There was a time when simply checking your email over mobile data or making a call back home in another country would run the risk of emptying your bank account, and while things have got a lot better you can still get stung with expensive charges.
In fact, since leaving the EU we’ve taken a bit of a backwards step on that front, with many networks bringing back roaming charges in Europe.
But not all networks are equal in these regards, and some are a lot better for roaming than others.
Below you’ll find an in-depth look at what roaming services each of the UK’s four main networks offer.
On most plans, Three charges a small daily fee to roam in 71 destinations across the world.
In most cases, you’ll need to pay £2 per day to access your allowances in Go Roam in Europe locations (listed below), and £5 per day for Go Roam Around the World destinations. So that’s affordable pricing, but no longer free, which it was before Brexit.
However, Pay As You Go customers are exempt from this charge, as are customers on Pay Monthly plans (in other words any contract) that started before October 1st, 2021.
You’ll find a full list of included locations for both versions of Go Roam below, along with information on limitations/fair usage and prices when travelling elsewhere.
|Go Roam in Europe||Go Roam Around the world|
|£2 daily roaming in 49 destinations in Europe||£5 daily roaming in 22 destinations outside Europe|
Go Roam in Europe
Go Roam in Europe essentially lets you roam across most of Europe, including Aland Islands, Austria, Azores, Balearic Islands, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canary Islands, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, French Guiana, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Guadeloupe, Guernsey, Hungary, Iceland, Isle of Man, Italy, Jersey, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madeira, Malta, Martinique, Mayotte, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Ireland, Romania, Réunion, Saint Barthélemy and Saint Martin, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Vatican City.
Go Roam Around the World
This is currently available in Australia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Israel, Macau, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Puerto Rico, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Uruguay, US Virgin Islands, USA and Vietnam.
Fair usage and limitations
Wherever you’re roaming though there are some limitations, most notably that you can’t use more than 12GB of data per month when abroad.
There’s no limit on call or texts within your allowance in Go Roam in Europe locations, but outside Europe you can only use up to 5000 texts back to the UK per month, and up to 3000 minutes.
Tethering is allowed, but only if you have unlimited data and only in Go Roam in Europe locations. If you want to tether when outside Europe you can purchase a Data Passport, giving you unrestricted data for £5 per day.
When not in a Go Roam location prices vary but they’re typically quite expensive, for example in China data will cost you £6 per megabyte, while calling a UK or Chinese number will cost £2 per minute and texting a UK or Chinese number will set you back 35p per text.
Note that at the time of writing, Three doesn’t currently offer 5G while roaming.
Like every other UK network, EE used to offer free roaming in the EU on all of its plans. However, it now charges £2 per day for customers who joined or upgraded their plan after July 7th, 2021. The regions affected are as follows:
Austria, Azores, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canary Islands, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, French Guiana, Germany, Gibraltar (UK), Greece, Guadeloupe, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madeira, Malta, Martinique, Mayotte, Poland, Portugal, Reunion Islands, Romania, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Martin (French), San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, The Netherlands, Vatican City, Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Monaco, Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey.
EE also has a ‘Roam Abroad’ pass, which lets you roam for free in the above places as well as in the US, Canada, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand, for 53 locations in total. This is available as a free ‘Smart Benefit’ on certain plans, or as a £10 per month extra.
Note that even though EE now has a 5G service in the UK, it doesn’t at the time of writing let you access 5G when roaming. The network also has a 50GB monthly roaming limit.
All O2 plans let you use your data allowances at no extra cost in 48 locations in Europe. These locations include:
Austria, Azores, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canary Islands, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, French Guiana, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Guadeloupe, Guernsey, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Isle of Man, Italy, Jersey, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madeira, Malta, Martinique, Mayotte, Monaco, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Reunion Islands, Romania, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Martin, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The Netherlands and Vatican City.
On top of that, select plans come with the O2 Travel Inclusive Zone Bolt On. This gives you “all the data you need” in 27 international locations (for 75 places total), specifically Argentina, Australia, Botswana, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Greenland, Guatemala, Guinea, Guyana, Honduras, Madagascar, Mexico, Myanmar, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Rwanda, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela and Yemen.
If your plan doesn’t have this or you want to roam elsewhere, there’s also an O2 Travel add-on that costs £6 per day and lets you roam in Albania, Anguilla, Argentina, Aruba, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Belarus, Bermuda, Botswana, Brazil, British Virgin Islands, Canada, Cape Verde, Cayman Islands, Chile, China, Columbia, Cost Rica, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Greenland, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guyana, Honduras, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Jamaica, Japan, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mexico, Moldova, Montenegro, Montserrat, Myanmar, Netherlands Antilles, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Rwanda, Saint Lucia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, St Kitts & Nevis, St Vincent & the Grenadines, Suriname, Thailand, Trinidad & Tobago, Turkey, Turks & Caicos islands, UAE, Uruguay, USA, Venezuela, Yemen and Zambia.
You’ll be able to use unlimited minutes and texts for that money in those locations, as well as “all the data you need”.
Like most networks, roaming speeds top out at 4G on O2, and there’s also a 25GB roaming data limit.
Most Vodafone plans that were taken out or renewed before August 11th, 2021, include free roaming in the following 51 European destinations:
Aland Islands, Austria, Azores, Balearic Islands, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canary Islands, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Faroe Islands, Finland, France (inc Corsica), French Guiana, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Guadeloupe, Guernsey, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Isle of Man, Italy, Jersey, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madeira, Malta, Martinique, Mayotte, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Reunion, Romania, St Barthelemy, Saint Martin, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Vatican City.
For everyone else, you can still roam for free in Ireland and the Isle of Man as standard, while for the other places above you’ll only get free roaming if your plan is listed as including ‘4 Xtra benefits’. If you have an unlimited data plan with ‘4 Xtra benefits’, then you can additionally roam for free in the following 32 places (for 83 in total):
Albania, Anguilla, Antigua, Aruba, Australia, Barbados, Bermuda, Bosnia and Herzegovina, British Virgin Islands, Canada, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Ghana, Grenada, Jamaica, Kenya, Lesotho, Mexico, Montserrat, Mozambique, New Zealand, Saba, Sint Eustatius, Sint Maarten, South Africa, St Kitts and Nevis, St Vincent, St Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey and Northern Cyprus, Turks and Caicos, and the US.
Unlimited Max plans taken out between 12th July 2019 and 14th June 2021 also include this full list of roaming locations, as do Red Entertainment plans taken out between 4th September 2018 and 11th July 2019.
For everyone else, free roaming in Ireland and the Isle of Man is available at no extra cost on all plans except Vodafone Basics, and all of those plans can roam in any of the above destinations too for £2 per day in Europe (or £1 per day if you pay for 8 or 15 days upfront), while the locations above outside Europe cost £6 per day.
Every plan (except Vodafone Basics ones) can also roam in numerous other destinations for £6 per day.
There’s a fair use limit when roaming of 25GB, but where Vodafone has the other big networks beat is in offering 5G roaming in some locations.
At the time of writing it’s available in 240 towns and cities across Spain, Germany, Italy and Ireland.
These include (but are not limited to) Milan, Rome, Turin, Naples and Bologna in Italy, Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Seville, Malaga, Zaragoza, Pamplona, Bilbao, La Coruña, Vigo, Vitoria, San Sebastián, Gijón, Logroño and Santander in Spain, Cork, Dublin, Galway, Limerick and Waterford in Ireland, and Cologne, Dusseldorf, Hamburg, Dortmund and Munich (among many others) in Germany.
By virtue of offering free roaming as standard we have to say that O2 offers the best roaming service overall. It also offers free roaming in a wide range of locations.
Vodafone takes second place, as it offers free roaming on select plans and in more places than any other major UK network, and it also offers 5G roaming in some locations.
We’re giving third place to EE, as it also offers roaming at no extra cost on select plans and as an affordable extra on others, though its list of free or cheap roaming locations isn’t as extensive as the other networks.
Three comes in last here, as roaming costs extra on every plan. This is quite a shift as Three was once strong for roaming. That said, it’s still not terrible, with affordable roaming offered in a decent selection of places.