Roaming and cost traps: Taking your smartphone on the Easter holiday

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Easter time is holiday time. And many people ask themselves the question: Can I use my smartphone to make calls and surf abroad without incurring additional costs? As is often the case, it depends.

Sending a holiday snapshot home to your loved ones with your smartphone can be expensive, or it can cost nothing at all, depending on where you are traveling to and what kind of mobile phone contract you have. Although roaming surcharges have been abolished within the EU since summer 2017, cost traps still lurk here and there.

“Roam like at home” is what EU-regulated call and often call surfing abroad. Europeans traveling in another EU country are only charged as much for phone calls, SMS, and data there as they would pay at home.

In addition to the 27 EU member states, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway also belong to the EU countries in the Roaming Regulation, which also includes the cost cap.

Caution in Switzerland, Turkey & Co

Cost traps lurk in border areas and when traveling through Switzerland. And Turkey is another popular holiday destination where holidaymakers should not forget that they are not in the EU, warns Scherer. For all non-EU countries, the consumer advocate advises checking the price list for one’s mobile phone tariff in advance and deactivating data roaming in the smartphone settings. Mobile phone providers have to inform about the charges incurred for mobile phone use in the respective country via SMS when logging into the corresponding foreign network.

With Brexit, another country has been added since the beginning of 2022, which could be surprisingly expensive for holidaymakers. Since the UK left the EU Union, mobile phone providers there are no longer bound by the roaming regulation. According to Stiftung Warentest, however, they are voluntarily complying for the time being.

These countries fall into a grey zone

The situation is similar for countries and territories such as San Marino, Andorra, the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands, Gibraltar, Vatican City, or overseas territories in the Caribbean. They do not fall under the EU Roaming Regulation.

Those who make calls or use mobile data in non-EU countries must expect high charges. Depending on the land and provider, they can be several euros per call minute. At least there is a protective shield for international surfing: A total of 59.50 euros is usually the limit.

Preparation is everything

To save unnecessary costs, holidaymakers should always check their mobile phone tariff and the conditions for the destination country in advance advises Scherer. Perhaps the provider has favorable international options? Is the local WLAN not sufficient?

And perhaps, in case of doubt, you can have the people back home call you and prepare for your stay by downloading music, videos or maps to your smartphone before you leave. And if you travel to a country often, you might do well to buy a local SIM card. Many smartphones can operate two connections in parallel (dual SIM).

How to “Roam like at home” in the EU

If you get a hefty mobile phone bill after your holiday despite all your precautions, you may have fallen into another cost trap: the mobile phone networks of cruise ships, ferries, and planes. The Roaming Regulation does not cover them. “utterly different price horizons apply there than on the ground,“ warns Scherer. So deactivate data roaming there, too, don’t make phone calls, and don’t send messages, at least not until you know the tariffs.

Finally, some good news: Actually, the EU roaming regulation would have expired at the end of June 2022. But the European Parliament has now approved the EU Commission’s proposal to extend the elimination of roaming charges for another ten years. The law only needs to be formally approved by the European Council to come into force.

source: ntv.de/picture: Image by Erik Lucatero from Pixabay

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