Tips for staying safe when roaming abroad

Last updated: November 20, 2018

All set to go abroad? Want to know what to do once you're away? We've put together some tips to help you when you're out of the UK.

And download our handy Roaming Guide to your phone for help when you need it, and if you need help with your Data and Picture messaging settings, download our APN Settings guide.


Switch off your phone

When you're on your journey, you may find that your phone connects to a different mobile network to normal. The costs of these networks can be a lot higher, so we recommend turning your phone off during your journey to your destination, or using Airplane mode where allowed on your flight. Check with your travel provider for exact details of the mobile options available on your trip.


There are always lots of things to remember to do when you get to your destination. For your phone it's really quite simple.

As soon as you arrive, switch on your phone and you’ll automatically connect to one of our partner networks. If you receive a text message saying PERS – just ignore it – it’s just us making sure you’re on the best network.

Can’t connect? See the Troubleshooting and Help section.

If you don’t need to stay on top of your emails, while you’re away, it makes sense to switch off data roaming. That way your phone won’t be quietly using the internet to automatically update itself and building you a bigger bill. Most phones love connecting to the web, and they’ll be doing that to update your phone’s software, or even location, without you necessarily knowing.

To switch off data roaming, have a peep at your phone manual. Or check out Virgin Mobile phone support for help.

Data cap limits

Post-trip blues are bad enough without nasty surprises lurking in your mobile bill. So we’ll cap your data roaming usage (unless you tell us otherwise), text you when you’ve hit 80% of your roaming usage, and another when you’ve hit your limit.

Our tariff guide lists the data cap values – check it out here if you're a pay monthly customer, or here if you're a PAYG customer.

The roaming data cap will reset monthly on the 1st of each month.

Going somewhere in a Roam Like Home country near the EU border? Sometimes your mobile phone can connect to a network from outside the EU instead, which means you’ll be charged extra for roaming. To avoid these extra charges, we recommend turning your roaming off while you’re there. Please also check any welcome SMS messages you get when you arrive in these areas and the relevant roaming prices stated.

Travelling in the EU

Remember, if you're in the EU, you can use your data allowance as you would in the UK subject to our Fair Usage Policy.

Need more data and on a Pay Monthly plan? Then get Virgin Mobile Pay Monthly Data Add-Ons and use your add-on when in the EU.

If you’re on one of our 4G plans, when roaming in the EU you’ll connect to a 4G roaming service where available, and benefit from data free messaging on WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Twitter. Please be aware that some networks may block messaging apps. See Data-free messaging on Virgin Mobile for more details.

If you've got a data rollover, this will work whilst travelling in the EU but is still subject to fair use limits.

Travelling outside the EU

If you’re travelling outside the EU, you won’t be able to use your UK allowances.

If you’ve switched on roaming, you’ll be charged for any calls, texts and data you use when abroad, and your data usage will be charged per Megabyte.

All Virgin Mobile customers on our 4G plans benefit from 4G data while abroad on any of our roaming partners that support the 4G roaming service.

To find out how to control your roaming settings see Before You Go.

See our Roaming Costs for details on how much you'll be charged in each country.

Using data while you’re abroad won’t cost the earth if you’re just checking the football scores or sending an email, but it could get pricey if you start watching videos or listening to music. Look out for a free Wi-Fi network while you’re abroad. That way you can stay online without racking up the cost.

You may find that your hotel or a nearby café has Wi-Fi, and they’ll be able to tell you whether it’s free or not. They’ll also be able to tell you if you’ll need a password to connect to their network. Connecting to Wi-Fi means you can get online and keep data roaming switched off.


You're all settled in, so if you're wanting to use your phone, here are the things you need to know.

When you're abroad your phone will recieve calls and texts automatically. But to make calls or send texts when abroad, you'll need to check you've got an international dialling code as part of the number.

To add the international dialling code to a number, hold down the '0' key on your phone's keypad until you see '+' instead. Then you'll need to add the country code for the number. You'll need to do the same in your device's contacts for a saved number.

So for a UK number, drop the inital 0, then add '+' and then the UK country code 44 e.g. +44777 123 456.

For a non-UK number, drop the inital 0, then add '+' and then add the country code.

So you’ve got them handy, here are all the dialling codes for countries you might visit in the EU:

  • UK +44
  • Spain +34
  • France +33
  • Italy +39
  • Germany +49
  • Ireland +353
  • Greece +30
  • Netherlands +31
  • Portugal +351
  • Belgium +32
  • Switzerland +41

NOTE: If you're using an app such as WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, then this will continue to work without the international dialling code.

What you pay for:

  • In the EU you will be able to make calls, send texts and use data just as you would in the UK subject to our Fair Use Policy
  • Outside the EU you will be charged to make and receive calls, and send messages
  • Friends in the UK will pay the standard UK rate to call and text you

See Roaming Costs to see all how much your calls and usage will be.

If someone leaves you a voicemail, you can listen to it like normal. Receiving voicemail messages is free of charge. In the EU listening to voicemail will cost the same as it would at home, subject to our Fair Use Policy. Outside of the EU you’ll be charged listening to voicemail at the call rate for the region you’re in.

To pick up your messages, access your voicemail, press the # key, and enter your voicemail PIN (which you’ll have set up at home).

For details on how to set up voicemail and voicemail PIN, see Before You Go.

Whether you want to check the weather, tweet a picture of the view or update your Facebook status and make everyone green with envy, it’s easy to stay connected.

Data cap limits

Post-trip blues are bad enough without nasty surprises lurking in your mobile bill. So we’ll cap your data roaming usage at £51.50 (unless you tell us otherwise), and text you when you’ve hit 80% of your roaming usage (£41.20), and another when you’ve hit your limit.

The roaming data cap will reset monthly on the 1st of each month.

Travelling in the EU

You can now use your UK data allowance with Roam Like Home. This means that while you’re travelling in an EU country you’ll be able to use data just as you would in the UK, subject to fair use limits. This includes any data rollover you have.

If you don’t have a data allowance, or your allowance has run out, you can still use Mobile Data wherever you are in the EU and pay no more than you would in the UK.

If you’re on one of our 4G plans, when roaming in the EU you’ll connect to a 4G roaming service where available, and benefit from data free messaging on WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Twitter. Please be aware that some networks may block messaging apps. See Data-free messaging on Virgin Mobile for more details.

Need more data and on a Pay Monthly plan? Then get Virgin Mobile Pay Monthly Data Add-Ons and use your add-on when in the EU.

Going somewhere in a Roam Like Home country near the EU border? Sometimes your mobile phone can connect to a network from outside the EU instead, which means you’ll be charged extra for roaming. To avoid these extra charges, we recommend turning your roaming off while you’re there. Please also check any welcome SMS messages you get when you arrive in these areas and the relevant roaming prices stated.

Remember, all data usage in the EU is subject to fair use limits.

Travelling outside the EU

If you’re travelling outside the EU, you won’t be able to use your UK allowances.

All Virgin Mobile customers on our 4G plans benefit from 4G data while abroad on any of our roaming partners that support the 4G roaming service.

If you’ve switched on roaming, you’ll be charged for any calls, texts and data you use when abroad, and your data usage will be charged per Megabyte.

When roaming, we'll help you to avoid surprise mobile bills by capping your data use. We'll text you when you've reached 80% of the data cap, and we'll text you again once you've reached the data cap.

Our tariff guide lists the data cap values – check it out here if you're a pay monthly customer, or here if you're a PAYG customer.

To find out how to control your roaming settings see Before You Go.

See our Roaming Costs for details on how much you'll be charged in each country.

Don’t forget...

Your phone won't get any network coverage on planes or cruise ships. It'll connect to a network once you're near land - just make sure your roaming is set up and ready to go.

If you don't want to use your data whist you're away you can stop it, just go into your phone’s settings and make sure data roaming is turned off.

If you Pay As You Go, simply text Any to 789000. If you Pay Monthly, you won’t be able to check your balance while you’re abroad.

If you Pay As You Go and have registered your credit or debit card with us Before You Go, you can top up in 2 easy ways:

  • By text – send the amount (£5-£50 in multiples of £5), the last 6 digits of your card and the last 3 digits of the security number (or 4 for American Express) on the back to 789222
  • By phone – call 789 and have your card handy

Either way, it’s free.

Or, if you’ve packed some vouchers, text the 16 digit number to 789111.

If you Pay Monthly, you’ll have a credit limit on your account. It’s a limit to what you can spend on your mobile account. To check what your credit limit is, you can visit Your Account.

Normally we contact you when you’re near your limit, but it can take a while for charges from a foreign network to come in, so it’s not a good idea to rely on your credit limit to help you budget.


Having some problems with your phone abroad? There are normally some simple things you can do to get up and running.

Firstly, you can check that you’re all set up to use your phone abroad by simply logging into Your Account or calling +44 7458 333 789.

It’s also a good idea to check that there’s network coverage where you are. See Roaming Costs to check the coverage in the country you’re visiting.

You can also try turning the phone off and then back on again. Sounds simple, but it'll refresh the network signal on your phone and, more often than not, it does the trick. If that doesn't work, you can try a manual network search. Here's how:

  • Go into Settings on your phone
  • Now go to Phone Settings
  • Then choose Network Selection
  • Select Manual network selection instead of Automatic and let the phone search for available networks. This might take up to a minute
  • Now you should have a list of networks you can use

If your phone has a removable battery and you are still stuck, try what we call a hard reboot. Just remove the battery from your phone without turning it off first, then wait about 20 minutes before putting it back in and switching the phone on.

This reboots your phone and it normally does the trick.

If you’re having problems making a call, sending a text or using your mobile data, you should check that your account is set up correctly for roaming.

If you're a Pay Monthly customer, and you’ve been with us for less than 3 months, we may ask you to pay a £50 deposit before we'll enable roaming.

Firstly, check that Roaming is switched on and that your International Call Bar is turned off in Your Account. To do this:

  1. Log in to Your Account and go to Plan and Device 
  2. Select the Manage Services tab
  3. From there, scroll down to the Roaming section
  4. Click the slider to the On position
  5. Whilst you're there, check that your International Call Bar is also switched off. Then you're all set to go

If you can't check this online, call us on +44 7458 333 789 and we'll be happy to help.

Still can't use data?

Your phone settings

To switch on/off data roaming, have a peep at your phone manual and ensure Data & Data Roaming options are turned ‘ON’ in your device settings. Or check out Virgin Mobile phone support for help.

Access Point Name (APN) settings

You’ll need to also check the APN selected in your device is shown as Virgin Mobile, and not another network provider.

You can update the APN settings by selecting your mobile from our Virgin Mobile phone settings list, or just text 'All' to 789922 and your settings will arrive to your handset, ready to be saved.

Remember, for some handsets you may to do this again when you're abroad for the first time, or if you've reset your phone since then.

Reset your account settings

If you still can't get data, log into Your Account and switch Roaming ‘OFF’ (wait 24 hours to complete) then back ‘ON’ (again, wait 24 hours to complete) following the steps above.

Alternatively, call 789 for free from your Virgin Mobile phone so we can update this for you.


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