Which? is warning holidaymakers to avoid being hit by sky-high roaming costs this summer.
New research from the organisation shows even taking a single photo could result in a bill of more than £50.
Which? looked at the cost of using data in ten non-EU destinations and analysed how quickly common tasks can rack up charges abroad with 13 mobile phone networks.
The research found a Virgin Mobile customer in Dubai could be hit with a bill for £52.70 – the provider’s monthly data cap – for taking a single photo.
Anyone who has their phone set to automatically upload new snaps to the cloud could find that the simple act of taking a photo can result in a hefty charge.
Similarly, Plusnet customers uploading a single five-megabyte photo could instantly hit their data cap of £40 in all ten of the popular destinations featured in the survey – including the US, Turkey, Mexico, Thailand and Australia.
BT Mobile customers would also be at risk of hitting their cap of £35 by taking a single photo in most of these countries, although this was the lowest cap of the networks Which? looked at.
Even a few quick glances at Google Maps for a tourist trying to navigate their way around a new city or resort can prove surprisingly expensive – with Asda Mobile customers charged £3.75 for five minutes in the US and Plusnet users hit with a £4 for the same length of time in Turkey.
For those who want to use data roaming, many networks offer some kind of package designed to reduce roaming costs.
This is often the best way to avoid hidden charges, especially for people expecting to use their phone a lot – although consumers should look out for exceptions in the terms and conditions.
Since 2017, British holidaymakers have benefitted from the EU’s “roam like at home” rules – which means they can use their phone data without incurring any extra charges in all EU countries.
It is currently unclear as to whether this agreement would remain after Brexit – meaning tourists in France, Spain and other holiday hotspots could face a return to huge mobile phone bills.
Which? research has shown that consumers value free roaming, so the government should work to ensure consumers do not lose this benefit long-term following withdrawal from the EU.
Ministers should also make it a priority to ensure rip-off roaming charges are scrapped around the world as part of negotiations for any future trade deals after the UK leaves the EU.
Natalie Hitchins, Which? head of home products and services, said: “Tourists face being hit by unexpected roaming charges this summer – with even a simple photo having the potential to knock a carefully-planned holiday budget off course.
“Holidaymakers should look at roaming packages offered by their providers before they travel to guard against spiralling costs – or for absolute peace of mind, consider turning off data on their phone altogether.”
How to avoid roaming charges:
- Turn on airplane mode: Airplane mode turns off all wireless connections, including your mobile data. It may turn off when you turn on a wireless connection.
- Ensure that data roaming is turned off: Some iPhone and Android devices have a specific setting where you can turn off data roaming.
- Turn off auto sync: Search the settings menu for a ‘sync’ page, and ensure auto sync is turned off, to prevent apps from updating in the background. Some devices also allow you to turn off background data.
- Ask the network to block data roaming: Most networks will allow you to put a block on data roaming.