Staying safe when roaming abroad
There’re a few things to be aware of when using your phone abroad. With sunburn, overpriced souvenirs and a range of questionable cuisine options to contend with, the last thing you need is to be stuck without any data on holiday.
Fear not, we’ve put together some tips to help you stay connected when you're out of the UK, and how to avoid the dreaded ‘bill shock’ when you get back home.
You can also 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, have a look at our APN Settings guide.
Now all you have to do is work out how to order a couple of beers in Spanish and you’re all set.
As you head off…
Switch your phone OFF
Bags packed? Checked you’ve got the passports about a hundred times? Cats left with that one aunt who doesn’t much like cats? Good, it might be best to turn your phone off too. 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.
When you arrive
Switch your phone ON
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.
Data roaming Data roaming
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.
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.
I can’t connect I can’t connect
Firstly, you can check that you’re all set up to use your phone abroad by simply logging into Your Account
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.
I can’t call, text or use data I can’t call, text or use data
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:
- Log in to Your Account and go to Plan and Device
- Select the Manage Services tab
- From there, scroll down to the Roaming section
- Click the slider to the On position
- Whilst you're there, check that your International Call Bar is also switched off. Then you're all set to go
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.
While you’re away
Check your usage
It’s best to keep an eye on your usage when you’re abroad. If you’re a Pay Monthly customer, you can track what you’re using from Your Account.
If you’re on a Pay As You Go plan, just text Any to 789000 to check your balance. If you need to top up and you’ve already registered a credit or debit card with us before you travel, you can do so in two easy ways.
By text – send the amount in multiples of £5, the last six digits of your card and the last three digits of the security number (or four digits for American Express) on the back to 789222.
Whichever way you choose, it’s free.