Using Your Phone Abroad

Using Your Phone Abroad How Much Will Your Network Charge You To Use Your SIM Contract Abroad?

The vast majority of mobile phones these days can be used abroad, both for simple functions like calls and texts and for Internet access, email, downloads, streaming media and more. Most mobiles these days are tri band which means they can be used in almost every country around the world (a band is the frequency the mobile phone signal operates at, there are three different common types of networks around the world and tri band phones can be used in all three of them). In many cases your contract will already be set up to allow to use it abroad without any input needed from you, however some networks do put what are known as ‘roaming bars’ on your account by default to stop you accidentally running up high charges when abroad.

Before you travel you should check with your network that you do have roaming enabled / don’t have a roaming bar on your account as this can be very difficult or even impossible to change when out of the country and can lead to great frustration.

Once you know that both your mobile and SIM are set up to be used abroad, the main thing to consider is the various costs that are associated with international use. Costs can vary enormously depending on your network and the country you are travelling to so it’s important to be aware of what you will pay and if you plan to travel frequently this may even be a consideration when you decide which contract to go for – some frequent travellers even use one SIM for use abroad and one for home.

High roaming charges have been targeted Ofcom, the mobile regulator, as unfair and something that needs to be fixed in the near future and charges have indeed come down but for now prices are still high compared to use in the UK and the wide discrepancies mean it’s not always clear to everyone how easily they can rack up a high bill when using their phone abroad. The below gives a summary of the latest information for each network for comparison at the time of writing but as this information can change quickly, and with little notice you should always check the exact terms of your contract with your network to be certain.

Vodafone Roaming Rates

Vodafone are one of the largest mobile networks in the world and are often used by international businesses with operations in multiple countries. As a result they have some of the best contracts for regular travellers and their international rates are very competitive. Vodafone have an excellent service for international travellers called Vodafone passport which is free to opt in to but you do need to let them know that you want the service. Vodafone passport is available in 35 countries, mostly in Europe but also including Australia and New Zealand and it allows you to take advantage of your inclusive minutes from your UK package when calling from abroad (there is a one off connection charge per call of 75p then the minutes are taken from your allowance). It also makes it cheaper to receive calls with the same 75p one off charge then up to 60 minutes free. Aside from Vodafone Passport, Vodafone publish a list of exact charges you will pay in each of over 150 countries at http://www.vodafone.co.uk/personal/price-plans/managing-my-costs/travelling-abroad/index.htm. For a quick check see the table below for how Vodafone’s standard charges compare to other networks.

O2 Roaming Rates

O2 also offer a service called My Europe Extra which you can opt in to by texting MYEUROPE to 23336. My Europe Extra costs £10.21 and lasts for one month and for that your call rates from European countries are reduced to 25p per minute and it is free to receive calls. O2 publish their exact charges for use in different countries at http://travelabroad.o2-uktech.com/location.php or see our simple table below for a quick comparison of typical costs.

Orange Roaming Rates

Like Vodafone and O2, Orange offer a selection of ‘bolt ons’ to help you keep costs down when roaming. These typically allow you to save 20-25% off the price of calls by paying a monthly fee or a large saving on the cost of data by buying megabytes up front. The exact savings and prices do depend on which country you plan to visit. Orange publish their comprehensive range of roaming chares by country at http://www.orange.co.uk/roaming/ or you can compare typical prices with other networks in our simple table below.

T-Mobile Roaming Rates

T-Mobile offer a great way to check the costs of using your phone is a given country if you are already a T-Mobile customer, just text RO followed by the name of the country you wish to visit to 150 and they will text back the charges in the country. The service is free both at home and abroad so is a good way to check before making an expensive call. They also publish their range of charges by country at http://support.t-mobile.co.uk/help-and-support/index?page=home&cat=INTERNATIONAL_USE or check our table below to see typical charges and how they compare to the other networks. T-Mobile offer some limited bolt ons for European data usage and a ‘T-Mobile World Class’ service which keeps costs down in around 20 selected countries but the selection is patchy (Aruba, Puerto Rico, Grenada and Ghana are included but USA, Germany, Canada and Spain aren’t for example)

Three Roaming Rates

As the smallest of the main networks, with more limited international coverage of their own networks, Three tend to be slightly more expensive to use abroad than the larger international networks like Vodafone, O2 (part of Telefonica) and T-Mobile although the difference is not as significant as it once was. Three display their internal call charges at http://www.three.co.uk/Support/Roaming_and_International or you can compare typical charges with other networks in our simple table below.

Typical roaming rates for pay monthly customers

Network Zone Make A Call (per minute) Receive A Call (per minute) Send A Text Send Picture Message Data Costs
Vodafone Typical Europe (e.g. France) 36.6p 11.5p 11p 37p £2 per day for 25mb
Vodafone USA £1.35 £1 35p 37p £3 per mb
Vodafone Typical rest of world (e.g Brazil) £1.65 £1.30 35p 37p £3 per mb
O2 Typical Europe (e.g France) 35p 11p 10p N/A £3.07 per mb
O2 USA 90p 39p 25p N/A £6 per mb
O2 Typical rest of world (e.g Brazil) £1.20 85p 40p N/A £6 per mb
Orange Typical Europe (e.g France) 36.6p 11.5p 10.2p 61.3p £3.07 per mb
Orange USA £1.10 70p 40p £1 £8 per mb
Orange Typical rest of world (e.g Brazil) £1.75 £1 50p £1 £8 per mb
T-Mobile Typical Europe (e.g France) 36.6p 11.5p 10.2p 20.4p £1.53 per mb
T-Mobile USA £1.20 £1.20 40p 40p £7.50 per mb
T-Mobile Typical rest of world (e.g Brazil) £1.50 £1.50 40p 40p £7.50 per mb
Three Typical Europe (e.g France) 36.6p 11.5p 11p 25.5p £1.28 per mb
Three USA £1.40 99p 35p 25p £3 per mb
Three Typical rest of world (e.g Brazil) £2 £1.25 35p 25p £6 per mb