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Best network for roaming

and Jon Mundy
3rd June 2024

Best network for roaming

Table of Contents

Using your phone abroad, also called roaming, used to be a sure-fire way to incur a massive bill at the end of the month. That’s no longer necessarily the case, but it’s still important to examine where each of the major UK networks stands on the matter.

Using a foreign network typically incurs additional charges, but a mixture of legislation and cooperation between the world’s networks has reduced the penalty for roaming in certain key territories. Prior to Brexit that most notably meant free roaming across the EU, but while that’s no longer the case on every network and plan, the costs are still usually affordable.

Here’s a breakdown of the roaming policies adopted by every significant UK network, including EEO2Vodafone and Three, plus most major MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators). But first, a small note on the state of roaming in the EU.

Roaming in the EU

The EU dropped all roaming charges from June 15, 2017. This meant that making calls, sending texts and using the internet on your phone used to cost the same as at home when in any country that’s a member of the EU, whatever network or plan you're on – though when it came to data there were often fair use limits.

Of course, with the UK no longer in the EU, that's all changed. The specifics of EU roaming terms vary from network to network and will be detailed below under each network’s heading, but in short many either don't offer free EU roaming anymore or only do on select plans.

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Major Network Roaming Policies

Below we’ve looked at how the UK’s four major networks – namely EE, O2, Vodafone and Three – stack up in terms of roaming policies.

You can see an overview of their policies in the chart below, then more details for each network under that.

MVNOs like Sky Mobile and VOXI are covered separately further down.

UK Networks Roaming Policies

Network:

EE

O2

Vodafone

Three

Free roaming regions:

52

75

83

71

Free regions covered:

Global

Global

Global

Global

Roaming Limits

50GB in Europe

25GB

Up to 25GB

12GB

Roaming add-on available*

All plans

All plans

All plans

All plans

Deals

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* Add-ons come at an additional cost. For more information on available add-ons see the detailed information for each network below.

Note that this chart details the situation as of June 2024, and where we've listed locations as 'free' they might only be so on select plans.

EE

For all new, upgrading and existing customers, here’s EE’s current roaming policy:

 

Essentials / No Frills plans

Essentials and No Frills plan customers can roam for £2.47 per day in 47 destinations across Europe (see below for a full list). However, this charge will only apply to Pay Monthly handset and SIM Only customers who’ve joined EE or upgraded from 7th July, 2021, onwards. Older customers who haven’t recently upgraded can roam in these places at no extra cost. For tablet, laptop, and mobile broadband customers, these charges came into play for plans started on or after 18th August 2021.

If customers are going on a longer break they can purchase a Roam Abroad pass, which costs £25 per month but allows free roaming in these European locations, as well as in Australia, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand and the US.

There’s also a Travel Data Pass, which gives you 500MB of data and costs £6.74 per day in the US and Canada or £8.45 per day in Australia, China, India, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey and UAE. It can also be purchased for £8.45 per day in 45 other destinations including Brazil, Japan and Jamaica, but in these places you only get 150MB of data.

To get the Travel Data Pass, text TRAVEL to 150 before you go or while you’re abroad.

Full Works/ All Rounder plans

If you’re on one of EE’s high-end All Rounder or Full Works plans you have the option to not only roam for free across the EU (up to a 50GB ‘fair usage cap’) but also beyond.

Customers of these plans can optionally add a Roam Abroad pass to their plan at no extra cost, letting them roam for free in the EU, and also roam for free in Australia, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand and the USA, for 52 locations in total. The Travel Data Pass detailed above is also available to these customers.

Note that the Roam Abroad pass is one of a number of Inclusive Extras (previously known as Smart Benefits) available to customers of these plans, so choosing it means you won’t be able to choose something else.

EE Europe Zone Countries

Austria

French Guiana

Latvia

Portugal

Azores

Germany

Liechtenstein

Reunion Islands

Belgium

Gibraltar

Lithuania

Romania

Bulgaria

Greece

Luxembourg

Saint Barthelemy

Canary Islands

Guadeloupe

Madeira

Saint Martin

Croatia

Guernsey

Malta

San Marino

Cyprus

Hungary

Martinique

Slovakia

Czech Republic

Iceland

Mayotte

Slovenia

Denmark

Ireland

Monaco

Spain

Estonia

Isle of Man

Netherlands

Sweden

Finland

Italy

Norway

Switzerland

France

Jersey

Poland

Vatican City

Vodafone

Vodafone has introduced a £2.42 daily charge to use allowances in 51 European destinations – or you can reduce this if you buy an eight or 15-day pass.

However, customers on plans taken out before August 11th 2021 won’t have to pay this charge until they upgrade, and there are plans which avoid the charge, detailed below.

Vodafone 51 Charge-Free European Locations

Spain (5G)

Estonia

Italy (5G)

Portugal

Austria

Finland

Latvia

Ireland (5G)

Belgium

France (inc Corsica)

Liechtenstein

Romania

Guadeloupe

French Guiana

Lithuania

San Marino

Bulgaria

Germany (5G)

Luxembourg

Slovakia

Madeira

Gibraltar

Malta

Slovenia

Croatia

Greece

Monaco

Canary Islands

Cyprus

Hungary

Netherlands

Sweden

Czech Republic

Iceland

Norway

Switzerland

Denmark

Isle of Man

Poland

Vatican City

Azores

Mayotte

Reunion

Martinique

Saint Martin

Aland Islands

Balearic Islands

Faroe Islands

St Barthelemy

Guernsey

Jersey

 

Inclusive roaming

Vodafone has rolled out a range of plans called ‘Xtra Plans’ which come with ‘Xtra benefits’, and one of the extras that comes with many of these is inclusive roaming in the 51 locations above.

On top of that, some Xtra Plans go even further and allow for free roaming in 83 destinations – many of which are outside Europe. Note that in all cases though there’s a 25GB fair usage limit.

The additional locations include:

Albania, Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, 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.

Travelling further

For many other parts of the world or for those who don’t have a plan that offers inclusive roaming in 83 locations, you can pay £7.39 per day to use your allowances in 105 locations. These locations include:

Afghanistan, Albania, Andorra, Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Aruba, Australia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Bermuda, Bonaire, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, British Virgin Islands, Cambodia, Canada, Cayman Islands, Chile, China, Colombia, Congo, Democratic Republic of, Costa Rica, Curacao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Fiji, Georgia, Ghana, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Israel, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Laos, Lesotho, Macau, Macedonia, Malaysia, Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Montserrat, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Qatar, Russia, Saba, Samoa, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Singapore, Sint Eustatius, Sint Maarten, South Africa, South Korea, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent, Suriname, Swaziland, Taiwan, Tanzania, Thailand, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey and Northern Cyprus, Turks and Caicos, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United States of America, Uruguay, US Virgin Islands, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu and Vietnam.

Vodafone also lets customers on a 5G plan roam at 5G speeds in select locations.

5G speeds are available in parts of Spain, Italy, Germany and Ireland.

Three

Three’s Lite plan customers (previously called Standard plans) will have to pay £2 per day to use their allowances in the EU (across 49 destinations), and £5 per day to use them in many global locations – listed below under ‘Go Roam Around the World’.

Customers of Value plans (previously called Plus plans) can roam for free for up to 28 days and those on Complete plans (previously known as Premium plans) can roam at no extra cost for up to 56 days.

In all cases that’s up to a 12GB limit. The European locations can be seen in the chart below.

Three Go Roam in Europe Locations

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

Netherlands

Norway

Poland

Portugal

Republic of Ireland

Romania

Reunion

Saint Barthelemy and Saint Martin

San Marino

Slovakia

Slovenia

Spain

Sweden

Switzerland

Vatican City

Mayotte

The places beyond Europe that can be roamed in for £5 per day (or inclusively on some plans) are listed in the chart below.

Note that in all cases these charges only apply to customers who signed up to or renewed their contract on or after October 1st, 2021. For everyone else, the locations in these charts can be roamed in at no extra cost (until you upgrade or renew). All Pay As You Go customers can also roam in these places at no extra cost.

Three Go Roam Around the World Locations

Australia

Brazil

Chile

Colombia

Costa Rica

El Salvador

Guatemala

Hong Kong

Indonesia

Israel

Macau

Vietnam

New Zealand

Nicaragua

Panama

Peru

Puerto Rico

Singapore

Sri Lanka

Uruguay

USA

US Virgin Islands

 

 

If you want to roam somewhere not covered by Go Roam, there’s also a Data Passport, which gives you unlimited data in many locations for £5 per day.

O2

O2 allows customers to roam for no extra cost in 48 European destinations, many of which offer 5G speeds. The list of roaming locations can be seen in the chart below, but is similar to that offered by other networks.

However, unlike other networks O2 hasn’t announced plans to remove free roaming, so at the time of writing it’s the only one of the big four UK networks that still offers free roaming on all plans. Note though that there’s a 25GB data limit when roaming. However, O2 does offer 5G roaming in some places.

O2 Free Roaming Locations

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

Monaco

Norway

Poland

Portugal

Reunion Islands

Romania

Saint Barthelemy

Saint Martin

San Marino

Slovakia

Slovenia

Spain

Sweden

Switzerland

The Netherlands

Vatican City

Mayotte

On some plans you can also roam in 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.

Want to go further? O2 also offers an O2 Travel bolt-on for £6 per day, which gives you unlimited data, minutes, and texts in the locations below.

O2 £6 Non-European Travel Bolt-On Countries

Albania

Anguilla

Argentina

Aruba

Australia

Bahamas

Barbados

Belarus

Bermuda

Botswana

Brazil

British Virgin Islands

Canada

Cape Verde

Cayman Islands

Chile

China

Columbia

Costa 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

Zambia

 

MVNO Roaming Policies

Below you’ll find brief details of the roaming policies for most of the UK’s MVNOs, along with links to more detailed guides for each where available.

1pMobile

1pMobile allows all customers to roam across 46 European destinations at no extra cost, up to a fair use limit of 14GB of data.

1pMobile will also check that you’re using your phone more in the UK than abroad over a rolling four-month period.

Asda Mobile

Asda Mobile allows customers to roam in 46 European destinations at no extra cost. However, there’s a roaming data limit of 5GB, so you can’t use more than that abroad each month without being charged extra.

It’s worth noting that Asda Mobile offers 5G roaming in parts of numerous EU countries too.

Giffgaff

Giffgaff lets customers roam in 38 European destinations at no extra cost. However, there’s a fair usage limit of 5GB for all plans that come with that much data or more.

Honest Mobile

Honest Mobile allows EU roaming of up to five days per trip at no extra cost, but additional days will cost £2 each, and there’s a 20GB fair usage limit.

iD Mobile

On iD Mobile you can roam abroad in 50 destinations in the EU, EEA and beyond. Like most networks it has a fair usage policy, but it’s reasonably high at 30GB, and the network offers 5G roaming in some places.

Lebara

Lebara allows customers to roam at no extra cost in the EU, up to a 30GB fair usage limit for customers on unlimited data plans.

This network stands out though by also offering inclusive roaming in India, where there’s likewise a fair usage limit of up to 30GB.

Lyca Mobile

On Lyca Mobile you can roam across the EU at no extra cost, but there’s a variable fair usage limit depending on your plan. At the time of writing the highest available cap is 35GB.

ParentShield

ParentShield technically offers free EU roaming, but it asks that if affordable you pay for its £2.99 ‘Super Roaming’ add-on.

Its roaming terms are also more restrictive than most networks, as its goal is keeping kids safe.

Sky Mobile

Sky Mobile doesn’t let you roam for free, but you can access your allowances in over 55 destinations for £2 per day. You’re not limited to Europe either – supported locations also include the US, Australia and more.

Smarty

When travelling in the EU on Smarty you’ll have access to your normal allowances at no extra cost, up to a fair usage limit of 12GB. It’s worth noting that Smarty has the same parent company as Three, and yet Three doesn’t offer free roaming on all plans.

Spusu

Spusu offers inclusive EU roaming as standard, with a variable fair usage limit (depending on your plan) that tops out at 25GB at the time of writing.

Talk Home

Talk Home lets users roam across most of Europe at no extra cost, and unlike most networks there also aren’t any fair usage limits when doing so.

Talkmobile

Talkmobile allows customers to roam as if at home in 42 European destinations, up to a fair usage data limit of 5GB per month, and the network also offers 5G roaming.

Tesco Mobile

Tesco Mobile lets you roam in 48 destinations in the EU and beyond at no extra cost.

Its fair usage terms are less restrictive than on most networks, as it basically just says you can’t be spending more time or data in its free roaming locations than in the UK or the rest of the world. Your usage for these purposes will be monitored over a rolling four-month period.

VOXI

VOXI is among the rare MVNOs that charge you to roam even in Europe. The network charges £2.25 per day, though you can get discounts for longer periods, with an eight-day roaming pass costing £10 and a 15-day one costing £15. This pass will cover you in Europe up to your standard data allowance or a 20GB fair usage limit, whichever is lower.

The network also offers a Global Roaming Extra for more distant destinations, but this comes with just 2GB of daily data on an 8-day pass or 4GB on a 15-day pass.

It's worth noting that VOXI also allows 5G roaming in parts of Germany, Spain, Italy and Ireland.

Cost Comparison

As we’ve seen, each UK network has its own roaming provisions and deals that can reduce the cost of using your phone while travelling dramatically. However, they also each have a list of base charges that apply when none of these provisions is met.

By way of a comparison, here is a table that compares the basic unsubsidised costs of placing a local call, sending a text, and surfing the web in three of the most popular destinations for UK travellers, on the UK’s four main networks. 

Roaming Cost Comparison

Country

EE

O2

Vodafone

Three

Australia

£1.66 per minute, 82p texts, £8.45 per day for 500MB

£2 per minute, 50p texts, £7.20 per MB

£7.39 per day to use your normal allowances

£5 per day to use your normal allowances

USA

£1.66 per minute, 82p texts, £6.74 per day for 500MB

£2 per minute, 50p texts, £7.20 per MB

£7.39 per day to use your normal allowances

£5 per day to use your normal allowances

China

£2.52 per minute, 82p texts, £8.45 per day for 500MB

£2 per minute, 50p texts, £7.20 per MB

£7.39 per day to use your normal allowances

£2 per minute, 35p texts, £6 per MB

Conclusion

As you can see, standard roaming charges are hardly what you’d call cheap. But each network’s roaming initiative can provide massive savings in their own separate way.

As things stand at the time of writing (June 2024) O2 arguably tops the pack in terms of the four main networks, as it's keeping roaming free on all plans. That said, for a wide selection of destinations, Vodafone comes out on top, and you can still roam for free on some plans with that network.

For the widest selection of ‘cheap’ roaming locations Vodafone again comes out on top, as it offers add-ons which allow you to roam in locations that aren’t ‘free’ for an affordable daily charge.

That’s only worth doing of course if the add-ons cover locations that you plan to roam in (and which you can’t roam for free in on other networks), but still leaves Vodafone as a top pick overall.

As for the MVNOs, the vast majority do offer free EU roaming. However, VOXI and Sky Mobile don’t. So these two rank low – though notably Sky lets you cheaply roam beyond Europe.

Of the other MVNOs, we’d highlight Tesco Mobile and Talk Home as two of the best, as they have less restrictive fair usage limits than the other networks. Lebara also ranks high for certain travellers, since it allows you to roam for free in India.

Overall though we’d say O2 has all of those beat as well, since select plans let you roam widely, on top of all plans letting you roam in Europe. So O2 is our pick as the best network for roaming overall.

Beyond that, our one piece of advice for frequent travellers is to pick out the UK network that offers the best roaming terms for the highest number of countries you intend to visit over the coming two years of your contract.

Editorial Manager

James has been writing for us for over 10 years. Currently, he is Editorial Manager for our group of companies ( 3G.co.uk, 4G.co.uk and 5G.co.uk) and sub-editor at TechRadar. He specialises in smartphones, mobile networks/ technology, tablets, and wearables.

In the past, James has also written for T3, Digital Camera World, Clarity Media, Smart TV Radar, and others, with work on the web, in print and on TV. He has a film studies degree from the University of Kent, Canterbury, and has over a decade’s worth of professional writing experience.

Technical Writer at 3G.co.uk

Jon has nine years experience of writing and editing copy for leading publications, as well as attending technology shows and events and conducting interviews. Currently working with 3G.co.uk, TechRadar, Trusted Reviews, T3, Digital Spy, What Mobile, Pocket Gamer, and The Gadget Show.

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