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'Most expensive' destinations for mobile phone data use – '£787 bill' in just one week


After the UK left the European Union (EU), mobile providers made headlines for their reintroduction of EU roaming fees. Although travel has resumed since the coronavirus pandemic, a quarter of consumers surveyed by Uswitch.com say they have “no idea what using their phone abroad will cost”.

One in seven say the looming phone bill upon their return is a cause for concern.

Although some phone providers allow customers to use their domestic monthly allowance of calls, texts and data outside of the EU for a set cost, this can quickly add up.

Others might allow customers to use their phones in the EU for a lower price tag, but this figure can rapidly add up once they jet off further afield.

Experts from Uswitch compiled data on mobile usage costs from a variety of providers to determine just how much Britons could be shelling out, and which destinations are the most costly.

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The research is based on a seven-day holiday with a person using one GB of mobile data, making 20 minutes of calls and sending 10 texts each day.

According to the experts: “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.

“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.”

As part of their research, the experts also highlighted that some popular destinations are excluded from overseas data, call or text bundles.

They explained: “For example, consumers travelling to Egypt face charges of up to £7.20 for one MB for data, calls costing £5 a minute, and texts billed at 60p each.

“This means that a holidaymaker using one GB of data, making 20 minutes of calls and sending ten texts a day could end up with a £787 bill.”

After leaving the EU, the UK government introduced a worldwide roaming data cap of £45 a month to help travellers avoid huge bills.

Without this data cap, holidaymakers in Egypt using one GB of data a day could run up a bill of more than £50,000 in a week.

USwitch pointed out: “Once they hit the cap, customers will be unable to use any more data. An O2 mobile user visiting Morocco would hit the £45 limit after using only six MB of data — barely enough to browse three web pages.”

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The most expensive destinations to use your mobile phone abroad

  1. Using your phone in Egypt with Virgin Media could cost up to £787 capped over the course of seven days.
  2. Using your phone in Morocco with Virgin Media could cost up to £787 capped over the course of seven days.
  3. Using your phone in South Africa with Virgin Media could cost up to £787 capped over the course of seven days.
  4. Using your phone in the UAE with Virgin Media could cost up to £787 capped over the course of seven days.
  5. Using your phone in Malaysia with Three could cost up to £480 capped over the course of seven days.
  6. Using your phone in Mexico with Virgin Media could cost up to £444 capped over the course of seven days.
  7. Using your phone in China with Virgin Media could cost up to £444 capped over the course of seven days.
  8. Using your phone in Thailand with Virgin Media could cost up to £444 capped over the course of seven days.
  9. Using your phone in Japan with Virgin Media could cost up to £444 capped over the course of seven days.

Ernest Doku, telecoms expert at Uswitch.com, said: “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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