Reviewed: Three Feel at Home for use abroad

mobile use abroad

Wouldn't it be nice to just keep using our phone as normal when we go abroad?

Three think so, which is why they introduced a special use abroad service, Feel at Home, in September 2013.

This is roaming as we've never seen it before. There are no add-ons to buy - almost, see below - or crazy charges to worry about: we just turn on roaming and get going, using up calls, texts and data from our usual monthly allowance.

More on roaming
Our use abroad guide
How Ofcom can help

At least, that's the idea. We put the service to the test.

How Feel at Home works

Before we go any further, we must point out that there's one big exception to Three's generosity. In July 2016 they launched a range of pay monthly plans known as Three Essential. As the name suggests, these offer only the essentials - which doesn't include free roaming.

When Feel at Home launched it covered 16 countries ranging from Australia to the USA, and various places in between.

In spring 2015 Spain and New Zealand were added to the list of destinations where Three PAYG and pay monthly customers could use their standard call and text allowances to contact UK numbers - and use their data allowance.

From September 2016, another 24 countries (mostly European) have been added to the list, taking the total number of nations where Three offer free roaming up to 42:

Australia Austria Belgium Bulgaria Channel Islands (Jersey and Guernsey) Croatia
Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Estonia Finland France
Germany Gibraltar Greece Hong Kong Hungary Iceland
Indonesia Isle of Man Israel Italy Latvia Liechtenstein
Lithuania Luxembourg Macau Malta Netherlands New Zealand
Norway Poland Portugal Rep of Ireland Romania Slovakia
Slovenia Spain Sri Lanka Sweden Switzerland USA

We repeat this list at the bottom of the page, along with the names of Three's roaming partners in each country, which will include the network or networks users will need to connect to in order to benefit from Feel at Home.

But while calls and texts to UK numbers will be free, customers will still be charged for calling and texting local numbers.

When a Three customer arrives, they should connect to the local partner network and receive a text confirming the standard international roaming charges for the country they're in.

Then Three will text to let them know they're in a Feel at Home destination, confirming that calls and texts back to the UK, and using data up to either their allowance, or 12GB if the allowance is higher, will be free of charge while they're within those limits.

In all, it's not very pricey - and from next June it'll become even cheaper in some destinations, thanks to the latest round of roaming price caps (see how much it cost before 2012 here) - but those who think they're going to need to make lots of local or other foreign calls may find an international add-on cheaper.

Going over allowance: Calls and texts to local numbers, and to other foreign destinations are counted as out of allowance usage. These are charged at the same rates as those we make if we go over our standard monthly allowance.

The price we'll be charged varies depends on whether we're in the EU (including the UK) or not, and the destination we're contacting.

When in a non-EU Feel At Home destination:

And when in an EU Feel At Home destination:

Notice that even with the price cap on EU roaming costs, it's cheaper to go over our allowances in a non-EU destination than in one of the EU countries - but receiving calls and texts in a Feel At Home destination is always free.

Numbers starting 080 are included in our allowances, but those beginning 070, 084, 087, 09 and 118 aren't.

Sounds simple. But how simple is it really?

Setting up Feel at Home

Customers wanting to use their phone abroad will need to activate international roaming by calling Three.

It's easiest to do this before going away. I didn't, but I tweeted Three instead and they got back to me and activated roaming within a few hours.

With roaming activated, I found that Feel at Home worked easily when travelling to a new destination: it just found the network and worked, simple as that.

PAYG customers really should do this before they go away, as they'll need to convert some or all of their credit to an allowance add on.

It can be done while abroad - in fact this is what pay monthly customers who go over their allowance will also need to do - but it's easier to do it before heading off.

Service problems: what you need to know

Overall, my experience of using Feel at Home was positive: when it worked it was much easier and cheaper than tracking down a local SIM or using roaming add-ons; when it didn't work, I found that the Three customer service staff on Twitter and in forums were quick to reply, and full of useful troubleshooting ideas.

However, I did encounter some problems myself, and read about others that I think are worth bearing in mind.

1. No tethering

Most Three customers can use some or all of their data allowance for tethering - but they'll have to find another way of connecting other devices when going abroad, as it simply won't work.

2. Signal problems

I tested this service in Indonesia. Much of the time it didn't work because I didn't have any signal.

It's not hard to see why. Three usually have between one and three partner networks for Feel At Home to work on; in contrast, when I travelled to Indonesia EE had four roaming partners there.

Three: Feel at Home EE: Roaming partners
Hutchison 3 PT Satelindo, Telkomsel, PT Excelcomindo, Hutchinson

I spoke to Three about this and they said they aim for nationwide coverage in every Feel at Home destination. When pressed, they added that they consider simple, free, use abroad better than excellent coverage.

I agree but this problem means it might be worth taking precautions. If my phone hadn't been unlocked (see our unlocking guide here), I wouldn't have been able to switch to a local SIM card when I needed to.

3. Speed problems

Similarly, Three's partner network in a Feel at Home location may not have the best broadband speeds available.

Indonesia 3 speedtest

Source: Choose speed test (Three), December 2013

In our tests using, Indonesian network XL consistently beat Three.

Indonesia XL speedtest

Source: Choose speed test (XL), December 2013

Three do warn that streaming and connecting to VPNs may be slower than in the UK. But it cuts both ways: Three Hong Kong have awesome 4G speeds.

4. Some add ons unavailable

The International Saver, and any add-ons that include video or audio content (like TV, music or games), won't work while you're using Feel At Home.

5. A fair use policy

More seriously, Feel at Home has a Fair Use policy. Exceeding the service limits will result in all services being suspended abroad.

Time limit: Anyone using Feel At Home exclusively when they're abroad, or for at least a month, more than twice a year, could well have their account's international roaming suspended.

Basically, Three aren't prepared to let people use the service if they're living between two places.

Usage limits: Normal usage limits should generally apply with Feel At Home but for those with one of Three's higher allowance plans or an all-you-can-eat deal, it'll be reduced as follows:

Exceeding any of these limits once is okay, but do it twice within a 12-month period and Three may suspend services abroad.

6. Potential roaming problems: beware

With Feel at Home we're using our phones with international roaming switched on - which means there's a chance that they could connect to a network outside the included destination for those travelling around or staying near the border.

Now that all of the EU and EEA countries are included in Feel At Home, that's likely to be less of a problem for travellers in Europe, unless they're near one of Monaco's borders - but someone in the US, close to either the Canadian or Mexican borders, could be caught out.

It's also a risk when catching connecting flights: without thinking, I turned on my phone in a non Feel at Home country during a transfer and immediately spent £8 on data when my emails downloaded. I was unhappy.

Moral of the story: when at risk of roaming beyond Feel At Home territory, keep the phone in aeroplane mode or turn off data and only call, text or go online when the phone's homescreen shows it's connected to the right network.

7. Service problems

In December 2013, some Feel at Home users in the US were charged for data and texts they should have got free. Three admitted the mistake and quickly rectified it by erasing the charges.

Where Three have more than one roaming partner, some people seem to have issues connecting. But again, those taking to the forums with such issues have been given advice pretty quickly on how to correct this - usually being advised to switch to manual network selection and picking a particular, more reliable, network.

We haven't heard of any big service problems since, though.

The verdict

All in all, Feel at Home is awesome.

Yes, there are some issues worth being aware of but they're nothing compared to the convenience of a free use abroad service.

Let us know what you think in the comments.

Three Feel at Home destinations and networks

As mentioned above, here's the full list of destinations again, this time with Three's partner networks added. Make sure to connect to one of these to benefit.

Australia Austria Belgium Bulgaria Channel Islands (Jersey and Guernsey) Croatia
Telstra, Vodafone Hutchison Australia Pty Ltd, and Yes Optus Hutchison Drei Austria BASE Globul and Vivacom Airtel Jersey and Sure Tele2 Croatia and T-Mobile (HT Mobile,Cronet,Croatian Tele)
Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Estonia Finland France
MTN and PrimeTel Telefonica 02 and T-Mobile CZ 3 Denmark Elisa and Tele2 Alands Mobiltelefon, DNA, and Elisa Bouygues, Free Mobile, and Orange
Germany Gibraltar Greece Hong Kong Hungary Iceland
O2 Germany and T-Mobile GIBTEL Cosmote and Wind Hellas 3 Hong Kong Telenor and T-Mobile (Westel) Nova
Indonesia Isle of Man Israel Italy Latvia Liechtenstein
Hutchison 3 Indonesia Sure Orange and Pelephone 3 Italy and Wind Tele2 Latvia Salt
Lithuania Luxembourg Macau Malta Netherlands New Zealand
Tele2 Orange (VOX) 3 Macau Go Mobile KPN Mobile and T-Mobile Spark and Two Degrees
Norway Poland Portugal Rep of Ireland Romania Slovakia
Telenor Play and Plus NOS 3 Ireland and O2 Ireland Cosmote Slovak Telecom and Telefonica O2 Slovakia
Slovenia Spain Sri Lanka Sweden Switzerland USA
Mobitel and Tusmobile Slovenia Telefonica Movistar and Yoigo Etisalat and Hutchison 3 Sweden Salt Mobile SA and Sunrise AT&T and T-Mobile USA


19 September 2016

I am in Massachusetts I can use data and send text but can not make calls. Three say they are looking in to it. Traveling down to dc soon so will know if it's a state problem.
Update to follow

15 September 2016
Lee Holmes

Is the Dominican Republic on this list of countries ?

22 September 2016
Choose team

At present, the Dominican Republic isn't included in Three's free roaming plan, and nor are any other Caribbean destinations - not even those that are US territories (that is, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands).

15 August 2016
Sarah Coles

If I'm using a three sim, can I call someone with an EE sim for free too?

8 August 2016

The fair use policy is completely reasonable, it is not "sneaky", it is made clear on the 3 website. The fair use policy is to prevent misuse of Feel at Home, it prevents use by those spending extended periods abroad who should be using local providers, the fair use policy does not affect those who use Feel at Home legitimately, it only affects those who misuse it. The roaming charges vary by country, not just EU and non-EU.

4 August 2016

Feel at home was excellent value in the US & the Spanish owned Baleric & Canary Islands, well done 3

1 June 2016
Tony Lund

The problem with 3 In touch. I have travelled to Ireland from UK at least 5 times a year with little problems. Then I downloaded 3 intouch. First thing that happened was I was charged £30 for using the Free WiFi on the ferry. I wasn't even using it my phone was just on in my pocket. Normally 3 mobile can't connect to you while at sea as you're no where near a phone mast. But if you have 3 in touch on you are connectible and therefore chargeable. 3 know this happens but choose to ignore it as a lot of people either don't notice or can't be bothered complaining. If you complain the debt is written off. It's really commercial fraud!

9 April 2016
Davids Gaisevskis

Nice article. I wish I read it before I used it. In fact this should be published on three homepage. It's a shame providers of services tell you what they they want you to think instead of what it is.

6 March 2016

I've been using it for some time. I also used it when they trialled it previously in Italy / Austria / HK etc (three like home it was called then) a few years ago. In its current incarnation I'd describe it as 'knobbled', as in deliberately slow. Next to useless. It definitely blocks any streaming video - I'm not interested in watching movies but I do get short 30 second videos from my home security movement sensor - unable to view. And App Store downloads don't work at all. Ok for a few emails and some slow Facebook. I'm afraid a local SIM card is still the only way for truly acceptable internet speed without wifi.

29 February 2016

Hi, I am going to travel to a feel at home destination, if someone in the UK tried to call me would they know instantly my abroad location and would they be charged if I answered/or not answered the call?

23 February 2016
Diane Harris

I'm going to the US in March, I popped into the Three shop to check out the the Feel At Home service and was told to just switch on my data roaming setting. I'm confused now, as the article above says you have to call Three to get them to switch on international roaming - so which is it... call them or just switch on the data roaming in settings?

7 December 2015

Old thread I know but I may get a response... I am due to travel to the US in April next year and currently not a 3 customer. If I sign up now for pay as you go and put on a all you can eat data bundle before I head over there - will this work?

18 November 2015

The fair usage policy has now changed. Which really sucks as the whole reason I kept my contract going with Three was because of the fair usage policy they had at the time.

This is the new fair usage policy:
12GB per month (as apposed to previous 25GB limit)
2 months usage within a 12 month period (as apposed to 3 months)

I'm going to the USA for 3 months in December. So now I'm going to use it for 1 month, then switch off data roaming and change roaming settings on my Three account so that it doesn't activate the second month. I'm going to save that month incase I go away again within 12 months.

8 August 2016

Well 3 months isn't a holiday or a business trip, that is an extended period abroad, which is not what Feel at Home is designed for. I think the 2 months restriction is better, the 3 months restriction is far too long when the service is designed for UK residents who are on holiday or business trips abroad.

3 November 2015

If you go over the 2 months in Feel at Home countries you will be suspended, you CANNOT even revert to standard roaming charges which makes the phone useless. I switched to Tesco Mobile, cheaper call charges than normal and can use abroad as long as you like.

16 October 2015

How do you top up Three UK if you are in another country like Italy or Spain?

24 September 2015
roberto zanconato

Three streaming is crippled. I have tried it in Sicily, France and Spain and never been able to stream even very low bit rate radio/music. Even though I could get 7.7Mbps downloads using Speedtest iOS app from both local and UK servers. A relative of mine on EE managed to stream video using her phone. We were both on the same network. This is NOT, by any measure, "Feel at Home".

10 August 2015
David Hoole

No data in New Zealand

10 August 2015
David Hoole

The data service has just stopped in New Zealand. It was being provided by Spark, not Telecom NZ or 2degrees. #feelathome fail :(

6 August 2015
David Paul McKiernan

I tried it in Florida, however it barely worked at all. I'm using it right now in Ireland without any issues whatsoever.

2 June 2015

Do I have to tell Three that I am going abroad or just turn on the roaming through my3?

19 May 2015

OK - so I did a trip using Three Feel at Home to Hong Kong and Australia. Here's what I found:

1. They must be using some kind of traffic shaping to slow certain types of web traffic.

For example, on my Satnav app, updating the maps was giving me over 1MB per sec (megabyte - not megabit!) - very fast, however surfing the web was painfully and unusably slow. (It seemed to me that they had missed traffic shaping the port my satnav uses). would show OK up and down (1-3Mbits/sec), with horrendous ping times. Again, this points to Three using traffic shaping.

Emails seemed to work well, but downloading APP updates from the APP store - also unusable. iMessages, Facetime (audio and video) were excellent.

2. In Australia, I was able to use Optus as well as Vodafone. (Optus has better coverage, but wasn't advertised as a partner). Bonus!

So it seems that they have traffic shaped down all App downloads, and general web surfing, but are giving more generous bandwidth to Facetime (audio and video). (There were NO quality issues with Facetime).

Overall, if you just want to Facetime, iMessage and check your email - it's great. However if you need to surf the web, or download/update apps - it's absolutely useless.

For me, I ended up reverting back to my Vodafone sim with it's £5 a day deal. Although more expensive, it's far less frustrating!

1 May 2015
David Aston

I regularly travel to europe and love #FEELATHOME but unfortunately most of my journeys are to Holland, Germany and Croatia, which are not covered and only occasional trips to Eire and France which are. Does anyone know if there is a plan to add these and if so when?

5 July 2015

I believe that the carphone warehouse has a new MVNO called iD. Some of their plans when bought with a new phone allow you to use data in most EU countries for free. I know France, Holland and Germany are definitely on that list.

17 April 2015
its not alchemy

I have a Three PAYG SIM card. I spend a lot of time in France and so have a French mobile and landline for use when I'm abroad. I only use my Three phone when I return to the UK. I have just had my 'feel at home' withdrawn because of 'excessive use' and so cannot send or receive texts. As per the 'Sneaky Fair use Policy' detailed above.
In my ignorance, I thought that if I wasn't actually making calls or sending texts, I wasn't using my phone. However, just simply having it turned on is sufficient to be in breach of their T's & C's... Ok, my stupid mistake!
My problem with Three is their absolute refusal to allow me to remove the 'feel at home' privileges and just simply pay for international calls. I have phoned and emailed them and they simply refuse to do anything to allow me to even receive texts abroad.
I have now just posted my phone back to the UK so a colleague can access a very important text message (OTP) from my bank.

How ridiculous.

Not very helpful Three!!

4 April 2015

I have found using feel at home is ok, you are limited to 3G with no access to the apps store, so you will have a problem with online banking. The internet is slow compared to the UK. The report is based on April 2015 in New Zealand using local network spark telco.
In the end I got a local data sim for £20, and hey ultra fast speeds 4G. To sum up, the idea is good, but could do with being 4G.

24 September 2015

Here, here.

Not being able to use 4G in the U.S. and other locations severely impairs the attractiveness of Feel at Home.

But it's better than nothing, and certainly better than what I believe most of the competition is offering.

24 March 2015

I am American and living in the UK. When I went home to Florida in December I had very fast data and everything worked very smoothly. Completely impressed!

17 March 2015

I was under the impression I could use my dongle with my laptop in France within my 15GB monthly allowance - will this be the case?

14 March 2015

Know roaming say they do unlimited data for £4 per day and calls 3 pence per min and only while abroad and it says it auto-switches. I will test it and review it on a youtube link also later.

13 March 2015

Any news on whether Portugal will become a partner?

12 March 2015

I do not feel at home in Australia because 3 only offers 3G roaming and not 4G. Very disappointing!

11 March 2015

I am "location independent", which means I have no fixed abode, work on my computer and travel the world staying in apartments as I go. All I can say is Three's Feel at Home has literally saved me £1000s of pounds on roaming and even more time having to go through some countries' labourious sim process. Coverage is always great and although speeds are limited in some countries (Italy I remember), it's never a huge problem, only a massive convenience.

13 March 2015
Jon Lingard

How long have you been doing this for? I've been told Feel at Home only works for 1 month at a time. Jon.

11 February 2015

Thanks very much. I am considering Three just for the Feel At Home option and this was very informative.

9 February 2015
Daryl Jewkes

I'm off to the US later this month with friends. I have Feel at Home so if I phone their mobiles will it incur a charge on my behalf? Technically I'm calling a UK number but the carrier for them is different?

1 March 2015

It'll be free for you to call them as it's a UK number.

24 December 2014

Using in France. Slow Facebook access and slow email download. Youtube or any other streaming does not work.

24 January 2015

I used it in France over Xmas and found service excellent until New Years day when the phone switched from Bougue Telecom was to Free. Looking at Three's website Bougue has been replaced by Orange as a Feel at Home partner so I suspect they had come to the end of their contract.

4 November 2014

Worked well for me in Sri Lanka last week. Very happy, seemed to hit one data dead spot but other than that great. Only 3G, but Spotify worked fine, so data was fast enough.

30 October 2014

I'm in the US now for almost a month. I'm mostly on wifi locations but when I'm not I never ever get 4G like I do in the UK on my plan. It's only 3G I get with the Feel At Home feature. And it's sloooooooow. Can't imessage voice like I can in the UK with this 3G I'm getting over here. Today I couldn't call the UK and they couldn't get me either, but the other day it worked. Also I got T mobile the first 2 weeks and they suck. Now today I have AT&T. Yay? Anyways if they don't charge me for the things I HAVE used this is awesome regardless :-)

25 February 2015

There are no European 4G phones available right now that can get an American 4G signal. Sorry that your 4G expectations were not met.

17 October 2014
Chris Lowe

Poor service. It didn't work in Switzerland. Phone connected to sunrise for first couple of days then went into search mode and never picked it up again. Never even got a response from Three.

1 March 2015

Shame, I managed to use it last month in Switzerland but it was always connected with Swisscom.

16 September 2014
antonio maniscalco

Well I have used the feel at home from the UK and when I reached France my problems began with no internet service for several days and after several calls to Three it was still unresolved it took them weeks to resolve it. I had to purchase another SIM card with internet service at an eleveted cost for me but I was fully charged my rates by Three on my monthly bill. They gave me a £10 credit after I spent almost £100 for a service they failed to supply to me with and their customer service was pityful for none of the phone calls I had made led to a resolution. They went on to escalate it to upper managment but never I received a call from them.

18 August 2014
Unhappy bunny

Beware using this on Sterna Ferries between UK and Ireland as apparently these use a Norwegian network and you get charged for it.

1 March 2015

but Norway is a feel at home country...

14 July 2014

Does not work with Bouygues and when trying to dowload, stream or watch video. Strong 3G signal and 2Mb on dowload test. I think there is some sneaky restrictions going on and phone keeps asking to turn on cellular data even though it's already on.

12 July 2014

I used it in New York in April. Having Google maps to hand whenever was amazing. Totally impressed!

7 July 2014

I've noticed different partners manage their data networks differently. I'm in Georgia, USA and I get fast browsing and I can tether, but streaming is blocked entirely (no YouTube, video, soundcloud etc). While in Italy I had patchy service but it would stream. I've also noticed my battery life is hugely diminished as the phone constantly is seeking new networks to join.

6 July 2014

It worked well for me across the US last week - as others have mentioned, the data speeds weren't good (approximately 1.5 Mb/s and high ping rates) but for access to voice calls and basic internet needs, it was a great option for me.

30 June 2014
Tim Shek

I'm using Three, I know the 4G speed is amazing in Hong Kong using a local Three SIM card, but I'm not sure why when I'm using my Three UK SIM card I get extremely slow speeds. Do I have to change my APN settings or whatever?

8 September 2016
Matteo Cifelli

Speed is throttled when using data abroad

12 March 2015

They only allow 3G roaming, not 4G.

22 March 2014

I was in Ireland and then New York last week, and this worked great. To call my American friends on iPhones, I used FaceTime Audio (which I was initially worried about, since we were told data speeds would be slow). WhatsApp came in handy, as well.

Called UK numbers, both in the US and UK with no charge nor problems.

My only gripe was the data speeds, but compared to what my options would be without Feel At Home, I am content.
I felt free to wander without fear of getting lost (Maps). Got information relatively easily and called or contacted whomever I wanted without worrying about charges.

Thanks, Three. Please expand to more countries and increase those data speeds, a bit.

24 September 2014

If you are using a UK handset in the US, bear in mind that UK handsets do not support US carrier 3G or 4G frequencies (for the most part). You therefore will be restricted to 2G (Edge) speeds.

15 March 2014

Was very disappointed with this service when I was in the Republic of Ireland recently and using a Three MiFi device. Just got endless error messages and I eventually gave up. Had done all the necessary setting up in advance but was a waste of time.

18 January 2015

As said in the article, it doesn't work for tethering. MiFi devices are tethering.

11 March 2014
alan atkinson

When will feel at home reach Spain and Tenerife?

24 January 2015

Old thread but Spain is coming in April 2015.

19 December 2014
Ben Miller

When loads of people stop going there on holiday in the summer ;)

9 March 2014

It's great. I'm using it in Australia without any problems whatsoever. Well done 3.

8 March 2014

Love that they do it for pay as you go customers too. On most networks they rip off pay as you go customers with high charges and second priority on the network and customer service.

27 February 2014
John Smith

I agree this is awesome but I've been waiting for the promised addition of France for sometime - still no news.

10 June 2014
bob williams

Good news, they just announced 5 new countries which feel at home is available in, one of which is France!

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