How to stay connected while travelling

There are many ways in which you can get the internet while travelling abroad.
We will compare each option in detail to help you decide.

Option 1: Use data roaming

In some countries, you can use your phone just as you normally would. Your phone will connect to a telephone network in that country and you can use the internet, send and receive texts and make and receive calls.
Warning: If you roam in a country not covered by your contract, charges will apply which may be up to £7/megabyte. If you are in this situation, keep reading for cheaper options.
Because of Brexit, free EU roaming is no longer guaranteed.
Many mobile contracts from the UK still come with free or cheap EU roaming. Here are the policies for each network.
Update: Three have now introduced roaming charges. You have to pay £2/day within the EU and £5/day outside the EU to roam. O2 still have the best deal as they haven’t done anything yet.

EE

Any new or upgrading customers will have to pay £2/day for EU roaming from January 2022 onwards.
This may be worth it for a short holiday, but if you are looking for a medium or long term solution we suggest purchasing a local sim.
You can also get the Roam Abroad Add-on for £10/month and cancel it anytime. This add-on gives you free EU roaming.
Any existing customers who joined or upgraded before 7th July 2021 will still be able to use free EU roaming on their current contract.

O2

O2 doesn’t have any EU roaming charges in place at the moment.
You can use a maximum of 25GB of your data per month in the EU, but that should be fine for nearly all situations.
Currently, O2 have the best deal for EU roaming.

Three

Three still provide free roaming in 71 destinations to their customers.
The package is called Go Roam and is included for free in all plans apart from Essential plans. Essential plans still come with free roaming in the EU, but just not all the 71 destinations.
There is a fair use limit of 12GB/month if you have a data allowance above 12GB.
This limit may get in the way if you are planning to use FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, YouTube, Netflix or other data hungry apps.
You cannot use your phone as a hotspot when roaming with Three so you will either need to find a WiFi network for your other devices or buy a local SIM.
If you are going to the USA and need internet on your phone, ordering a Three Pay as you go SIM to be sent to your UK address before departure might work out as the cheapest option.

Vodafone

Vodafone have just announced that roaming charges will return.
New and upgrading customers will be charged £2/day for EU roaming from January 2022.
If you have an existing contract, you can take advantage of free EU roaming until you upgrade.
Vodafone will also sell new 8-day EU roaming passes for £8 and 15-day roaming passes for £15.
Some of Vodafone’s more expensive plans that include free roaming in 81 destinations will still include free EU roaming.

None of the virtual networks in the UK (iD Mobile, Virgin Mobile, Sky Mobile, BT Mobile, Voxi, etc…) have announced the re-introduction of roaming charges yet.

Setting up

There is not really any setup required to take advantage of Free EU roaming.
Once you arrive at your destination, just turn your phone on or switch off Aeroplane mode, and your phone should do the rest automatically.
Keep a look out for a text from your phone network.
If this text explains that you can use your date, texts and minutes for free or for the price you expected, you’re good to go.
If the text includes a list of roaming charges per megabyte, minute and text then switch off Mobile data immediately to make sure you do not get charged.
Many airports have WiFi you can connect to to research local SIM options.
If you are in an airport, look for open networks with names such as Airport Free WiFi. These networks will often contain the name of the airport. If there is more than one open network and you are concerned one of them may be a hackers network, ask in a shop or restaurant for the correct one to use.
You may be lucky and find open WiFi in other public places too. If this works, feel free to use it.
Warning: If you rely on WiFi calling, do not turn off Aeroplane mode as this will trigger your device to work out you are outside the UK and disable it. Instead, turn WiFi On and connect to your portable WiFi router or a public network (see below).
Remember to always type +44 or 0044 before an English phone number when you are outside the country, even if you are roaming.
Don’t forget to connect to the WiFi network where you are staying. This will reduce data usage and may save you money.
If you are roaming, you will be given a UK IP address which means that you can use sites like iPlayer as if you are in the UK. Searching for information around you may not be as accurate as you won’t have a local IP address.

Option 2: Buy a local SIM

If you are travelling to a country not covered by your plan, you will most likely be subject to rediculously high roaming charges.
You do not need to pay these charges to use your phone.
You can buy a local prepaid SIM card and continue to use the internet, and also WhatsApp, iMessage and FaceTime with your normal UK number.
If you would like to send classic texts or make normal phone calls, these will come from a new number linked to the SIM card you bought. This number you will have the country code of the country where you bought the SIM card.
Don’t forget to use +44 or 0044 when calling or texting UK numbers.
If you need to continue using your UK number for calls and texts, check out the portable WiFi option below.

Set up

This method requires that you can get your hands on a local SIM card. You may be able to use one or both of the following methods:
• Buy a local sim in a phone shop in the city you are staying in.
• Order a SIM online to be delivered to an address.
The 2nd option may not be available in all countries and may be limited to residents in some countries.
The useful website:
https://prepaid-data-sim-card.fandom.com/
can help you find out the options before you travel.
Some countries require SIM’s to be registered with an ID document such as a passport, and others don’t.
If registration is required, going to a phone shop will probably be quicker and easier.
You will get a local IP address for using the internet.

Option 3: Rent or buy a portable WiFi router

This option doesn’t require that you use a phone network at all.
If your mobile phone contract includes WiFi calling, you can continue to make and receive calls and send and receive texts with your UK number.
Once you have your router set up, you can connect all your devices (not just your phone).
Before you leave the UK for your destination, make sure Aeroplane mode is ON. You will not turn this back Off until you re-enter the UK. If you are travelling by plane, you will likely have already done this. This is necessary to use WiFi calling.

Set up

For this to work, you need to hire or buy a portable router. If you are only doing this rarely, we suggest that you hire one from an airport or other pick up location.
If you do this frequently, we recommend you buy your own portable router as this will save you money in the long run.
Once you have a portable router, turn on WiFi on your phone and make sure that Aeroplane mode is still on. You can enable Bluetooth as well if you like.
Next, select your router from the network list and enter its password.
You are now all set up. You can use the internet at a sensible price and even use WiFi calling.
N.B. If you have your own portable router, you will need to either purchase data for it, or put a local or global SIM in it to connect.

Option 4: Just rely on open WiFi

This option will only work if you are either in a big city or are happy to be completely offline most of the time.
First of all, turn off Mobile data if you will be charged for using it. Remember to keep Aeroplane mode turned on if WiFi calling is important to you.
Coverage and speed are not guaranteed, and in some countries open networks are very rare.
If you are finding it tricky to get connected, an app like WiFi Map can help you find reliable networks (and sometimes even give you WiFi passwords if people have added them).
It is best to look at apps like this while connected to the internet so they can load the map. After this, feel free to disconnect from the internet as long as you have screenshots or have noted down the networks you would like to use. You may be able to download regions for Offline use.

Conclusion

we hope you found this guide helpful in giving you all the options for staying connected while travelling, and that it made you consider all the options and choose the best one for you.

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