If you want to avoid bill shock when you return from your holidays this summer, you'd best know what you'll be paying for your phone calls while you travel.
Mobile Choice has rounded up the roaming prices charged by each of the major UK operators for roaming to popular destinations abroad. The winners offer the best-value roaming prices across the board, without users having to worry about signing up to a special rate incentive or bolt-on deal.
Joint first place:T-Mobile, Virgin Mobile, Vodafone
Roaming charges are complicated to understand at the best of times, and the confusion intensifies when operators charge different amounts for calling different countries while roaming. Thankfully, T-Mobile, Virgin Mobile and Vodafone keep things a little simpler by having one set price for all calls made and one for all calls received for each zone that you visit.
Cheapest for US roaming
First place: T-Mobile
T-Mobile's standard charge for making a roaming call in the US and Canada is 55p per minute, regardless of which country or zone you call. No other operator comes close, even when you apply the various deals, bolt-ons and incentives on offer. When you consider that you can pay up to £2.40 per minute with other operators, a flat rate of 55p is pretty impressive.
Cheapest for EU roaming
First place: 3(unless you are calling outside of Europe, in which case T-Mobile, Virgin Mobile and Vodafone are better bets)
This is a tricky one. If you are roaming in the EU and want to call the UK or another European country, 3's rate of 25p per minute to make calls and 10p to receive calls is the cheapest by some margin. However, prices do rise sharply to £1.60 per minute if you call the rest of the world. With T-Mobile, Virgin Mobile and Vodafone, you'll pay 38p per minute whichever country you call.
Cheapest for roaming in Australia and New Zealand
First place: Virgin Mobile
Virgin Mobile wins this one with room to spare. Its rate of 60p per minute to call all countries is 10p per minute cheaper than its nearest competitor, and its rate of 30p per minute to receive calls is also a field leader.
Cheapest for prepay roaming
Joint first place:T-Mobile, Virgin Mobile, 3
Again, it depends on where you're calling from and which zone you are calling. At 25p per minute, 3 is the cheapest if you are calling within Europe, but gets more expensive when roaming further afield, or if you plan to call countries outside Europe. Virgin Mobile's prepay roaming prices are competitive and T-Mobile has the advantage of charging the same for prepay and pay-monthly calls - both of which are good value wherever you are calling.
Cheapest for data roaming
Joint first place:T-Mobile (EU), 3 (US, Canada and Australia)
Until 1 June, T-Mobile charged £7.50 per megabyte for data roaming in the EU, but it has now dropped these charges to 2 per megabyte, which is a fairly hefty reduction. That said, the operator has not yet slashed data roaming prices for the rest of the world, so these charges remain high.
3 charges £3 per megabyte for data roaming in Europe, the US, Australia and New Zealand, and £6 per megabyte for the rest of the world. Not cheap, but still better than the majority of operators.
Best operator roaming deal
First place: Dead heat
Each of the operators offers a decent discount to roamers if you look around. Although each operator offers its own roaming incentives and discounts, they are generally dependent on you roaming on a ‘preferred network'.
For example, 3 Like Home gives you the same rates while you roam that you pay in the UK, which is a great deal, but it's only available in seven countries.