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This page contains:

  • What is ‘roaming’? 

  • What is data roaming? 

  • How much does roaming cost? 

  • Roaming in the EU. 

  • Roaming outside the EU. 

  • Inadvertent Roaming 

  • Services on a ferry or plane 

  • Can I turn off data roaming? 

  • How do I avoid unexpected data roaming charges? 

  • Tips to avoid unexpected data roaming charges. 

  • How much data could I use? 

  • How do I contact emergency services when abroad? 

What is ‘roaming’? 

Roaming means using your mobile phone while in another country. This could be while you are on holiday, on a work trip, or while in transit.  

While roaming you will not be able to connect to your own network provider, instead, you will connect to a local network provider. This allows you to continue to make calls and texts as normal. 

When you arrive in your chosen country and connect to a local network you should receive a message informing you about any limitations or charges that may apply. During your trip, you may also receive text message spend alerts if you hit a certain spending threshold.  

What is data roaming? 

Data roaming refers to using your mobile data when abroad – this means connecting to the internet and using web services like browsers, apps, emails, etc.  

As with calls and texts, you will connect to a local network and be able to use their mobile coverage to connect to the internet.  

Mobile providers may impose a ‘fair use’ limit to how much data you can use when abroad (more about that below). This means that while you may receive unlimited data in Ireland, there may be a cap (or limit) while travelling. 

How much does roaming cost? 

This depends on where you are travelling. Since 2017 EU citizens have been able to make calls, texts, and use internet services (within the European Union (EU) and Norway, Iceland, and Lichtenstein) without any additional cost.  

When travelling outside of the EU, however, additional costs may make using your mobile phone more expensive than normal.  

Roaming in the EU. 

‘Roam like at Home’ is the term used to describe the roaming policy adopted by the EU in 2017. In essence, this means that no matter where within the EU (as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) you are travelling, you will incur the same costs as you would when at home.  

For example, if you have unlimited calls and texts at home in Ireland, you will also have unlimited calls and texts when travelling in France.  

If you have unlimited data in Ireland, you may be capped at 27GBs of data as you travel through Germany. This limit is what is known as ‘fair use’. If your plan does feature a fair use limit, then your provider will have to inform you in advance about this limit. 

Read more here for a full breakdown of using your phone in the EU 

Roaming outside the EU. 

For those travelling outside of the EU, additional charges will apply. Charges will vary depending on the region or country you plan on visiting, your mobile plan, and your provider. Charges incurred outside of the EU can be significant, even with minimal usage. 

We encourage you to look up details on roaming charges before travelling to ensure you do not incur any unforeseen costs.  

Following Brexit, Roam like at Home no longer applies to travel within the United Kingdom. Some mobile providers have chosen to extend ‘Roam like at Home’ to the United Kingdom, but they are not obliged to, and you should always check before travelling.   

We recommend you check with your service provider if you plan on travelling to any countries outside of the EU and want more information about potential roaming costs. 

Read more here for a full breakdown of using your phone outside of the EU 

Inadvertent Roaming 

Inadvertent roaming is when your phone connects to a mobile network based in a different country than the one in which you are located. This can happen without you being aware at the time.  

There are some areas in the EU where you can roam onto a non-EU mobile network that is not under the ‘Roam like at home’ rates. If you are travelling in border areas, it is possible that you can connect to another non-EU country’s network and run up roaming charges inadvertently. 

For example, in Northern Ireland you may be subject to cross-border roaming charges. This depends on your home network’s policy. This may also happen in the Greek Islands you might automatically connect to a mobile network in Turkey.  

To stop this from happening, you can disable the automatic network selection setting on your phone handset so that you only connect to the mobile network you choose. 

Services on a ferry or plane 

When there is no mobile coverage on a ferry or when you are prohibited from using your mobile phone on a plane you may be able to avail of other services from your mobile phone. In this case they are not the same as roaming services and the prices are different. Non-terrestrial networks (for example, a satellite) provided on some boats and planes do not fall under the ‘Roam like at Home’ umbrella. Thus, they may have high surcharges. As part of the roaming rules, you will be informed with a notification about additional charges for using these services. 

Can I turn off data roaming? 

Most mobile phones will now give you the option to turn off data roaming. This can usually be done with phone settings and will mean that you will not be able to make calls, send texts, or connect to the internet (unless you are using Wi-Fi). With data roaming switched off, you shouldn’t incur any additional costs or fees.  

How do I avoid unexpected data roaming charges? 

The best way to avoid any unexpected or unwanted data roaming charges is to know what your current mobile plan does and does not cover. The best way to do this is to consult with your mobile phone operator before you travel.  

When travelling you must be informed of: 

  • any roaming charges 
  • charges incurred or, when a data roaming cap €61.50 (including VAT) is reached.  
  • A second cap of €123 (including VAT) will also trigger a notification 
  • how to effectively avoid inadvertent roaming 
  • contractual changes about roaming

Tips to avoid unexpected data roaming charges. 

  • Turn off data roaming –This will make sure you can only access data services when you are connected to Wi-Fi. 
  • Disable the automatic network selection setting on your phone handset. This means you won’t connect to a local network automatically. You can then choose to connect and which network you connect to.  
  • Limit background data use – Smartphone apps use data in the background even when not open. You can turn off automatic app updates in your handset settings. 
  • Track your data usage – Within your phone’s settings you may be able to see data usage for a specific period. While abroad keep an eye on this number to ensure you stay within limits.  
  • Read information notifications – Pay attention to the messages that you receive from your provider and read them. Don’t ignore what these say! 
  • Avoid using certain applications/services– Avoid streaming apps like music or films and avoid using mobile maps for directions because these can run up very large bills. 
  • Contact your provider immediately if your phone is lost or stolen – Contact your mobile provider immediately with your IMEI number if your handset is lost or stolen. Thieves can quickly run up huge bills which you may be responsible for if you do not take swift action.

How much data could I use? 

Here is a table estimating how much data it will take for common internet activities.  

Sending 1 email 20KB – 100KB 
1 social media update (with photo) 350KB – 2MB 
1 hour of web browsing 10MB – 100MB 
Streaming 1 hour of music 28MB 
Downloading one app 40MB – 400MB 
Streaming 1 hour of basic quality video 300MB  
Streaming 1 hour of ultra-high-definition video 7GB  

*1 kilobyte (KB) is 1,000 bytes, 1 megabyte (MB) is 1,000 kilobytes (KB), 1 gigabyte (GB) is equal to 1,000 megabytes (MB). 

How do I contact emergency services when abroad? 

When abroad, you should automatically receive a message to remind you of the local emergency services number and alternative means of reaching emergency services, such as through real-time text or apps. 112 in the EU and 911 in the USA and Canada. These services are free of charge. 


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