The days of roaming overseas for free on any SIM only network are sadly no more. Since Brexit, most networks have reintroduced roaming fees in some shape or form. But which network provides the best roaming SIM only deals? Does it cost more to roam outside the EU? And do any networks at all still provide free roaming?
Before you pack your bags and jet off with mobile phone in hand, keep reading to ensure you’re equipped with the best SIM only roaming deal.
Best SIM cards for EU roaming
If you’re heading off on a trip to Europe and you’re looking for a SIM only deal to manage your roaming costs you have plenty of options to choose from. Before Brexit, EU roaming was free across the board. But that’s now changed and the majority of big networks – like Three and Vodafone – have reintroduced roaming costs.
However, shop around and you’ll find that some of the smaller providers still count inclusive roaming as a feature of their SIM bundles – as does O2.
So while some networks will charge you (but may offer other benefits), others may include roaming for free, so let’s take a look at what’s on offer:
O2 is the only heavyweight brand to hold back on reinstating roaming costs. That means you won’t be charged for roaming when using your SIM in O2’s Europe Zone.
If you hit the 25GB fair usage cap, will be charged £3.50 for each additional GB of data you get through
Asda Mobile may not be the most glamorous network on the market. But it’s a tidy SIM only provider and importantly offers free EU roaming with its SIM deals. Its roaming service currently spans across 36 EU locations. So you’re covered for all the major destinations like France, Germany, Spain and more. There’s a fair use cap of 5GB per month.
Unlike several big networks that are cutting back on inclusive roaming, SMARTY still offers free EU roaming on all of its packages.
While you are in the EU, your SIM only plan continues to function normally and at no extra expense. The monthly fair use cap is 12GB but that should be more than enough to meet your mobile demands while you’re travelling.
A relative newcomer to the world of mobile phone deals, Superdrug is one of the UK’s biggest retail brands. If you’re visiting the EU, Superdrug Mobile offers free roaming with a fair usage data cap of 12GB. If you need to use more than that, you will need to purchase an add-on.
Fittingly for a brand that prides itself on value, Tesco Mobile customers can use their SIM cards for free in 48 European destinations. The fair use cap stands at 12GB. Tesco Mobile has also reassured current and potential customers by claiming that there are no plans to bring roaming charges back in the near future.
All iD Mobile plans still include inclusive EU roaming. So you won’t have to worry about paying more to use your SIM in Europe.
And with 50 locations counted on iD Mobile’s roaming map, you have plenty of destinations to explore. The network’s roaming data cap is very generous too at 30GB per month.
Lebara continues to do a fantastic job of maintaining roaming throughout the EU when many large networks are moving in the opposite direction and reintroducing roaming fees.
Lebara is a tempting option for frequent travellers throughout Europe because you can use your SIM in the EU exactly like you would at home without paying extra. Be aware that a 30GB fair usage policy will apply if you have an unlimited data plan.
Lyca Mobile has generously kept up its commitment to providing inclusive roaming with its SIM only plans. This is despite the fact that many major telecommunications providers have already reinstated EU roaming costs.
Unlike numerous other providers (including Three, EE and Vodafone), giffgaff continues to provide free EU roaming to its customers with its SIM-only plans. Sure, there is a 5GB fair usage cap. But this should still keep you connected for brief trips when Wi-Fi access is unavailable.
Unfortunately, EU roaming fees have come back for Vodafone customers. Whenever you’re travelling in any of 51 European destinations, you’ll now have to pay £2 per day to use your SIM if you’re on Vodafone. If that’s a big issue, it may be time to switch to a new SIM only deal.
Despite its focus on customer satisfaction, Sky Mobile is another network that now charges for roaming. The Sky Mobile Roaming Passport includes 36 EU destinations for £2 per day.
Three’s roaming service used to be a feature that distinguished it from its competitors for a number of years. Customers were previously able to use their phones for free in 71 destinations with the company’s Go Roam benefit.
Disappointingly, Three has now begun to charge for EU roaming. It will cost Three customers £2 per day to use their SIM card in Europe.
Following Brexit, EE was among the first networks to reintroduce EU roaming costs. So unfortunately you can no longer enjoy free roaming with EE. If you’re not in a position to switch or are still committed to joining EE, you’ll pay a flat rate of £2 per day to use your phone if you travel to the EU.
As you can see, it’s important to plan ahead and make sure you’re fully aware of your network’s roaming costs. So the next time you take a holiday in Europe, you won’t have to stress about purchasing add-ons when you land or discovering unpleasant surprises on your bill when you get back.
Best SIM cards for roaming outside the EU
Of course, travel is not just restricted to the EU and millions of Brits travel to far-flung locations like the US, Canada, Australia, and India every year. But roaming outside the EU is a different story. UK mobile providers have always charged for this service – and it can be expensive.
How much you’ll have to pay depends on where you’re going and which network you’re on, and you’ll usually need to purchase an add-on. So the first bit of advice we have is to check your current network’s roaming policy before you fly out.
Unlike standard EU rates, most networks have different policies on different locations when you’re travelling farther afield. Here’s a quick look at what the some of the major networks offer:
Vodafone’s Roam Further add-on enables you to use your standard UK calls and data in 105 destinations for £6 per day. Check which countries are covered before setting off.
Three’s Go Roam feature costs £5 if you’re in some out-of-Europe countries like New Zealand and the USA. But if your destination is not in the 71-country list, then you’ll have to fork out a lot more.
Lebara offers a unique benefit as India is included (along with the EU) in its free roaming feature. However, other non-EU countries will lead to additional charges.
Sky Mobile charges just £2 per day for roaming in the USA, UAE, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Turkey and South Africa. Extra charges will apply for other non-EU destinations.
The O2 Travel costs £6 per day and allows you to use unlimited data, calls and texts in destinations including USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Mexico.
EE has a Roam Abroad add-on that costs £25 a month and enables roaming in the USA, Mexico, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand and the USA. You’ll be able to use your UK allowance as normal with this bundle.
If that all sounds a bit steep, then you might be better off seeking out alternative options – like getting a local SIM card in your travel destination for use while you’re there. This will mean you’ll have a new number and you’ll need to swap out the SIM card, but it could save you a lot of money, especially if your destination isn’t covered by your network’s roaming policy.
eSIMs for roaming
The latest version of a SIM card is called an eSIM. As the name suggests it’s completely digital, which makes switching networks to take advantage of cheaper EU (and beyond) roaming SIMs a lot easier.
That’s because eSIMs can hold multiple different plans on one digital SIM, so you can travel to another country, get a cheap local eSIM deal to avoid roaming charges, and simply switch back to your UK plan when you’re back home. This could be especially useful if you’re travelling outside of Europe, as the costs can really add up for far-off locations.
Alternatively, you could get a more favourable UK eSIM deal on a rolling 30-day plan and just use that for the trip. Both of these options could be useful if you’re currently locked in to a long-term deal or simply don’t want to switch just yet.
Convenience is another key benefit of eSIMs. Traditional SIMs are small and fiddly, you need that tiny key tool to open the SIM slot and they’re easily dropped, damaged or lost. With an eSIM all those little annoyances are gone and you’re left with a seamless and simple digital process which just involves a quick visit to your phone’s settings menu and a few taps of the screen.
Want to know more? Take a look at our detailed guide on eSIMs for all the info you could need.
Can you switch to a SIM only deal to save money on roaming?
If your current plan is not suited to roaming, or you don’t have a plan at all, then getting a new SIM only deal is likely much easier than you think.
If you have a deal at the moment, the first thing to do is check how long you’re tied in for. If it’s a rolling 30-day deal or you’ve reached the end of your plan, you’re good to switch to a new plan right away. If you still have some time left on your current deal, you will have to wait till the end or risk an early cancellation fee.
Either way, the method to switch remains the same. Firstly, check out a range of SIM only deals and compare their roaming policies. When you’ve found a deal that matches your requirements you can go ahead and buy the deal. If it’s on the same network that you’re currently on, just get in touch with your network’s customer service team and they’ll switch you over.
If it’s a new network and you’re no longer in contact, then just sign up to your new network and give then your PAC code (you can get this in moments simply by sending a text to 65075), your new network will then do the work behind the scenes to cancel your agreement with your old network and make sure you get to keep your phone number too.
How do I switch SIMs?
You can switch SIMs easily in a few quick steps. As long as your current deal has expired you just need to choose a new SIM deal, complete the purchase and you’ll immediately be sent a new SIM card in the post.
Remember, you can make the transition even simpler by sending a text to 65075 to receive your PAC code, which your new network will use to cancel your old arrangement and port over your number to your new SIM.
Once you’ve received the SIM, it’s just a case of taking your old SIM out of your mobile phone and replacing it with the new one. If you’re getting an eSIM, you’ll just need to activate it in your phone’s settings. Easy!