Use of mobile phones on holiday
“Roam like at home” is often referred to as telephoning and surfing in other EU countries regulated by the European Union. Europeans traveling in another EU country will only be charged as much for phone calls, SMS and data as they would pay at home.
An example from Stiftung Warentest: If you spend your holidays in Spain as a German mobile phone user, you pay as much for all telephone calls to German and Spanish networks as agreed in the contract for home calls. In many cases, only the usual basic fee of the flat rate tariff.
Costs within the EU are capped
Important: “Roam like at home” does not apply in the home country. For example, if you call from Germany to the EU holiday country to clarify something with the hotel in advance, you have to expect fees. This is explained by Michèle Scherer from the Brandenburg Consumer Center. But here, too, the EU has already intervened in a regulatory manner.
“If you are calling from Germany to other EU countries by mobile phone or landline and do not have a flat rate or special tariff, you will pay a maximum of 19 cents per minute and a maximum of 6 cents per SMS,” says the consumer protection officer. However, the cost cap also applies, for example, if a German holidaymaker calls France in Spain.
Incidentally, the EU countries within the meaning of the Roaming Regulation, which also includes the cost cap, include Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway in addition to the 27 EU member States.
Be careful in Switzerland, Turkey & Co
Cost traps lurk, for example, in border areas and when passing through Switzerland. And Turkey is also a popular holiday destination, where holidaymakers should not forget that they are not in the EU, warns Michèle Scherer.
For all non-EU countries, the consumer protection advises to check the price list for your own mobile tariff in advance and to deactivate data roaming in the smartphone settings. Mobile service providers must inform about the fees incurred when using mobile communications in the respective country by 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. After all, since the UK’s exit from the European Union, mobile operators there are no longer bound by the roaming regulation. According to Stiftung Warentest, however, they are voluntarily adhering to it for the time being.
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 are not covered by the EU Roaming Regulation. However, according to the product testers, some, although not all suppliers, consider them to be among the EU countries in terms of tariffs.
If you make calls or use mobile data in non-EU countries, you have to expect high fees. Depending on the country and provider, they can be several euros per minute of conversation. After all, a protective screen comes into play when surfing internationally: at a total of 59.50 euros, it’s usually over, explains Michèle Scherer. If this protection mechanism is not technically feasible in a country, providers must inform about it by SMS.
Preparation is everything
In order to save unnecessary costs, holidaymakers should always check their mobile phone tariff and the conditions for the destination country in advance, advises Scherer. Maybe there are cheap foreign options with the provider? Is the Wi-Fi on site not enough?
And maybe in distant countries, in case of doubt, you can simply let those who have stayed at home call you and prepare the stay by downloading music, videos or maps to your smartphone before departure, for example. And if you travel to a country more often, you may travel well with the purchase of a local SIM card. Many smartphones can operate two ports in parallel (dual SIM).
Ships, ferries, aircraft as special cases
If, despite all the caution, a hefty mobile phone bill flutters into the house after the holiday, you may have fallen into a different cost trap. The mobile networks of cruise ships, ferries and airplanes. They are not covered by the Roaming Regulation. There are “completely different price horizons than on the ground,” warns Michèle Scherer. So you can also disable data roaming there, do not make calls and do not send messages, at least not before 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 adopted the proposal of the EU Commission to extend the elimination of roaming charges for another ten years. The law only needs to be formally approved by the European Council to enter into force.