What are roaming charges?

If you want to use your mobile while abroad and avoid an expensive phone bill, this guide can help. Here’s how to ‘Roam like at Home’ in the EU and find the right mobile plan for your trip.

What is roaming?

Roaming is using your mobile phone in another country, for example when you go on holiday.

The amount you’ll pay for calls, texts and data depends on:

  • Your phone plan
  • The amount of calls, texts and data you use
  • Where you travel to

What does Roam Like at Home (RLAH) mean?

When you travel within the EU and use your mobile, you’ll pay the same for calls, texts and data as you would in Ireland, meaning you can ‘Roam Like at Home.’

You’ll also be able to receive calls and texts while roaming, without paying any extra costs.

You must spend more time at home than abroad for it to count as roaming. Spending too much time roaming could mean you have to pay extra for services, subject to a fair usage policy.

Data roaming allowances in the EU

Although the rate you’ll pay for calls, texts and data is the same in the EU as at home, your data allowance may be different.

If you have a low data limit, e.g. under 5GB, you’ll also have the same allowance in the EU.

However, if you have unlimited mobile data or a very high data limit, your operator may apply a limit on the data you can use while roaming.

If your limit is different overseas, your operator will have to inform you in advance. You’ll also get an alert when you reach 80% of your limit, and again when you reach 100%.

Here are some of the top SIM-only plans and any caps applied for roaming:

Network Plan Name Cost p/m Home data* EU data  
eir mobile Connect - 30 day €14.99** 120GB 30GB  
Clear Mobile €14.99 Plan €14.99 Unlimited 10GB  
GoMo GoMo SIM €14.99** 120GB 10GB  
Tesco Mobile Unlimited 30 Day €20 60GB 9.3GB  
Three Unlimited SIMO €30 Unlimited** 19GB  
Virgin Mobile Unlimited €5** Unlimited** 13.6GB  
Vodafone Red Unlimited Sim Only €25** Unlimited** Unlimited**  
48 €10.99 Plan €10.99 100GB 10GB  

*Home data figure outlines the cap on data, under the network’s fair usage policy **€14.99 per month for 12 months, €29.99 thereafter **€14.99 for 30 days rolling contract **Unlimited: Fair Usage Policy applies **€5 for 6 months, €25 thereafter **Unlimited: Fair Usage Policy applies **€25 per month for the first six months, €35 thereafter **Unlimited: Fair Usage Policy applies

View and compare SIM-only deals


Best value SIM for EU roaming

This plan from eir offers unlimited calls, texts and data at home.

Customers will also get unlimited calls and texts in the EU and a generous 30GB of data while roaming in the EU.

If you intend to travel or call outside the EU, you can upgrade your plan and get 200 international minutes and texts and 50GB data to use in the EU.


Can you use unlimited data with ‘Roam like at Home’?

No, most mobile networks cap data use abroad.

If you’re a heavy data user, you’ll need to be careful about how you use data in the EU to avoid excess charges.

Consider changing to a SIM-only plan with a generous data package for roaming if you’re concerned about breaching your limit.

Here are the pros and cons of switching to a SIM-only deal.

Roaming outside of the EU

While the roaming rules are great for people holidaying within the EU, if you’re travelling elsewhere, you’ll still need to be wary of roaming charges.

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 cents, so try to restrict your usage, and use wifi wherever possible.

Roaming in the UK

Now that the UK has left the EU, Irish phone users are not entitled to EU roaming rates when travelling to the UK.

ComReg understands there will be no immediate changes for customers, but it’s still worth contacting your provider to check if any charges or mobile allowances apply when travelling to the UK.

Regardless of any future costs, mobile phone users will still have legal protections around roaming, such as:

  • being informed of any roaming charges when they use mobile devices in the UK
  • being alerted when the data roaming cap (€61.50 including VAT) is reached
  • being informed about how to avoid inadvertent roaming
  • being notified if their contractual terms are changed

If you’re worried about charges you may face while travelling in the UK or outside the EU, contact your network to check how much they’ll be in the country you’re travelling to.

You should receive a text from your network when you arrive at your destination, which gives you information on the charges, and they’ll contact you to alert you of your roaming spend too.

How to avoid roaming charges

Here are some ways to guard against extra costs on your phone bill when abroad:

  • download movies and music in advance of your trip
  • don’t stream movies and music on the go
  • turn off automatic updates for apps
  • turn off ‘data roaming’ if you’re not in the EU
  • send texts rather than ‘messaging’ if in the EU
  • switch to a local SIM with unlimited data

Get a SIM only deal with the calls, texts and data you need for less.

It only takes a few minutes to find a cheaper deal and start saving.