Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

EU roaming charges are back – what are the best UK mobile networks for travellers?

Links on Head for Points may pay us an affiliate commission. A list of partners is here.

UK mobile networks are re-assessing their roaming charges. Now that Brexit is a done deal, EU regulation, which has stipulated fee-free roaming in the bloc since 2017, no longer applies.

Yesterday both EE and O2 announced changes to how they will treat roaming in the EU:

  • Anyone who joins EE after 7th July, either as a new customer or by upgrading an existing contract, will pay a £2 per day flat fee from January 2022 for EU roaming, excluding the Republic of Ireland
  • O2 won’t be charging any roaming fees but is introducing a ‘fair use’ cap of 25GB per month in the EU, with additional charges for any usage above this level
EU roaming charges are back - what are the best UK mobile deals?

With two of the biggest networks having changed their policies it could just be a matter of time before others follow.

Given the changing landscape we thought we would take a look at the best UK mobile networks for roaming.

Note that the packages below are what is currently offered to new customers. If you are an existing customer of one of the networks below you may be on a different legacy tariff.

The best mobile networks for travelling

We have ranked the four major UK networks based on how many countries you can roam in at no additional cost. We’ve ignored all virtual mobile networks (such as Giff Gaff, VOXI etc) for now as there are simply too many to keep track of!

Best UK mobile network for roaming travelling

Three – free roaming in 71 countries

Three is by far the best network for international travel. It offered free roaming to many countries before EU regulations mandated it and is arguably most likely to continue to do so in the future.

Currently, anyone on a Three pay monthly plan can use their allowances at no extra cost in 71 destinations under a scheme called ‘Go Roam’. Some of these include obscure destinations such as the Aland Islands (an autonomos part of Finland, apparently) but most include useful, global destinations.

Here is the full list:

Aland Islands, Australia, Austria, Azores, Balearic Islands (Ibiza, Mallorca, Menorca, Formentera), Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canary Islands, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France (including Corsica, Mayotte & Reunion), French Guiana, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece (including Crete & Rhodes), Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guernsey, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Isle of Man, Israel, Italy (including Sardinia & Sicily), Jersey, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macau, Madeira, Malta, Marie-Galante, Martinique, Mayotte, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Republic of Ireland, Reunion, Romania, Saint Barthélemy, Saint Martin, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, United States (including Florida Keys), Uruguay, US Virgin Islands, Vatican City, Vietnam.

A monthly fair usage cap of 12GB of data, 3,000 minutes of calls and 5,000 texts applies. You can read more about Go Roam here.

If you’re a pay monthly customer you can also opt to pay for the Data Passport add-on, which lets you use your normal allowances for £5 per day in 89 countries worldwide. Confusingly, these countries are not identical to Go Roam countries. For example, the UAE and Ukraine are eligible for the Data Passport but are not included in Go Roam.

Standard rates: Anyone travelling to destinations not included in Go Roam must pay standard rates of £2 per minute to make or receive calls, 35p per text and £3+ per MB depending on your location.

Best UK mobile network for roaming travelling

Vodafone – free roaming in 51 destinations

Vodafone lets you use your allowance for free in 51 European destinations under its ‘Roam Free’ program.

If you have unlimited data Xtra plan (from £40 for unlimited allowances) or Unlimited Max plan you can roam free in a further 29 countries, including Albania, Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Australia, Barbados, Canada, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Ghana, Grenada, Jamaica, Kenya, Lesotho, Mexico, Montserrat, Mozambique, Netherlands Antilles, New Zealand, South Afirca, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent, Trinidad & Tobago, Turkey, Turks & Caicos and United States of America.

If you don’t have an Xtra plan then you can pay £6 per day at 105 ‘Roam Further’ destinations to use your usual allowance. These include:

Afghanistan, Albania, Andorra, Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Aruba, Australia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Bermuda, Bonaire, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, British Virgin Islands, Cambodia, Canada, Cayman Islands, Chile, China, Colombia, Congo, Democratic Republic of, Costa Rica, Curacao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Fiji, Georgia, Ghana, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Israel, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Laos, Lesotho, Macau, Macedonia, Malaysia, Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Montserrat, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Qatar, Russia, Saba, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent, Saint Eustatius, Saint Maarten , Samoa, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Singapore , South Africa, South Korea, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Swaziland, Taiwan, Tanzania, Thailand, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey and Northern Cyprus, Turks and Caicos, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United States of America, Uruguay, US Virgin Islands, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Vietnam.

Best UK mobile network for roaming travelling

O2 – free roaming in 48 destinations

O2 will let you use your allowance at no extra cost across 48 European destinations, up to the fair use cap of 25GB per month.

Standard rates: Outside of Europe you are charged at standard roaming rates, which means you’ll be charged £2 per minute to make and receive calls, 50p per text and £7.10 per MB of data. This is scary stuff, especially for data.

You can also pay for an O2 ‘Travel Bolt On’ which will let you use up to 120 minutes, send 120 texts and use your normal data allowance in countries worldwide. Pricing starts from £4.99 per day and is only open to pay monthly customers.

Certain plans, such as Refresh plans with between 30GB and 89GB data allowances, get the Travel Bolt On for free in O2’s ‘Travel Inclusive Zone’, which includes:

Argentina, Honduras, Australia, Madagascar, Botswana, Mexico, Canada, Myanmar, Chile, New Zealand, Colombia, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador, Paraguay, El Salvador, Peru, Greenland, Rwanda, Guatemala, United States, Guinea, Uruguay, Guyana, Venezuela and Yemen.

Best UK mobile network for roaming travelling

EE – no free roaming

Anyone joining or upgrading their EE plan from the 7th July will be charged £2 per day to use their data allowance in 47 European destinations.

Standard rates: Outside of the EU, you will be charged standard roaming fees: £1.88 per minute to make or receive calls, 62p per text and 67p per picture message. You’ll need to buy a data add-on for browse the web, which typically start from £6 for 150mb.

For an extra £10 per month, you can purchase a ‘Roam Further’ pass that lets you use your allowance for free in the USA, Canada, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand. You can also select ‘Roam Further’ as your benefit on ‘Smart’ contracts.

You can check roaming costs and data add-ons on this useful tool on the EE website.

Conclusion

The best UK network for when you’re travelling is, for most people, likely to be Three which offers free roaming to many countries outside of Europe on all its monthly plans.

Three is also one of the cheaper networks, which makes it even more competitive against some of its competitors who offer add-ons for international roaming. Even if you don’t want to switch to Three as your main network, many mobile phones now let you use two SIMs.

It may make more sense simply to supplement your normal plan with a 1 month contract from Three, which range from £16 for 4GB to £26 for unlimited data. You’d only have to stay somewhere for 2.5 days for the 4GB plan to come out cheaper than Vodafone’s £6 per day ‘Roam Free’ add-on …..

Comments (215)

  • Michael says:

    Three has saved me lots in data roaming charges over the years in the US. Their free roaming doesn’t cover Canada however where I once switched on roaming only to hit my £40 roaming cap within seconds! Their roaming add on for £5 a day runs from midnight UK time so if you time it well you can save a few pounds by choosing which days you need.

  • Charlie says:

    Maybe I’m missing something but can’t the UK government just change the law to force the companies to align with EU law?

    • NFH says:

      They would also need to change the law in EEA countries to regulate the wholesale rates that EEA networks charge to UK networks. The UK government has no jurisdiction over EEA networks.

    • Sukes says:

      Nothing in this article should be a surprise to anyone – it certainly isn’t to the UK Parliament. It signed ‘The Mobile Roaming (EU Exit) Regulations’ into law in 2019. They were fully aware/content that roaming charges could reappear, just that it will be to a max of £45 ex VAT for data usage per monthly billing period unless customer explicitly agreed to more (uk Gov simply currency converted the existing EU legal cap of €50.)

    • Tim says:

      Why should the law be changed to preferentially protect a small number of EU-roamers at the expense of the majority of customers who are non-roamers?

      • NFH says:

        It would not be at the expense of non-roamers. The domestic prices charged are sufficient to cover EEA roaming, at least with fair usage policies. UK networks do not make a loss on EEA roaming at UK domestic prices.

  • Jonathan says:

    I thought with brexit we just copied all EU law into UK law for now. Cant believe we prioritised scrapping roaming charges over trade deals, so I don’t how charges are being reintroduced?

  • JDB says:

    We use the Skyroam device when travelling. It’s brilliant, very small/light and provides data for multiple ‘phones or iPads and works in virtually every country. They have sales so you can usually get the daily vouchers for US$5. We have used it it China, Vietnam, US/Canada, Argentina, Mexico etc. for maps/satnav, WhatsApp (main method of communication in Mexico, rather than email!) etc. For us, it’s the never leave home without it product.

  • JDB says:

    I should have said also, it is useful in Europe as well since with O2, we have free roaming on the iPhone, but not for the iPad, so use Skyroam for that.

    • Yuff says:

      Why not just tether the IPad to the iPhone?

      • JDB says:

        Partly because it’s against the T&C’s on your ‘phone contract but also so that everything is available to all the family.

  • Mike says:

    Maybe roaming charges should be higher in Red and Amber countries in line with the Govt Policy that You should not travel to red list countries or territories and that You should not travel to amber list countries or territories.

  • BJ says:

    Inevitably this is going to be a day of comments making a mountain out of a mole hill. Solution is simple – a sensible dual sim phone, your regular day to day sim, local sim in country of travel, Skype. All problems solved. There is no single UK sim solution, never has been and never will be so it is a waste of time searching for it.

    • Heathrow Flyer says:

      You’re missing the point – whereas once I could travel freely within the EU and use my phone and all data services without a thought, you’re suggesting I now have to plan in advance, buy local sims or a dual sim phone or use Skype. That is a very different (and far worse) proposition.

      I’m just hoping one of the big 4 networks takes a position of free EU roaming as a USP, hoovers up millions of new customers and forces EE and o2 to change course…

      • BuildBackBetter says:

        Dream on… these roaming charges are the new cash cow. Why would they subsidise rich travelers?

        • Rhys says:

          Three did it before it was a legal requirement. I used Three on my gap year back in 2015 to USA, Australia, New Zealand…South Africa too I think!

          • BJ says:

            Except Three is [email protected], even in the UK and especially outside populous areas. True it was better, and remains better than the rest but it is still not global and without limitations so it’s not a one stop solution. Still, if it works for you in the UK then still best option as basis for travels too.

        • Tim says:

          quite. I tend to thing that those who can afford to travel can pay a little bit more for their phone (£2 per day is hardly going to break the bank FFS). If we are going to regulate prices (and without evidence of market failure, I donl’ see why we should) then why not use it to protect the poorest users?

      • BJ says:

        I’m not missing any point, simply it was and remains good housekeeping for any global traveller. If your UK worked tghen fine, if not then you had a spare sim slot for a local sim that any street smart traveller can obtain easily, and you have Skype to fall back on too if it makes sense.

        • GeorgeJ says:

          Quite right, though you can just as easily load a Worldsim on your second (or primary in my case) slot and have low cost voice pretty much worldwide and pretty cheap data add ons.
          I have now reached the point where I don bother to have a mainstream UK contract.

      • Tony1 says:

        +1

      • Yorkieflyer says:

        Err they have, Three

    • BuildBackBetter says:

      Travelers to Europe getting it left right and centre.
      This is what happens when they were happily earning in uk and spending in Europe, while turning a blind eye to uk flooded with immigrants – the gravy train had to stop at some point.

      • Andy says:

        @BuildBackBetter You do realise that before we were allowed to go and work in Europe if we wanted to? A world of opportunity that has now been prevented due to your fear of “immigrants” coming over here.
        In any case this is a travel forum, I think you’d be better off posting on the DM forum rather than trolling everyone on here

    • JK says:

      This is not practical for business travellers at all. No one has time to faff about like that.

      • Lord Doncaster says:

        I say let all the posh remainers flee to Calais… They’ll soon want to come back.

  • Will says:

    Think Three doesn’t allow phoning home from abroad. Vodafone covers phoning home and locally.

    • Jens Fallesen says:

      Three allows you to call back to the UK but outside of Europe, it does NOT include calls made to the country you are in. This, for me, completely rules them out.

      As you say, Vodafone allows for both calls to the UK and within the country you are in.

      • NFH says:

        For outgoing calls, you can use a VoIP service from anywhere in the world. There is no need to use a GSM network. You need a GSM network only for mobile data and incoming calls.

        • Jens Fallesen says:

          I’ll just use a network that doesn’t require me to take out a subscription with yet another company to make by calls.

The UK's biggest frequent flyer website uses cookies, which you can block via your browser settings. Continuing implies your consent to this policy. Our privacy policy is here.