We’re in the EU but “Bill Shock” continues..

As Britain limps in disarray towards a badly-handled Brexit, we still have a few more months being part of the EU. It means that we can fly to France, Spain, Germany, Cyprus, Greece or Sweden and make calls, text or browse just like we were back in the UK.

Great isn’t it?

On a beach in Ibiza I can call home knowing that it’ll come out of my regular plan. No bill shocks. Call a restaurant in Ibiza, it’ll come out of your normal plan. Call your parents back in the UK, it’ll come out of your normal plan. Boom.

However, what a lot of people forget (and I’m including me in this, because I’ve just spent over £50 on a short phone call) is that, once you get back from your sunny holiday in Ibiza, calling anywhere else in the EU from the UK suddenly gets properly expensive.

Let’s look shall we? I’m going to use the Vodafone “travelling abroad” calculator because I was, until 10 minutes ago, a Vodafone customer. I’m not joking about that either. I’ve just ended my contract. Minutes earlier I was left with no phone because it had been disconnected due to “excessive spending”. I found out that it was due to one solitary phone call. Here’s the call in question, to someone in France I’ve not spoken to for a while…..

Here’s the texts I got – just 2 minutes apart, which left me unable to use my phone at all.

However, let’s just take a look at how roaming and international calling works and how much you can expect to pay.

First, let’s imagine that I’m not here in the UK. Let’s imagine that I’m on holiday in Ibiza. I’ve just taken a boozy flight, I’ve landed, now I’m hungry and want to call the “Es Tragon” in San Antonio for a lovely Mediterranean meal. I give them a quick call on my UK-registered mobile. Let’s see how much that’ll cost…

So it’s included in my package. Brilliant. No need to worry. I’m in Ibiza. I’m calling a business in Ibiza. No stress, no hassle.

I’ve had my food and now want to call relatives in the UK. I’m going to tell them how sunny and nice it is here in Ibiza. How much will that cost ?

Boom! That’s included in my package too. Isn’t the EU great? I think I might just have a big litre of beer to celebrate. Lovely, lovely beer.

But wait a minute… a day or two later, I’ve got my flight back and I’m at home in the UK. I’m unpacking my case but….where’s my watch?

It’s missing. I think I might’ve left it at the restaurant in Ibiza. No problem, I’ll just give them a call. After all, it can’t cost that much, can it? I’m in the UK, which is an EU country (for a few months at least) and I’m calling another EU country (Ibiza). That’s got to be cheap, surely?

This time I’m using the “Calling abroad from the UK” calculator on the Vodafone site and…

WOAHA!!! It’s £1.50 a minute. That’s a lot. If I call the restaurant, give them my name, have a chat about when I was there, ask them to look in the lost property box, wait for a response… that could all take about 10 minutes. That’s £15, just to find my watch.

That can’t be right, can it? If I’m paying £10 for a SIM-only plan, it’s a proper kick in the stomach to suddenly get £15 added on for one quick call.

What makes it stranger is that, if I fly to France with RyanAir (£5.86 for a flight to Toulouse for example), I can actually then call Spain from France and have the call included in my plan.

I’ll then have more than £10 to spend on more beer. Lovely beer. Lovely, cold beer. I wouldn’t even have to pay for a flight home because I could also live and work in Toulouse if I wanted because, y’know.. that’s what you can do if you’re part of the EU…

Alright, enough politics. Let’s do a proper comparison on this madness.

Yes, let’s face it, it is madness. Calling an EU country while you’re in another EU country is included in your plan, but if you’re at home in the UK it’s crazy expensive.

It’s mad. End of.

Now granted, you can sign up to a special package or switch to another provider (like iD Mobile, who charge 19p a minute, or giffgaff, who charge just 2p a minute to call a Spanish landline from the UK), but the “big players” charge big amounts…

So, on Vodafone it’s £1.50 to call an EU country like Spain as we’ve already determined…

O2 is the same…

EE is… hang on, I’m spotting a pattern here…

And Three, well they break from the pack a bit with slightly cheaper calls but it’s still lots of cash…

Granted, all of the major networks will try and get you to sign up to special packs for calling abroad, but the “odd call” will cost you dear, as I’ve found out already.

As I mentioned above, I cancelled my Vodafone contract because that one call was so expensive that it busted my spending limit and they killed my service. Whilst on the call to leave them, I explained that other networks such as giffgaff (2p p/m), iD Mobile (19p), Lebara (7p), Lyca (7p), Tesco Mobile (25p) and Smarty (3p) are far, far cheaper. However, the call handler stated that they’re “just virtual networks” and “don’t have to pay for the masts”. That’s nuts. Some of those virtual networks are part-owned by the likes of Vodafone and O2 anyway. It’s a cash-cow, let’s face it. It sounds like a cash cow, it looks like a cash cow, it smells like a cash cow. It’s a cash cow.

So, if you’re travelling elsewhere in the EU, use your phone like crazy. Call home, call another EU country, it’s all included, no problems. If you’re back home and want to call somewhere else in the EU, be careful, because the whole “bill shock” has now flipped on it’s head. No longer are you creating a huge bill whilst on holiday, now you’re getting them when you’re calling your holiday destination from home!


OK yes, the prices are all on the websites and I should have checked, but I think it’s just ridiculous that I have to hop on the Eurotunnel to France in order to make my phone call to Cyprus, Spain or Germany cheaper.