A guide to data roaming when interrailing

Now the world is opening up again, many of us turn to the railways to deliver fast, efficient transportation across countries.

Once the preserve of gap years, interrailing has proven itself an excellent way to see the UK, Europe and venture further afield. 

But how do you stay in touch with home? How can you check local highlights or navigate to your hostel or hotel? We’ve asked our friends at Broadband.co.uk to answer your questions about data roaming.

Can you still use your mobile phone when interrailing?

Yes, you can use your phone when interrailing but it is likely to come with an extra charge. We’ll cover those charges in a minute.

You have always been able to use your phone while abroad but the EU introduced a ban on roaming charges. This meant you could use you contracted minutes and data when travelling within Europe.

Now the UK has left the EU, those rules no longer apply. 

Since January 2021, phone companies have been allowed to reinstate roaming charges and the majority of them have done.

Do any UK providers still offer free roaming?

Both O2 and Virgin Mobile still offer free roaming. All the others have introduced charges for many customers.

O2 offers free roaming within the EU for pay monthly customers. Outside the EU includes the same charges as other networks.

Virgin Mobile uses the Vodafone network but have yet to reintroduce roaming charges within the EU.

What are the roaming costs for UK mobile providers?

Three of the four main networks (except O2) have introduced roaming charges for EU travel.


EE have just reintroduced roaming charges within the EU. They introduced them in March 2022, so all journeys will now incur a £2 per day charge to use your phone within the EU.

Travelling outside the EU incurs the same charges it always has.


Three is reintroducing roaming charges at the end of May 2022. They will also charge £2 per day to roam within the EU.

Three charges £5 per day to roam outside the EU.


Vodafone has a slightly more complicated roaming charging scheme. 

If you were a pay monthly customer before 11th August 2021, you can still roam in the EU for free. If you have one of their select premium contracts, you can also roam free.

Otherwise, you’ll have to pay £2 per day to roam within the EU and the usual charges for further afield.

Roaming needs to be arranged before you leave to avoid any extra charges or accidental roaming charges before the allowance kicks in.

Should you buy a European SIM for your phone?

If you’re travelling for a longer period of time or are a serial interrailer, it may be worth your while buying a European SIM card for your phone.

You’ll need to make sure your phone is unlocked so you can use another network, but it is possible to switch out your UK SIM for a European one.

If you’re travelling for weeks or months at a time, or interrail often, this can be cheaper than using paying for roaming.

We would recommend doing your research on available European SIM deals to check costs beforehand, as not all SIM deals will work out cheaper. 

What if you don’t want to buy another SIM card?

If you don’t want to switch SIM cards or need people in the UK to be able to contact you on the number they know, what can you do?

There are a few ways you can save money on roaming.

Switch to a different provider

Virgin Mobile has no European roaming charges and different networks have different charges for outside the EU.

Depending on your travel plans and whether you’re in the fixed term period of your phone contract, you could switch providers

Check your travel itinerary, then check each provider to see which offers the cheapest roaming option. Then make an informed decision from there.

Avoid using data-intensive apps

Most social networks, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter with autoplay videos can gobble data when you’re not paying attention. 

Minimise your use of these apps or stick to using WiFi when available to minimise data use.

Download large files before you travel

Download Google Maps for offline use, download movies, podcasts, books and games before you leave and use hotel or coffee shop WiFi to download anything you’re likely to need for the day.

Use public WiFi where possible

If your accommodation has WiFi, use that. Otherwise, use train WiFi, coffee shops and public hotspots wherever you’re travelling.

Make sure you use VPN software on your phone and devices to make sure nobody can see what you’re doing though!