Travelling to the World Cup? Read our mobile advice first

03 June 2014

England fansOver the coming days, thousands of England football fans will be heading out to Brazil for the start of the 2014 World Cup.

If you're one of those preparing to make the trip, a few preparations will help ensure that your main memory of the tournament isn't a huge mobile phone bill.

Although international call charges in the European Union have fallen, roaming charges in countries like Brazil can be much higher.

So if you're not careful you could end up spending hundreds of pounds calling, texting and uploading pictures from your mobile.

Ofcom has some tips to help avoid an unexpected high bill and protect your phone in case it's lost or stolen while you're away.

Tell your provider

Before heading off, check with your mobile provider whether your phone will work in Brazil and find out how much it will cost to use your handset.

At the same time, check whether they have any packages which could cut costs. Ask them how they work, how much you can use with them and what they cost.

Your provider may have specific packages for using your device abroad designed to offer discounted rates, including data roaming bundles. If you are buying a data roaming bundle, check what happens once you have you used up the inclusive allowance will you be prompted to buy another bundle or could you automatically be charged at standard rates?

Go local

Once in Brazil it may be cheaper to buy a local SIM card which you can put in your handset and use to dial numbers within the country.

If you’re considering doing this, however, it’s best to check with your provider before you go if your handset is 'locked' to its network. If it is, then you’ll not be able to make use of a local SIM in the country you’re visiting

SIM cards can be bought at newsstands, lottery shops, shopping malls, and many other outlets.

Mobile phone credits can be bought at various outlets such as supermarkets, lottery shops, mobile phone shops and newsstands.

If you are able to make use of a local pay-as-you-go SIM card, remember to keep your 'home' SIM card safe and secure while you’re away.

Turn off data roaming

Smartphones and 3G/4G enabled tablet computers can automatically seek out mobile connections and use them to update apps even when you are not actively using them.

So, to be safe, turn off data roaming before you go, as otherwise these devices could be downloading data at standard rates throughout your stay.

All mobile operators have to apply a cut-off limit once you have used 50 Euros (excluding VAT) - around £40 - of data per month, wherever you travel in the world unless you choose another limit.

The provider must send you an alert to your phone when you reach 80% and then 100% of the agreed data roaming limit. Operators must stop charging for data at the 100% point, unless you agree to continue to use data.

Remember, even low data usage that you wouldn't notice at home could end up costing you more abroad. It's simple to turn off data roaming.

The following video guides show you how to turn off data roaming on some of the most popular smartphones.

If your smartphone isn't featured -or if you're having problems - speak to your provider or look on their website for more information.


Android (ICS, Samsung Galaxy)

Android (4.2, Jelly Bean)

Windows Phone 8


We also have information on how to turn off data roaming on the most popular tablets.

Use Wi-Fi to get online

If you want to regularly browse the web overseas, use local Wi-Fi hotspots instead of your device's internet connection.

This is particularly useful for downloading maps, checking emails or browsing social networks - all of which will soon rack up data charges abroad. Remember, you don't need 'data roaming' switched on to access Wi-Fi.

Some apps can seek out Wi-Fi networks and prompt you to connect to them so that you don't have to do this manually.

Remember to stay within range of the Wi-Fi hotspot you’re using to avoid your device finding another network connection. Check to ensure the Wi-Fi icon is visible on your device.

Lost or stolen phone/SIM

The Foreign Office warns that crime levels are high in Brazil and advises that expensive items such as mobile phones and cameras be kept out of sight.

If your phone or home SIM is lost or stolen, you may be liable for all charges run up on it before you report it missing. Therefore, it's important you contact your provider as soon as possible. Even if there's a slim chance you may find your phone, it's worth talking to your provider about whether a temporary bar can be placed on your account.

Once you have reported your phone or SIM card as lost or stolen, your provider can bar your SIM to stop calls being made on your account. Your provider can also stop anyone else from using your phone by blocking its IMEI, a unique 15-digit serial number. You can get your IMEI number by keying *#06# into your handset or by looking behind your phone battery. Make a record of this number, as well as the make and model of your handset and keep it somewhere safe.

Some mobile insurance policies may provide some cover for unauthorised use so it is worth checking the terms and conditions of your existing policy, or when considering a new policy.

Remember, if you do decide to take out mobile phone insurance, you may be obliged to let your insurer know if your phone is lost or stolen within a certain time frame too.

Make sure you put a passcode on both your handset and SIM to make it more difficult for thieves to use. These video guides show you how to do this on some popular handsets.

These video guides show you how to do this on some popular handsets.


Android (ICS, Samsung Galaxy)

Android (4.2, Jelly Bean)

Windows Phone 8