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So as you probably know, since the UK left the EU, they are no longer legally required to offer free roaming in the EU. Therefore I have pulled together some top tips for how you can roam for free.
Do any of the major phone providers offer free roaming as standard?
Before you start shopping elsewhere, you need to check your current plan to see if it is already included.
Currently, the only ‘major’ network that offers free EU roaming as standard is O2 – otherwise you can be faced with quite hefty charges.
EE do offer EU roaming as a free perk with their Full Works and All Rounder plans – however, if you are on the all rounder plan, you can only choose one Inclusive Extra perk – so this means that if you do choose roaming, you forego another perk.
I also wouldn’t rush to go on the EE full works plan just for the roaming – even for sim only, you would be paying £43 a month for 2 years – and you can only choose three inclusive extras!
For example, I am with Vodafone, and I recently paid £15 for 15 days roaming in Poland and the Czech Republic. However, my contract is only £16 per month, and cashback brings this down to just £8 a month – so in order to use my own allowance
In order to get this price, I also had to buy a roaming pass in advance, or I would have been charged £2.25 per day, so in total I would have spent £33.75.
Note that each carrier defines a ‘day’ as something different – Vodafone is a 24-hour period from when roaming is detected, whereas EE define a day as anything up to 11.59pm UK time, so if you start roaming at 11.58pm UK time, you will be paying for a minute before the next day and charge begins!
Should I switch to a provider that offers free roaming?
This is very much a personal decision, and I wouldn’t automatically rush to do so.
Outside of the big players, the following providers currently offer free EU roaming:-
- iD Mobile
- Virgin Mobile
These networks can often be cheaper than the big players and here is a handy guide for how to switch your mobile provider if you don’t know.
Therefore, regardless of your future travel plans, now could be the time to start comparing mobile phone providers to see if you can save money!
What if I don’t want to switch my mobile phone provider?
You are of course under no obligation to switch your provider and if your mobile handset is unlocked another option is to just take out a pay monthly contract – just for the trip! Here are what I would say are your cheapest, no-contract, options.
Smarty – £6 for 4GB (Fair use – up to 12GB or plan limit) – ‘free’ after voucher
At the time of writing, Smarty offer a £10 gift card when you sign up to one of their plans.
You get the reward 14 days after activating your sim – this means that you can sign up for a plan, and actually get a £10 gift card for £6! Even if you don’t want the free EU roaming, then this is still a good deal.
Personally I went for the £8 plan with 16GB of data. The reason for this is because Smarty gives you 12GB of data for EU roaming, unless you have less data in your plan.
Therefore if you sign up for the £6 plan, you will be able to use all 4GB of data abroad, but no more. For most people, I imagine this is more than enough, but given I am a blogger, for the extra £2, I prefer to have the extra data!
Lebara – £5 for 5GB (Fair use – up to 30GB or plan limit)
iD Mobile – £6 for 8GB (Fair use – up to 30GB or plan limit)
GiffGaff- £10 for 20GB (Fair use – up to 5GB)
Is there any way to make this free?
So, all of the above are available via TopCashback – the amounts change, but at the time of writing, you can actually get completely free roaming!
iD Mobile – £5 cashback on a £6 plan
This brings down the effective price of 1 month to £1!
Smarty – £10 cashback on a £7 plan
You do have to keep this going for 2 months, but all in all, this will cost you £4 after cashback for two months. This is a great one to do if you have a couple of trips coming up and you would anyway be looking to get a 2nd month.
You may even get lucky and it will track and confirm within 1 month, but only one way to find out!
GiffGaff – £50 cashback on a £10 plan (18 month contracts)
This one is only valid on the 18 month contracts (not on the one month deals), but brings down the effective price of an 18 month contract to £130, which works out at £7.22 per month – a fantastic option if you are looking to permanently switch to GiffGaff – note though, their fair use policy restricts roaming in a month to 5GB, which is quite stingy!
Use a cashback debit or credit card to pay to increase the savings further!
Are there any other options?
If you are travelling in Europe, then it is most likely best to check what your provider will charge you, and to buy a pass from them if you can.
However, if travelling outside of Europe, the situation is different. Whilst you still want to check with your provider how much they will charge you, they are unlikely to be the cheapest option.
Previously, I would have said look into picking up a local sim when you arrive, but nowadays it is much easier to just use an e-sim. Find more information on those here, and more importantly, check your phone is compatible with eSims before you buy one.
There are quite a few websites that offer these – a few examples being Airalo ($3 off – PAUL2523), BNESIM, Keepgo, easySim, Nomad and Holafly. The best way to check this is a website called eSimfy – this is a comparison website.
Using Albania as an example, you can get 1GB of data for as little as $2.87.
Airalo is my favourite out of the direct websites – I checked Albania again and Airalo would give me a plan from as little as $4.50, but with the referral discount (PAUL2523), this comes down to just $1.50.
However, the next cheapest, easySim, wants to charge me £13 for the same amount of data – clearly this is expensive.
Note that Airalo does only take payment in USD, so make sure you use a payment card that doesn’t charge foreign exchange fees.
Going to Poland?
You can get an e-sim from Orange and your first month is 1zl with the code Flex – as long as your phone accepts e-sims, then this is a very cheap way to roam, and you can keep your original physical sim card in the phone – just note you will need ID to verify.
What if I don’t want to roam?
A lot of you may be reading this and have come to one simple conclusion – given the expense, or the faff, or both, surely it is much easier to just not roam? This is a rare opportunity to disconnect from the world
Of course, this depends from person to person, but I would say if you are planning on a city break (rather than a week where you are cooped up in an all-inclusive), you should strongly consider having internet access.
When I am travelling to a new city, I like to be able to check things – good coffee shops, public transport options or quite simply looking up facts and history about where I am. I would rather pay a few quid for roaming than risk getting stuck trying to find Wi-Fi when I desperately need a piece of information.
This isn’t intended to remove the shine from your wanderlust – just stating that in my opinion, as nice is it to get lost in a new city and be disconnected from the world, we may wish to not idealise this at times as the reality may differ! And given how cheap it is to roam if you know where to look, there is no downside.
Another way to save money on your phone bill.
Sign up to Airtime Rewards (code – KTMM46YD) and earn automatic cashback when you shop as normal.
This doesn’t interfere with TopCashback – so don’t be afraid of combining the two.
If your phone provider isn’t supported, consider just picking a different provider and gifting rewards to a family member, friend or stranger!
So what next?
If you have any questions at all, don’t hesitate to drop me a message on Instagram – I will try my best to help!