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World Cup 2018: How to save on mobile roaming in Russia

Which? uncovers the best mobile roaming deals for England fans heading to the World Cup this summer.

With the World Cup in Russia just around the corner, many fans are getting ready to head over and support the Three Lions.

Whether you’re lucky enough to have tickets or just want to soak up the atmosphere, you’ve probably done a fair bit of research in advance. And as with any trip abroad, finding out how much it will cost to use your mobile phone could help to save on unexpected bills.

Read on for details on what your mobile provider charges in Russia, and on finding a short-term solution that could save a small fortune, even if you’re still in contract.

Our mobile phone provider reviews reveal the best and worst for 2018.

Roaming at World Cup 2018 in Russia

Which? research recently uncovered the startling difference that providers can charge for roaming outside the EU, and Russia is no exception. Some charge up to £18 for 1 megabyte (MB) of data, which is the equivalent of a four-minute Whatsapp voice call or simply loading a webpage. That’s why we’re campaigning for the Government to put roaming on the table in post-Brexit trade deals.

The table below shows the costs for making a call and using your data in Russia with 14 different providers, both for Pay Monthly (PAYM) and Pay as you go (PAYG) customers.

* EE charges £5 a day for 50MB of data.
** Vodafone charges £6 a day for you to use your UK allowance of data, calls and texts.

Depending on your operator it wouldn’t take long to rack up a huge bill if you’re reckless with your mobile phone, or even if you use it sparingly. These example costs are based on data usage estimates and the actual cost can vary.

  • Can’t find a cab to get back to the hotel? Using Google Maps to navigate for just 10 minutes could cost around £27 with TPO, or just 30p with GiffGaff.
  • Checking your phone for the latest scores could sting – loading just three web pages could come to over £20 with Asda or O2, more than ten times as much as Utility Warehouse.
  • Even a good old-fashioned phone call isn’t cheap. Three minutes with iD Mobile could set you back over £10. BT would still charge around £4, but it all adds up.

The best ways to roam in Russia

Of course it’s good to try and stick to wi-fi, but if you do want the flexibility of using your phone’s data a couple of providers do stand out.

Getting a PAYG SIM with either Vodafone or GiffGaff just for your trip will allow you to access the cheapest roaming deals in Russia. Vodafone is the cheapest for data roaming, charging 12p per MB for PAYG customers. It also charges 60p a minute for calling, which, again, is the cheapest cost across the 14 providers. Alternatively, Vodafone’s Roam-Further deal for PAYM customers can represent a good deal for medium to heavy users as it allows you to access your UK allowance of data and calls for a daily charge of £6.

Another alternative is Giffgaff, one of our Which? Recommended Providers. It charges 20p a MB for data and £1 a minute for calls, and historically has worked out as a great value ‘all-rounder’ for a wide range of countries outside the EU. For more, read our guide to choosing the best mobile provider for holidays.

Where can I get a SIM?

Vodafone SIMs are available for free online or, if you don’t want to wait for postage, from one of more than 450 Vodafone stores, where you can also top up your SIM (Vodafone requires you top up £10 as a minimum when getting a SIM in-store). You can also top up from the My Vodafone app on the go.

Giffgaff SIMs are also available online and despite having no stores, Giffgaff offers next day delivery to all SIMs ordered before 5.00pm. To top up, you have to register an account (which you can do here) and top up online. You can also download the My Giffgaff app and top up on the go.

It’s also worth checking your local independent convenience stores and pound shops as they are likely to stock Giffgaff and Vodafone SIMs as well.

What else should I keep in mind?

If you have decided to use a PAYG SIM while you’re away, there are a couple of things to be aware of.

Firstly, all roaming will use top-up credit and not PAYG bundles, so buying a bundle, unless you plan to use it after you return, is probably not a good idea.

Also, you have to make sure that your phone is unlocked for use with any SIM. If you are unsure whether your phone is, try popping in a different provider’s SIM and if it does not work, it is likely locked to your existing provider’s network. Contact your provider to find out how you can remove the lock and how long this will take. In most cases this service should be free.

Alternatively, there are many high-street shops which unlock your phone for a small fee, and will usually do so on the spot.

Which? is campaigning for change

Russia might seem like an expensive place to roam, but many countries outside the EU are similarly costly, and could also result in huge bills.

Which? is calling on the Department for International Trade and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to use new post-Brexit trade deals to scrap mobile fees across the world. The government should also work to maintain the popular agreement currently in place with the EU.

In the meantime, we outline some ways to save on global roaming with our guide to how to prepare your mobile phone for holidays abroad.

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