The football world cup begins in Qatar on November 20 and over a million fans are expected to travel to the Gulf state, with plenty arriving from England and Wales. Having cheap mobile data while traveling is always useful, but could be particularly important at an iconic global sporting event being hosted in a country that is unfamiliar to many travelers.
Mobile data enables you to keep up with matches happening simultaneously, post updates to social media to prove you were there, or simply navigate back to your hotel.
Vodafone is the only major UK provider that includes Qatar in its standard international bundle for data, calls and texts. This means travelers using any other network could face expensive mobile bills if they are unaware of how much they are being charged.
For further advice on cutting your bills, such as haggling and understanding roaming charges, check out our 10 ways to save money on your mobile phone bill.
How much does mobile roaming cost in Qatar?
There is a huge disparity between roaming charges for different providers. Giffgaff and Smarty offer the cheapest data, at 20p and 25p per MB respectively. In contrast, a MB of data could cost as much as £14.99 or £9.60 from Lebara Mobile or iD Mobile.
Use the table to work out how much using your mobile phone in Qatar could cost.
*Customers on pay-monthly plans (except Vodafone Basics) can pay £6 per day to use their UK allowance of data, minutes and texts.
Our survey produced customer scores and star ratings for 16 different providers. Read our round up of the best and worst mobile networks to see which came out on top.
Best mobile providers for roaming in Qatar
Sticking to wi-fi rather than data is always good advice while traveling, but this may be more difficult in an environment like the world cup. However, check to see if your accommodation offers free wi-fi, along with any venues you’ll be visiting.
One alternative solution is to either switch to a cheaper provider, or just buy a new Sim purely for the trip and cancel it when you get home. Your Sim will usually make its way to you in a couple of days. Or in a pinch, you could check supermarkets and high-street stores like pound shops where you can pick one up for free, or a couple of pounds.
Here’s our pick of three of the best mobile providers to roam with in Qatar.
Operating on Three’s network, Smarty’s mission is to offer ultra-cheap Sim-only packages with very little in the way of extras. Fortunately, one thing it does offer is great value roaming.
It charges 25p per MB of data – one of the cheapest packages outside, although it will cost you £1 a minute per call. Costs can mount up, so keep an eye on your usage.
Monthly Sim-only deals start at £6 for 6GB, you can get a medium data bundle (30GB) for £10, or unlimited data for £20. Browse Smarty Sim-only deals to pick one up today.
Giffgaff mainly offers 30-day Sim-only plans called ‘goodybags’ and some of the lowest PAYG rates available, but has no customer service call center and all non-account-related issues have to be raised in the Giffgaff community. It utilizes O2’s network.
Its 20p per MB charge is the cheapest outside packages – and generally Giffgaff comes out favorably for roaming in most places in the world.
Monthly Sim-only deals start at £6 for 1GB, a medium amount of data (25GB) costs £15, or unlimited data is available for £25, which Giffgaff calls Always On. Check out Giffgaff Sim-only deals to find a suitable option.
Vodafone has been offering its services for more than 30 years in the UK with a plethora of options for phone contracts and SIM-only deals. As one of the ‘Big Four’ providers, Vodafone operates its own network.
Vodafone uses an alternative roaming method to low-cost Sim-only providers, allowing customers on pay-monthly plans (except Vodafone Basics) to pay £6 per day to use their UK allowance of data, minutes and texts.
If your deal comes with plenty of data, calls and texts, this could be a cost-effective way of roaming. Browse Vodafone Sim-only deals to see their offering.
If you need to change providers, read our in-depth guide on how to switch mobile networkwhich offers advice whether you’re in or out of contract, and how to make sure you get a good signal with a new provider.
What else should I look out for when roaming abroad?
Mobile bill limits
Be aware of any mobile bill limits that may be on your contract, as this could cause your services to stop working. You can remove it by contacting your provider, but be warned that means that charges can rack up.
For example, Tesco Mobile has an international roaming cap of £40 and Sky Mobile caps at £45. Providers have different caps so read your terms carefully.
If your data is limited, your provider will notify you if you approach the limit before the end of a billing period, for example they might send a text message warning you that you’ve used 80% of your data for the month.
You will be contacted again when you have reached your bill limit. Once your limit is reached you may not be able to make calls, send text messages or use data above your monthly allowance. However, you will still be able to access emergency services.
If set to use data as well as wi-fi, some apps will be consuming your data in the background even if you are not actively using your phone.
Carefully check your apps to make sure they are set to only use Wi-Fi, so your data doesn’t disappear without you realizing.
Some apps that are notable for slyly eating up data are:
- Photo and messaging backups.
- Music apps such as Spotify.
- Social media apps such as Facebook, Instagram and Youtube.
- Any other apps that are continuously checking for updates and notifications.
Prepare from home and make the most of wi-fi
- Before you leave, plan routes and map out your itinerary, downloading important information where necessary to your phone. An app like Pocket, which allows you to save webpages to read offline, can help.
- You can also download a map of the area you’re visiting on Google Maps. In Google Maps, tap your profile icon in the top right, and then ‘Offline maps’. You can then select your own map to save to your phone.
- If you want to dabble in the local dialect, you can also download languages via the Google Translate app. Either way, it’s probably worth saving a page with local phrases and greetings.
- When you’re away, if you’re looking to make calls to family or friends, read messages and emails, or otherwise ‘check in’, stick to times when you have wi-fi to avoid using data unnecessarily. Make video and voice calls from apps like Whatsapp and Skype, which use data rather than your phone’s minutes allowance.
For more tips before you set off to Qatar, or any other destination, read our guide on how to prepare your mobile phone for holidays abroad.