Best SIM Cards For Using Your Smartphone in Europe

March 31st, 2015

With the right SIM card, you can use your smartphone in Europe for as little as £10 for 30 days. We review the best value SIM cards for travelling in Europe.

You can use your smartphone abroad in Europe for as little as £10 for 30 days.

Smartphones can be a great asset when you’re travelling abroad. It’s incredibly useful to be able to pull out your smartphone and to use Google Maps to find the directions to your hotel. Likewise, having the ability to access online reviews can help you to get the most from your trip. You can find a lesser-known attraction that’s off the beaten tourist trail or you can find the restaurant that the locals can’t stop talking about.

As well as providing you with access to online information, smartphones are also a great tool for staying in touch with friends and family. Whether you’re calling home to say you arrived safely or whether you’re sharing photos with friends on Facebook and Instagram, there are numerous ways to stay in touch when using your smartphone abroad.

The good news is for anyone travelling to a European country, the costs of using your smartphone abroad have dropped substantially. Calls now cost a maximum of 18.8p per minute and text messages shouldn’t cost more than 5.9p each. For accessing the internet, costs can still vary widely depending on your network. With the right tariff, you’ll be able to use your smartphone for as little as £10 for 30 days or £1.99/day. In this article, we look at the best SIM cards for using your smartphone in Europe.

The Costs of Using Your Smartphone in Europe

Going Abroad

It’s now cheaper to use your smartphone abroad.

Over the past couple of years, there’s been a major reduction in smartphone roaming costs for UK residents travelling to Europe. Providing you’re visiting another country within the EU, there’s now legislation that sets the maximum amount networks are allowed to charge you for using your smartphone abroad.

If you’re visiting an EU country, the maximum amount you’ll be charged for calls, texts and internet are as follows:

Activity Outgoing Incoming
Phone Calls 18.8p/minute 4.9p/minute
Text Messages (SMS) 5.9p per message Free
Data (Accessing Internet) 19.8p/MB

The maximum cost of using your smartphone in the EU. Please note: if you’re travelling outside the EU, roaming charges can be substantially higher. The maximum charges listed in this table have applied in the EU since July 1st, 2014. Prices include UK VAT at 20%.

In practice, most networks choose to charge the maximum amount permitted by EU law (18.8p per minute, 5.9p per text and 19.8p per megabyte of data). Over the course of a one-week trip, there’s still some potential for the charges to add up. The average smartphone user currently consumes around 20MB of data per day. At the maximum permitted EU roaming rates, you’ll currently pay around £4/day to access the internet (around £28 for a one-week trip or £56 for a two-week trip). In addition, you’ll also pay more every time you call or text.

With a specialist SIM card, you can bring the cost down to as little as £10 for 30 days. For a one-week trip, you’d save in the region of £18 per person. For a two-week trip, the savings increase to £46 per person. You’ll also save money when using an appropriate SIM card for calling and texting leading to an even bigger saving in total. In this article, we review the best value SIM cards for using your smartphone in Europe.

Recommended Deals

If you’re visiting either Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, Norway, the Republic of Ireland, Spain, Sweden or Switzerland, our recommended deal is Three’s All in One 10. Used in conjunction with their Feel At Home offer, a £10 top-up will give you 500MB of data abroad, 3000 text messages and 100 minutes for calling back to the UK.

For other European countries (e.g. Belgium, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands and Portugal), our recommended SIM card is currently from O2. For £1.99/day, you’ll get 50MB of data to use anywhere in Europe.

Best Deal: Three (Selected Countries Only: £10/month for 500MB, 100 minutes & 5000 texts)

At present, the best SIM card for travelling in Europe is Three’s All in One SIM (starting from £10). A £10 top-up will give you 500MB of data, 100 minutes and 3000 text messages (the allowances will last for up to 30 days). A £15 top-up gives you 25GB of data, 300 minutes and 3000 texts (once again, the allowances will last for up to 30 days).

The All in One SIM card is a UK-based Pay As You Go tariff. After buying an All in One bundle, you’ll be able to use it in the UK and also in 10 European countries as part of the Feel At Home offer (Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, Norway, the Republic of Ireland, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland). You can also use the SIM card in some non-EU countries (e.g. the United States, Australia and Hong Kong). See the Three website for a full list of available countries.

  • EU Roaming Data Price: £10/month for 500MB, 100 minutes & 5000 texts (selected countries only)
  • Overages: 10p/MB once you’ve used 500MB (or choose the £15 bundle for 25GB abroad)
  • £10 top-up buys: 30 days of smartphone usage in Europe (selected countries only)

Order Three All In One SIM card (£10 for 30 days) »

Note: You must buy an All in One bundle if you want to use your allowances abroad (the 321 price plan only applies when you’re in the UK). If you’re a heavy data user, we recommend buying the £15 bundle (this will give you up to 25GB of data to use when abroad).

Feel at Home European Flags

Three’s Feel at Home offer can currently be used in 10 European countries: Spain, France, Italy, Ireland, Austria, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. It can also be used in some non-European countries (e.g. the USA).

For further details on the Feel At Home offer, please see this page on Three’s website. You can also read our review of the offer.

O2 (£1.99/day for 50MB)

If you’re visiting a country that isn’t covered by the Feel At Home offer*, our recommended deal is an O2 Pay As You Go SIM card with the O2 Travel offer. The Pay As You Go O2 Travel offer gives you 50MB of data to use abroad for a fixed daily fee of £1.99. You can use the data in any EU country. With the average smartphone user normally consuming around 20MB per day, the 50MB allowance should be more than ample.

With an O2 Pay As You Go SIM card, a top-up of £10 should give you enough credit to use your smartphone abroad for a period of five days. You can grab a free SIM card to get started on O2. When ordering your SIM card, avoid choosing the Big Bundles tariff. This is because the Big Bundles tariff will automatically convert your top-up into a bundle. Instead, you’ll need to choose a tariff that allows you to keep your credit. We recommend choosing either the Big Talker or International SIM cards.

Unlike on the offer from Three, calling and texting isn’t included on the offer from O2. You’ll pay 18p/minute for outgoing calls, 4p/minute for incoming calls and 5p for every text message you send. If you want to use the SIM card for calling back to the UK, you should ensure you’ve topped up with a sufficient amount of credit.

  • EU Roaming Data Price: £1.99/day for 50MB
  • Overages: Option to purchase another 50MB for £1.99
  • £10 top-up buys: 5 days of smartphone usage in Europe (excluding calls & texts)

Order O2 Big Talker/O2 International SIM card (Free) »

After receiving the SIM card from O2, text TRAVELON to 21300 to opt-in to the offer.

* O2 is our recommended network when visiting one of the following countries: Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. For other EU countries, the tariff from Three will offer much better value.

O2

O2 provides the best value deal in other EU countries such as Belgium, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands and Portugal.

Vodafone (£3/day for 100MB)

At present, Vodafone is charging £3/day for 100MB of data in Europe. If you exceed the daily limit of 100MB, you’ll be charged for further usage at 19p/MB.

The easiest way to access this offer is to order a free SIM card from Vodafone. Provide your details on their website and they’ll send you a new SIM card free of charge through the post. You can choose any tariff providing your airtime credit doesn’t convert automatically into a bundle. Apart from the Freedom Freebees tariff, any other tariff offered by Vodafone should be suitable for this purpose.

  • EU Roaming Data Price: £3/day for 100MB
  • Overages: 19p/MB once you’ve used more than 100MB/day
  • £10 top-up buys: 3 days of smartphone usage in Europe (excluding calls & texts)

Order Vodafone SIM card (Free) »

Once you’ve received the SIM card from Vodafone, you’ll need to opt-in to the EuroTraveller offer. You can do this by texting EURO to 2345. Alternatively, you can call 5555 to enable the offer.

The EuroTraveller offer is also available on Vodafone Pay Monthly for £3/day.

EE (£3/day for 50MB)

EEFor £3/day, customers with an EE Pay As You Go SIM card get 50MB of data to use throughout Europe. This is with EE’s Pay As You Go Euro Roaming Data Add-On. If you exceed the limit of 50MB/day, you can buy another 50MB add-on for £3/day extra. Heavy data users can alternatively choose an add-on with more data: either 100MB of data (£5 for 24 hours), 200MB of data (£12 for 7 days) or 500MB of data (£25 for 7 days).

With the £3/day add-on, a £10 top-up would allow you to use your smartphone in Europe for a period of 3 days. It costs 18.8p/minute to call back to the UK and 4.9p/minute to receive a phone call. Text messages costs 5.9p each. You should top-up your phone with extra credit if you’d like to call or text using the SIM card.

  • EU Roaming Data Price: £3/day for 50MB
  • Overages: £3/day for 50MB extra
  • £10 top-up buys: 3 days of smartphone usage in Europe (excluding calls & texts)

Order EE SIM card (Free) »

How to Enable Data Roaming

By default, most smartphones are configured not to use data when you’re travelling abroad. This is because international roaming is typically very expensive. If you’re using one of the deals mentioned in this article, it’s safe to enable data roaming on your handset. To do so, follow the relevant instructions for your handset:

  • iPhone: Go to Settings > General > Network > Data Roaming and select On.
  • Android: Go to Settings > Wireless & networks > Mobile networks and check the box for ‘Data roaming’.
  • Windows Phone: Go to the Applications list and select Settings > Mobile > Data roaming options and change the setting to ‘Roam’.

Other Ways To Get Online

As discussed in this article, the easiest way of getting online is to order a UK-based SIM card for use when abroad (you can activate and top up the SIM card before you leave home). Depending on the country you’re visiting, our recommended network is either Three or O2. With Three, a £10 top-up allows you to use your phone in Europe for up to 30 days (selected countries only). On O2, a £10 top-up will allow you to use your smartphone in Europe for up to 5 days.

If you’re looking to save even more money, there are two alternatives:

Wifi

It’s free to get online with wi-fi.

  • Use free wi-fi networks. Your hotel may provide free wi-fi internet. You may need to ask at reception for the login details to the network. Hotel wi-fi is perfect when you’re just looking to check your e-mail in the morning. It’s also great for checking the current day’s weather. The downside of using wi-fi exclusively is you won’t have internet when out and about. Online mapping apps normally require a mobile internet connection. When using wi-fi exclusively, you’ll also miss out on any e-mails and chat messages received during the day.
  • Buy a local SIM card in the destination country (around €10). If you’re travelling for a longer period of time (usually more than one month), it might be cheaper to pick up a local SIM card in the country you’re visiting. Look for a Pay As You Go SIM card that includes flat-rate data. Depending on the country you visit, obtaining a local SIM card can involve a bit of hassle. Due to security restrictions, many European countries require you to provide ID (e.g. a passport) before you’re able to get a SIM card. You may also need to have a working knowledge of the local language (you’ll need to converse with shop staff in the local language). Expect to pay around €10 for a local SIM card that includes one month of 3G data. You may also need to unlock your phone before leaving the UK. See our in-depth guides to unlocking an iPhone and unlocking a Samsung Galaxy.

More Information

For more information, see our in-depth guide to using your phone abroad.

Our recommended tariffs for using your smartphone in Europe are Three’s All in One and O2’s Pay As You Go.

    

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About Ken

Ken Lo

I'm a freelance writer specialising in mobile technology. I've been blogging at Ken's Tech Tips since 2005 with the aim of demystifying mobile technology for the rest of us.

Before writing about mobile technology, my background was in space & atmospheric physics. I have also worked in software development. Nowadays, I help companies to explain mobile technology to their customers. Please check out my portfolio or get in touch for more information. I'm also on Google+.

Your Comments

We'd love to hear your thoughts and any questions you may have. So far, we've received 65 comments from readers. You can add your own comment here.

  1. Emma said:

    My family is travelling from the UK to Spain where I live. I want a SIM for them which enables them to call the UK if they wish to but more importantly to call to me locally in Spain. I presume the SIMS you have recommended would enable them to call local numbers in Spain at a minimal cost? It would be nice if I didn´t have to call an international number whilst they are here. Do the SIM cards recommended have a UK number? Will I have to pay the cost of an international call to communicate with them?

    Would a Spanish SIM be better for them?

    Many thanks,

    Emma

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Emma,
      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, the SIM cards listed on this page all come with a UK-based phone number. Hence, you would need to pay international calling rates to call them on the SIM card. You’re probably best off buying a Spanish SIM card for your family. This will normally include local calls within Spain and you’ll be able to call them at domestic rates. For more information, see my guide to visitor SIM cards in Spain.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  2. Mike O said:

    Hi Ken
    I am travelling to the UK in September for a couple of weeks and then on to Russia for a month or so. It is my intention to buy a UK SIM on arrival in the UK but want to know if it is the best option to use the same UK SIM in Russia …. or is it better to buy another SIM on arrival in Moscow?
    I will need one SIM for my mobile phone (Samsung) and one for my iPad Air. In Russia the main use will be data and Wi-Fi on the iPad as I will not have much requirement for phone calls. UK will be a mixture of everything.
    Any suggestions?

    Cheers

    Mike

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Mike,
      Thanks for your comment. At present, I’m not aware of any UK networks offering a good deal for roaming in Russia (partly this is because Russia is outside the EU so roaming charges there tend to be much more expensive). For this reason, you’re probably best off getting separate SIM cards in the UK and Russia. For the best Pay As You Go deals when visiting the UK, take a look at my article here. For the best deals when visiting Russia, you’ll need to check separately on other websites. I’d also recommend checking the requirements to be able to obtain a SIM card in Russia (some countries will require you to provide proof of ID).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  3. Leandro said:

    Hi Ken,

    I am planning to go on a round trip in Europe and therefore I am comparing international SIM cards. Your article is very usefull, nevertheless, I found some other offers and I would like to hear your opinion about them:
    The first SIM I found is Cerafon. They offer a unitary tariff in Europe at 9,9 Cent/Min. However, I cannot find many information about this enterprise, they seem to be new. Another offer I found at Ortel. They are extremely cheap for calling landlines (3 ct), but on mobile networks (19 ct) they are more expensive than Cerafon. The weekly internet plan is better than Cerafon, on the other hand, the monthly plan of Cerafon is better than Ortel.

    At the moment I am not sure how long I will travel through Europe, it could be 4-6 weeks. Can you give me a recommendation, which tariff is more conforming to my needs? Possibly there are some “traps” that I did not see.
    In general, maybe it is an idea to add these two offers to your website, because at first sight, they seem quite good. 😉

    Thank you,

    Leandro

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Leandro,
      Thanks for your comment. I assume both Cerafon and Ortel are German-based networks? I must admit I haven’t heard of them myself (but it’s mainly because the article here is written for a UK audience). Much appreciate the heads up about these two deals!
      Ken

  4. JM said:

    Can I purchase the bundle plan sim card on the store or I have to order online for it?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi JM,
      The easiest way to get an All-in-One SIM card from Three is to order it online (get the £10 SIM card or the £15 SIM card). It’s also possible to get a 321 SIM card from one of Three’s stores. However, you must top-up and buy the All-in-One bundle through your My3 account. Alternatively, call 444 and follow the telephone menus to ‘Buy additional allowances’. The normal 321 rates cannot be used in a Feel At Home country.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  5. Taarik Dookie said:

    Hi Ken.
    Extremely useful article. My problem is last the time I bought a UK prepaid sim, I had to buy vouchers from 3 which was very inconvenient since they don’t allow non-UK credit cards to top up online.
    I’m doing a UK, France, Italy and Greece trip over a month but as I will in the UK first, it’ll be easiest to guy a sim there. I’m only in transit through Gatwick then off to Edin, so I would need to order the SIM online or get in either Gatwick or Edin airports.

  6. Ken said:

    Hi Ken,

    I have an unlocked iPhone 5 that I plan to take with us on our trip to London and Ireland. We will be in London first, then in Ireland. From your article, I assume that I can buy the 15-pound Three sim upon arrival in London and that it will work immediately in London (there for 1 week) and throughout our travel to Ireland (there for another week). The Three website also states that the 15-pound sim includes 300 minutes calltime, 3000 text messages and “all-you-can-eat” data good for 30 days. This is so much cheaper than anything I could get in the States, so I want to make sure I understand it correctly.

    Many thanks!

    Ken

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi there fellow Ken,
      You’re right: the £15 SIM card will give you 300 minutes, 3000 texts and all-you-can-eat data (a 25GB limit applies in Ireland). Do be aware: the minutes and texts can only be used for calling a UK number. If you’re planning to call or text a phone number in the Republic of Ireland (+353), it’s 18.8p/minute and 5.9p/text. For this reason, you might need to top up a little extra in case you’re planning to call an Irish number.
      Mobile telephony is certainly much cheaper here in the UK than over in the US!
      Ken

      1. Ken replied:

        Thanks for the quick confirmation! BTW, we’re planning to have our kids use the unlocked iphone with the Three SIM, while my wife and I will be using my iphone 6 with an ATT international plan. So the kids will be calling/texting a US phone number with the Three SIM. Does that work? Will it also be 18.8p/minute and 5.9p/text?

        Thanks,
        Ken

        1. Ken Lo
          Ken replied:

          Hi there,
          The costs of calling the US are a little bit complicated!
          In the UK, it’ll cost 3p/minute and 25.2p/text to a US phone number. To get this rate, you must use the 424 override prefix (e.g. dial 424001 followed by the US number). If you don’t do this, it’s a rather eye-watering 56.2p/minute! Click the Pay As You Go tab from the link I’ve provided for more information.
          From the Republic of Ireland, it’ll cost 18.8p/minute and 5.9p/text to a US phone number. In the Republic of Ireland, you shouldn’t use the 424 prefix: just dial the US number as normal (+1 followed by the US number).
          Of course, you may also need to pay AT&T to receive your international phone calls.
          Hope this helps!
          Ken

          1. Ken replied:

            Yes, thanks!

            Ken

          2. Ken Lo
            Ken replied:

            My pleasure – have a lovely time and hope the weather stays nice for your trip here!
            Ken

  7. Laura said:

    Hello Ken

    Everytime I travel I go through this nightmare of purchasing new pre paid sims and switching over. I’m coming from Australia (for 4 weeks) and first European stopover is Amsterdam, then Belgium, Southern France and ending up in UK. If i’ve read your post correctly you recommend 02 – I really don’t want to switch sims between countries – I was going to go for a Lebara – don’t need much talk time (mainly to confirm hotels, taxis and incoming calls) do need sms and some data when no wifi around to look at maps whilst walking.

    I’m iphone6 (nano). International data roaming pack from my Australian telco supplier (on my number) would be $300 for the month – convenient but excessive charge!

    Your recommendation would be?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Laura,
      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, the recommendations I’ve listed in this article are for people in the UK travelling abroad to a European country. For this reason, you’ll need to be in the UK to get any of the SIM cards. My recommendation for you is to check the SIM cards in your country of arrival (the Netherlands, in your case). Some of them might have cut-price deals for using your phone elsewhere in Europe.
      Ken

  8. Susan said:

    Hi Ken
    Are you able to use the 3 feel at home Sim in a tablet rather than a smartphone and just use the data component. I note that you cannot tether devices with it if I put it in the phone and try to hotspot my ipad.
    Also if I get the fifteen pound top up will the cost of calls to countries other than the uk just come off of that money.
    I am travelling from Australia but will only go to the UK at the end of my trip. What is the best way to get the sim and activate it. I do have contacts in the uk who could receive it and post it to me if required.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Susan,
      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, as you say, the Feel At Home offer doesn’t allow you to tether when abroad. For this reason, you won’t be able to use the wi-fi hotspot feature on your handset. If you do want to use Feel At Home on your iPad, you can get one of their mobile broadband SIM cards (your iPad needs to be 3G/4G compatible). Like the SIM cards for your smartphone, mobile broadband SIM cards can also be used with the Feel At Home offer. At present, Three has a choice of 3 deals on Pay As You Go: 1GB for £10.49, 3GB for £20.49 or 12GB for £70.49.
      With regards to activation, I recommend having a read of the comments on this page. The SIM card from Three is mainly designed for UK residents travelling abroad. For this reason, it should be activated and used in the UK first. If you are able to get your contacts to do this for you, that would certainly lead to a much smoother experience.
      Ken

  9. GM said:

    Hi,

    I am wondering what type of SIM Card pay as you go can I buy in Europe for the following countries ( Greece, Serbia, Hungary. Austria, Czech, Italy, Croatia)? I need voice, data and text ( to use only in case of emergency).

    Thanks

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi GM,
      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, there aren’t any special deals in particular for those countries (the EU mobile market is incredibly fragmented. The good news is any SIM card from an EU mobile network will give you fairly rates (the maximum costs are shown in this table). From the UK networks, O2 is a pretty good choice: it’s £1.99/day for 50MB of internet anywhere in Europe.
      Ken

  10. david said:

    We are two pensioner technophobes and travelling from Spain to England with just a very basic mobile which does nothing except send and receive calls. We only need it for business transactions whilst there and to be able to give the caller a contact number.
    Is it easy to buy an ordinary new SIM and where would we get one for a Nokia phone when we arrive- do they sell them at Gatwick airport?
    We only need it for 5 days- can you buy one cheaper for a shorter time?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi David,
      Thanks for your comment. It sounds like the cheapest thing to do would probably be to use your Spanish SIM card whilst in the UK. As per EU legislation, the maximum price when using your Spanish SIM card here in the UK will be €0.19/minute for outgoing calls and €0.05/minute for incoming calls. This excludes tax on the transaction so you might need to add 21% IVA to the prices if necessary.
      The main downside of using a Spanish SIM card is anyone calling you will need to call the Spanish number (potentially expensive depending on their plan in the UK). For this reason, you could consider getting a UK SIM card so you’ll have a +44 phone number. I’m not sure whether Gatwick has anywhere to buy a SIM card (if it does: the chances are the SIM card will be overpriced as it’s actually free in any mobile network store). I recommend having a look at the articles here and here if you choose to get a UK SIM card.
      Hope this helps and enjoy your trip to the UK!
      Ken

  11. Michelle said:

    Hi Ken,

    My husband and I are travelling Europe for 4 months and are looking to use both the 3 network and the O2. My dad is in London at the moment and we are thinking of asking him to buy the sim cards for us. Do you know if they are automatically activated once he purchases them, or do they get activated once they are put into the phone?

    Also we have a couple of weeks where we will be without service, are there top-ups we can purchase in the different countries with 3 or O2?

    Thanks for all the helpful tips.

    Michelle

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Michelle,
      Thanks for your comment. I’m not 100% sure the answer to your question (when the SIM card is actually activated by the network). Saying that, as your Dad is currently in the UK, I’d strongly suggest sticking the SIM card into a smartphone to make sure its activated. He could also buy a top-up when he’s there (just be sure not to add a bundle and the credit will last indefinitely providing you use the SIM card at least once every six months). With regards to topping up, your best bet is probably to do this online or over the phone. For topping it, you can dial 4444 on O2. For Three, you can go to your My3 account.
      Ken

  12. Brad said:

    I am a UK resident going on holiday to Spain, France, Italy, Croatia, Hungary, Czech Republic, Germany and then Holland in the summer (backpacking). I want to be able to phone back home if necessary. Is there any specific plan or company you would recommend?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Brad,
      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, there’s no simple answer to your question. Three will almost certainly be cheapest for Spain, France and Italy (particularly so if you’re looking to browse the internet). For Croatia, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Germany, O2 will probably be cheaper if you use more than 10MB of data per day (you get 50MB for £1.99/day whereas Three will charge you 19.8p/MB). For calling home, the rates on O2 are similar to Three (approx 18.8p/minute).
      Ken

  13. Jack said:

    Hi Ken!

    I am a foreigner going on a two-week holiday in Europe. Will be arriving in Heathrow and staying in London for a couple of days before heading to France, Switzerland and Italy. Going by your guide, the best deal appears to be the 10/15 pounds plan with Three. The only concern I have is whether I will be allowed to use roaming on a newly purchased prepaid SIM card given that I am not a UK resident? I suppose I will have to provide my passport at a Three store in order to obtain a prepaid SIM card? Apart from that, there appears to be this caution floating around on various online forums stating that Three will only allow roaming 30 days after registration? Does this apply to the purchase of a prepaid SIM card with the 10/15 pounds plan?

    Thanks!

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Jack,
      Thanks for your comment & hope you’re looking forward to your trip to Europe! To answer your questions in order:
      1.You can roam immediately on a Pay As You Go SIM card from Three. You can see this on Three’s help page: “If you’re on Pay As You Go your phone will already be set up to use abroad”.
      2. The 30-day requirement you read about on the internet only applied to Pay Monthly SIM cards in the past (it never applied to Pay As You Go SIM cards and no longer applies to Pay Monthly SIMs). The reason for this 30-day restriction was to reduce fraud – Pay Monthly SIM cards are a post-paid product. So to confirm: you can roam immediately on your SIM card with Feel At Home.
      3. There’s no need to provide a passport or ID when getting your SIM card.

      Hope this helps!

      Ken

  14. Rhem said:

    Hi Ken,

    Thanks for this detailed article.
    I am visiting Paris (France), Bruges (Belgium) and Luxembourg (Luxembourg) for 9 days. What do you recommend here since I am not visiting or starting with UK at all?
    I need data access primarily for exploring and directions as I am driving around these three countries – starting from Paris and ending in Paris.

    Thanks in advance.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Rhem,
      Thanks for your comment. You’re probably best off choosing a Pay As You Go mobile network in France. Unfortunately, I don’t know much about the deals currently available in France. For this reason, I wouldn’t be able to advise or suggest a network.
      Sorry!
      Ken

  15. Theo said:

    Hi, Ken,

    Thank you very much for Your very comprehensive article. I’m interested in Data only SIM card to use it in several European countries, EU members and not, and not to buy a new card each time in every country. May you suggest me some offers covering my request ?

    Thank You a lot

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Theo,
      Which country will you be visiting first on your trip in to Europe? The deals listed on this page require you to get your SIM card from the UK (hence, they’re only really suitable if you visit the UK first or near the start of your trip). For a data-only SIM card, I recommend Three’s £10.49 deal with 1GB of data. You can use it in most European countries as part of the Feel At Home offer. If you’re using the SIM card in a smartphone, the deals listed above will probably offer you better value.
      Ken

      1. Theo replied:

        Hi, Ken,

        and thank You again for Your kind reply. I’m not UK resident. I really don’t know what countries will I visit, but I think these be an old Europe’s. Recently I visited Iceland and bought there data SIM of 5 GB for only 14 Euros, and I’m looking for something in this course, for my next trip. As I said, I’m looking for something universal and covering as many countries as it possible. I use card in MI-FI device.

        Thank You a lot

        1. Ken Lo
          Ken replied:

          Hi Theo,
          Thanks for getting back to me. Unfortunately, the telecoms market is still incredibly fragmented here in Europe. As such, every country has its own mobile networks and the deals available will differ in each country. Recently, it’s become a bit easier to buy a SIM card that gives you reasonably good rates when travelling to other EU countries. However, you’ll really need to check the deals available in the country you’re visiting first (or the country in which you intend to buy your SIM card).
          Ken

  16. A S GUJRAL said:

    I am coming on a 15 day holiday to UK and Europe, covering nearly nine European countries. The tour is organised by THOMAS COOK and is called EUROPEAN EXTRAVAGENCA. IN India, I use I phone, Apple, which has a internet. Please advise what SIM Should I buy in London, the port of entry, for my entire tour. I am interested to be in touch ,via email,with my office in a Delhi,India. Cheapest option, please? And from where willi get that SIM.

    Thanking you,
    A S GUJRAL

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi there,
      Depending on the countries you’re visiting in your trip, I would either recommend the SIM cards from Three or O2. On Three, it would be £10 for 500MB of data to use in the UK and 10 other European countries (includes France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland and others). For countries outside of the offer, O2 Travel will offer better value (£2/day for 50MB of data in any EU country). You might find it necessary to combine the two SIM cards depending on the countries you’re planning to visit.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

      1. A S GUJRAL replied:

        Thank you very much. I am obliged.

  17. Joe said:

    Hi Ken – I’ll be in Europe for 24 days (one week Italy, one week Germany, one week France, and 3 days Czech Rep. I have a Huawei e5787 Mi-Fi. Am I better off getting local sims or paying for a roaming one.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Joe,
      It depends very much on how much data you need in each country… the good news is that EU data roaming is capped at €0.20/MB + VAT on all European SIM cards (this is OK for moderate to light usage but it’s still €200 per gigabyte of data). If you need to use a fair amount of data, a local SIM card probably gives better value (this is unless you’re able to find a SIM card with fairly cheap roaming).
      Ken

  18. Paul Connelly said:

    Hi Ken
    We’re coming over from Australia for 12mths+ and travelling quite extensively thru’ the UK, West & Eastern Europe, including Croatia & Turkey.
    The recommended SIM deals (calls & data) you mention are restricted to just a handful of countries… is there any other option available that covers all “European” countries, incl the UK?
    regards
    Paul

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Paul,
      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, at the moment, there aren’t many deals available for long-term travel in the EU (the only deals available are really for short-term trips abroad to another country). For UK residents, the £1.99 deal from O2 is fairly decent as it covers all countries through the EU (unfortunately, it doesn’t cover Turkey as they aren’t a part of the EU). If you’re willing to look at networks from across all the EU countries, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll find an even better deal (unfortunately, I’m unable to advise as my knowledge extends only to networks in the UK!).
      Ken

  19. Paul said:

    Hi Ken, just to advise you that after being with three network for years and spending a lot of time in France and Spain, they have suspended my roaming service. Yes their feel at home deal is good, but last week whilst in France I received a text from them saying that I have used this service for more than 3 months in the year and my service will be suspended. Indeed it was and is still suspended which is very a annoying as I have about £50 credit which I cannot use! They say that the service will be reinstated when back in the UK.
    I do not make many calls or use a lot of data, it is mainly for my friends in UK to contact me. Can you suggest another operator?…. bearing in mind that that there is often little or no reception out of the towns abroad. Often no 2G or texts, so its a waste of money paying for something you cannot use.
    Regards, Paul.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Paul,
      Thanks for your comment. I’m sorry to hear that Three have disabled your international roaming for using the Feel At Home offer abroad for more than 3 months. It is a big problem for many people especially as Three doesn’t even allow you to pay their old rates to keep the SIM card active abroad (it would make more sense for them to simply turn off the Feel At Home offer than to turn off roaming entirely). If it helps at all, you’re not the only one to experience this problem: see the comments on my Feel At Home blog post for other reader’s stories of this happening to them too.
      In regards to a best value deal in France/Spain, I’m afraid I don’t know enough to recommend any specific network. What I would suggest is perhaps buying a UK-based Skype Online Number. That way, you’d be able to receive calls on a UK geographical number even when travelling abroad in another country (you’ll need a 3G/4G data plan and the Skype application to receive those incoming calls).
      Ken

  20. Kirsty said:

    Hi Ken

    I have been asked to find a good spanish sim for my employer who lives in Spain but comes back to the UK and Germany every month.

    He’s looking for a Spanish payg sim that offers very cheap calls to UK and also if possible the ability to call Germany and a good amount of data (1GB plus). Can you help? I have been on every website possible and because I’m in the UK i’m finding it really hard to find him the best deal.

    Thanks
    Kirsty

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Kirsty,
      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, I’m not an expert on the Spanish mobile market (you’d probably be better off consulting a Spanish website). A reader of this website did recommend the Orange Spain Go Europe deal. I’m not sure whether it meets your exact requirements and how it compares to other tariffs available – that said it’s probably still worth having a look!
      Ken

  21. Marcus Murata said:

    Hi Ken
    Nice service you are providing to help people get the best smartphone service possible. I have a question i’m from Brazil and i’m traveling to europe in march. I have an unlocked iPhone 6. I will arrive in sweden and the i will go to belgium and finish my trip in netherlands. I most interested on data service. Which provider sim card i should buy? And which plan i should get? Thank you for your help

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Marcus,
      Thanks for your comment. Because of EU roaming legislation, anyone with a European SIM card gets access to capped rates when using their phone in another European country (there’s a maximum charge of €0.19/minute, €0.06/text and €0.20/MB for accessing the internet). This will probably be cheaper than roaming on your Brazilian SIM card.
      Upon your arrival in Europe, you might want to pick up a local Pay As You Go SIM card (for you, take a look and see whether any Swedish network offers a particularly good deal when roaming in Europe). The plans I’ve reviewed and suggested on this page are from networks in the UK (so they’re only useful if you visit the UK during your trip).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  22. Terry Ann Crofts said:

    We are going to Lanzarote in January for a week and have a HUAWEI E5330 3G SIM Free Mobile WiFi (unlocked). What would be the best way to get online – not sure whether some of the deals mentioned on here cover the Canary Islands but don’t really want the hassle of buying a SIM card from a phone shop over there!!

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Terry,
      Thanks for your comment and apologies for the delay in getting back to you. For mobile broadband in a different country, your best bet would normally be to buy a SIM card locally in the country you’re visiting. It would be possible to roam on some UK SIM cards but this is likely to be incredibly expensive (around 19.8p/MB when travelling in Europe). Three’s Feel At Home is a good choice when visiting several countries but unfortunately Lanzarote & Spain aren’t currently included in the Feel At Home offer.
      Ken

  23. Trevor Harris said:

    WARNING about Spanish Go Europe deal.

    I am now in Slovenia SMS and internet works OK. But I can only call Spain and Slovenia on voice. I called customer support and they said that the 1euro for 60 mins only applies to to Spain and the country you are in. You need to get camel roaming activation for standard rate calls. I think you have to go to to an orange shop in Spain for this. Of course you might be able to use Skype but I have not tested this.

  24. Steve Tang said:

    Hi Ken

    I am an eBay reseller of Vodafone and all other UK sim cards. You mention under the Vodafone section above:
    You can choose any tariff as long as your airtime credit doesn’t convert automatically into a 30-day bundle. Apart from Freedom Freebees, any of the tariffs offered by Vodafone will be fine for this purpose.How do you distinguish which type of vouchers do not automatically convert to Freedom Freebees 30 day bundles ?

    We top up for customers once they confirm safe receipt of their Vodafone SIM cards, every time we apply the top up using a voucher, it converts to the Freedom Freebee without exception. Vodafone have decided to do this as a default for new SIMs, starting from around the beginning of August 2014. Today their customer services have confirmed this is the case.

    And the worst thing is that, the automated system (dialling 03333 048 048) on topping up does not warn you. Our overseas customers order their SIM cards weeks early, so by the time they arrive to the UK the 30 days bundle would have expired ? Now we are left with no choice but to ask each customer when is their arrival date and top up their SIMs one or two days prior. Vodafone are entirely to blame for this mess ? They call it Freedom Freebee- Where is the freedom to choose ??? Come on Vodafone get your acts together !

    Steve

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Steve,
      Thanks for your comment. I believe Freedom Freebee is now the default tariff on Vodafone SIM cards. However, customers choosing another tariff shouldn’t have their credit turned in to a Freedom Freebee (e.g. if you’re on the Freebee Minutes, Freebee Texts, Freebee Data or Freebee International Minutes tariff). Have you tried this using one of the free SIM cards available via Vodafone’s free SIM website?
      Many thanks,
      Ken

  25. Trevor Harris said:

    Hi Ken

    Feel at home now covers 16 countries. Now includes France, Switzerland, Israel, Switzerland, Finland and Norway.

    The EE deal now starts at £3 for 50 MB per 24 hours.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Trevor,
      Thanks for the heads up! Earlier in this article, I refer to the 9 EU countries as the topic of this article is specifically on travelling to Europe. You’re totally right in saying the Feel At Home offer is actually available in 16 countries across the world.
      Also, thanks for the heads up about the £1/day deal being scrapped by EE (a real disappointment to me personally!). I’ll update the article with the new details soon.
      Thanks so much again!
      Ken

      1. Rob replied:

        be careful with the 3 deal feel at home. I’m visiting Menorca and whilst I can access the internet I can’t do any streaming. Can’t use internet radio or download podcasts etc. it’s not 3’s fault but restrictions made by Movistar and Orange 3’s partners.

  26. Trevor Harris said:

    Hi

    Just discovered topup.orange.com. I have just topped up my Spanish mundo card while in the UK. If you pay in euros there is no transaction fee for spain but beware of any foreign transaction fees charged by your credit card. I used a credit card that has no foreign transaction fees. Cannot use it to topup UK sims. Many topup services don’t accept foreign credit card but this one does.

    Ken what about an article on internet topups.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Trevor,
      This is a really fantastic find (particularly the bit around topup.orange.com). I wasn’t aware of this as a potential way to top-up an Spanish SIM card – your suggested solution is really fantastic for anyone who visits Europe on a regular basis. I’ll be sure to try it out the next time I go on holiday!
      Ken

  27. Trevor Harris said:

    The best deal I have found is Mundo Spanish Mundo Orange Go Europe deal. ! euro per day for 100 MB.
    Can be bought online and topped up. Ironically it is more expensive in spain.

    http://www.simcardspain.es/en/21-orange-mundo-spanish-payg-prepaid-3g-sim-card-internet-spain.html

    http://en.orange.es/mobile-service-plans/roaming/go-europe/

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Trevor,
      Thanks for this – €1/day for 100MB anywhere in Europe (exc. Spain) looks like a pretty good deal to me! It could definitely be an option for our UK-based readers though has a couple of downsides e.g. it’s a little complex to obtain the SIM card itself, it may be harder to top-up the SIM card with extra PAYG credit and the new SIM card will have a Spanish phone number beginning in +34 (it’s more expensive if your friends wanted to call you on the number).
      Aside from that, it looks really good – thanks a lot for sharing the info!
      Ken

    2. SN replied:

      Thank you for this information regarding this Orange option – I will be testing this sim out with the Go Europe deal but sounds like it could be a life saver and even better now with the online top-up. Cheers

      1. Daniel replied:

        How was your experience with Go Europe from Orange?? Thanks!

  28. tammy said:

    Do you have info about travel to non European locations such as south America, New Zealand? Thanks for any help and your info on EU is extremely helpful. Thx

  29. Jaime said:

    The Vodafone deal is only available if you have a contract- you cannot get it on a pay-as-you go plan

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Jaime,
      Thanks for the heads up! I’ve just re-written the article based on the recent price drops for roaming in the EU. Vodafone is now offering 25MB of data for £2/day (you can verify this by choosing a European country on the Vodafone PAYG page for Travelling Abroad).
      Ken

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