You can now expect to be charged the same for calls in the EU as you would at home
Roaming charges in Europe have been scrapped.
From today, you’ll be able to use your phone anywhere in Europe for the same price it costs you at home – including any data costs.
But that doesn’t mean you can entirely relax – because some phone networks will still charge people trying to share pictures and stories to friends back home.
That means anything from a drive to Gibraltar to a tour of the Vatican could see you landed with a big bill – and you could be in even more trouble if you find yourself relying on your phone more than normal for directions.
Here are some key questions you might want answering:
Is it free to use my phone abroad?
No. Charging people more to use their phones in the EU has been banned – not charging them at all.
So can expect to be charged the same as you would be for the same calls, data and texts as you would in the UK.
European Union countries – as well as the European Economic Area countries of Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.
Are there any exceptions to be careful of?
Yes. Monaco, the Vatican City and Switzerland – for example – aren’t in the EU, despite being surrounded by EU countries and popular with tourists. The Channel Islands and the Isle of Man are also not automatically covered. Turkey is another poplar destination that is not part of the EU.
Many networks include these in their “Europe Zones” – so you might get free roaming there – but it’s safest to check before you go.
Is anywhere else covered?
This depends on your network. Some Three deals will let you roam with no extra charges in places like Singapore, Sri Lanka and the USA, for example. Vodafone lets you roam free in Turkey and Bosnia, while EE Max customers can use their phones in Canada, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand for no extra cost.
The best advice is to check with your network before travelling to see if the location is included.
Charging people more to use their phones in the EU has been banned
Is there any difference with pay-as-you-go deals?
No. It’s a legal ruling so applies everywhere in the EU – regardless of what sort of mobile deal you have. Once you step outside the EU then you have to check your individual contracts to see what applies.
Can I call my friends in Europe free now?
No. Sadly the regulation specifically says you can use your phone “as if it was at home” while in other EU countries. That means calling people in a different country still counts as an international call.
Is it cheaper to use a landline to call overseas?
Providers are free to charge what they like to call abroad from the UK – be it from a mobile or a landline.
That means there’s no set rule about which is cheaper and you need to check with your landline and mobile providers to find out.
If you’re making regular calls abroad, a package or add on with your network could save you money.
Can I call local numbers free while on holiday?
Again, no. If you need to call the hotel, book a restaurant or call a tour guide, that will be treated as an international call – even though you’re in the same country as them at the time.
Can you call your friends or family while you’re on holiday together?
Yes – as long as you both have British mobile phones, calls and messages between you while on holiday in Europe are treated the same way they would be if you were still in the UK.
Is there a cheaper way to call abroad?
Most UK providers offer add-ons or sweeteners that make it much cheaper to use your phone overseas. You generally get a text message as soon as your phone connects to a local network explaining your options.
“Mobile users using handsets abroad should always check their network’s roaming charges for their destination country before they travel – and see if there’s a bundle or add-on that could limit the cost,” said uSwitch.com telecoms expert Ernst Doku.
What if your data or minutes run out?
People use their phones differently while on holiday to at home – sharing more often, taking more pictures, using maps, calling to check on each other or to let family and friends at home know how they’re getting on. This means you are at a higher risk of going over you allowance.
Alex Neill, Which? managing director of home products and services, said: “Many will reap the benefits of these changes and will no longer be put off from making calls abroad.
“However, it is important that you take a close look at what is or isn’t included in your current mobile deal.
“Not knowing what’s included could lead to some surprising charges on your next bill.”
Are there any tricks to get round extra charges?
Facebook, Whatsapp and Skype all let you make voice calls over the internet – that could be using 3G or free WiFi at your hotel or even in a cafe. If you get the chance you can download maps, music, upload pictures and videos while connected to WiFi and then switch off mobile data.
You can also consider buying a local SIM card to put in your phone, or an old handset you have, to use if you need to call local people while overseas.
What happens after Brexit?
We don’t know yet. That will be one of the things the Government will negotiate about as part of our Article 50 negotiations when they get underway – although expect it to be a long way down the list.