Ask LH: What SIM Should I Buy For My iPad In Europe?

Ask LH: What SIM Should I Buy For My iPad In Europe?

Dear Lifehacker, I will be in Spain, France and Italy for five weeks starting May 1 with my iPad Air (iOS 9.3 ). My iPad has no sim installed but can take one. What do you recommend as to a sim to buy? I need to access email, and suss out local info maps, timetables etc as we go around. NO Skype or movie music downloads. Thanks, Waltzing Matilda

Dear WM,

Fortunately, those are among the cheaper countries to activate data roaming in — but of course it’s still not cheap.

OVO‘s prepaid roaming works out to 50c per MB, the same as Optus prepaid. Meanwhile Telstra prepaid charges a laughable $3 per MB. Let’s roll our eyes at that rate while we move onto the more serious contenders.

Travelsim is 25c per MB, which is worth checking out.

Things get better if you have a SIM on a plan. For example, with Vodafone, you can pay an extra $5 per day (for a maximum of 50 days), and get charged normal Australian rates for data usage. The downside of course being you’re then stuck on a plan, the cheapest of which is $888 over 24 months, but charges less than a cent per MB.

Woolworths of all places has a European data bundle going at the moment, and the $25 plan gets you 1GB. That works out to be $0.025 per MB, though it notes that the SIM is not compatible with the latest 4th generation iPad models. Older models should work fine.

You’ll probably be fine going for the cheapest of each provider’s offerings, though usually if you go one step up, there’s a significant increase in value. It might be worth it, just to be safe.


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  • Why not buy a local pre-paid SIM over in Europe once you get there? I’ve read on other sites that the best deal is to get a UK SIM and then use the EU’s “Euroroaming” system for cheaper internet access on the continent.

    • Absolutely. But if you have to go with one from France, Spain or Italy, go for France. Because Spanish bureaucracy around SIM purchase is eye-watering, and Italian joints may try to scam extra information from you to steal your identity.

  • Why not have a look at Globalgig Aus. They offer a Europe plan – so you only need the one SIM card. You can order online and have it mailed to you then activate online once you get the SIM card. The card is also unlocked to let you hotspot – so if you have it in your iPad you can connect your phone and laptop from it at the same time.

  • Recently travelled 2 Europe trips in 2 years, both for 3 months each. Used Vodafone NL (Netherlands) sim. Bought it off eBay 1 month before I left, no need to activate or give any identification either, google translate does an almost perfect job of working out the website to ‘top up’.

    Wouldn’t put it straight in the iPad, but rather the phone that you’re most likely going to have with you and hotspot the iPad. You’ll get calls and SMS included too.

    Check out the whirlpool forum or:

    Their YOU prepaid plan is a combo plan with data, voice and text valid for 30 days in 43 countries in 4G/LTE speeds up to 225 Mbps:

    YOU S: 10€ ($15AUD) – 1 GB of data, 10 minutes calling and unlimited SMS
    YOU M: 15€ ($22AUD) – 2 GB, 20 minutes and unlimited SMS
    YOU L: 20€ ($30AUD) – 3 GB, 30 minutes and unlimited SMS

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