Cut the cost of using the internet abroad

22 February 2010

Virgin Media has launched a range of ‘travel passes’ that enable customers to access the internet anywhere in the EU from their mobile phone or laptop for a fixed daily price.

Starting from £4, the passes include a download cap – meaning holidaymakers don’t run the risk of being hit with a whopping bill on their return to the UK.

Jonathan Kini, director of mobile at Virgin Media, says: “Virgin Media customers never have to worry about accessing the internet while they’re abroad.

"Whether it’s searching for the best pizzeria in Rome on your mobile or uploading photos onto Facebook with a laptop and mobile broadband, customers now have control over what they spend on holiday.” 

Virgin's new travel passes
Mobile internet EU travel passes (access from a handheld phone)
One-hour travel pass for £4
24-hour travel pass for £6
Mobile broadband EU travel passes (access via a dongle)
One-day travel pass for £10 (for 10MB)
Three-day travel pass for £15 (for 15MB)
Seven-day travel pass for £30 (for 30MB)
30-day travel pass for £60 (for 60MB)

Michael Phillips, product director at, says the travel passes do cut the cost of roaming - and will also help consumers avoid unexpected ‘bill shocks’ when they return home.

But he adds: “The data limits are still quite low, so you still need to be very careful about what you use your allowance for. It should only really be used for light internet use, such as checking emails or general web browsing - it is not designed for downloads or watching TV online.”

The cost of using mobile internet abroad

Orange estimates that reading around 100 emails (without attachments) will use around 1MB while in Europe. Uploading a holiday snap to Facebook, meanwhile, will use about 0.2MB of data – so adding a selection will use around 1MB, according to T-Mobile.

However, last year the European Union agreed to introduce new rules to protect people against ‘bill shock’. From July, customers will be automatically set a download limit of €50 - once their bill hits this leve, their connection will be severed.

However, consumers will be abe to opt for a higher or lower limit - or remove the ceilng altogether.  

Until then, it remains very easy – and expensive – to exceed your download limit. The price you’ll pay depends on your network operator.

Network operator Cost of using mobile internet in Europe
3 £1.25 per MB
O2 £3 per MB
Orange €2 for 2MB
T-Mobile £1.50 per MB
Vodafone £4.99 per 25MB
Virgin £5 per MB

Top tips for ‘surfing’ abroad

* Don’t assume the cost of accessing the internet abroad will be the same as it is in the UK.

* Check with your mobile phone network that you are on its roaming service – and at the same time find out how much this will cost per MB.

* Most networks offer cheap bundles for using the internet abroad. While this might make internet browsing cheaper, you may well be able to find a better deal elsewhere so don’t sign up on the spot.

* If you’re taking your laptop abroad with you, then do some research to see if using a mobile broadband dongle might be the most convenient way for you to go online. Read more on mobile dongles

* Alternatively, find out how much local internet cafes charge – in most cases, it will be cheaper to use these than access the internet on your mobile or using mobile broadband.

* If you do decide to use your phone to access the internet abroad, then it may be advisable to set a download limit – this will prevent you building up a massive bill. Ask your network provider to put a cap in place.

* However, remember that, generally speaking, it’s best to avoid any heavy downloading or streaming using your mobile phone while overseas.

* If your mobile is lost or stolen you must contact your operator as soon as possible. Ofcom says operators generally refund call costs if a stolen phone is reported lost within 24 hours – but be aware that they are not obliged to.

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