Guide To Using Smartphones, Data Plans & SIM Cards in Europe (2022)

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Having a high-speed knowledge plan whereas touring Europe is sort of a necessity today — particularly for navigating with Google Maps and discovering restaurant suggestions. Unfortunately, utilizing iPhones and Android smartphones in Europe could be complicated and costly when you’re not cautious.

In this information, I’ll cowl all the pieces it’s worthwhile to find out about utilizing smartphones in Europe — together with how you can purchase low-cost high-speed knowledge plans, how you can purchase SIM playing cards in Europe, and different methods for utilizing your smartphone overseas.

Will My Smartphone Work In Europe — The Basics

Virtually all trendy smartphones (iPhone 7 and newer) are appropriate with Europe’s cellular infrastructure and each main US provider has worldwide knowledge plans — so your smartphone ought to mechanically work when you arrive in Europe as a result of the most important US carriers have partnerships with native European carriers.

However, many of those worldwide plans are costly so that you would possibly get hit with pricey worldwide knowledge roaming when you’re not cautious and the speeds could be sluggish.

Your different choice is to purchase a European SIM card that comes with a pay as you go knowledge plan. This is a less expensive choice and also you get higher service, however there can generally be quirks and technical points.

Both strategies have professionals and cons (in addition to a couple of quirks) so hold studying as I’ll attempt to cowl all of the completely different choices under.


Using Your American Mobile Data Plan In Europe

The easiest method to make use of your American cellphone in Europe is so as to add a world knowledge plan to your present cellular service—each main provider enables you to do that. Simply name them up or go surfing they usually’ll gladly improve your account to work with European carriers they’ve service agreements with. In many circumstances, your cellphone will mechanically join with out you needing to do something.

The main draw back is extraordinarily excessive prices and never nice service—you typically get sluggish speeds and restricted knowledge. For instance, a few of these knowledge plans cost you $15 a day for 100MB of information at 3G or 2G speeds. Calls are nonetheless round $1/minute and texts can value as a lot as $.25 per message. So yeah, it’s fairly horrible…

If you need precise high-speed knowledge whereas touring in Europe that received’t break the bank you’ll want a European pay as you go knowledge plan—don’t fear, it’s really a very simple course of. Click right here to skip to the “How To Buy A SIM Card With High-Speed Data in Europe” part of this text.

I’ve listed out the worldwide knowledge plan particulars of the most important US carriers:

NOTE: Many US carriers declare to offer you 4G/LTE speeds in Europe with their International Plans however most customers expertise 3G and even 2G speeds (I can personally attest to this). For reference, even 3G speeds will battle with Google maps and even easy internet looking.

Using T-Mobile In Europe

T-Mobile made headlines a couple of years in the past when it began providing free and limitless worldwide knowledge, textual content, and low-cost worldwide calls with most of its plans. This made T-Mobile a very talked-about alternative for finances vacationers.

Customers with Magenta and Magenta MAX plans get limitless texting and knowledge in 210+ nations and as much as 5GB of 4G LTE knowledge (limitless 2G speeds thereafter). 5GB of information is loads for internet looking, e-mail, social media, and occasional use of sure options like GPS/maps. However, I wouldn’t stream video or music since that can shortly eat up your knowledge.

If you want extra knowledge, you possibly can add an International Pass to obtain extra high-speed knowledge.

  • International Pass: 512MB of high-speed knowledge at as much as LTE speeds and limitless calling, for use as much as 24 hours, for $5/day.
  • 5GB International Pass: 5GB of high-speed knowledge at as much as LTE speeds and limitless calling, for use as much as 10 days, for $35.
  • 15GB International Pass: 15GB of high-speed knowledge at as much as LTE speeds and limitless calling, for use as much as 30 days, for $50.

As an added bonus, clients additionally get limitless texting and Wi-Fi once they fly with Gogo in-flight on Alaska, Delta, and American Airlines flights to, from, and throughout the US.

Visit the T-Mobile web site for extra data.

Using Verizon In Europe

Verizon isn’t nice in the case of worldwide knowledge vacationers as a result of their plans are costly and also you don’t get a lot knowledge.

  • TravelPass
    • For an additional $10/day you possibly can mainly take your regular Verizon plan and use it in Europe. You do get 4G pace on the primary 500MB of information however then the pace is throttled all the way down to 2G after that.
  • Monthly International Travel Pricing
    • Verizon’s month-to-month worldwide journey plan is an additional $100/month and it offers you a complete of 5GB of information for your complete month. After you hit your restrict your speeds are throttled down.
  • Pay as You Go pricing
    • You can even pay as you go nevertheless it’s extraordinarily costly. Data is $2.05/MB and texts value $.50 every.

Visit the Verizon web site for extra data.

Using AT&T In Europe

AT&T is respectable in the case of utilizing their knowledge plans in Europe nevertheless it nonetheless isn’t nice.

  • AT&T International Day Pass
    • For an additional $10/day you possibly can take your present AT&T plan and use it in Europe. Data shall be drawn out of your home plan allowance with the identical knowledge and pace restrictions in order that’s fairly good you probably have an excellent US plan. There are another circumstances so learn up on these.
    • AT&T mechanically opts you into the Internation Day Pass as quickly as your cellphone tries to entry knowledge (many apps connect with knowledge within the background) so be sure you don’t by accident use any knowledge as a result of otherwise you’ll be charged the $10/day.
  • AT&T Passport 
    • The AT&T Passport is a month-to-month plan that is available in two choices — $70/month for 2GB of information or $140/month for 6GB of information.
    • Note: They cost a hefty overage of $30/GB so watch your knowledge utilization.

Check out the AT&T web site for extra data.


How To Buy A SIM Card With A High-Speed Data Plan In Europe

You can even use your American smartphone in Europe by changing your cellphone’s bodily SIM card with a SIM card of a European cellular provider so your cellphone will function on a European community.

UPDATE: Most new telephones are eSIM appropriate—which doesn’t require you to put in a brand new bodily SIM card. You merely purchase the pay as you go knowledge plan, scan a QR code that’s despatched to your e mail to put in the digital “card”, and also you’re able to go. We’ll cowl eSIMs later on this article or you possibly can learn our Guide To The Best eSIM Data Plans for Europe.

There are dozens of cell phone carriers in Europe—which retains the costs down and the service very aggressive. That’s why utilizing a European cellular provider is less expensive, the information speeds are a lot sooner, and also you’ll get rather more knowledge allowances in comparison with US plans.

For instance, you possibly can typically discover pre-paid plans that provide 20GB of high-speed knowledge for €20/month and the service works in any EU nation. Additionally, almost each plan will even include speak and textual content as a part of the bundle.

NOTE: By legislation, there are not any worldwide roaming expenses throughout the European Union so when you purchase your SIM card throughout the EU then that service will work in some other EU nation with no further expenses.

The downsides of shopping for a European SIM card are the effort of shopping for the SIM, activating the service, and coping with any potential tech points (which have gotten rarer however they nonetheless occur). That mentioned, getting your service arrange is often very simple and may solely take a couple of minutes.

NOTE: Using a European SIM card offers you a European cellphone quantity so individuals received’t be capable to name your US quantity till you reinstall your authentic SIM card (until you’ve a cellphone with two SIM Card slots). Additionally, some apps and different companies generally use two-factor authentication that’s tied to your cellphone quantity so these received’t work since your cellphone quantity shall be modified when the brand new SIM is put in. HOWEVER: This isn’t the case when you use an eSIM as a result of eSIMs allow you to use each your authentic SIM card and the eSIM on the identical time.

How To Unlock Your Smartphone

Many American cellphone corporations use software program to “lock” their smartphones to their community so the cellphone received’t work when you set up a SIM card from one other firm.

However, you possibly can unlock your cellphone by calling your cellular provider and asking them to unlock it since you’re going to journey overseas (you would possibly must go go to a retailer to get it unlocked).

But unlocking your smartphone is usually a trouble as a result of some carriers make you bounce by hoops they usually have completely different standards about which clients are “eligible” to unlock their cellphone. So contact your provider to see what it’s worthwhile to do — I like to recommend not ready till the final minute in case there are points.

What If Your Mobile Carrier Won’t Unlock Your Smartphone?

Unfortunately, some cellular carriers refuse to unlock telephones whereas they’re nonetheless underneath contract. In this case, I like to recommend utilizing an previous smartphone that you just don’t use anymore or utilizing the corporate’s worldwide knowledge plan.

Old telephones make nice journey telephones because it’s not an enormous deal in the event that they get misplaced/stolen/damaged. You can typically discover individuals promoting factory-unlocked telephones or low-cost older-model smartphones on-line that shall be completely caple of staple items like texting, Google Maps, and light-weight internet looking.

Remember, you possibly can nonetheless use your present smartphone in Europe for pictures after which hop right into a espresso store to add stuff by way of their WiFi.

Buying A SIM Card Before You Travel

SIM Cards offered by way of SimOptions.com

The best choice is to purchase a pay as you go European SIM card earlier than you journey and have it mailed to your house deal with — this manner you’re able to go the second you arrive in Europe. The costs are usually just a little greater than shopping for in Europe nevertheless it’s a extra handy choice.

UPDATE: If your cellphone is eSIM appropriate, I like to recommend shopping for an eSIM as an alternative of a bodily SIM card as a result of it’s far more handy, you get to maintain your authentic SIM card in your cellphone, and supply is instantaneous so that you don’t should pay for transport. Check out the eSIM knowledge plans at SimOptions for widespread eSIM knowledge plan choices.

As an added bonus, many of those playing cards have little to no activation so the service begins the second you put in the SIM card. But others might need you register them on-line whenever you get the cardboard nevertheless it’s often fairly easy.

I’m a fan of SimOptions.com as they’re a licensed reseller of a number of SIM card plans from lots of Europe’s largest cellular suppliers like Orange, Three UK, Bouygues Telecom, and 02.

ORANGE HOLIDAY EUROPE PREPAID SIM CARD

The Orange Holiday Europe Prepaid SIM Card might be the most effective all-around choice for SIM playing cards that may be bought overseas as a result of it provides loads of knowledge for an excellent worth — and it contains loads of worldwide calls and textual content.

Additionally, Orange is without doubt one of the largest cellular corporations in Europe they usually have nice protection all through most of Europe (which isn’t at all times the case with smaller European carriers).

Plan Specs:

  • PRICE: $50
  • DATA: 30GB
  • CALLS: Unlimted in Europe and 1200 minutes worldwide
  • TEXT: Unlimted in Europe and 1000 worldwide
  • CAN BE USED AS A MOBILE HOTSPOT?: Yes
  • CREDIT VALID FOR: 14 Days

The Orange Holiday Europe plan is sweet as a result of it offers you loads of cellular knowledge for a good worth however the one attainable disadvantage is the 14-day validity interval — which doesn’t matter in case your journey is lower than two weeks. That mentioned, you should purchase an additional 10GB of credit score after the 2 weeks are up for round $25.

If you want much less knowledge and need to save just a little cash, take a look at the $30 Orange Holiday plan that offers you 8GB of information for 14 days.

The Orange Holiday plans are additionally out there as an eSIM—which implies you don’t have to attend for supply or pay for transport (assuming your cellphone is eSIM appropriate). Check out the eSIM knowledge plans at SimOptions to get the small print on each the Orange Holiday Europe eSIM and the Orange Holiday Zen eSIM plans.

Learn extra about eSIM knowledge plans and see in case your cellphone accepts eSIM playing cards in my Guide to Prepaid eSIM Data Plans in Europe.

THREE UK PAYG AIO15

Three UK is one other massive European cellular provider and their PAYG AIO15 plan is an effective worth for individuals who don’t want the 20GB supplied by the Orange Holiday Europe plan. I like how the plan has a validity interval of 30 days so it’s good for longer journeys.

Plan Specs:

  • PRICE: $30
  • DATA: 10GB
  • CALLS: Unlimted in Europe
  • TEXT: Unlimted in Europe
  • USED AS A MOBILE HOTSPOT?: No
  • CREDIT VALID FOR: 30 Days

BOUYGUES TELECOM VACATION PREPAID PLAN

The Bouygues Telecom Vacation Prepaid Plan is similar to the Orange Holiday Zen however the Bouygues plan have to be activated in France — in order that’s an enormous disadvantage.

  • PRICE: $50
  • DATA: 20GB
  • CALLS: Unlimted in Europe
  • TEXT: Unlimted in Europe
  • USED AS MOBILE HOTSPOT?: NO
  • CREDIT VALID FOR: 30 Days
  • Must be activated in France however can be utilized anyplace within the EU.

Note: SimOptions.com has different playing cards on the market however these are the most effective choices/offers.

Holafly Unlimited Data eSIM

Holafly is a data-only eSIM startup I’ve additionally personally utilized in Europe—the service was nice and I bought very quick knowledge speeds (learn my Holafly eSIM Review to be taught extra). Unlike different corporations, Holafly’s plans offer you limitless knowledge and their plans run from 5 to 90 days (they are going to throttle your knowledge when you use extreme knowledge). Some customers report higher speeds with Orange (since they’re an precise service supplier) however I’ve had a optimistic expertise with Holafly.

Holafly can be data-only so you possibly can’t make/obtain calls or ship SMS textual content messages (however you possibly can ship iMessages between iPhones or use WhatsApp).

  • Prices For Unlimited Data (Check Holafly for particulars)
    • 5 Days: $19
    • 10 Days: $34
    • 15 Days: $47
    • 20 Days: $54
    • 30 Days: $64
    • 60 Days: $84
    • 90 Days: $99
  • Service Speed: 5G/4G/LTE
  • Calls: None
  • Texts/SMS: None
  • Tethering: No

Where To Buy A SIM Card in Europe

Buying a European SIM card is straightforward as a result of they’re offered just about in all places — together with airports, merchandising machines, grocery shops, and extra. If you’ve an eSIM, you should purchase them on-line at sellers like SimOptions and Holafly.

Here are a couple of of the most well-liked locations you’ll discover SIM playing cards:

  • Carrier-Specific Shops: The main cellular carriers can have their very own shops the place they’ll assist get your service arrange. Most staff ought to converse some English however they set up SIM playing cards all day so that they’ll be capable to set you up with out a lot communication wanted.
  • Third-Party Phone Shops: There are many cell phone retailers that promote a variety of cellphone plans from a number of corporations. Employees would possibly be capable to supply some assist getting arrange however service in all probability received’t be pretty much as good as carrier-specific retailers.
  • Newsstands, Tobacco Shops, Vending Machines, and many others: You can discover SIM playing cards in a number of smaller retailers at airports, practice stations, and randomly all through most cities however don’t anticipate any customer support.

Types Of Prepaid Mobile Data Plans in Europe

There are dozens of cellular carriers and every can have a number of plans (both pay-as-you-go or bundled) so simply decide one that most closely fits your wants — I like to recommend sticking with the most important carriers since they’re usually probably the most user-friendly and may provide the greatest pace/protection.

Pay-As-You-Go Mobile Data

With Pay-As-You-Go plans, you purchase a set quantity of credit score that you just add to your account and then you definately reload extra money onto your account as soon as your credit score runs out. Service with pay-as-you-go plans is dearer nevertheless it’s the most cost effective choice when you use your cellphone sparingly.

Bundle Mobile Data Plans

A Bundle Mobile plan is the best choice for terribly heavy knowledge customers because you pay so much much less per gigabyte of information. Most carriers supply a number of bundle plans so simply decide the one that matches you greatest. That mentioned, many Bundle Plans include a month-to-month contract so it doesn’t make sense for the common traveler because it’s geared towards residents.

How Much Do Mobile Data Plans Cost in Europe?

Mobile knowledge plan costs in Europe differ extensively based mostly on the nation, plan choices, and numerous offers happening on the time—so it’s laborious to precisely predict how a lot you’ll pay. However, listed here are some instance costs so you possibly can have a greater concept of how a lot you’ll doubtlessly pay:

  • SFR (French) provides a €20 plan with 25 GB of cellular knowledge that’s good for 30 days or a €10 plan with 10 GB good for 8 days.
  • Orange Prepaid Holiday SIM Card (French) prices round €40 and it offers you 20 GB of cellular knowledge good for 14 days (you possibly can add extra credit score as you go). While it’s dearer, you possibly can have this SIM card shipped to your US deal with earlier than you permit. Good all through the EU.
  • TIM (Italian) has a tourist-specific plan referred to as Tim Tourist for €20 (+ €10 for the SIM) that included 15 GB of information in Italy and as much as 6 GB within the EU for 30 days.
  • Vodafone (Italian) has its Dolce Vita vacationers plan for €25/month which incorporates 30 GB in Italy (15 GB within the EU).
  • Orange Holidays Spain (Spain) Orange’s Holidays Spain is their vacationer plan that’s €20/month for 30 GB of information in Spain/EU.

How To Install A SIM Card And Activate Your Service

Installing a SIM card is easy and solely takes a minute — all it’s worthwhile to do is take the previous SIM out and put the brand new one in.

  • Installing SIM Card In An iPhone: On an iPhone, the SIM card is situated in just a little slot on the facet of the cellphone. You pop it out with a SIM card instrument or a paper clip. Simply take the previous SIM out and put the brand new one in (put your previous SIM card in a protected place).
  • Installing SIM Card In An Android Phone: Android telephones usually have the SIM card situated the place the battery is situated or in a slot just like the iPhone. Simply take the previous SIM card out and put the brand new one in (put your previous SIM card in a protected place).

Typically the cellphone will acknowledge the brand new SIM card and it ought to mechanically connect with the brand new provider’s community (it might immediate you to restart the cellphone after putting in).

Your SIM card will include directions in English on how you can end establishing your service. Typically, you possibly can both add credit score to “pay as you go” or you should purchase a pre-paid month-to-month plan that offers you a bundle of companies (knowledge, speak, textual content, and many others.).

NOTE: Some nations require that you just register your SIM card so you’ll have to indicate your passport and/or record an area deal with (you possibly can typically use your lodge or rental house deal with).

How To Top Up Your SIM Card

Once you run out of credit score you’ll must “top up” your SIM card so as to add extra credit score to your account. Most corporations allow you to high up by way of their web site or you should purchase credit score at newsstands, grocery shops, and many others. Typically you’re given a code that you just enter into your cellphone and that’s how the credit score is added.

Possible Problems Using A European SIM Card

As talked about beforehand, some individuals have issues activating their European SIM playing cards/cellular service. Here are a couple of of the commonest points:

Needing An Address/Passport: Some nations require that every one SIM playing cards have to be registered and that often means needing to offer them an area deal with whenever you activate the service. Often you possibly can simply put in any deal with (like a lodge, and many others.) however some locations require you to indicate your passport as effectively.

Technical Trouble: For the most effective service, it’s really helpful to purchase your SIM instantly from a cellular firm’s bodily retailer. This approach they’ll be capable to get all the pieces activated proper there. Some cheaper corporations make you cellphone them to activate and they may not have any English audio system. The retailer won’t have English audio system nevertheless it’s a lot simpler to get stuff accomplished in particular person.

Getting The Correct Size SIM Card: SIM playing cards come in several bodily sizes so be sure you get the scale that matches your cellphone’s specs.

Stick With Major Carriers: Europe has a ton of smaller cellular carriers however the main gamers often have the most effective service and speeds. You would possibly find yourself paying just a little extra nevertheless it’s in all probability value the fee to keep away from points.


More Tips On Using Your Mobile Phone In Europe

Buy A Portable Battery Charger

Using apps like Google Maps and taking pictures kills your cellphone battery so a conveyable battery is a must have. I take advantage of Anker PowerCore 10000 as a result of it’s tiny and inexpensive however there are a number of choices.

Using Free WiFi While Traveling Europe

I believe individuals overestimate how straightforward it’s to search out free wifi in Europe. Yes, free wifi is changing into extra prevalent all through Europe. However, it’s laborious to rely completely on free wifi since it may be a ache to really discover a free community whenever you really need it.

The greatest locations to search out free wifi are McDonald’s, Starbucks, cafés, espresso retailers, and hostels/accommodations — however getting related is never tremendous handy, dependable, or quick.

Relying on free wifi fails in the case of day-to-day stuff like utilizing Google Maps, trying up restaurant critiques by way of Google/Trip Advisor/Yelp, utilizing random apps, utilizing Uber, reserving e-tickets, utilizing e mail, and many others. as a result of these are belongings you usually do spur of the second. That’s why I favor to have the choice of getting cellular knowledge as a result of having to hunt out a espresso store each time I need to use the web will get tiring in a short time.

How To Lower Your Mobile Data Usage

Data could be costly and it’s extraordinarily straightforward to unknowingly burn by loads of knowledge as a result of many apps use knowledge within the background. Facebook, e mail, Instagram, Snapchat… these all continuously use knowledge all through the day with out you realizing it. That’s it’s essential to know how you can restrict your knowledge utilization.

Use Airplane Mode And Block Data to Specific Apps

I’ll put my cellphone in Airplane Mode as a result of that disables all knowledge (however GPS nonetheless works in Airplane Mode). You can even go into the settings and disable knowledge entry to every particular person app. I’ll go in and switch each off aside from issues like Google Maps or others that I’ll use extra often — this manner after I flip off Airplane Mode solely these apps that can use knowledge. Then I’ll flip Airplane Mode again on after I’m accomplished.

Download Offline Maps

Google Maps enables you to obtain complete metropolis maps to allow them to be used offline. As an added bonus, GPS doesn’t use knowledge so offline Google Maps works pretty effectively (however not all performance works). Here is an effective YouTube video that explains all the pieces.

Make Calls Over WiFi

WhatsApp is a wonderful app without cost calling and textual content messages — I’ve discovered that many Europeans completely use WhatsApp to speak (together with many Airbnb hosts).


More Europe Travel Advice From The Savvy Backpacker

James Feess
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