What is data roaming? Check out our tips for using your phone abroad

Advice on avoiding data roaming charges, including using BT's Roam Like Home across Europe and how to reduce data use to cut costs elsewhere.

If you're heading abroad soon and want to stay in touch with family and friends using WhatsApp or Messenger, upload holiday pics to Instagram or keep track on the latest news, you’ll be doing what’s called data roaming.

Data roaming is the term used when you are using data on a mobile network abroad. You use data for anything that involves connecting to the internet, such as checking email, sending a tweet, updating Facebook or using Google Maps.

In the past using data on your phone abroad meant if you weren’t careful, you could incur unexpected charges, however in 2017 roaming charges were abolished within the European Union. Read on to find out what this means for you and your holiday.

Going to the EU on holiday? You can Roam Like Home

If you are with us for mobile, with Roam Like Home you can use your inclusive BT Mobile allowance to send texts, make calls and use data in over 47 destinations*. This means you can use your phone in the same way as you would in the UK and you won’t incur roaming charges.

It’s also free to receive calls and texts when you are visiting a Roam Like Home country.

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

Roam Like Home doesn’t include non-European countries like the US, Japan and Australia, so if you are visiting one of these countries you can either turn data roaming off altogether, or use it with caution.   

Our Travel Data Pass add-on gives you a 24 hour allowance of 500MB of data for £6 to use in 12 countries outside the EU including USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. 

Do I want data roaming on or off?

If you are going to a country that isn't covered by Roam Like Home and are happy using wi-fi or don’t think you’ll use mobile data during the day, turn data roaming off.

  • Android: Open Settings, look for Network & internet, click Mobile networks and flick the slider next to Roaming ‘On.’ The interface on Android devices varies between handset manufacturer, so if you can’t find it, search for ‘roaming’ or check the manufacturer’s website.
  • iPhone: Turn off iPhone data roaming The screenshots refer to a US device, look for ‘Mobile Data’ instead of cellular.

If you think you might use mobile data on your phone, follow our tips below.

6 tips to reduce data use and avoid roaming costs

1. Keep an eye on how much data you use: Many phones let you set a data warning and will alert you when you are close to the usage limit. You can also check using the BT Mobile app or via My BT.

Smartphone data use warning

2. Set a Data Roaming Cap: BT Mobile customers automatically have a Data Roaming spend cap of £35 a month, but you can change this this via My BT to a sum that suits you – starting from £0. So you’ve got peace of mind that if you do go over your allowance, you’ll know how much by. BT Mobile customers also have a Spend Cap for any calls, texts or data charges outside their allowance of £40.  This can also be changed to a different value from £0. We’ll send you text alerts when you are getting close to your cap and when you reach it.

3. Get an add-on: Most networks offer add-ons for non-EU countries. BT Mobile customers heading to a country not covered by Roam Like Home, can consider getting the Travel Data Pass add-on via My BT, which costs £6 for 500Mb of data per 24 hours which can be used in 12 countries.

BT Mobile app data add-ons

4. Be careful how you use your phone: Avoid uploading or downloading large pictures or video files using mobile data, as these can quickly consume your allowance. Use wi-fi or download before you go. Likewise be careful using Google Maps, which requires an active data connection. You can download specific map areas before you go, or use an app like Here We Go (Android, Apple), which works offline.

5. Turn off app updates: Apps like Instagram and WhatsApp stay up-to-data by updating in the background, which means your phone could be using data without realising it. Head to the Settings menu, look for Updates and make are turned off or only happen when you are connected to a wi-fi hotspot.

6. Take advantage of wi-fi: Wi-fi hotspots are readily available in hotels or coffee shops and if you are a BT Broadband or BT Mobile customers you’ll get free unlimited wi-fi at over 8 million hotspots worldwide. 

You don’t have to do anything to start using Roam Like Home, just make sure you’ve got data roaming enabled on your phone.

Find out more about Roam Like Home

Looking for a new phone or new SIM-deal for your holiday? Check out our brilliant offers

* 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 (including Azores and 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

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