Woman travelling with backpack trying to use roaming on smartphone

Going on a summer holiday? Make sure you research before you roam

New research from Switcher.ie shows lots of Irish consumers are in the dark about roaming fees

Holiday season is well and truly upon us, with many people planning to jet off in the next few weeks to destinations across the EU, wider Europe, Australia, the USA and Asia.

And, with the increasing reliance on smartphones, we’ll be updating our friends, family and social media followers every step of the way. But before you hop online while you’re overseas, it’s important to be aware of the roaming charges you’ll face for doing so.

“Roam like at home”

The EU’s ‘Roam like at Home’ rules, which were introduced last year, offer protection to those travelling within the EU. And, while these rules are great for those of us that are travelling to another EU country, the danger is that some of us aren’t quite aware of what the rules actually mean, or we’re confused about what countries they apply to.

In general, if you are travelling to any of the 28 countries of the EU, and/or the countries of the European Economic Area (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway), you’ll get the same amount of calls, texts and data as you do at home.

The exception to this is if you have an unlimited data plan. If this is the case, you’ll need to check your data allowance with your mobile provider before you travel, as it will be capped.

If you use more data while roaming than your allowance, you may have to pay a small charge - at the moment, this charge is a maximum of €6 per GB plus VAT, but the charges are set to decline gradually to reach €2.50 per GB by 2022.

I’m not travelling to the EU, what about charges for roaming in other countries?

If you’re travelling to a non-EU country, you’re definitely going to want to do some research beforehand.

In destinations like Asia, the US and Australia, charges for calls to home can be over €3 per minute, while sending a single text costs up to 75 cent, and accessing the internet via roaming costs between €5 and €10 per MB.

When you consider that 1MB is only enough data to browse one website, it’s easy to see how costs could quickly add up if you’re travelling further afield this summer. Here’s a look at what the main operators charge for the key phone services when customers are travelling in the US:

Provider Data Making calls home Receiving calls Sending texts  
eir Mobile €10.24 / MB €1.69 /min €1.59 /min 39 cent each  
Lycamobile Not available €3.04 /min €2.99 / min 75 cent each  
Tesco Mobile €2.40 / MB €2.08 /min €2.08 /min 64 cent each  
Three €5.08 /MB €1.78 /min €1.01 /min 35.58 cent each  
Virgin Mobile €7.00 /MB €1.99 /min €0.99 /min 40 cent each  
Vodafone €6.15 /MB €1.41 /min €1.41 /min 30 cent each  

It’s worth noting that Vodafone also offers has a default roaming tariff called RED Roaming. This has a daily fee of €2.99 for unlimited calls, SMS and 200MB of data per day, which could work out to be good value, depending on how long you’re going away for. Other providers may be willing to provide similar offers, so it’s worth investigating.

Not many of us check roaming charges

Despite the high costs involved for roaming in certain destinations, today’s research shows that only 14% of us will check charges with our phone provider and adjust our usage accordingly while travelling.

Four in ten of us will leave roaming on while all the time while we’re abroad, while around a quarter will turn it off completely and only use WiFi.

“A quick call to your network can help you to make informed choices”

If you are going abroad this summer, Switcher.ie’s Managing Director, Eoin Clarke, has the following advice: “Make sure you check charges for roaming before you jet off. A quick call to your network can help you to make informed choices about your mobile use while you’re away and avoid a nasty post-holiday bill.”

He added that this will be particularly important for those travelling outside the EU as costs for data roaming further afield can be really high.

In terms of making sure you don’t use a tonne of data overseas, try:

  • turning off roaming and sticking to WiFi;
  • using online apps like WhatsApp or Skype to make calls over WiFi, instead of traditional phone calls;
  • downloading any content you need - like music or movies - before you go, rather than streaming; and
  • turning off automatic updates for apps.

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