Using Your Mobile Phone Abroad

When travelling abroad, the last thing we want to worry about is our minutes and data allowances. And while WiFi is widely available in hotels and restaurants, once you’re far from your accommodation it can be touch-and-go.

Tips for using your phone abroad

If you’re heading somewhere off the beaten track with flights from Manchester Airport; whether you’re on the beach or at visiting ancient sites in Mexico, you’re unlikely to find a reliable connection. For that reason, it’s important to know exactly how using your phone abroad may affect your bill come the end of the month.

Costs and charges around the Globe


As of June 2017, you now have the freedom to use your mobile phone and ‘roam like at home’ when travelling within the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. There’s no need to sign up, your network provider will automatically apply free use of your UK minutes, messages and data.

Be wary that you may be subject to ‘fair use’ when travelling through the EU, so if you’re prone to heavy usage, you can end up with a charge (unless you opt for an alternative tariff). According to Ofcom, you can be charged an additional surcharge:

  • €0.032 (around £0.027) excluding VAT per minute for calls made;
  • €0.0091 (around £0.0077) excluding VAT per minute for calls received;
  • €0.01 (around £0.008) excluding VAT per text; and
  • €6.00 (around £5.07) excluding VAT per GB of data.

The total sum of the domestic charge and roaming surcharge must not exceed when the surcharge is applied:

  • €0.19 (around £0.16) excluding VAT per minute for calls made;
  • €0.06 (around £0.05) excluding VAT per text; or
  • €0.20 (around £0.17) excluding VAT per MB used

The rest of the World

Switzerland & Turkey

While both these are popular destinations because of their proximity to the EU, they are not covered by the ‘roam like at home’ guidelines. Ask your provider for information when travelling to these destinations.

The Americas, Caribbean, Middle East, Africa, Asia and Australia

When travelling long-haul, always make sure to check with your network provider that your phone will be usable. Many networks have specific tariffs for different destinations and you’ll discover that individual countries are significantly more expensive than others.

Top tips for using your phone abroad

To help minimise your costs and ensure that you have coverage wherever in the world you are, we’ve put together our best recommendations for ensuring you have full bars, plenty of battery and no nasty surprises:

Turn off your smartphone’s GPS and Roaming

Using your data when outside of the EU is expensive, and it can be more expensive if you’re racking up unnecessary megabytes when you’re not even using it. By simply turning off your GPS, roaming data and even switching your device to its flight mode when it’s not needed will shave pounds off your bill and help you to avoid any fair use costs.

Sign up for city-wide WiFi

Use free wifi

In today’s electronic age, more and more cities across the world are rolling out city-wide WiFi to help both locals and tourists connect more efficiently.

Even if your destination can’t facilitate a whole city; internet cafés, coffee shops, restaurants, shopping centres and public buildings should have WiFi access. So as long as you’re not island hopping around French Polynesia, you should never be too far away from a good connection.

Opt-in for a daily-fee with your provider

Some providers offer up their own roaming tariffs to help you regulate your roaming abroad. For example, three offer a ‘Data Passport’ for just £5 a day, while O2 has a similar bolt on for £4.99 with unlimited data, 120 minutes and texts for many destinations outside the EU. Always check with your provider beforehand to see what options are available to you.

Consider a local SIM or phone card

If you know you’re going to be travelling for a long time, a local sim for your destination could save you £100’s over the course of weeks and months. You can get a simple pay as you go sims for free and top-up as you go. Or if you research ahead, you may find pre-paid phone cards can offer you international minutes at a fraction of what your typical phone bill would be.

Arrange a cap

UK providers are required to apply a €50 (excluding VAT) cut-off limit on data, regardless of where you are in the world. However, you can choose to reduce or increase the cap by speaking to your provider in advance. They must send you a message to alert you when you reach 80% and 100% of your total usage. Unless you opt to continue data usage past 100%, your operator will block this function and stop charging you.

Use a power bank charger for your phone’s battery

Phone power pack

Power adapters for chargers can be easily misplaced, thankfully a USB chargeable power bank is the perfect solution for a charge when you’re on the move. This removes the need to find an outlet or carry an adapter.

Leave your anxieties about international phone use behind, and get exploring the world with flights from Manchester Airport.