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Information To Utilizing Smartphones, Knowledge Plans & SIM Playing cards in Europe (2023)

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. Sadly, utilizing iPhones and Android smartphones in Europe may be complicated and costly in case you’re not cautious.

On this information, I’ll cowl all the things it’s good to find out about utilizing smartphones in Europe — together with the best way to purchase low-cost high-speed knowledge plans, the best way to purchase SIM playing cards in Europe, and different methods for utilizing your smartphone overseas.

Will Your Smartphone Work In Europe: The Fundamentals

Just about all trendy smartphones (iPhone 7 and newer) are appropriate with Europe’s cell infrastructure and each main US provider has worldwide knowledge plans—so your smartphone ought to robotically work when you arrive in Europe. Moreover, all the main US carriers have partnerships with native European carriers so your cellphone will hook up with the web.

Nonetheless, many of those worldwide plans provided by US cell carriers are costly so that you would possibly get hit with pricey worldwide knowledge roaming in case you’re not cautious and the speeds may be sluggish.

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

Each strategies have professionals and cons (in addition to just a few quirks) so preserve studying as I’ll attempt to cowl all of the totally different choices under.

Utilizing Your American Cellular Knowledge Plan In Europe

The best manner to make use of your American cellphone in Europe is so as to add a world knowledge plan to your present cell service—each main provider allows you to do that. Merely name them up or go surfing they usually’ll gladly improve your account to work with European carriers they’ve service agreements with. In lots of instances, your cellphone will robotically join with out you needing to do something.

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

If you would like precise high-speed knowledge whereas touring in Europe that gained’t break the bank you’ll want a European pay as you go knowledge plan—don’t fear, it’s a very simple course of.

Click on right here to skip to the “How To Purchase A SIM Card With Excessive-Pace Knowledge 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 provide you 4G/LTE speeds in Europe with their Worldwide 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 searching.

Utilizing T-Cellular In Europe

T-Cellular made headlines just a few 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-Cellular a very fashionable alternative for funds vacationers.

Clients with Magenta and Magenta MAX cellphone plans get limitless texting and knowledge in 210+ nations and as much as 5GB of 4G LTE knowledge (limitless 2G speeds thereafter). 5GB of knowledge is an efficient quantity for internet searching, e-mail, social media, and the occasional use of sure options like GPS/maps. However, in case you’re occurring an extended journey then you definately would possibly eat up all of your knowledge earlier than your journey is completed.

Should you want extra knowledge, you may add an Worldwide Go to obtain extra high-speed knowledge:

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

Clients additionally get limitless texting and Wi-Fi after they fly with Gogo in-flight on Alaska, Delta, and American Airways flights to/from/inside the US.

Go to the T-Cellular web site for extra data.

Utilizing Verizon In Europe

Verizon isn’t nice relating to 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 may mainly take your regular Verizon plan and use it in Europe. You do get 4G pace on the primary 2GB of knowledge per day however then the pace is throttled right down to 2G after that.
  • Month-to-month Worldwide Journey Pricing
    • Verizon’s month-to-month worldwide journey plan is an additional $100/month and it provides you a complete of 5GB of knowledge for the complete month. After you hit your restrict your speeds are throttled down.
  • Pay as You Go pricing
    • It’s also possible to pay as you go but it surely’s extraordinarily costly. Knowledge is $2.05/MB and texts price $.50 every.

Go to the Verizon web site for extra data.

Utilizing AT&T In Europe

AT&T is first rate relating to utilizing their knowledge plans in Europe but it surely nonetheless isn’t nice.

  • AT&T Worldwide Day Go
    • For an additional $10/day you may take your current AT&T plan and use it in Europe. Knowledge shall be drawn out of your home plan allowance with the identical knowledge and pace restrictions in order that’s fairly good when you have an excellent US plan. There are another circumstances so learn up on these.
    • AT&T robotically opts you into the Internation Day Go as quickly as your cellphone tries to entry knowledge (many apps hook up with knowledge within the background) so be sure you don’t by accident use any knowledge since 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 knowledge or $140/month for 6GB of knowledge.
    • Word: They cost a hefty overage of $30/GB so watch your knowledge utilization.

Take a look at the AT&T web site for extra data.

How To Purchase A SIM Card With A Excessive-Pace Knowledge Plan In Europe

It’s also possible to use your American smartphone in Europe by changing your cellphone’s bodily SIM card with a SIM card of a European cell 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” immediately, and also you’re able to go.

We’ll cowl eSIMs later on this article or you may learn our Information To The Greatest eSIM Knowledge 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 cell provider is less expensive, the info speeds are a lot quicker, and also you’ll get far more knowledge allowances in comparison with US plans.

For instance, you may usually discover pay as you go knowledge plans that supply 20GB of high-speed knowledge for €20/month and the service works in any EU nation. Moreover, almost each plan will even include discuss and textual content as a part of the package deal.

NOTE: By legislation, there aren’t any worldwide roaming expenses inside the European Union so in case you purchase your SIM card inside the EU then that service will work in another EU nation with no additional expenses.

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

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

How To Unlock Your Smartphone

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

Nonetheless, you may unlock your cellphone by calling your cell provider and asking them to unlock it since you’re going to journey overseas (you would possibly have to go go to a retailer to get it unlocked).

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

What If Your Cellular Service Gained’t Unlock Your Smartphone?

Sadly, some cell carriers refuse to unlock telephones whereas they’re nonetheless beneath contract. On this case, I like to recommend utilizing an outdated smartphone that you simply don’t use anymore or utilizing the corporate’s worldwide knowledge plan.

Previous telephones make nice journey telephones because it’s not an enormous deal in the event that they get misplaced/stolen/damaged. You’ll be able to usually discover folks promoting factory-unlocked telephones or low-cost older-model smartphones on-line that shall be completely able to basic items like texting, Google Maps, and light-weight internet searching.

Bear in mind, you may nonetheless use your present smartphone in Europe for photographs after which hop right into a espresso store to add stuff by way of their WiFi.

Shopping for A SIM Card Earlier than You Journey

SIM Playing 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 own home deal with — this fashion you’re able to go the second you arrive in Europe. The costs are usually a little bit larger than shopping for in Europe but it surely’s a extra handy choice.

UPDATE: In case your cellphone is eSIM appropriate, I like to recommend shopping for an eSIM as a substitute of a bodily SIM card as a result of it’s far more handy, you get to maintain your unique SIM card in your cellphone, and supply is immediate so that you don’t must pay for delivery. Take a look at the eSIM knowledge plans at SimOptions and Holafly for widespread eSIM plans.

As an added bonus, most of the SIM playing cards I’ve listed have little/no activation so the service begins the second you put in the SIM card. However others might need you register them on-line if you get the cardboard but it surely’s often fairly easy.

I’m a fan of SimOptions as a result of they’re licensed resellers of a number of SIM card plans (and eSIM plans) from lots of Europe’s largest cell suppliers like Orange, Three UK, Bouygues Telecom, and 02.


The Orange Vacation Europe Pay as you go SIM Card might be one of the best all-around choice for SIM playing cards that may be bought overseas as a result of it presents a variety of knowledge for an excellent value — and it contains a variety of worldwide calls and textual content.

Moreover, Orange is among the largest cell 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

The Orange Vacation Europe plan is nice as a result of it provides you a variety of cell knowledge for a good value however the one doable downside is the 14-day validity interval — which doesn’t matter in case your journey is lower than two weeks. That stated, you should buy an additional 10GB of credit score after the 2 weeks are up for round $25.

Should you want much less knowledge and wish to save a little bit cash, try the $30 Orange Vacation plan that offers you 8GB of knowledge for 14 days.

The Orange Vacation plans are additionally accessible as an eSIM—which implies you don’t have to attend for supply or pay for delivery (assuming your cellphone is eSIM appropriate). Take a look at the eSIM knowledge plans at SimOptions to get the main points on each the Orange Vacation Europe eSIM and the Orange Vacation Zen eSIM plans.

Be taught extra about eSIM knowledge plans and see in case your cellphone accepts eSIM playing cards in my Information to Pay as you go eSIM Knowledge Plans in Europe.


The Bouygues Telecom Trip Pay as you go Plan is similar to the Orange Vacation Zen however the Bouygues plan have to be activated in France — in order that’s an enormous downside.

  • PRICE: $50
  • DATA: 20GB
  • CALLS: Unlimted in Europe
  • TEXT: Unlimted in Europe
  • Have to be activated in France however can be utilized anyplace within the EU.

Bouygues now presents their Bouygues My European eSIM pay as you go knowledge plan to compete with the Orange Vacation Europe eSIM. It comes with 30GB of knowledge and it’s legitimate for 30 days so it’s value trying out. Go to SimOptions.com to get all the main points.

Holafly Limitless Knowledge eSIM

Holafly is an eSIM startup I’ve additionally personally utilized in Europe—the service was nice and I bought very quick knowledge speeds (learn my Holafly eSIM Assessment to study extra). Not like different corporations, Holafly’s plans provide you with limitless knowledge however they may throttle your knowledge in case you use extreme knowledge. Holafly’s plans are available in set durations of 5 to 90 days so it’s handy for a number of journey lengths.

Holafly eSIM plans now include an Austrian cellphone quantity that offers you 60 minutes of calls to and from different European cellphone numbers. It doesn’t include SMS textual content messages however you may ship iMessages between iPhones or use WhatsApp.

  • Costs For Limitless Knowledge (Test 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 Pace: 5G/4G/LTE
  • Calls: Consists of an Austrian cellphone quantity that comes with 60 minutes of calls to/from European numbers (besides Iceland, Norway, the UK, Switzerland, Ukraine, and Turkey).
  • Texts/SMS: None
  • Tethering: No


Three UK is one other giant European cell provider and their PAYG AIO15 plan is an efficient worth for individuals who don’t want the 20GB provided by the Orange Vacation 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

The place To Purchase A SIM Card in Europe

Shopping for a European SIM card is simple as a result of they’re offered nearly all over the place — together with airports, merchandising machines, grocery shops, and extra. When you have an eSIM, you should buy them on-line from SimOptions and Holafly.

Listed below are just a few of the preferred locations you’ll discover SIM playing cards:

  • Service-Particular Retailers: The main cell carriers can have their very own shops the place they’ll assist get your service arrange. Most workers ought to communicate some English however they set up SIM playing cards all day so that they’ll be capable of set you up with out a lot communication wanted.
  • Third-Social gathering Cellphone Retailers: Many cell phone retailers promote a spread of cellphone plans from a number of corporations. Staff would possibly be capable of provide some assist getting arrange however service most likely gained’t be pretty much as good as carrier-specific retailers.
  • Newsstands, Tobacco Retailers, Merchandising Machines, and so on: You could find SIM playing cards in a number of smaller retailers at airports, practice stations, and randomly all through most cities however don’t count on any customer support.

Sorts Of Pay as you go Cellular Knowledge Plans in Europe

There are dozens of cell 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 main carriers since they’re usually probably the most user-friendly and may provide the greatest pace/protection.

Pay-As-You-Go Cellular Knowledge

With Pay-As-You-Go plans, you purchase a set quantity of credit score that you simply 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 costlier but it surely’s the most affordable choice in case you use your cellphone sparingly.

Bundle Cellular Knowledge Plans

A Bundle Cellular plan is the best choice for terribly heavy knowledge customers because you pay loads much less per gigabyte of knowledge. Most carriers provide a number of bundle plans so simply decide the one that matches you greatest. That stated, 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 A lot Do Cellular Knowledge Plans Value in Europe?

Cellular knowledge plan costs in Europe range extensively based mostly on the nation, plan choices, and varied offers on the time—so it’s onerous to precisely predict how a lot you’ll pay. Nonetheless, listed below are some instance costs so you may have a greater concept of how a lot you’ll probably pay:

  • SFR (French) presents a €20 plan with 25 GB of cell knowledge that’s good for 30 days or a €10 plan with 10 GB good for 8 days.
  • Orange Pay as you go Vacation SIM Card (French) prices round €40 and it provides you 20 GB of cell knowledge good for 14 days (you may add extra credit score as you go). Whereas it’s costlier, you may 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 Vacationer for €20 (+ €10 for the SIM) that features 15 GB of knowledge in Italy and as much as 6 GB within the EU for 30 days.
  • Vodafone (Italian) has its Dolce Vita vacationer 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 knowledge in Spain/EU.

How To Set up A SIM Card And Activate Your Service

Putting in a SIM card is straightforward and solely takes a minute — all it’s good to do is take the outdated SIM out and put the brand new one in.

  • Putting in SIM Card In An iPhone: On an iPhone, the SIM card is situated in a little bit slot on the facet of the cellphone. You pop it out with a SIM card software or a paper clip. Merely take the outdated SIM out and put the brand new one in (put your outdated SIM card in a secure place).
  • Putting in SIM Card In An Android Cellphone: Android telephones usually have the SIM card situated the place the battery is situated or in a slot just like the iPhone. Merely take the outdated SIM card out and put the brand new one in (put your outdated SIM card in a secure place).

Usually the cellphone will acknowledge the brand new SIM card and it ought to robotically hook up with the brand new provider’s community (it could immediate you to restart the cellphone after putting in).

Your SIM card will include directions in English on the best way to end establishing your service. Usually, you may both add credit score to “pay as you go” or you should buy a pre-paid month-to-month plan that offers you a bundle of companies (knowledge, discuss, textual content, and so on.).

NOTE: Some nations require that you simply register your SIM card so you could have to point out your passport and/or listing an area deal with (you may usually use your resort or rental condominium deal with).

How To High Up Your SIM Card

When you run out of credit score you’ll have to “prime up” your SIM card so as to add extra credit score to your account. Most corporations allow you to prime up by way of their web site or you should buy credit score at newsstands, grocery shops, and so on. Usually you’re given a code that you simply enter into your cellphone and that’s how the credit score is added.

Potential Issues Utilizing A European SIM Card

As talked about beforehand, some folks have issues activating their European SIM playing cards/cell service. Listed below are just a few of the commonest points:

Needing An Handle/Passport: Some nations require that every one SIM playing cards have to be registered and that often means needing to provide them an area deal with if you activate the service. Typically you may simply put in any deal with (like a resort, and so on.) however some locations require you to point out your passport as effectively.

Technical Bother: For one of the best service, it’s beneficial to purchase your SIM straight from a cell firm’s bodily retailer. This manner they’ll be capable of get all the things activated proper there. Some cheaper corporations make you cellphone them to activate and they won’t have any English audio system. The shop won’t have English audio system but it surely’s a lot simpler to get stuff achieved in particular person.

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

Stick With Main Carriers: Europe has a ton of smaller cell carriers however the main gamers often have one of the best service and speeds. You would possibly find yourself paying a little bit extra but it surely’s most likely value the associated fee to keep away from points.

Extra Suggestions On Utilizing Your Cellular Cellphone In Europe

Purchase A Moveable Battery Charger

Utilizing apps like Google Maps and taking photographs kills your cellphone battery so a transportable battery is a must have. I exploit Anker PowerCore 10000 as a result of it’s tiny and reasonably priced however there are a number of choices.

Utilizing Free WiFi Whereas Touring Europe

I believe folks overestimate how straightforward it’s to seek out free wifi in Europe. Sure, free wifi is changing into extra prevalent all through Europe. Nonetheless, it’s onerous to rely solely on free wifi since it may be a ache to discover a free community if you want it.

The very best locations to seek out free wifi are McDonald’s, Starbucks, cafés, espresso retailers, and hostels/lodges — however getting related isn’t tremendous handy, dependable, or quick.

Counting on free wifi fails relating to day-to-day stuff like utilizing Google Maps, trying up restaurant opinions by way of Google/Journey Advisor/Yelp, utilizing random apps, utilizing Uber, reserving e-tickets, utilizing e mail, and so on. as a result of these are stuff you usually do spur of the second. That’s why I want to have the choice of getting cell knowledge as a result of having to hunt out a espresso store each time I wish to use the web will get tiring in a short time.

How To Decrease Your Cellular Knowledge Utilization

Knowledge may be costly and it’s extraordinarily straightforward to unknowingly burn by a variety of knowledge as a result of many apps use knowledge within the background. Fb, e mail, Instagram, Snapchat… these all consistently use knowledge all through the day with out you realizing it. That’s why it’s vital to know the best way to restrict your knowledge utilization.

Use Airplane Mode And Block Knowledge to Particular Apps

I’ll put my cellphone in Airplane Mode as a result of that disables all knowledge (however GPS nonetheless works in Airplane Mode). It’s also possible to 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 fashion after I flip off Airplane Mode solely these apps that may use knowledge. Then I’ll flip Airplane Mode again on after I’m achieved.

Obtain Offline Maps

Google Maps allows you to obtain whole 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). Right here is an efficient YouTube video that explains all the things.

Make Calls Over WiFi

WhatsApp is a wonderful app at no cost calling and textual content messages — I’ve discovered that many Europeans solely use WhatsApp to speak (together with many Airbnb hosts).

Extra Europe Journey Recommendation From The Savvy Backpacker

James Feess
Newest posts by James Feess (see all)

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