OnRecycle Blog
Using Your Mobile Abroad

Using Your Mobile Abroad

If you’re planning your next holiday, firstly, I’m jealous and I hate you, and secondly, heed my warning (even though I have just insulted you): there is one aspect to planning a trip that is commonly and easily overlooked; using your mobile abroad. If you don’t plan and think about this before you go away, you could end up paying a heavy price, literally.

Mobile ‘roaming’ is when your mobile connects to a foreign network and all calls/texts are routed via this network provider instead of your home provider; and this can be massively costly. Calling from your mobile in the EU can cost up to £4 for 10 minutes, or £15 for 10 minutes outside the EU. Ouch.

These kind of prices can be avoided it just takes a bit of planning. Here at OnRecycle we have done a bit of research to help you on your way. But before we begin please bear in mind that these figures are the prices at the moment and may well have changed by the time you are reading this.

Your Options

The easiest solution would be to leave your mobile at home, or keep it switched off for the entire holiday. But that’s not always easy; you might be travelling in a group and need to contact each other throughout the trip, you might be going away for a few months and want mobile access to contact your friends and family back home, or you may be a business traveller and need mobile and internet access 24/7. If that’s you, then read on :)

The first solution is to contact your home provider (Orange, Vodafone, etc) to see if they have a special package which will dramatically cut the price of your calls. Most providers do offer this service, and we have broken down the packages provided by Orange, O2, Vodafone and T-Mobile; firstly for travel within Europe (please bear in mind that not all European countries are included in these packages so you must double check), and then outside Europe.

Euro Traveller

Price Minutes Texts
Orange £5.10/month 200 (reduced price of 21.64p/min instead of 28.86p/min) + 200mins of received calls free 8.9p, free to receive
02 Free 50p connection charge + normal rate 8.5p/text, free to receive
Vodafone £3/day (only charged on days you actually use service) Same as UK, free to receive Same as UK, free to receive
T-Mobile £5/month Make 19 minutes free (39p/min after this has run out) and receive 53 minutes of calls free Up to 75 texts

A new regulation means that calls within the EU have been capped at 31p/min, but calling and messaging within the rest of world can still be very pricey. Take a look at your network provider's special global package:

World Traveller

Price Minutes Text
Orange £5/month for contract users only Reduces cost by up to 30% 50p send, free to receive
Vodafone Free - pay as you go customers only 75p connection charge + standard home rate. 75p connection charge for receiving calls, first 60mins free. (For non PAYG customers £1.65 to make a call, £1.35 to receive) 35p + domestic text, free to receive (same for non PAYG customers)
T-Mobile Free – all contract customers 55p/min in 18 different countries From 40p, free to receive

The provider deals are really quite good - especially within the EU - so make sure you explore them in more depth. If you do not plan to use the internet on your phone while you are away then don’t forget to switch off your data roaming before you go abroad and use only Wi-Fi hotspots or internet cafes. However, if you are a business traveller, or are going away for a longer amount of time then you should certainly consider bolting onto your package a data roaming bundle. Again, most of the major networks offer these:

World Traveller Data

Price Data Amount
Orange £3/day 30MB
O2 £1.99/day 25MB
Vodafone £3/day UK Price Plan
T-Mobile £1/30 days 3MB

Or you could alternatively opt in for the new EU cut-off system which shuts off your internet the moment you reach £44 worth of data charges. It’s handy as you can easily lose control (like those two totally crazy people below clearly have) but it's maybe a little too high for most people, in which case the data roaming bundles will be your best bet.

However, if you are planning on making lots of telephone calls while you are away and not using much data you should definitely consider buying a local SIM card. They are cheaper than the special packages provided by the major companies and are therefore a better option. You can find the best deals online by purchasing them before you leave.

The BEST local SIM card around is, without a doubt, 0044. Purchase your SIM before you travel specifying where you will be (e.g. Europe, USA) and it will be sent directly to you. It costs £14.99, coming with £2.50 start-up credit. If you are travelling in Europe, for instance, all local and international calls will only set you back 3p/min (free to receive) and all local and international text messages will cost you 9p (free to receive). Also available is a 0044 data Roaming SIM which costs £29.99 (giving you £15 credit); it gives you 51MB of data; calls cost 35p/min and texts 15p. Receiving both is free.

As you can see the 0044 PAYG SIM has the cheapest fee per minute and per text message of any provider around and is just perfect if you want your phone for calling and texting abroad. Their data roaming SIM is not quite as good as some of the home mobile providers so we wouldn’t necessarily recommend it.

It is also important to note that 0044 SIMs are not available in certain countries (the UAE for example).

The Solutions

Here are the best solutions outlined for you in a bite sized table:

Situation Solution
You want to use your mobile frequently to call and send texts while abroad but don’t need internet 0044 PAYG SIM – it has the cheapest rates available.
You want to use your mobile to call while abroad and to use the need internet
  1. Use your home SIM and get the data roaming bundle offered. Also buy a local SIM (like the 0044 PAYG SIM) and then only put in your home SIM if you want to email/ use the internet. Do not send texts, listen to voicemails or make/receive calls on your home SIM.
  2. Buy a 0044 PAYG SIM and only use Wi-Fi hotspots.
You’re going away on holiday and want to forget everything and everyone while you’re away. B****r it! ;)

So, there you go dear reader. We do hope this breakdown of the cheapest way of using your mobile abroad has helped. Just remember it depends totally who your network provider is - their Ts, Cs and prices - where you are going in the world and where you want to call/text in the world.

Our advice is merely a guideline and here to set you on the right path. So, go forth and research!