EU (and EEA) roaming charges finally come to an end: What you need to know

Those pricey EU mobile phone roaming charges that frequently led to a ruined holiday are finally being scrapped from Thursday. That also means the end of roaming charges for EEA member Norway. Here's what you need to know about the change.

EU (and EEA) roaming charges finally come to an end: What you need to know
Photo: Vidar Ruud/NTB scanpix

What are roaming charges?

These are the often astronomical extra charges added to the phone bills of holidaymakers for making calls, sending texts and using internet mobile data when in a foreign country.

The EU has now abolished these charges saying that customers must now be charged the same for using their mobile as they would in their home country, according to their phone contract. In other words when you come to Norway this summer, you'll pay the same rates as you do at home. And if you live in Norway and go abroad in the EU, well the same price plan applies. So in theory no more “phone bill shock” at the end of the holiday.

Travellers should receive a text when they arrive in the new country explaining  the rules.

Is it free to use my phone abroad?

No. Charging people more to use their phones in the EU has been banned – not not charging them at all.

The idea is that mobile users can now “roam like at home” when travelling within the EU. 

But do I have to pay to receive a call?

No, those nasty charges have gone.

And what about Norwegian providers?

Norwegian service providers have, in practice, already set themselves up for the new rules. Many companies have aimed to cover costs by introducing small increases to the basic cost of roaming-enabled contracts.

Price increases were introduced as early as last year, when the EU announced roaming charges would be scrapped.

Not all contracts enable roaming, so customers in Norway must check that they have the right type of contract if they want to use their mobiles abroad.

Additionally, some companies have increased their charges for international calls – Telenor charges go from 3.99 to 4.99 kroner per minute for calls to many European countries as of June 15th, for example.

Calls on Norwegian mobiles from other EU/EEA countries to Norway will work as domestic calls (since these calls will be from one Norwegian number to another) and will not cost extra.

The downside: don't expect unlimited internet abroad

People use their phones differently while on holiday to at home – sharing more often, taking more pictures, using maps, calling to check on each other or to let family and friends at home know how they're getting on. This means you are at a higher risk of going over your allowance.

If you have a top of the range tariff with unlimited data, you will find mobile operators have still put limits in place.
How much internet data you are given free of roaming charges depends on your contract. So it's worth finding out and keeping an eye on how much you have used. 

Photo: Maridav/Depositphotos

What if i'm an Erasmus student or working abroad for a long time?

The end of roaming charges is only designed for short term travellers, not people living abroad for a long time. A limit of four months per year has been included, so if you are abroad longer than that per year, you can expect to be either notified by your provider or forced to pay extra.

So Erasmus students and those working abroad for a lengthy period of time are advised to buy a local sim card.

Does the scrapping of charges only apply to the EU?

Norwegians, foreigners in Norway, and visitors to Norway, despair not – roaming charges are also gone from European Economic Area countries (Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein).

Travellers need to be careful about using their phones in some non-EU countries like Switzerland, Andorra, Monaco, the Vatican City and Gibraltar as well as the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, which are not formally part of the EU or even the European Economic Area (EEA). Country inclusion depends on your provider, so it's best to contact them directly.

How will Brexit affect the changes?

This is on the long list of things to be negotiated in the Brexit deal although it's not likely to be a priority.

When they get around to it, the UK government will have the choice of following the new regulations because they haven't been written into UK law. 

Photo: Rawpixel/Depositphotos

Is anywhere else covered?

The new rules only apply within the EU, so customers are still advised to switch off mobile data and roaming in non-EU European countries (including popular Norwegian holiday destinations like Turkey) to be sure of avoiding a hefty bill.

So this means my bills when on holiday in the EU will be smaller?

In theory yes, although as mentioned above, be careful not to fall into the trap of thinking everything is free or spending all day on the internet as there are limits and charges will be applied above those limits (see above). Your mobile phone contract itself will probably go up as providers look to make up for their losses elsewhere (again, see above).

Do the changes include people on pay-as-you-go deals?

Yes. It's a legal ruling so applies everywhere in the EU – regardless of what sort of mobile deal you have. Once you step outside the EU then you have to check your individual contracts to see what applies.

What about calling local numbers while on holiday?

You will be still be charged the same rate for making international calls and will still be limited by the package you have agreed with your provider, but you won't be landed with surprise bills for being abroad.

So if, for example, if you from abroad and are in Norway and need to call the hotel, book a restaurant or call a tour guide, that will be treated as an international call – even though you're in the same country as them at the time. 

Need to know more?

CLICK HERE for a full list of frequently asked questions about EU roaming charges as answered by the EU itself.


MAPS: Where have Norway’s one million coronavirus vaccinations been given?

More than a million people in Norway have now received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, according to official data.

MAPS: Where have Norway's one million coronavirus vaccinations been given?
Photo: Luis ACOSTA / AFP

On Friday SYSVAK, Norway’s vaccine register, showed that 1,025,436 people had taken their first jab, with a further 300,032 people being fully vaccinated with both doses.

How are vaccines distributed in Norway?  

Vaccines are distributed by the government based upon how many people in risk groups are in each municipality. Supply is also prioritised to areas with high infection rates, such as Oslo.

Once vaccines are given to municipalities the rest of the vaccination process is handled individually by the local authorities.

So far, central authorities have distributed over 1.2 million vaccines to municipalities.

The Pfizer vaccine is the most common serum in Norway with over 930,000 jabs being distributed.

AstraZeneca is the next most widely used, with almost 180,000 of the Anglo-Swedish manufacturer’s doses being sent out to municipalities. Around 50,000 thousand of these doses are still in storage however, as the vaccine’s use has been suspended since March.

Moderna is the least common vaccine in Norway with just over 100,000 doses being handed out to local authorities.   

First dose administered, per county

Unsurprisingly, Oslo and Viken have received the lion’s share of the vaccines so far. This is due to the Oslo being the largest city in Norway and Viken being the most populous county.

More than 220,000 people have been vaccinated with their first dose in Viken and over 120,000 have gotten their first dose in Oslo.

Another reason for Oslo and Viken vaccinating more people than anywhere else is also due to the high infection incidence in the counties. According national health authority NIPH’s latest weekly report, Oslo and Viken County are responsible for almost three quarters of coronavirus infections in Norway.

Troms and Finnmark counties have administered the fewest doses so far. This is due in part to the low population and the government’s prioritisation of vaccines towards Covid-19 hotspots.

Below you can see a map of how many first doses have been administered in each county.

Second dose administered, by county

More than twice the number of people are fully vaccinated in Viken than anywhere else in the country.

There are also five and a half more fully vaccinated people in Viken than in the county with the lowest amount of fully vaccinated people, Troms and Finnmark.

At the time of writing, western county Vestland has the second-highest number of people to have received both their first and second jabs.

The interactive map below shows how many fully vaccinated people there are in each county.

First dose by municipality

Norway’s largest cities dominate the list of municipalities to have given people their first jab.

Oslo has vaccinated more than double the number than the municipality to vaccinate the second most people, Bergen.

The capital municipality has vaccinated more than 2,100 times more people than Utsira, which has given the least people their first jab with 69.

But proportionally, Utsira has vaccinated many more of its inhabitants than Oslo as it only has a population of 211.

You can see the data for all 356 of Norway’s municipalities below.

Second dose by municipality

21 percent of residents in the tiny municipality of Utsira have been fully vaccinated. This is 15.5 percent higher than the national average. In total, 45 people in Utsira are fully vaccinated.

Oslo has fully vaccinated 33,954 of its residents by far, more than double the amount any other municipality has managed to date. Only Oslo and Bergen have vaccinated more than 10,000 people with both doses at present.

Below you can see a map containing the data for each municipality to have administered both doses of a vaccine.