How does roaming work in Ireland?
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.
You should receive a text from your network when you arrive at your destination, which gives you information on the charges. They should contact you to alert you of your roaming spend too.
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
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.
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.’
RLAH also means you can receive calls and texts while roaming without paying any extra costs.
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 differ.
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||€19.99 for 12 months, €29.99 thereafter||120GB||30GB|
|Clear Mobile||€14.99 Plan||€14.99||Unlimited**||15GB|
|Tesco Mobile||€20 All In SIM Only||€20||100GB||18.07GB|
|Three||3 Bill Pay Unlimited SIMO 12m||€24.99 for 6 months, €34.99 thereafter||Unlimited**||32GB|
|Virgin Mobile||Unlimited||€20 for 12 months, €25 thereafter||Unlimited**||27GB|
|Vodafone||Red Unlimited Sim Only||€25 for 6 months, €35 thereafter||Unlimited**||Unlimited**|
|48||All-in-one Prepay Plan||€12.99||200GB||12GB|
*Home data figure outlines the cap on data, under the network’s fair usage policy **Unlimited: Fair Usage Policy applies
Is data unlimited 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.
What kind of speeds can you get?
Actual speeds vary depending on roaming agreements between operators, but analysis by Ookla revealed that mobile speeds are usually slower when roaming compared to at home.
While roaming speeds can vary in each country, the 2023 data from Ookla revealed higher download speeds when roaming on 5G compared to 4G.
One way to get faster mobile speeds while abroad is to upgrade to a 5G plan before you go.
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.
Roaming outside of the EU
While the roaming rules are great for people holidaying within the EU, you’ll still need to be wary of roaming charges if you’re travelling elsewhere.
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.
If you’re worried about charges you may face while travelling in the UK or outside the EU, contact your network.
Switching to a local, global or eSIM
If you travel a lot, use a lot of data or are staying somewhere for an extended period of time, you could also switch to a local, global or eSIM.
- Local SIM: Buying a pay-as-you-go, local SIM when you arrive on holiday means you can avail of local deals like unlimited data.
- eSIM: Is a virtual SIM card that is preinstalled in most newer smartphones. It lets you to connect to an eSIM data plan for the country you’re travelling to, so you don’t have to buy a physical SIM card or change numbers.
- Global SIM: A global or international SIM is a physical card with one number that works in multiple countries. Although it can be pricier than local or eSIM plans, it might suit frequent travellers.
GoMo’s GoMoWorld App allows customers to use their eSIM to connect to networks in 160 countries, including the US, Canada and Australia.
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:
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
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