New barriers and restrictions have made catching up with your favourite TV shows while on holiday in Europe more difficult. Here’s what you need to know to overcome those barriers.
In January 2021, Brits lost the ability to legally access a number of streaming services while in Europe. Then during 2021 and 2022, most major mobile networks reintroduced roaming charges or reduced the amount of roaming data included in plans.
But recently, Vodafone (including Voxi and Talkmobile) has added Norway and Iceland to its inclusive roaming countries – allowing its customers to stream or browse in more places without a roaming pass.
Among streaming providers, some will actively allow users to access their services abroad, without a VPN: Paramount+ allows its subscribers to access the service while travelling in the EU, Australia, Canada, Latin America and Brazil. It does warn that the selection of shows will vary from country to country. Disney+ says subscribers can stream Disney+ content that is available in the country/region they’re in. Otherwise, customers can download content before they leave the UK. Netflix also permits your use of its service abroad, but the programmes available on the service may vary.
This counteracts some of the loss of portability of online services under EU law after Brexit, although this generally only benefits users of multi-national streamers who have a presence in most countries, as opposed to UK-only streamers.
As the 2023 travelling season gets underway, here’s our guide for UK users going to Europe, covering:
- Latest roaming information
- Which major streaming services will allow you to download programmes before you travel.
- Using a VPN
- And.. how to watch UK domestic television channels the traditional way in Europe.
Europe roaming charges 2023: UK networks
Still offers up to 25GB of free roaming. There are small differences between pay-as-you-go and pay monthly contracts. Switzerland and Isle of Man, for example are included for contract customers only.
Customers of budget offshoot Giffgaff are limited to 5GB of inclusive roaming.
including Voxi and Talkmobile
While Vodafone’s continental networks continue to offer free roaming in the UK to their customers, that’s not the case for Vodafone’s UK customers going to the other way.
Unless you have an older plan, or a premium Vodafone contract that specifically includes roaming, you will be charged extra.
As of March 2023, Vodafone, Voxi and Talkmobile (new contracts) offer inclusive roaming in Norway and Iceland on all plans, in addition to the Republic of Ireland and Isle of Man. This is in anticipation of a new trade deal covering Norway and Iceland. Talkmobile currently also offers free roaming in Ukraine…
Outside of these countries and on all plans that don’t include roaming, on Vodafone, you may be charged £2 a day. Roaming passes, available on both pay-as-you-go and contracts, provide 8 or 15 days worth of roaming, for a small discount. On pay-as-you-go, the limit is 3GB. On pay monthly contracts, the limit is your normal UK data allowance up to a maximum of 25GB.
On new Talkmobile contracts (14th March 2023 or later), customers need to buy a Euro Holiday booster, from £2.25 per day or £10 for 8 days. The booster provides a maximum 15 GB of roaming data. Older contracts automatically include a roaming allowance of 15GB.
On Voxi, customers will need to buy a roaming pass for up to 20GB of data.
On pay-as-you-go, roaming is currently still inclusive.
On contract deals, unless you have a roam abroad pass, you will need to pay £2.29 a day.
The roam abroad pass is included within some premium contract deals. Otherwise, the pass is £15 a month. It includes your normal UK data allowance up to a maximum of 50GB.
On pay-as-you-go and via SMARTY, roaming is still included. A maximum limit of 12GB applies.
For contract customers, Three charges £2 a day. Again, a maximum limit of 12GB applies. Customers can buy a daily data passport for unrestricted access to the internet until midnight UK time.
The Isle of Man and Republic of Ireland are excluded from this charge.
Customers on older contacts may still have inclusive roaming, where this charge doesn’t apply.
Lebara still offers a roaming allowance of 30 GB a month (or less if your plan doesn’t include that much data).
Tesco Mobile has delayed the introduction of roaming charges until 2024.
Asda offers 5GB of inclusive roaming in its bundles.
Inclusive roaming typically excludes some European countries including Andorra, as they are not in the EU. Not all UK operators include roaming in the Isle of Man or Channel Islands.
Use a local SIM
You can buy a SIM card in the country you’re travelling in. Please note that in some countries, a form of ID is required.
For those with newer devices, you can buy eSIM cards for use abroad. It’s not always cheaper, so worth doing your homework before you travel.
Download shows before you go
Some streaming apps allow you to download your favourite shows for you to watch offline or abroad. You’ll need to do this before you leave the UK.
The BBC iPlayer app for mobile, or the iPlayer Downloads app for laptops will allow you to download programmes to watch while you’re abroad.
ITVX charges extra for downloads. Downloads are available by subscribing to ITVX Premium for £5.99 a month or £59.99 a year. You’ll be able to watch most ITV shows ad-free plus access content from BritBox.
All 4 will allow you to download via the app for you to watch offline or abroad later on.
My5 currently says you can’t download shows to watch offline/abroad. UKTV Play also doesn’t currently offer this option, either.
Disney+ encourages users to download content before you travel. You’ll otherwise be able to access content available on Disney+ in the country you’re travelling to.
Netflix, on the other hand works very differently: it tells customers that current downloaded titles on your phone, tablet, or computer may not be available while in a different country.
Use a VPN to stream abroad
A Virtual Private Network may allow you to access online services as if you were in the UK. But if you’re using your mobile phone, you’ll still be subject to your network operator’s roaming policies and the quality of the network you’re roaming on.
You’ll need to check the legal status of VPNs in the country you’re travelling to, and bear in mind that your use of a VPN to stream TV programmes may breach the terms and conditions of the streaming service you’re using. As a result, streaming services are within their rights to restrict or block access or take enforcement action. Using a VPN to access pirated streams is always a no-no.
A reminder: Disney+, Netflix and Paramount+ will allow you to stream abroad in Europe, if you’re travelling to a country where the service is available locally. But there may be some variations in content.
Watch TV the traditional way.
Cable and IPTV operators offer access to BBC channels in the Republic of Ireland, Netherlands and Belgium. BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and 5 are available on Switzerland’s TV platforms. RXTV also understands BBC One and Two are available on Monaco’s cable network. Gibtelecom offers all main UK channels on its TV platform in Gibraltar.
Otherwise, reception of UK channels via the Astra 2E/F/G satellite cluster is available in the following area. Outside this zone, it’s only available with specialist equipment or non-domestic sized dishes.