You've probably heard stories about people getting back from holiday only to receive an unexpectedly high mobile phone bill.

Data roaming charges are the reason for these bills the cost of using your phone within the EU is set to drop.

Discover what is happening and what you can do to reduce unexpected costs.

What is data roaming?

Data roaming is the term used when your mobile phone is using data on a mobile network, away from your home network, while you're abroad.

You land in a foreign country and automatically (or manually) connect to a network. You’ll typically get a text informing you how much it will cost to make and receive calls, send a text message and use data.

You use data for anything that involves connecting to the internet, such as checking email, sending a tweet, updating Facebook or using Google Maps.

From June 2017 roaming charges within the EU are being scrapped, so you’ll pay the same as your home network. BT Mobile has introduced Roam Like Home, which lets you use your UK mobile allowance in over 40 destinations.

What is Roam Like Home?

From June 1st you can use your inclusive BT Mobile allowance to send texts, make calls and use data in 47 destinations, which means you no longer incur roaming charges. It’s also free to receive calls and texts when you are roaming in a Rome Like Home country.

  • Roaming Zone 1a: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Isle of Man, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal (Incl. Azores & Madeira), Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Vatican City.
  • Roaming Zone 1b: Canary Islands, French Guiana, Gibraltar, Guadeloupe, Guernsey, Iceland, Jersey, Liechtenstein, Martinique, Mayotte, Norway, Reunion, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Martin, San Marino, Switzerland.

Roam Like Home doesn’t include non-European countries like the US, Japan and Australia.

Go over your monthly data or call allowance – and just like at home – you’ll be charged at BT Mobile’s standard rate.

If you are a BT Mobile SIM-only or Pay Monthly customer you don’t have to do anything to start using Roam Like Home. From June 1st if you have roaming enabled you’ll be able to enjoy the benefits.

Find out more about Roam Like Home

How do I turn off data roaming?

If you are going to a country not covered by Roam Like Home, such as the US and Japan and want to avoid data roaming charges completely, then it's easy to switch off the data roaming setting on most mobiles.

iPhone: Discover how to turn off roaming here. The screenshots refer to a US device. In the UK you’ll need to look for ‘Mobile Data’ instead of cellular.

Android: Click the Settings. Look for Wireless & Networks, go to More – Mobile networks and turn ‘Data roaming off.

The interface on Android devices varies between handset manufacturers, so if you can’t find it, check the manufacturer’s website.

Windows Phone: Swipe left to get to the Applications List. Tap Settings - Mobile Network and then in the Data Roaming Options box select Don't Roam.

If you're using a different type of phone you can usually find the data roaming options in the phone's settings menu under a heading such as Networks or Mobile Network.

[Read more: What to do if you use your phone abroad]

How can I avoid data roaming costs?

If you are going to a country not covered by Roam Like Home and you want to avoid data roaming charges completely then the only way to do this is to make absolutely sure you turn off data roaming on your phone before you travel to a foreign country. However, many of us will want to use the internet occasionally. Here are some simple tips you can follow that can help reduce the cost of bills:

  • Avoid uploading or downloading large pictures or video files, as these can quickly consume your allowance.
  • Turn off automatic app updates before you travel abroad, and set your phone up to manually rather than automatically retrieve emails and attachments.
  • Avoid using Google Maps. It’s based in the cloud, so requires an active data connection. Instead try an app such as Navfree or Here We Go (Android, Apple), which let you download maps to your phone for use offline, so you won’t use data.
  • Make sure any automated updates that work in the background such as Twitter and Facebook are turned off.
  • Where possible use wi-fi to check emails, download maps and check Facebook. Wi-fi hotspots are readily available in hotels or coffee shops. BT Broadband and BT Mobile customers get free unlimited wi-fi hotspots at over 8 million hotspots worldwide. Discover more here and discover how easy it is to use the BT Wi-fi app.

Read more: How to prepare your smartphone for holiday

Article updated: June 2017