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Brits could face £787 phone bill a week for roaming in Egypt

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  • Brits could face a £787 phone bill for a week’s holiday in destinations including Egypt — the joint priciest hotspot for UK tourists due to roaming charges
  • One in four holidaymakers (24%) have no idea of their mobile provider’s fees for using data, making calls and texting overseas
  • Visitors to some popular holiday destinations face fees of up to £7.20 per MB on mobile data, £5 per minute to make calls and 60p to send texts
  • The worldwide roaming data cap of £45 a month does not include calls and texts, which can be particularly expensive outside of the EU, warns Uswitch
  • Pricey destinations include Morocco, South Africa, Saudi Arabia and UAE, which could all land unwary travellers with costly phone bills
  • Vodafone has the most comprehensive roaming package, with maximum charges of £42 a week across popular EU and worldwide destinations
  • Uswitch.com’s Roaming Red List reveals the countries where it’s most expensive to use your phone and offers tips on how to avoid big bills. 

Holidaying Brits risk running up £787 mobile phone bills during a week’s vacation in favourite destinations including Egypt, the tourist hotspot with the joint priciest roaming charges, reveals Uswitch.com, the comparison and switching service. 

Mobile providers have made headlines this year for bringing back EU roaming fees. But a quarter of consumers (24%) say they have no idea what using their phone abroad will cost, despite one in seven (16%) worrying about big bills on their return. 

Roaming fees for EU countries usually come to less than £14 for a week’s holiday and are free for O2 and Virgin Media customers – yet charges can quickly add up for further afield destinations, such as Egypt, Morocco, South Africa, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. 

Some providers like Vodafone let customers use their domestic monthly allowance of calls, texts and data while on holiday outside the EU for £6 a day, meaning a week’s break will cost no more than £42 in the 156 destinations it covers.  

Some popular destinations are excluded from overseas data, call or text bundles. For example, consumers travelling to Egypt face charges of up to £7.20 a MB for data, calls costing £5 a minute, and texts billed at 60p each. This means that a holidaymaker using 1GB of data,  making 20 minutes of calls and sending ten texts a day could end up with a £787 bill.

Ernest Doku, telecoms expert at Uswitch.com, comments:

“Millions of Brits will soon be enjoying a hard-earned holiday abroad, and thoughts about the cost of using their mobile will be far from their mind.  

“For many, it will be their first foreign holiday since EU roaming fees returned, so it’s important to remember that you’re now likely to face extra charges for using your phone.

“There’s a huge difference in costs between countries, so it’s worth checking with your provider how much you will pay to make calls, send texts and use data in your destination, and if there are any passes or add-ons that could help you use your data abroad for a minimal cost.

“With a quarter of mobile users unaware of what roaming costs they face, providers must do more to guide customers through these changes and offer cheaper options, particularly on popular non-EU destinations not covered in their travel bundles.

 “If you regularly travel abroad, it may be worth considering switching to a provider without EU roaming fees, or looking at a 30-day SIM-only deal to reduce your charges while you’re away.”

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Source: Uswitch.com research. Link to interactive map

How to avoid heavy holiday bills 

  1. Download at home, not away: Download any maps, shows, films and music before travelling to avoid data costs abroad. If using your mobile on holiday, focus on low-data activities and apps. An hour of Google Maps will only eat up 5MB, while streaming an HD movie for the same time will use about 2GB – 400 times as much.
     
  2. Check the cap fits: Even if you are paying for a bundle to roam abroad, you may not have the same data allowances as do in the UK. Check your provider’s fair usage policy, which will govern how much data you can use before you incur extra charges. You can also set up a spend cap with your provider to avoid any surprise bills when you return.
     
  3. Switch off voicemail: When overseas, you can expect to pay the same per-minute rate for checking your messages as you do for making calls. Yet sometimes even receiving a voicemail on holiday can cost you. If your provider includes this charge, call them before you travel and get it switched off.
     
  4. Wi-Fi wins: To save your data allowance, use hotel and cafe Wi-Fi connections whenever possible. You can also enable Wi-Fi calling or use services such as Whatsapp to make audio calls without using your minutes. Make sure access points are safe and secure before logging on and avoid activities like online banking on public networks.
     
  5. If in doubt, engage flight mode: Flight mode is not just for when you’re up in the air – although it will stop any chance of connecting to other networks while flying across the countries. Activating it on holiday, particularly in destinations with high fees on calls, texts and data, can remind you to watch your usage and save you from unexpected costs.
     
  6. Play it again SIM: If you’re with a provider that has roaming charges it’s worth considering buying a one-month SIM-only deal that will cover you for your time away. Lebara, which runs off the Vodafone network, offers a 5GB monthly SIM-only contract for £5.95, which comes with free roaming in the EU and India. 

How to roam for less: advice from the UK’s major mobile networks

  • Vodafone: Customers who have a monthly contract with 4 Xtra benefits will have roaming included in their plan. Customers travelling to the EU can buy eight or 15 day passes for £8 and £15 respectively – the equivalent of just £1 per day.
  • O2: The Travel Bolt On offers unlimited minutes, unlimited texts and data in 63 countries for £6 a day. Customers on the VOLT package can access an extra 27 destinations in the ‘O2 Travel Inclusive Zone’, included for free. This covers popular holiday destinations such as the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico (but not the full 63 destinations of the O2 Travel bolt on itself). O2 Travel Inclusive Zone is also available on selected Pay Monthly plans.
  • Both O2 and Virgin Mobile say that to help customers stay in control, they are maintaining the monthly data caps already in place and will text customers at intervals through that allowance. Customers are also encouraged to set up a spend cap before they travel, to avoid any risk of a bill shock.
  • Virgin Mobile: Customers are directed to their Roaming Hub page, where any customer travelling outside of the EU can enter their destination and see what charges will be applied.
  • Three: Three offers customers the ability to set a spend cap,  including a total bar on all out-of-bundle spending. They’ll also text customers when they land to provide them with advice of the charges applicable, which includes offering a data passport (where applicable) for unlimited data for £5 for 24 hours.
  • Sky Mobile: Earlier this year, Sky Mobile reduced its Roaming Passport Plus from £6 per day to £2 per day, giving customers access to 55 popular destinations including: EU/EEA, UAE, USA and Canada. The £2 pass activates automatically when customers land in one of the Roaming Passport Plus destinations and: make a call or send a text (SMS) or use more than 10MB of data. Account holders have the ability to set a spend cap per SIM which caps all out of bundle charges including roaming charges.

Chris Price


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