With our day-to-day lives increasingly reliant on using mobile phones, simple tasks such as checking restaurant websites, booking event tickets or backing up photographs from your phone could see you face ‘bill shock’ a couple of weeks later.
Brexit, and the failure of the UK and the EU to come to an agreement on data use across borders has allowed mobile phone companies in the UK to reintroduce roaming charges that cover regular calls, text messages and internet data use.
Before you even set foot in France I would check what your SIM card provider is currently saying about the payment plan you are on, as many companies seem to have split customers into different groups.
Roaming charges in France
For example, Vodafone customers who signed up with the company after 11 August 2021, or if you updated or changed your plan after this date, and you’re not on a plan with 4 Xtra benefits will face a charge of £2 per day to use your phone for data, calls and texts.
Three are using 1 October 2021 as their cut off date, before this you can use your daily allowance at no extra cost, but you can only use up to 12GB of data, which will come out of your allowance.
If you signed up with Three, or changed your plan after 1 October, then you will have to pay a daily charge of £2 to unlock your UK allowance for 24 hours’ use in France.
Clear and simple it is not.
UK mobile phone companies currently have a £45 (excluding VAT) per month cap on data roaming charges, and you should receive an alert message when you reach 80% of your data allowance and then another once you have exhausted the limit completely.
Beyond this point, providers must stop charging for data roaming unless you opt-in to continue.
How to avoid roaming charges in France
1. Double, and triple check, what your current contract with your mobile phone company provides you with if you intend to use your phone in France.
If you have not already I would install the company app that should let you manage and measure data usage whilst overseas, you can always delete it once back in the UK.
2. Learn how to turn off data roaming within your mobile phone settings, it can usually be found under Network or Mobile Data.
If you don’t have a deal offering data use overseas then I’d make sure it is turned off before you leave the UK, you don’t want your phone trying to connect whilst in your pocket as you arrive in France.
3. Use wifi to access websites, download email and WhatsApp friends and family when in France.
This is much easier than it was especially as most gites and holiday homes now have speedy internet access, whilst many restaurants, museums and visitor centres will provide internet access as well.
4. You can cut your phone off any data connection, including wifi, by going into Airplane mode and this again is an option found in settings.
But you can still listen to music stored on your phone, take photographs and use apps that don’t require a data connection to work.
5. Ensure you are manually updating apps, or that backups such as photographs are only using wifi, because most phones are constantly downloading new messages, checking for updates and eating through your data allowance without you being fully aware.
6. Download maps in advance whilst using regular wifi, and it is a useful option in France as data coverage can sometimes be a bit patchy in the more offbeat areas of the countryside.
Google Maps allows you to download an area direct to your mobile phone so you can still track down places without any signal, although up to the minute traffic info won’t be available.
And whilst you are doing this, pick up an ‘old skool’ map book to stick in the car.
Bottom line on roaming charges
It is a major frustration that people will have to make some preparations in advance of travelling to France to avoid the risk of a hefty bill from their mobile phone company following a holiday away.
Just be aware of how your mobile phone is set up to ensure it doesn’t connect to networks if you don’t have a special deal, and get up-to-date with the costs of what your mobile phone company now charges.
Ultimately, if you have any doubts turn off data roaming and stick to wifi access – and don’t forget to enjoy the peace and quiet of not being ‘always on’.
Last Updated on 6 June, 2023.