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

Having a high-speed information plan whereas touring Europe is nearly a necessity as of late — particularly for navigating with Google Maps and discovering restaurant suggestions. Sadly, utilizing iPhones and Android smartphones in Europe might be complicated and costly when you’re not cautious.

On this information, I’ll cowl the whole lot it’s worthwhile to learn about utilizing smartphones in Europe — together with easy methods to purchase low-cost high-speed information plans, easy methods to purchase SIM playing cards in Europe, and different methods for utilizing your smartphone overseas.

Will My Smartphone Work In Europe — The Fundamentals

Nearly all fashionable smartphones (iPhone 7 and newer) are suitable with Europe’s cell infrastructure and each main US service has worldwide information 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.

Nonetheless, many of those worldwide plans are costly so that you would possibly get hit with pricey worldwide information roaming when you’re not cautious and the speeds might be gradual.

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

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

Utilizing Your American Cellular Information Plan In Europe

The simplest method to make use of your American cellphone in Europe is so as to add a global information plan to your present cell service—each main service permits you to do that. Merely name them up or log on and so they’ll gladly improve your account to work with European carriers they’ve service agreements with. In lots of instances, your cellphone will mechanically join with out you needing to do something.

The most important draw back is extraordinarily excessive prices and never nice service—you usually get gradual speeds and restricted information. For instance, a few of these information 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’d like precise high-speed information whereas touring in Europe that gained’t break the bank you’ll want a European pay as you go information plan—don’t fear, it’s truly a very simple course of. Click on right here to skip to the “How To Purchase A SIM Card With Excessive-Velocity Information in Europe” part of this text.

I’ve listed out the worldwide information plan particulars of the largest US carriers:

NOTE: Many US carriers declare to present 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 wrestle with Google maps and even easy net shopping.

Utilizing T-Cellular In Europe

T-Cellular made headlines a couple of years in the past when it began providing free and limitless worldwide information, textual content, and low-cost worldwide calls with most of its plans. This made T-Cellular a very fashionable selection for finances vacationers.

Prospects with Magenta and Magenta MAX cellphone plans get limitless texting and information in 210+ international locations and as much as 5GB of 4G LTE information (limitless 2G speeds thereafter). 5GB of information is loads for net shopping, e-mail, social media, and occasional use of sure options like GPS/maps. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t stream video or music since that may rapidly eat up your information.

In the event you want extra information, you’ll be able to add an Worldwide Go to obtain extra high-speed information.

  • Worldwide Go: 512MB of high-speed information 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 information 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 information at as much as LTE speeds and limitless calling, for use for 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 Airways flights to, from, and throughout the US.

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

Utilizing Verizon In Europe

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

  • TravelPass
    • For an additional $10/day you’ll be able to 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.
  • Month-to-month Worldwide Journey 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 entire 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. Information is $2.05/MB and texts value $.50 every.

Go to the Verizon web site for extra data.

Utilizing AT&T In Europe

AT&T is respectable in terms of utilizing their information plans in Europe but it surely nonetheless isn’t nice.

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

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

How To Purchase A SIM Card With A Excessive-Velocity Information 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 service so your cellphone will function on a European community.

UPDATE: Most new telephones are eSIM suitable—which doesn’t require you to put in a brand new bodily SIM card. You merely purchase the pay as you go information 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’ll be able to learn our Information To The Greatest eSIM Information 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 service is less expensive, the information speeds are a lot sooner, and also you’ll get rather more information allowances in comparison with US plans.

For instance, you’ll be able to usually discover pre-paid plans that supply 20GB of high-speed information for €20/month and the service works in any EU nation. Moreover, practically each plan will even include discuss and textual content as a part of the package deal.

NOTE: By regulation, there are not any worldwide roaming costs 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 additional costs.

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 mentioned, getting your service arrange is normally 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 to name your US quantity till you reinstall your unique SIM card (until you might have a cellphone with two SIM Card slots). Moreover, some apps and different providers typically use two-factor authentication that’s tied to your cellphone quantity so these gained’t work since your cellphone quantity can 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 unique SIM card and the eSIM on the similar time.

How To Unlock Your Smartphone

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

Nonetheless, you’ll be able to unlock your cellphone by calling your cell service 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).

However unlocking your smartphone is usually a problem as a result of some carriers make you soar by way of hoops and so they have totally different standards about which clients are “eligible” to unlock their cellphone. So contact your service 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 Cellular Service Gained’t Unlock Your Smartphone?

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

Previous telephones make nice journey telephones because it’s not an enormous deal in the event that they get misplaced/stolen/damaged. You may usually discover folks promoting factory-unlocked telephones or low-cost older-model smartphones on-line that can be completely caple of staple items like texting, Google Maps, and lightweight net shopping.

Bear in mind, you’ll be able to nonetheless use your present smartphone in Europe for images after which hop right into a espresso store to add stuff through their WiFi.

Shopping for A SIM Card Earlier than You Journey

SIM Playing cards offered through SimOptions.com

The simplest choice is to purchase a pay as you go European SIM card earlier than you journey and have it mailed to your property handle — this manner you’re able to go the second you arrive in Europe. The costs are usually somewhat larger than shopping for in Europe but it surely’s a extra handy choice.

UPDATE: In case your cellphone is eSIM suitable, 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 unique SIM card in your cellphone, and supply is prompt so that you don’t need to pay for delivery. Take a look at the eSIM information plans at SimOptions for in style eSIM information 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. However others may need you register them on-line while you get the cardboard but it surely’s normally fairly easy.

I’m a fan of SimOptions.com as they’re a certified reseller of a number of SIM card plans from a lot 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 the perfect all-around choice for SIM playing cards that may be bought overseas as a result of it provides numerous information for a very good value — and it contains numerous worldwide calls and textual content.

Moreover, Orange is among the largest cell firms in Europe and so they have nice protection all through most of Europe (which isn’t all the time 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 sweet as a result of it offers you numerous cell information for an honest value 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 buy an additional 10GB of credit score after the 2 weeks are up for round $25.

In the event you want much less information and need to save somewhat cash, try the $30 Orange Vacation plan that offers you 8GB of information for 14 days.

The Orange Vacation plans are additionally out there as an eSIM—which implies you don’t have to attend for supply or pay for delivery (assuming your cellphone is eSIM suitable). Take a look at the eSIM information plans at SimOptions to get the small print on each the Orange Vacation Europe eSIM and the Orange Vacation Zen eSIM plans.

Study extra about eSIM information plans and see in case your cellphone accepts eSIM playing cards in my Information to Pay as you go eSIM Information Plans in Europe.


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

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

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

Holafly Limitless Information eSIM

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

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

  • Costs For Limitless Information (Verify 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 Velocity: 5G/4G/LTE
  • Calls: None
  • Texts/SMS: None
  • Tethering: No


Three UK is one other massive European cell service and their PAYG AIO15 plan is an efficient worth for individuals who don’t want the 20GB supplied 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 straightforward as a result of they’re offered nearly all over the place — together with airports, merchandising machines, grocery shops, and extra. In case you have an eSIM, you should buy them on-line at sellers like SimOptions and Holafly.

Listed here are a couple of of the preferred locations you’ll discover SIM playing cards:

  • Service-Particular Retailers: The most important cell carriers may 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 to set you up with out a lot communication wanted.
  • Third-Occasion Cellphone Retailers: There are numerous cell phone outlets that promote a spread of cellphone plans from a number of firms. Staff would possibly be capable to supply some assist getting arrange however service in all probability gained’t be pretty much as good as carrier-specific outlets.
  • Newsstands, Tobacco Retailers, Merchandising Machines, and so forth: You could find SIM playing cards in a number of smaller outlets 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 Information Plans in Europe

There are dozens of cell carriers and every may have a number of plans (both pay-as-you-go or bundled) so simply choose 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 Cellular Information

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

Bundle Cellular Information Plans

A Bundle Cellular plan is the best choice for very heavy information customers because you pay quite a bit much less per gigabyte of information. Most carriers supply a number of bundle plans so simply choose 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 typical traveler because it’s geared towards residents.

How A lot Do Cellular Information Plans Value in Europe?

Cellular information plan costs in Europe range extensively primarily based on the nation, plan choices, and varied offers happening on the time—so it’s arduous to precisely predict how a lot you’ll pay. Nonetheless, listed below are some instance costs so you’ll be able to have a greater thought of how a lot you’ll doubtlessly pay:

  • SFR (French) provides a €20 plan with 25 GB of cell information 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 offers you 20 GB of cell information good for 14 days (you’ll be able to add extra credit score as you go). Whereas it’s dearer, you’ll be able to have this SIM card shipped to your US handle 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 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 Set up A SIM Card And Activate Your Service

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

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

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

Your SIM card will include directions in English on easy methods to end establishing your service. Usually, you’ll be able to 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 providers (information, discuss, textual content, and so forth.).

NOTE: Some international locations require that you just register your SIM card so you’ll have to indicate your passport and/or checklist an area handle (you’ll be able to usually use your resort or rental condo handle).

How To High Up Your SIM Card

When you run out of credit score you’ll must “high up” your SIM card so as to add extra credit score to your account. Most firms allow you to high up through their web site or you should buy credit score at newsstands, grocery shops, and so forth. Usually you’re given a code that you just 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 here are a couple of of the most typical points:

Needing An Tackle/Passport: Some international locations require that each one SIM playing cards should be registered and that normally means needing to present them an area handle while you activate the service. Typically you’ll be able to simply put in any handle (like a resort, and so forth.) however some locations require you to indicate your passport as nicely.

Technical Hassle: For the perfect service, it’s really helpful to purchase your SIM straight from a cell firm’s bodily retailer. This manner they’ll be capable to get the whole lot activated proper there. Some cheaper firms make you cellphone them to activate and they may not have any English audio system. The shop won’t have English audio system but it surely’s a lot simpler to get stuff carried out in particular person.

Getting The Right Dimension SIM Card: SIM playing cards come in numerous bodily sizes so ensure 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 normally have the perfect service and speeds. You would possibly find yourself paying somewhat extra but it surely’s in all probability value the 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 images 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 feel folks overestimate how straightforward it’s to seek out free wifi in Europe. Sure, free wifi is turning into extra prevalent all through Europe. Nonetheless, it’s arduous to rely solely on free wifi since it may be a ache to really discover a free community while you really want it.

One of the best locations to seek out free wifi are McDonald’s, Starbucks, cafés, espresso outlets, and hostels/resorts — however getting linked is never tremendous handy, dependable, or quick.

Counting on free wifi fails in terms of day-to-day stuff like utilizing Google Maps, wanting up restaurant critiques through Google/Journey Advisor/Yelp, utilizing random apps, utilizing Uber, reserving e-tickets, utilizing e mail, and so forth. as a result of these are stuff you usually do spur of the second. That’s why I choose to have the choice of getting cell information 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 Decrease Your Cellular Information Utilization

Information might be costly and it’s extraordinarily straightforward to unknowingly burn by way of numerous information as a result of many apps use information within the background. Fb, e mail, Instagram, Snapchat… these all consistently use information all through the day with out you figuring out it. That’s it’s vital to know easy methods to restrict your information utilization.

Use Airplane Mode And Block Information to Particular Apps

I’ll put my cellphone in Airplane Mode as a result of that disables all information (however GPS nonetheless works in Airplane Mode). It’s also possible to go into the settings and disable information entry to every particular person app. I’ll go in and switch each off apart from issues like Google Maps or others that I’ll use extra steadily — this manner once I flip off Airplane Mode solely these apps that may use information. Then I’ll flip Airplane Mode again on once I’m carried out.

Obtain Offline Maps

Google Maps permits you to obtain total metropolis maps to allow them to be used offline. As an added bonus, GPS doesn’t use information so offline Google Maps works pretty nicely (however not all performance works). Right here is an efficient YouTube video that explains the whole lot.

Make Calls Over WiFi

WhatsApp is a wonderful app totally free 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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The Savvy Backpacker is reader-supported. Which means while you purchase merchandise/providers by way of hyperlinks on the location, I could earn an affiliate fee—it doesn’t value you something additional and it helps assist the location.

Thanks For Studying! — James

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