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Using your UK mobile abroad without roaming charges

Last August I pointed out that O2 has a product which is particularly useful for people who travel a lot, especially in countries with high roaming charges (including many developing countries).  It is an app which enables you to use your UK phone number for texts and calls anywhere you can get onto the internet.  I have not tried it myself (because I have a different mobile operator) so I am pleased to share the following first-hand experience from a friend living overseas:

Hi Owen

I saw your five tasks post – and wanted to say thanks. I know you have an interest in tech, and have seen a recent post of yours asking about TUGo from O2 in the UK. So I thought I’d say thankyou by reporting on that.

My personal experience is that it is a great opportunity for those working in international development (I have no commercial interest in this).

I bought an iphone from O2 for £27 a month. O2 will then unlock the phone straight away (unlike many UK operators). You can then put their app onto the iphone – or onto your ipad.

When you are travelling you can then put whatever sim card suits you to get onto the local network. While you are on 3g or mobile data your SMS’s come straight to your UK mobile number (send and receive) – at the cost for local data.

When on Wifi you can make and send phone calls from your UK mobile number through the TuGo app. If you are on an unlimited tariff that means as many minutes and texts as you need.

I have used it in Bangladesh and Zambia. In both cases I have all the advantages of my UK mobile number, as well as a local number, and no crazy roaming charges.

I hope this is of some use to some other people who want to be able to communicate in a range of places.

Many thanks for all the great posts and podcasts over the year – and a very happy holiday season to all of you and yours,

Andrew

Thanks Andrew for giving me permission to share this.  It is very good to know that this works. It seems almost miraculous for people working abroad in development to be able to have a UK phone number which people can call without roaming charges, and to be able to make UK calls. If Vodafone hasn’t implemented something similar by the time my contract expires, this is just about enough to make me switch to O2.

2 comments on “Using your UK mobile abroad without roaming charges”

  1. Owen,
    Greetinga from an American traveling through New Zealand. For any Americans, TMobile now has free data and text, and calls a fraction of the price. I use it for my work in Mexico and Argentina and it works great. Hope it helps! 

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Owen Barder

Owen is Senior Fellow and Director for Europe at the Center for Global Development and a Visiting Professor in Practice at the London School of Economics. Owen was a civil servant for a quarter of a century, working in Number 10, the Treasury and the Department for International Development. Owen hosts the Development Drums podcast, and is the author Running for Fitness, the book and website. Owen is on Twitter and