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Why are international calls so expensive?

PRICEY: International calls

WE ARE probably all familiar with the experience of landing in another country for a holiday before phoning family back home to let them know of our arrival. We have probably then followed up that call with many others as we have gushed about our overseas antics… only to later see the resulting phone bill and feel our jaw drop to the floor.

Yes, it seems that cross-border calls do often incur noticeably higher costs than the day-to-day calls we make back home – but it isn’t always obvious why. On this issue, we could do with some clarification – but our own investigation found that it wasn’t entirely forthcoming.

Phoning within the EU has become appreciably cheaper

One crumb of comfort is that international calls aren’t actually as pricey as they were up until relatively recently. Until 15 June 2017, a phone could be shed of its practicality for calls as soon as you set foot on foreign soil; however, from that date onwards, roaming charges were axed in the EU.

What this means is that, if you journey to an EU member state, you can still dip into your usual allowance of minutes as though you had never left the UK. Nonetheless, there is an off-putting quirk to these new “Roam Like At Home” rules: if you use a UK mobile to make a call to an EU country before leaving the UK, the call will be classed as international and charged accordingly.

As quoted by the MoneySavingExpert.com site he founded, Martin Lewis has remarked: “There’s a lot of confusion over the new roaming rules and what calls are included and aren’t. This isn’t surprising as in many ways they’re counter-logical.”

He noted, for example, that a Brit will pay the price – a hefty international one – for calling a Spanish restaurant to place a booking before jetting off, but not if they hold off until arriving in Spain. Once there, the holidayer could again use their free minutes even when calling a relative in Poland.

Tips for relieving the financial sting of international calling

Given these figures, you could be tempted to throw your hands in the air and cry “rip-off Britain!” However, even when you are abroad, you could inadvertently rack up an expensive bill, as the roaming charges axing only applies to EU territories. UK mobile network providers are not obliged to drop those charges for travel in destinations just outside the EU like Turkey, Which? implies.

There remain ways of circumventing high fees that usually apply to international calls. You could download an app for a VoIP service like Skype, where you would make calls over the internet rather than traditional phone lines. For this reason, the service would be free to use on a call-by-call basis… but, crucially, only if both you and the call’s recipient are online, warns MoneySavingExpert.com.

You would still have to pay a charge if you call a phone number. For cheap international calls on a broader basis, you might prefer utilising a service from Planet Numbers.

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