Cheaper European roaming from this weekend

28 April 2016   By Samantha Smith

From the end of this month - just a few days away - the cost of using our phones in the EU should drop dramatically.

european union flags
Credit: jorisvo/

The networks will only be able to charge us up to an extra €0.05 per minute of calls, €0.02 per SMS sent, and €0.05 per MB of data (excluding VAT), on top of what we'd usually pay.

But while at least one UK operator has seen the changing terms as an opportunity to give their customers service across Europe with no extra costs, some others have adjusted their roaming deals so as not to lose out too much.

Roaming for less

From the middle of June 2017, roaming charges within the EU will be abolished all together, meaning that we'll get to use our UK allowances in 30 other European nations.

Not every country is covered, however.

Switzerland isn't part of the EU, or the European Economic Area - which means that while it's sat right in the middle of Europe, visitors using their phones there will still be liable for hefty roaming charges.

It is, however, included in the list of countries where Tesco Mobile's 4.6 million customers can use their phones to make calls and send texts to UK numbers, and to go online, for no extra cost this summer.

From May 23rd until September 3rd, users will be able to use their phones without incurring any extra charges, in all the EU member states, plus four other European nations:

EU countries
Austria Belgium Bulgaria Croatia
Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Estonia
Finland France Germany Greece
Hungary Ireland Italy Latvia
Lithuania Luxembourg Malta Netherlands
Poland Portugal Romania Slovakia
Slovenia Spain (inc Canary Islands) Sweden
Non-EU countries
Iceland Liechtenstein Norway Switzerland

It's worth noting that while using the phone as normal - which is assumed to mean contacting only UK numbers - will be free while within allowance, calls and texts to foreign numbers will incur charges.

Calling an EU number will cost 4p per minute, while each text sent will cost 1p.

Once customers have used up their UK allowances, they'll still pay no more than they would if they were at home: 25p per minute for calls, 10p per text and per MB of data.

Roaming for no extra costs isn't entirely new, of course - Three's Feel at Home scheme allows customers to use their phones in 18 countries around the world, including Australia and the US, for no extra charge.

Only 10 of those nations are within Europe, however (although Switzerland is included) - and there are some notable absences such as Germany, the Netherlands, Greece and Portugal.

There's more on Three's Feel at Home, and our experience of using it, here.

The other big operators aren't being quite as generous.

EE Extra - lacking data

How we got here
2010: Data cost cap introduced
2012: New EU roaming deals appear
2014: Roaming up 1,500% since 2008
2015: Agreeing to end roaming costs

EE took the opportunity to start offering cheaper roaming in February, when they added unlimited calls and texts within the EU to their EE Extra plans.

These cost from £17.99 for a 12-month SIM-only contract, and from £25.99 a month when taken with a reconditioned handset.

Data still costs, however - and at the time we're writing this article, it's not cheap. Customers will find that unless they sign up for one of EE's data passes, they won't be able to use their data connection, and even with an EE Extra plan, that's a minimum of £3 a day.

Admittedly for that customers will get an allowance of 500MB, with the first 100MB being delivered at up to 4G speeds where available. Pay as you go customers will get just 75MB for the same price.

Changed terms

Under O2's refreshed O2 Travel plan, anyone signed up who uses their phone abroad will be charged £1.99 each day they do so.

The benefit of O2 Travel is that it gives pay monthly customers unlimited data whilst abroad - rather than the up to 255MB or 705MB allowed under O2's roaming caps.

It also gives them the freedom to make up to 120 minutes of calls and send 120 texts each day they trigger the charge - done so by calling or texting out, or by using data.

The downside is that anyone signed up who sends just one text on any one day will trigger that charge, even if that's all they do. That's a bill of £1.99 for one text, compared to just 1.2p for those who don't have O2 Travel.

And while Vodafone are reducing their roaming rates, they appear to be keeping their Euro Traveller bolt-on for the time being, which lets customers use their UK allowances while abroad - for £3 each day they use their phone.

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