Using Your Iphone Abroad And Avoiding Data Roaming Charges

Posted on Jul 30 2009 - 1:31pm by Richard Sharp

We have heard a lot of horror stories about people taking their beloved iphone abroad and on return being hit with huge phone bills due to data usage whilst on holiday. In one extreme example someone on a standard £35 contract received a monthly bill of over £1000! Thankfully it is very easy to avoid these excessive charges.

When travelling abroad you must consider what you are going to need? Will you need your phone to text or make calls? Or will you just be using your iphone for music? If you only want it for music the easiest thing you can do is switch your phone to airplane mode.

All you need to do is go to general settings and then switch on airplane mode (pictured below); you will not be able to make or receive calls but if you want to just switch it back off. However, if you need the iphone to take calls this is not the solution for you. Read on below.


If you want to take and make calls make sure you leave airplane mode switched off just use calls sparingly as you would any other phone. However, one thing that you will want to change is the roaming settings. As a default these are already switched off but it is well worth checking before you leave.

To check go to settings –> general settings –> Network and then make sure data roaming is switched off (see picture below). This will mean you will not have access to the internet or interactive services unless you are near a wireless network which in many cases is free 🙂


Of course if you need to use your iphone abroad including data there are other options available. For example o2 offer 50mb bolt ons for £50 which is much cheaper than if did not have it. AT &T also has similar options available.

5 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Nuria April 28, 2010 at 12:58 pm - Reply

    So if I use a free wifi network will I still b charged whilst using it abroad?
    Because if I can use it just 4 music, it is absolutely pointless taking it!

  2. Martin June 14, 2010 at 8:30 pm - Reply

    I have bought Tomtom western europe satnav for my iPhone from apples app store. If I switch off data roaming to avoid data charges while on holiday in Spain will my satnav work?

    I will have to leave location services activated, does that incur any data use or other costs?


  3. Tim Jordan August 16, 2010 at 6:18 pm - Reply

    Martin, i'm in the same boat as you, travelling to France (from UK) and bought TOMTOM western europe. Spoke to O2 and using TOMTOM abroad will incur data charges @ £3 per mb. Since im driving for about 3 hours, then need to return, both using the satnav I have been advised by o2 that this will be very costly.

    I dont understand why a gps enabled phone requires a data connection but I definitely feel I have waisted my money on TOMTOM.

    Not a happy bunny!! A call to trading standards methinks!!!

  4. Rick March 22, 2011 at 4:28 pm - Reply

    Hi guys,
    TOMTOM doesn't require a data connection, only GPS which is ON by default and is completely free worldwide. Turn off the data roaming option under network and use TOMTOM all day long for free.
    Another one of those JFGI moments (Just f*cking Google it..)

  5. @CallOf_Duty_MW3 July 14, 2011 at 4:17 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the tips I'm off to a call of duty convention in Sweden and need to avoid the massive bills i got last time from having data roaming on!

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