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How to avoid data roaming charges

Digital lifestyle
How to avoid data roaming charges
Digital lifestyle

Check and limit data roaming abroad. Find alternatives and avoid unnecessary roaming charges when you travel.

Planning a trip abroad? It’s good to be prepared, so you can stay connected without incurring unexpected data roaming charges.

Phone roaming is when you’re using your cell phone in another country. It applies to making phone calls, sending texts, but also using mobile data. Data roaming is the focus of this article. For more information on roaming in general, check out our guide on roaming outside the USA.

What is Data Roaming?

What is roaming and why does it cost extra? Data roaming, simply put, is what happens when your phone connects with a foreign phone network. This happens automatically when you travel abroad.

Your provider pays the owner of the foreign network a fee to be able to use the service. Often, you get these data roaming charges from your provider. As many people noticed across the years, they can be quite expensive.

Data roaming and data roaming charges in the European Union

In some places around the world, such as the European Union, there are agreements in place to limit, or completely eliminate data roaming costs. So if you’re traveling within the EU and using a European SIM card, all your calls, text messages and data services cost the same in any EU country.

What if you’re using your US SIM card in the EU? Some phone carrier networks don’t support roaming services (to the EU or any other location). This means that your US SIM card might not work in another country. It’s important to check with your provider before you travel to avoid unpleasant surprises.

Even if your mobile network supports roaming, the data roaming charges may be too high to justify, depending on where you travel to. Especially if traveling to the EU, consider buying a European SIM card on arrival. It’ll save you some money and you can easily buy mobile recharge for it online.

Data roaming and roaming charges in the UK


In 2016, British citizens voted for the UK to leave the European Union. This British exit of the EU is commonly called the Brexit. After Brexit, the UK no longer falls under EU regulation. That means phone service providers can implement roaming costs again. Multiple providers already have.

This means you will be charged when you use data services in the UK, whether you’re using your US SIM card or a European SIM card. It makes sense that you want to limit these costs, or even better, avoid data roaming charges altogether. But how do you do this?

Tips to avoid roaming charges

You can avoid data roaming charges if you turn off roaming on your phone. This means your phone won’t use data from a foreign network. If you’re abroad and without Wi-Fi, your phone won’t use the internet. Of course, you can still use the internet on your phone, you just have to find a Wi-Fi hotspot. But how do you turn off data roaming on your phone? That depends on the kind of phone you are using.

How to avoid roaming charges on Android

So, you want to keep a lid on data roaming? There are multiple ways in which you can keep track of and avoid roaming charges on Android.

  • How to know your Android phone is roaming

First of all, you want to know whether your phone is roaming or not. When you are, a roaming icon will appear at the top right of your screen. It is usually an R next to your provider’s information.

  • How to turn off data roaming on Android

Turning roaming off on your android phone is easy and can be done in just a couple of steps.

  1. Open the settings on your phone

  2. Select Connections (this might also be called Mobile Network)

  3. Press Mobile Networks (if the previous step was mobile network you press Mobile Data here)

  4. Turn Data Roaming off by swiping the button to the left.

If you just want to limit your data roaming you can do that as well by selecting the kind of network your phone automatically connects to. 5G & 4G are the fastest networks but cost the most. If you just want to receive a single message or email, select 2G instead. Data roaming charges will still apply, but it will be slightly cheaper.

  • How to avoid texting charges on Android

Your phone automatically retrieves text messages you’ve received. This might lead to surcharges. You can turn this off on your Android as follows:

  1. Open your phone’s text messaging app.

  2. Tap on Settings (on some phones you need to press Advanced Settings after going into the settings)

  3. Tap Auto-Retrieve or Roaming Auto-Retrieve off.

How to avoid roaming charges on iPhone

You can check your data usage and avoid data roaming charges on iPhone as follows:

  • How to know your iPhone is roaming

Whenever your iPhone is roaming an icon will appear on the top right corner of your screen. This is usually an R. You can check how much data your iPhone is using while roaming as follows:

  1. Go to the Settings of your iPhone

  2. Press Cellular or Settings

  3. Press Mobile Data.

  4. Your data usage is now showing on your screen.

  • How to turn off data roaming on iPhone

  1. Open the Settings on your iPhone.

  2. Press Cellular.

  3. Press Cellular Data Options.

  4. Tap the slider to the right of Data Roaming so that it turns white.

How to find a free Wi-Fi spot to avoid data roaming charges

Once you have turned off data roaming on your phone, you’ll have to use Wi-Fi to use the internet abroad. Maybe you want to look something up, or maybe you need to check a work email. In these cases, you need to find a Wi-Fi spot. Luckily there are plenty of ways that you can find a (free) Wi-Fi spot.

If you’re on the go and in need of a Wi-Fi hotspot your best guess is to find a restaurant, café or public library. Starbucks and McDonalds are two of the best know places that have free Wi-Fi worldwide, but almost every place you can eat or drink has one too. Sometimes you can use these for free, sometimes you have to pay a fee or order something. Public places, such as libraries, often have free Wi-Fi spots as well.

If you’ve got some time to plan, you might want to look for a Wi-Fi spot before you travel. In that case, you can use Wi-Fi map or a hotspot finder app on your phone like We-Fi. With these tools, you can find a Wi-Fi spot anywhere in the world and avoid data roaming charges the easy way.

Other tips for avoiding roaming charges abroad

Turning off data roaming on your phone is one way to avoid data roaming charges. It can also be very annoying since you can no longer use your network to use the internet on your phone. Maybe you don’t have the time to look for a Wi-Fi spot. Or maybe you’re traveling abroad so often that it gets annoying to always have to find free Wi-Fi.

Luckily, this is not the only way you can avoid data roaming costs.

  • Change Provider to Minimize Data Roaming Charges

The first thing you can look at is the US mobile carrier you use. Different providers can set different rates. This means you may want to compare roaming charges for your provider and others. If your provider charges more for roaming it’s a good idea to switch.

  • Get a foreign (prepaid) SIM card

Another way to avoid data roaming charges altogether is to buy a (prepaid) SIM card in the country you visit most often (or any country of the EU if that’s the region you mostly travel to). With a local SIM card, you can use your phone at local prices. With a prepaid SIM card, you don’t have to take on a subscription you don’t need. This way you are avoiding roaming charges and limiting your phone bill overall.

Once you have a prepaid SIM card for any country, you can easily buy mobile recharge right here on Recharge.com.

Written by

Kristina Kalpaklieva