EU roaming is when you use your mobile device to make calls and texts or use data while visiting countries within the EU. If you have EU roaming included in your package, you’ll be able to use your normal monthly allowance for no extra cost, even though you’re outside the UK.
For example, if you’re an O2 customer with 15GB of data and EU roaming included, you can use your 15GB abroad just as you would at home. This includes everything from accessing social media and sending messages via WhatsApp to using maps and streaming music.
Something to remember, roaming isn’t an ideal substitute for getting a local phone contract if you’re moving or spending long periods of time in EU countries. For example, if you’re studying or working abroad for an extended period of time and you’re still using your existing UK contract.
Most networks will require you to spend the majority of your time using your phone in the UK rather than in the EU. So if you are spending more time in an EU country than you are in the UK, your network might contact you to switch you to a different package.
This is considered a "fair use of roaming services" and you should receive a text message from your network when you arrive in a new country with details about its specific roaming policy.
Since the UK left the EU, its citizens are no longer guaranteed free roaming throughout EU countries. As of 1 January 2021, the UK has lost the guarantee of free roaming in the 27 EU destinations, as well as EEA countries Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.
There were some temporary protections put in place for UK users travelling in the EU. The government made a temporary law that customers had to be told when they have used up 80% and 100% of their data allowance to prevent accidental excessive roaming charges. They also introduced a cap of £45 on mobile data charges unless you specifically opted out and continued using your EU roaming data.
Unfortunately, these protections were phased out as of 1 July 2022. Some of the major UK networks then volunteered to offer those same protections. However, there is no long-term guarantee that this will continue.
EU roaming is still available on a number of networks. But it’s now entirely up to each network whether or not they offer this service, and which protections or automatic limitations they want to provide to protect customers from overspending.
Free EU roaming is not likely to return as a universal benefit but rather will continue to be up to each individual network to offer.
There are 27 countries that are typically covered by EU roaming, with a further 13 locations that may or may not be covered by your specific network’s EU roaming package:
Additional locations that may or may not be included in EU roaming:
the Åland Islands
the Canary Islands
For a while, most of the UK’s major mobile networks kept EU roaming included in their data and call packages, even after Brexit. However, it wasn’t long before Vodafone, EE and Three reintroduced daily roaming charges for customers travelling to the EU.
At the time of writing, O2 is the only major network that still includes EU roaming in its data and call packages. You can also find inclusive EU roaming on smaller networks like giffgaff (which is owned by O2) and in some SMARTY deals (which is owned by Three).
For those networks not offering EU roaming, each one will charge for calls and data differently.
Vodafone’s EU roaming policy is a little bit complex, with roaming charges split out into different international “zones”. Pay monthly and pay-as-you-go users will be on different day rates and different packages offer included roaming at an additional cost.
Vodafone categorises most EU countries as Zone B, not including the Republic of Ireland, the Isle of Man, Iceland and Norway which are all classed Zone A and do not incur roaming charges.
Vodafone Pay Monthly customers travelling to any of the 49 EU locations listed in Zone B will need to pay £2.25 a day for a Vodafone European Roaming Pass. Those on selected Xtra Plans may have EU roaming included, so be sure to check your Vodafone account before you travel.
EU roaming as a Vodafone pay-as-you-go customer means you’ll need to purchase one of its 8-day Europe Extras. If you want to use calls, texts and data, an 8-day Extra will cost £10 for 3GB of data, whereas just the data will cost you £7.
These prices are correct at the time of writing, check out the Vodafone’s Extras page to find out more.
O2 was the 2023 winner of the Uswitch Award for “Best Network for Roaming”, because they don’t charge customers anything to use their calls, texts and data while travelling in over 40 EU destinations. There is a 25GB fair use cap, so if your monthly data allowance is more than 25GB, you could be charged an additional £3.50/GB if you go over that limit.
Note: You’ll also be charged if you roam in Europe for more than 63 days in a four-month period. At that point, O2 might contact you to change your monthly allowance.
EE was one of the first major UK mobile networks to reintroduce charges for customers using their data while in the EU. So if you’ve signed up to EE on or after 7 July 2021, you’ll have to pay £2 a day to use your data, minutes and texts in any of the 47 countries and territories covered by EE’s EU roaming zone.
As with most other networks, you won’t have to pay any extra charges when visiting the Republic of Ireland as long as you stay within your normal EE allowance.
If you’ve been an EE customer for longer than two years, you may still have inclusive EU roaming in your contract, so double-check your account before buying any add-ons or paying any additional charges. EE offers a Roam Abroad Pass, which allows you to use your data, calls and texts in the EU as well as the USA, Canada, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand for an additional £10 a month.
At one point, Three was one of the best networks for roaming, offering inclusive data and calls to farther afield locations, most notably the US. However, that’s a thing of the past as Three’s Go Roam service will charge you £2 a day for EU roaming and £5 a day in selected countries outside of Europe, including Australia, New Zealand and the USA.
Three’s Go Roam covers 71 international destinations. And if you’re travelling to a destination not covered, you’ll be charged standard roaming rates for the country you’re visiting in.
The best way to avoid EU roaming charges is to switch to a network that doesn’t have any. If you regularly travel and you’re out of contract with your current network, have a look and see if it’s worth switching to the likes of O2, giffgaff or SMARTY.
Even if you can’t switch permanently, a 30-day SIM only contract could still save you money and stress, considering a two-week trip could cost you £28 in EU roaming charges.
However, if it doesn’t make financial sense to switch networks just for a short trip, here are a few tips so you can avoid EU roaming charges:
Download files and media at home, such as photos, travel documents or entertainment.
Don’t opt out of data roaming caps, which should be on as default.
See if you can get a local SIM or eSIM when travelling.
Use Wi-Fi whenever you can. However, remember that most public Wi-Fi spots aren’t secure and could result in your personal data being stolen. Sign up for a VPN if you can.
Turn off roaming when you don’t need it. Call me old-fashioned, but if you’re travelling to a new country, switching your phone off or onto Airplane mode means you can save on data. It will also help our battery to last longer and you’ll spend less time looking at your phone and more time enjoying your trip.
There are a lot more countries to visit than just those in the EU, so if you’re planning a trip farther afield, you’ll want to find out which is the best UK network for international roaming before you jet off.
Vodafone, O2 and Three all offer some form of international roaming package to locations such as the USA, Australia and New Zealand. However, fewer networks tend to offer roaming in locations across Asia and the Middle East. So be sure to check with your network before you travel to make sure you’re not stuck without access to data.
Using your phone while travelling overseas can result in some pretty serious charges if you're not careful. Here's what you need to know about mobile roaming and data roaming charges.Learn more