a fair use policy in place.

It should also tell you what charges you might incur if you exceed these or do something that's not included, for example, a daily charge if roaming isn't included as part of your plan.

However, we've uncovered that some providers with fair use data policies in place don't tell you in the text message when you arrive what this limit is. This includes 1pMobile, Giffgaff, iD Mobile, Lycamobile, O2 and TalkMobile. 

  • 1pMobile

    Welcome to <country>. Standard calls, texts, MMS and data costs the same here as in the UK - subject to fair use. Find out more at Need help? Call +441420554726. For emergency services dial 112. Thanks, 1pMobile. Stop these texts send STOP to 9767.

  • Giffgaff

    Hey, welcome to <country>. Calls, texts and data will now come out of your normal UK allowance, just like being at home.

    Once you have used all your goodybags allowance, or all your EU roaming data allowance, data will be charged at 10p/MB.

    For more info and terms, we suggest checking out this guide: Call 112 in emergencies across Europe.

  • iD Mobile (only if you signed up on or before 20 June 2023)

    Welcome! With iD, you can 'roam like at home' in 50 destinations throughout the EU and beyond. So you can now use your minutes, text and data just like you would back in the UK (our open data and fair usage policy may apply). Note: out-of-bundle data rates could be up to £10.24 per 100MB. For more info visit or dial +447482227777 free from your iD mobile. Enjoy your stay.

  • Lycamobile

    Welcome to <Country>. You can now use your plan minutes, texts and data at no extra charge within EU/EEA. Out of plan costs, £0.12/Min (landline) and £0.15/Min (Mobiles) to make calls, texts are £0.06 and DATA costs 0.12£/MB. Calls and texts are free to receive (subject to fair usage policy). Call 112 for emergency services, and call +442071320322 for update on EU/EEA roaming charges. More info visit

  • O2

    Welcome to <country>. Now, all calls, texts and data you use in our Europe Zone will come out of your normal UK allowance. So roaming in Europe feels just like home. For more info and terms, visit: <VARIABLE_15>. Call 112 for emergency services across Europe.

  • TalkMobile

    Text message 1: Welcome to <Country>. You can use your monthly allowance of minutes, texts and data at no extra cost. If you use up all of your allowance you'll simply pay the same charges as you do at home. To find out more go to For emergency services call 112.

    Text message 2: We’ve noticed you’re roaming in our European zone 0. Good news! You can use your UK allowances when you travel in this zone. If you use up all of your inclusive data, visit to buy more.

Mobile providers are allowed to set their own data roaming limits - though some have promised to make 'welcome texts' clearer

Roaming rules that covered minimum fair use data limits fell away at the end of the Brexit transition period and telecoms regulator Ofcom does not have the power to stop mobile providers charging customers for using their services when travelling.

However, Ofcom did tell us that it is currently looking into the options for roaming protections for mobile users. This won't cover prices but will consider transparency and customers having access to information that helps them make informed decisions.

When we put our findings to the four providers with the most limiting roaming policies, Asda Mobile, Giffgaff, and Lycamobile told us they believe their caps to be sufficient for the majority of users. However, Giffgaff has agreed to make this cap clearer in its welcome message to customers arriving in Europe. iD Mobile said users on older contracts can upgrade to new plans after six months to benefit from its higher data roaming cap.

Meanwhile, 1pMobile has also changed its welcome text, after we got in touch, to explicitly warn users about its 14GB European roaming cap. O2 told us it believes its roaming fees are clear and transparent, while TalkMobile would only say that customers who need more information on using their phones in Europe should get in touch.

How to keep roaming costs down

If there is a fair use data cap in place, some networks will voluntarily automatically text you once you've used 80% of your data allowance and then again at 100% of your allowance. But not all providers do this, so we've a host of other ways to try to keep data roaming costs down.

Before you go away:  

  • Set a data use cap. Android users can do this in their phone's setting (see below). iPhone users can't do this in their phone's settings. However, you can ask your mobile provider to set a spend cap.

  • Check how much data you have to use. If your network has an app (most do) you should also log in to check how much data you have left. It won't tell you how much roaming data you've used once overseas though.
Once away: 
  • Only use Wi-Fi. If you're worried about exceeding your allowance abroad, the easiest thing is to turn roaming off completely and rely on local Wi-Fi networks, for example those potentially offered by your hotel. See our quick roaming tips for more.

  • If you need roaming, turn on your handset's low data or data saving modes. If your roaming is switched on, it'll naturally use data in the background, even if you're not using your phone. Low data or data saving modes help stop or limit background data use, but you have to turn it on in your settings. The process varies depending on if you're using an iPhone or Android, but we've instructions on this below.

  • Check your roaming usage using your phone's settings. You can also use your phone's settings to check your data use - and this will work while you're overseas. The process varies depending on if you're using an iPhone or Android, but we've instructions on how to turn it on for both below.
  • Using an Android

    • Turn on low data mode. Navigate to 'Settings' and then 'Network & internet' and then 'Data Saver'. You can then toggle this on or off.

    • Check your data allowance. Navigate to 'Settings' and then 'Connections' and then to 'Data usage'. Here you can also set your own data limit, so you get a warning if you're nearing it. Within 'Mobile data usage', you can see how much data you've used for a certain period.

  • Using an iPhone

    • Turn on low data mode. Navigate to 'Settings' and then select 'Mobile Data'. Select 'Mobile Data Options' and then select 'Data Mode'. Here you can select 'Low Data Mode'.    

    • Check your roaming data allowance. Navigate to 'Settings' and then 'Mobile Data'. You'll then see a section called 'Current Period Roaming'. This will be the total amount you've used while not connected to a Wi-Fi network abroad. You can't set alerts, so you'll have to manually check this yourself.

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