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Which network is best for international roaming?

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Mobile Roaming Charges

Making calls, sending texts and using the mobile internet while you're abroad can be costly.

Headlines showing British holidaymakers getting stung by hefty charges they weren't aware they were racking up, have made a lot of people feel pretty uneasy about using data abroad.

Fortunately, many networks are now offering competitive price plans to make these horror stories a thing of the past.

Below we take a look at each network in turn to see what's on offer.

I've heard roaming charges are being scrapped. Is that true?

The European Union has voted to completely remove roaming charges by June 2017, meaning you'll pay no more than you would in the UK to use your smartphone, as long as you are in an EU country.

In the meantime, charges for phone use in EU nations are being reduced gradually.

Although leaving the EU could increase prices for British travellers, the cost of data, calls and texts shouldn't be affected in the short-term.

From April 30th 2016, networks are charging five cents (about 3p) per minute for a call, two cents (just over a penny or so) for a text message and five cents (once again, about 3p) for a megabyte of data downloaded.

However, all networks have their own add-on packages for those going away either on holiday or business. These entitle you a set amount of calls, texts and data overseas for a one-off charge.

Find the right one for your needs and it'll hugely help you cut your outgoings on overseas phone usage.

Here we take a look at them in turn to see what's on offer and pick out the overseas phone usage bundles we think are the very best on the market.


Network - Three

Three’s ‘Feel At Home’ offer is by far and away the best deal for those looking to use their smartphone abroad.

There are 42 countries where you can use your at–home allowance of calls, texts and data without paying extra and without having to tell Three you’re going away.

These are in Europe and beyond. You can see the full list of countries here: Three Feel at Home.

Three claims that Feel at Home saves customers an average of £202 per trip.

Calling numbers within a country will cost extra. But you'll be notified of the rates by a text message from Three when you arrive at your holiday destination.

Just be aware that not all EU countries are included at this time.

To find out how much you could save, use the special calculator on Three's website.

Three also has a £5 per day Euro Internet Pass for other destinations.


Network - Vodafone logo

Vodafone has just launched two new global roaming schemes for new and upgrading pay monthly customers. Roam-Free lets you use your regular monthly allowance of calls, texts and data in 40 European countries for no extra cost. Roam Further allows you to access your monthly allowance in 60 countries for an additional £5 per day.

For existing customers, Vodafone offers two key packages for using your phone or tablet abroad.

Its EuroTraveller deal allows you to make calls, send texts and access the web for £3 a day in 40 countries, although as with Three this only includes your UK allowance. Making local calls costs extra.

Its WorldTraveller package offers those heading away on long–haul trips the same deal, but for £5 a day.

This include 58 countries, which you can see in full at Vodafone's dedicated page.

However, it's worth noting that to use WorldTraveller you need to be a Pay Monthly or business user.


Network - o2

O2’s Pay Monthly customers can stump up £1.99 per day to use data in Europe as part of the network’s Pay & Go Travel deal.

39 destinations are included, with allowances ending at 11.59pm each day.

However, O2 charges 3.6p per minute to make calls to the UK or within Europe and it's free to receive. Texts cost 1.2p to send.

Compared with rival networks, O2 lags well behind at the moment. But that could change in future, as competition heats up.


Network - EE

EE has a wide range of packages available for travellers. These are split into all–round deals for calls, texts and web access and simple data plans for those who want to access maps and other web–connected services.

£4 per day will get you calls, texts and data in 47 destinations as part of its EuroPass. As with other networks, this is limited to UK allowances.

Making calls to numbers in the country you are in will cost extra. You only need to text 'EUROPASS 150' before you leave.

Travellers to the United States can pay £3 extra for access to the mobile web, or opt into a bolt–on as part of their monthly contract. Find out more here: EE roaming in the USA.

Virgin Media

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Virgin Media offers a number of Travel Passes.

These start at 35p for 10MB of data, rising to £1.50 for 50MB of data and £6 for 250MB.

While the pass does last thirty days, the reality is that 10MB of data will be used up within a matter of minutes on any modern smartphone.

For us, that fact means Virgin’s roaming packages aren't as impressive as its rivals' offerings.

You can check them out for yourself here: Virgin Media roaming packages.

So which is best?

Of all the major networks, Three is probably the standout provider when it comes to using your phone abroad.

Vodafone has excellent packages which cover a broad range of destinations, while EE’s service is decent.

O2 and Virgin aren't bad by any means. But they have a lot left to do if they want to be up there with their rivals.

Category: Guides

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