Ask LH: What's The Best SIM Card For Travelling In Europe?

Dear LH, My partner and I are heading to Europe for three weeks – we’ll be in Germany first, then Austria and finally the Netherlands. We're normally happy to hit up wi-fi when it’s available, but we’re going to be cycling for a large part of the trip and want to make sure we’re connected, with plenty of data. Happy to grab a local sim when we get there, but unsure whether we need to do that in each country or the best provider to go with for coverage in all three? Help please! Bike Lover

Image: Karl Baron

Dear BL,

You could opt for a separate SIM in each country, but that is going to involve quite a bit of work even just dealing with the paperwork and fiddly small change, not to mention potential APN settings on each device. Frankly, it's just not likely to be worth it when there are options that you can set up from Australia that should work with no SIM fiddling at all.

Straight roaming from your existing telco is one option, although there's really only one contender that stands out in the "value" category there.

If you're an existing Vodafone contract customer, its Red Roaming deal covers all three countries you've outlined at a flat cost of $5 per day, which buys you access to whatever provisions your existing contract has. The big benefit there is that you keep your standard Australian number while travelling, so it's easier for family and friends to call you. The downside is that you're paying five bucks per day for a service you've already paid for, so over three weeks it'll cost you $105 on top of your existing contract commitment.

You noted, however, that what you're after was "plenty of data", and for that, a travelling SIM such as Globalgig could serve your needs very well indeed. The current Go Europe & USA deal offers 3GB of roaming data for $50 through all the countries on your itinerary, with the added bonus of being able to use the excess data back in Australia via the Optus network when you return.

That's a deal with a three month minimum term, however, and like all of Globalgig's products, it's a data-only product, so there's no calling or texting capability at all on offer. (With that said, you should have enough data to comfortably call relatives via an internet service such as Facebook messenger or Skype.)

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Comments

    Whatever you do, avoid EE like the plague. They will say anything to get you to buy into one of their pre-paid plans (including outright lie about coverage and call costs both in-store and on the customer service line). Vodafone seems to have the best options across Europe and is probably the best one for sheer ease of use.

    The Best Sim card for Roaming Data & calls is From Ortel Mobile in Germany 20 Euro for 750mb of data and 300 min of calls within Europe for 30 days. There is also a 9 Euro top up for 500mb. Bargin!

    Last edited 24/07/15 3:14 pm

    Check out this plan:
    http://www.three.co.uk/Discover/Phones/Feel_At_Home

    Best for what use?, lots of data? Calls local? Or calls home.
    Mate is O/S now on Red Roaming, I can call him with no international rates and he call back to OZ for cost of normal call in OZ.

    This thread has been going on at Whirlpool for ages: http://forums.whirlpool.net.au/forum-replies.cfm?t=871977

    That being said, the consensus seems to be - there is no good solution, just acceptable ones. Some work for some people, other SIMs are better for others.

    Last year, I used a 3UK Sim (from datago.co, based in Melbourne) on our UK/Europe trip. It worked fairly well in most places, but extra credit was needed to call/text non-UK numbers or for data usage outside the "Feel at home" countries. Mostly we switched data off when out and about and used the Wifi in our hotels or at cafes etc.

    An alternative to GlobalGIG is the GO-SIM European SIM card, which will give you data, calls and texts in all your destinations.

    Travelled through Europe at the start of the year. I ported my prepaid number over to a Vodafone sim only red plan and used the $5 per day access. I was mainly around cities so wifi was able to get me by for the most part only really used the $5 once or twice a week.

    If you're planing to use phones & data for Maps while cycling, consider downloading 'Here' Maps by Nokia before you leave, available on IOS and Android I believe, will give you maps without the need for data connection for FREE (make sure you tick the 'offline maps' option in the settings). Also worth downloading is offline Google Translate. You probably won't need it much, if at all (I think I used it 5 times in 8 weeks to work out what a sign said etc) but better to have it and not need it, than vice versa. Unless of course you already know the native languages.

    If you did decide to do something like this, you might only need to have one of you on Voda. You can share the phone for calling back home and tether for any data use (an external battery pack is a good idea if tethering a lot too). Or if you feel both will need the service perhaps alternate days of activating the $5. Probably very little need to have both phones charged $5 per day for use.

    Safe travels!

    It really depends on how long you'll be in each country and how much data you expect to use.

    If the answers are "not long" and "not much" respectively, then it's worth going with a multinational service like Globalgig for the convenience.

    But if the answers are closer to "a few weeks" and "a few gigs" then getting local SIMs are way more cost-effective.

    I recently took the latter option (UK, Poland, Netherlands and Italy). It really isn't that difficult and most networks offer pre-pay voice/data or data only packages for non-residents. You'll just have to show some form of photo ID (e.g. driver's licence if you're a EU citizen, passport if you aren't). Each time I did this, it didn't take much more than 15 minutes and this was for multiple cards. Just make sure the sales assistant activates the cards before you leave the shop.

    Thereafter chose your network carefully based on coverage where you'll be travelling. Also, be aware that some carriers don't offer 4G to all pre-pay customers.

    For what it's worth with the GlobalGig 3 month minimum term - I emailed them during my second month, and asked if I could end my contract at the end of that month, and they were able to. Maybe you just need to get the right support person on the phone.

    I'm currently doing a trip in Europe and i'm using a LeFrenchMobile SIM card.
    So far this offer has been very god for me, only 25€ so quite cheap, practical to use (there is no paper work, you just have to put the SIM card in your device and all the service is in English!), works in every EU country...
    It's really great to be able to call or use mobile internet from abroad without the roaming.. And no need to change of SIM card in every wountry where you stop, really convenient!

      AlexaMango, did you use a smart phone or an old style phone. I have an old style phone and just want to use for calls and texts. You say LeFrenchMobile SIM was very easy - did you buy in France or before - I am in Australia. Has anyome else had experience with LeFrenchMobile SIM? Marilyn

    It does take some time to switch sim cards in every country but it is undoubtedly the cheaper way. If your trip only consists of three countries and will take more than a couple of weeks i would suggest you going the cheaper way. My trip in Lithuania and local prepaid sim card www.ezys.lt I used there made me come to this conclusion.

    I would strongly advise anyone who is planning to travel to take a look @ the newly released world phone app . Developed by an Australian company Norwood Systems , it looks like its the number one choice for phone access when overseas . Only available for iphones at present , however an android product will be available very soon . Its very simple to download , user friendly & voice quality is excellent .

    LeFrenchMobile would be my pick. They have signal available all over EU so you can call, text and use internet in every EU country.

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