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We lost days of important usage until we got to a larger city where someone from a competing phone company troubleshot for us. We also spent hours in a line up waiting to get a data plan. Still not sure what the issue was phone, carrier, me , but I got fed up with spending precious vacation time troubleshooting phone issues. I will be travelling May till May to france, germany, poland and italy.

Then again from may to june to london, croatia and Slovenia. The most of the reviewers are right about the SIM card. Last year I have visited three different countries. I was planning to do to Lisbon, Portugal so i decided it will be good idea to purchase additional minutes.

I spent 20 euro for nothing. Please be aware of that. I just used the information in article for a one week trip to France. I was able to simple install the card in my iPhone 4S and then just turn the phone on I backed up the phone before I left, but thats all I did, no factory reset or anything. Luckily there was WiFi nearby and I remembered my logon info. After clearing that hurdle, it worked fine.

I did have to wait one day for Orange to send me text state that my account was all setup so I could then buy a 1 month phone and data package. The most significant finding I had from this experience is that most cell carriers will not let you tether use your cell iPhone as WiFi hotspot for other devices on any pay-as-you-go plan. This really messed things up for me since I needed it for my work computer, but then I figured out that I got free WiFi with Orange due to my mobile account.

So even at my in-laws home in a little village outside Toulouse, Orange WiFi was available. So the lessons learned from my experience are; know your Apple Account info, install your SIM card in place with WiFi, forget about tethering your iPhone, and look for free WiFi from your cell carrier. Thanks again to author for generating this article which really improved my trip. These tips are very helpful! I bought my sim card for Europe at simoptions.

The data package was enough, the price was correct and I got delivered at home before I left. It really is a great deal. After a lot of hassle, I got it working in Paris and then it worked fine for France. Crossing in to Switzerland, no issues. It continued to work fine. Germany: The phone continued to function, but not data. So, I needed to spend about 10 Euros to call the terrible support line a few times hold times are long, service is spotty at best. A lot of error messages when calling numbers. I purchased a sim card from LeFrenchMobile for my daughter to use in France.

She should have data on the card but gets a message that she does not have a data bundle. She then purchased a small amount of data to see if that worked…got a message that she was successful however still not able to use data. Anyone have a solution? Does she need to do anything special to her phone Iphone 6 through Verizon when in the united states? I would like to suggest one more alternative to the ones listed in the article — local prepaid cards.

Then you would end up paying more and having 10 SIM cards you have no use for. However, if you plan on visiting 2 or 3 countries then I think it is a great option. As prepaid cards are accessible in pretty much all major shopping malls, kiosks, service provider shops and outlets — you will easily find them. Take, for example, Baltic countries Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Additional packages are also available provided in the link. Total 2. You can buy additional packages also. In total that is 3 EUR. Latvia, you can choose from two Bite or Tele2.

I would choose Bite, price for the card is 2 EUR but buying a more expensive one is also an option — it will have higher credit once you start using it. You only get 50 MB with this one but surely you can order additional plan, for example 2GB will cost you 6. Total 8. So for all 3 countries that would be Cards would be active for one month, you would also get some free local calls and SMS. I carry three phones with me. Between the two SIM cards I have enough talk, text and data time to last me more than a month. The Polish card I can use throughout Europe while my Ukraine card also allows me to use inside of most countries in Europe.

Thanks for your article. Very substantial and helpful, as were many of the comments. Is there a web site somewhere with a list of SIM card issuers by region: i. UK and Eurozone? Is there a web site showing coverage maps? Hi, I see you keep using the same sim cards. Cheap too. I buy one on arrival in each country and it is really easy.

I have been keeping them in a little case designed for larger cards, but it works. I am curious about using the same SIM cards — do they expire, or can you use the unused data months later? If they expire can you top them up? If you use up the data can you add more on your next visit? Does it depend on the card you buy? I suppose I should at least record the phone number somewhere? You missed one important point — when you remove your original sim card, put it somewhere safe!

If you lose it, you lose the ability to go back to your original number. So true! Those sim cards are tiny! You might have to use a small paperclip or stud earring post to pop out the little receptacle that holds the card. I tend to keep a travel phone which is unlocked and seperate from my USA phone. As the new I phones are launched there are great deals on the previous model I phones. Traveling to UK soon intend to use a Three uk sim you can get some decent talk, text, 1Gb data for 10 pounds. I would invest in the phone or better a mobile Mifi with data only SIM card — you can tether several phones , Lap top , some offer devices.

It pays for itself over renting a phone etc. Many European phone carriers have Apps that allow you to place on your phone and Top Up with credit card or voucher. Hi I have a question! Do you know by chance if at the airport before I leave I am able to buy one so we are able to know where to go without being lost tourists? Thank you! Hi, Tom! Thanks for the very informative article. I was travelling around Europe recently and before going, stumbled upon your blog.

It helped a lot in avoiding roaming fees. It worked as well.

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Unlocking your phone and buying a local SIM is definitely more cost-efficient, and your section on choosing SIM cards helped me a great deal. Thank you again. Happy travelling! I strongly suggest that you turn that option off because it will automatically use cellular data when WiFi connectivity is poor.

Thank you for such an informative article. And vise versa, will calls come in from the U. That is billed only on days you use the phone. It seemed pretty pricey to me, but it lets you use your own existing plan, rather than a more limited amount of calls and data. This seemed easier and for about the same amount. The article is oriented at short-stay visitors.

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For people on repeated extended stays in France, where can one find out about recharging the sim card and keeping the same number? Is there a customary time period six months? I was asked at one point if I wanted to save my pictures on it. I agreed. Can I now download onto my laptop?

These pictures are precious to me. I later moved the card to a throw away phone and a pickpocket took my smart phone. Photos are not stored on a sim card, only your own phone number and often your phone contacts. No photos can be stored on a Sim card.

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  8. The good news is I keep my number and I can make calls home as though I was home. I read that in France activation Requires you to show your passport…, are you supposed to go a store after for that? Kinda defeats the purpose of buying it in the airport…. You can activate it immediately. However, there is a coupon that you must complete and return via mail with a copy of your passport within 30 days or service will be suspended.

    For that 22 day period I would have a limit of Inbound texts are unlimited. My plan cuts off roughly in the middle so I would need two prorated stints but the sum of the two is as indicated above. Beats worrying about needing an extra phone as well. I thought I did this last year, when in Norway, Sweden and Denmark. However once I returned home I was charged for 2 months of the package because they did not prorate over billing cycles. So good luck if you trust Verizon.

    Withing 14 days- does it all expire? Or could I elongate all that data for a month, or 3 weeks per se? In this case you are buying Data only Sim Cards- you can get a lot gigabytes for very little euros in Europe. Many telecom are at the Airport. Another option for phone calls is to set up a Skype account , download the Skype App on your Smart phone and make Sype calls via Internet. Unused Skype minutes roll over.

    This has worked for many in many European Countries. I am leaving for the south of France the end of this month. I was told my tablet and my laptop need international sim cards as well as my phone. Is this true? Very informative! Thank you, Tom. Do you see any reason either my 4s or 5s might not work as long as I have them unlocked before I head to Europe? I would love to be able to look up restaurants, train and bus station schedules, and get directions from Google Maps while driving our rental car.

    For this I believe I would need texting, maybe a lot of data, and a small amount of minutes. Does this sound right? We will be there for 1 month, so the Sim package duration works out perfectly. If I understood the article correctly, I need to unlock whichever phone I decide to use, buy a sim package once I arrive, pop it into my smartphone, and it will work. Is this correct? My contacts are already on my old phone even though there is no sim in it. Does this mean they will still be there when a new European sim is popped in?

    My entire family has iPhones if it makes a difference. I would prefer the standard ones if they work though. Most of the places we are staying offer wifi, and hopefully I will be able to utilize it. It sounds like you have everything figured out! If someone without an iPhone tries to text or call you at your new European number, they will be charged for international services. When it comes to how much data you will need, I recommend reviewing your regular consumption information.

    Did you get a reply directly to your email? If so, would you share it. Much thanks. Hi Thanks for a very informative article. I am going to France for1 month and need my iphone for navigating the roads with google maps, I probably will not use the phone much and will use my ipad for email etc on a wifi network, so my question is this: are there some French plans that are better for data rather than minutes of phone usage?

    If I decide to use my phone iphone6 with Verizon in Ireland will it be ready to it is unlocked without any activation? Many thanks for a really thorough informative article. Best article I have read on this topic — any updated recommendations for a SIM that will work well e. Traveling soon. Could you use iMessage on your iPhone to message people at home in the US without the international text charges?

    If the text bubble is blue, it is free. If it is green, there are charges. Great article. We just bought an apt. Thick walls in the appartamento. I need to check in at home daily. I know it is a good idea for local usage in Rome, but my real need is international. I have always dreamt of visiting Lithuania- one of the baltic countries because it looked very untouched, undiscovered. Your article is very informative — really outstanding.

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    Thank you. I will be arriving into Brussels this Monday ie 21st…. Amsterdam, Budapest, Krakow, Fulda, Frankfurt and finally Paris I have an Indian Sim card but have been advised by my server not to use the internet on it as it is expensive. Which server would be my best option please. Would appreciate a quick reply as I am leaving India soon…. I put a videophone sim card in my Unlocked iPhone 6 when I arrived in Scotland several months ago. I have restored on my laptop several times and it will not revert the settings.

    I am still in Scotland. Switch it from Automatic to Manual, and wait for the list to populate, the choose a different carrier. I have used a TruSim since Receiving calls and texts is free. The US number is great if you want to be in touch with friends or family from home. The cost is the same to and from the US — 9 cents per minute, text, or MB free for incoming.

    I had problems getting the card to work in Scotland and Ireland, but I was able to call their tech support using the SIM and they were very friendly and helpful, fixing the problem. You are absolutely right. I think they be more worldly since they started selling IPhones but definitely not before then. I happily bought out my contract and walked away in order to have a phone that would work in Europe. S iphone with many months left on the contract.

    I will arrive in Europe in Amsterdam. I will leave Europe from Basel Switzerland. Is there a deposit I would forfeit for not returning the SIM card?

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    Lance Pedriana. We were spending 17 days in France this past June. I researched and decided to buy an Orange card and top it off in small increments as needed. Unfortunately, the Relay kiosk I used at CDG only had the day card mentioned in the article, so I purchased it and figured I could top it up from an actual Orange store.

    136 thoughts on “Buying a SIM Card in Europe: The cheapest way to use a smartphone while traveling”

    The Orange store near the Eiffel Tower could sell me the credit I needed, to be applied via the phone, which worked OK for me when the original credit expired. The Orange coverage was fine along the Seine to Normandy. This was useful when we had to iterate with a montgolfier to schedule a balloon ride in the Dordogne. Good information, thanks. Is there a place to buy a SIM card for my Orange phone at the airport? Hi Margaret — Absolutely, just head to any of the newsstands. Have fun! I live in South Africa. When a top-up is needed I can even get it in a small village at a petrol station.

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    I have never had a problem contacting someone back home or them contacting me. I do have one question, what happens when you return to the US? You can unlock your phone from the ATT website, assuming your phone is near the end of your contract. Locking is a function separate from the SIM card. Thanks so much for all this important information regarding Sim card buying. I will be leaving for Spain to walk the Camino de Santiago km walk in 2 weeks and have my old iPhone that I plan to use. It has already been unlocked and is ready to go. I was told that in Spain, Vodafone is the best for coverage.

    Would love to hear back from you. I have a Verizon IPhone 6 that is under contract. I would love to take it to Europe next week for the year and get a SIM card with a new number. Do Verizon iPhones have a sim card reader for me to go to the Croatian shop and buy one? I also have a VZW iPhone, which is unlocked from the factory. Keep your VZW contract it would be very expensive to terminate and not needed. All later iPhones as mentioned in the article are SIM-compatible. Good luck and safe travels!

    Talk to Verizon and find out about unlocking the phone. Sometimes you have to wait until the end of your contract, sometimes you can do it only a few months after starting the contract. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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    I have been on the phone with Apple and Verizon and have never had it explained so well. I have a 5S iPhone which I will use to access the internet, use my apps, and offline maps. I am also considering bringing my old iPhone 4S to use as my European phone. Both my phones are unlocked. Thank you again for your simple and concise explanation and I look forward to getting your advice. I will recommend this page to my fellow travellers.

    Just double-check and make sure your phones are not CDMA. My sister has a 5, and when we went to Germany, Verizon sold her on an international package. Needless to say, she was pissed off, and the phone was useless. This article is super helpful. I am going to Germany, Hungary, and Austria later this month.

    Any idea if there are any plans similar to the one described in this article available in Berlin or Budapest? Brilliant article Tom, well researched. I have already passed it on to friends in the U. Thanks for the helpful info! Just about all the carriers here and in Europe have switched to LTE. So, my phone still uses it. I think the 5S is universal. If it has a SIM slot on the right side of the phone you can supposedly use it. Best to talk to Apple about this or google the matter, as Verizon is relatively clueless on the subject. I just returned from Europe, and there are plenty of iPhone 4 and 5 phones out there.

    With the accompanying app, it will switch your phone to its network when you leave your home country and give you discounted rates on phone, data, and text use. It does require an unlocked phone. Love this article. Very detailed information. Just wondering if there is an expiration time for the SIM cards or can you purchase one and use it again in a year or two? Great article! My experience with European phone plans is that you have to be careful about making calls and especially data transfer when outside of the country where you purchased the SIM card — roaming charges can be very high.

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