Whenever you are traveling, staying connected is essential. We depend on our phones for so much these days – everything from ordering a taxi to finding a restaurant, making hotel and flight bookings, plus navigating on Google Maps from one spot to another is done on our phones.
But, what sim card should you be using for your upcoming trip to Europe? You have the option of using eSim cards, international sim cards, or a local prepaid sim card, and we are going to focus on the latter.
At A Glance: Our Top 3 Sim Cards For Europe
Join me as I run through everything you need to know in order to find the best sim card for Europe. We look at the best deals, costs, data, and how to buy a prepaid sim card for Europe too.
Best For High Data Needs
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Best All Rounder
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Best On A Budget
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The Orange Holiday Europe Prepaid Sim Card is one of the top Europe sim cards around if you want to stay connected with the world during your travels.
It includes everything you will need from 20 GB of data, unlimited calls and SMS in Europe, and inclusive worldwide mins and SMS.
You can call any hotel/restaurant in Europe to make reservations on your mobile phone and even call home with this Europe sim card without paying any extra.
The Orange sim card works in most European countries and since Orange is one of the biggest local networks in Europe, you will always have fast and reliable connection speeds.
The only issue with these sim cards is that they run out after 14 days, not so great if you are on a long trip. Also, if you are traveling on a budget the price might be a little high.
The Orange Holiday Zen Prepaid Sim Card is similar to the Orange Holiday sim cards we looked at above but is more affordable and comes with less data/calls/sms.
With these European sim cards, you get 8 GB of data, unlimited calls, and SMS in Europe, and a few global mins and SMS too. If you do not need much data while traveling around Europe then this is a much more affordable option.
Again, being an Orange sim, you will have a reliable and fast connection in most countries in Europe. But, it does only last 14 days until you have to top-up again so it is not ideal for longer trips.
The Three UK Data Pack Sim Cards offer the best value of all the prepaid sim cards featured in the article.
For an affordable price, you get 10 GB of data along with unlimited calls and sms in Europe and it is valid for 30 days, making it ideal for longer trips.
The sim card works in all unlocked tablets and mobile phones, starts working as soon as you plug it in, and you will have a fast connection with good coverage in 49 countries in Europe.
The only downside to these sim cards is if you are a heavy data user as 10 GB might not be enough for your trip and you may have to top up.
The O2 Go Card Prepaid Sim Card is a great European sim card if you are looking for data only while you travel around Europe.
It is a UK local sim card that works on every unlocked mobile phone and tablet that comes with a UK number and 10 GB of data.
If your data usage is about average, this should be enough data for the 30 days it is valid for.
This Europe sim card allows you to stay connected in all countries in Europe. You will have a reliable and fast 4G connection everywhere you go, and you can top up to add calls and SMS to the local sim card too.
Compared to other sim cards, it is a pretty good value for the data you are getting. But, if your data usage is high, the included 10 GB might not be enough.
Is a sim card essential when traveling in Europe, yes and no, and here is why.
You can get by while traveling in Europe without a local sim card as you will be able to jump onto a free WiFi connection in most places. Airports, trains, restaurants, cafes, hotels, shops, you name it, most of them will give you a free WiFi connection.
But, living on WiFi only is a bit of a pain if I am honest. Things like using Google Maps on the move and ordering an Uber in the street will not be possible plus, constantly asking for WiFi passwords will get annoying.
Also, staying connected with loved ones will be inconsistent, and walking home at night without any way of communicating can be a safety concern.
You always have the option of data roaming on your sim card from home, but the fees that come with this are extortionate and is way more affordable to buy the best Europe sim card for you.
Overall, it is worth buying a sim card for Europe in my eyes. Being connected will make your trip a lot smoother, easier, and safer all for not that much cash.
Your phone needs to be unlocked from your mobile phone provider back home in order to work with other sim cards.
If you bought your phone yourself it will already be unlocked but if you got it for free in the monthly contract through your provider, chances are it is locked to said provider.
To unlock your phone, just call your provider and request they unlock it, it should only take a few minutes.
You might not know this but phones can use either GSM or CDMA technology to stay connected to a network, and a GSM sim card will not work in a CDMA phone, and vice versa.
Pretty much everywhere in the world uses GSM including Europe whereas the United States and Canada use both GSM and CDMA.
If you are from North America and you use either Sprint or Verizon, you may have a CDMA phone and it will not work with any sim cards for Europe.
The only solution to using all the sim cards in Europe is to buy an affordable unlocked phone for your trip.
When you insert your new sim card for Europe, you will be using the number that comes with that sim card, meaning your home number will not work. This means you can not receive calls or SMS’ on your usual number.
The only way around this is to have a dual sim phone or to use apps such as Whatsapp or Facetime for calls and SMS’ that work over data only.
Another issue this can present is when you need to authorize things like payments and transfers that use your home number for authentication. You will have to put your home sim in your phone to get the authentication message.
If you want to be connected as soon as you land in Europe then buying a sim card online is a good option.
The sim card will be sent to your door and all you need to do is insert it into your phone when you land. Once installed, you will have a connection and all the data, calls, and SMS’ that come with it.
This is a much more convenient option than buying a sim card in Europe at the airport or at a store. You do not have to queue, register, pick a plan, etc, it is all done for you.
Buying a sim card once you land in Europe involves finding a store, registering, and activating your sim card.
You won’t be able to be connected as soon as you land and will have to depend on airport WiFi, or other connections until you get your hands on a sim card.
However, you will be able to get a much better deal in most cases by buying a sim card on the ground as these offers are not available online.
The actual physical sim card is free in most of Europe and once you have it, you simply add a plan. The cost of the plan and what it includes depends on the provider and the country you are in but is usually very affordable.
If we look at EE UK prepaid sim cards (the ones I use in Europe), for just £30 ($37) you get 125 GB of data plus unlimited calls and texts within Europe for 30 days, what a deal!
You should be able to find similar deals to this in most countries in Europe.
If you have bought a prepaid sim, it will already be activated. If you bought your sim card in a shop, then the staff should have already activated it too.
But, if you do need to activate your sim, simply call the customer service department and request activation or go online and follow the instructions.
Topping up your sim card is super easy and can be done via a credit card on your phone or online. Simply call the automated top-up service number for the provider and follow the instructions, or go online and top-up via the provider’s website.
Almost all European sim cards allow you to use your data freely in all European countries. This means if you fly from the UK to France, to Switzerland, to Portugal, and end up in Spain, you can use the same sim card and the data, calls, and SMS pack that come with it in all the countries.
If you are on a budget and want to conserve your data in Europe there are some clever ways of doing so. Here are some tips:
No, you only need one sim card for every country in Europe as your data, calls, and SMS’ are valid in most EU countries
Yes, you can get unlimited data in Europe but it is hard to come by on physical sim cards and your best bet is to use an eSim with Holafly. You can find the best eSim for Europe here.