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Information To Utilizing Smartphones, Knowledge Plans & SIM Playing cards in Europe (2022)

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

On this information, I’ll cowl all the things you might want to learn about utilizing smartphones in Europe — together with learn how to purchase low cost high-speed knowledge plans, learn how 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 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.

Nevertheless, many of those worldwide plans are costly so that you would possibly get hit with pricey worldwide knowledge roaming in the event you’re not cautious and the speeds may be gradual.

Your different choice is to purchase a European SIM card that comes with a pay as you go knowledge plan. It is 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 completely different choices beneath.

Utilizing Your American Cellular Knowledge Plan In Europe

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

The most important draw back is excessive prices and never nice service—you usually get gradual speeds and restricted knowledge. For instance, a few of these knowledge plans cost you $15/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/message. So yeah, it’s fairly horrible…

In order for you 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 on right here to skip to the “How To Purchase A SIM Card With Excessive-Velocity Knowledge in Europe” part of this text.

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

NOTE: Many US carries declare to present you 4G/LTE speeds in Europe 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 internet looking.

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 extremely popular alternative for price range vacationers.

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

If you happen to want extra knowledge, you possibly can add an Worldwide Cross to obtain further high-speed knowledge.

  • Worldwide Cross: 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 Worldwide Cross: 5GB of high-speed knowledge at as much as LTE speeds and limitless calling, for use as much as 10 days, for $35.
  • 15GB Worldwide Cross: 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, prospects additionally get limitless texting and Wi-Fi once they fly with Gogo in-flight on Alaska, Delta, and American Airways flights to, from, and inside the US.

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

Utilizing Verizon In Europe

Verizon isn’t nice with regards 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 possibly can mainly take your regular Verizon plan and use it in Europe. You do get 4G velocity on the primary 500MB of knowledge however then the velocity 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 whole month. After you hit your restrict your speeds are throttled down.
  • Pay as You Go pricing
    • You can too 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 with regards to utilizing their knowledge plans in Europe but it surely nonetheless isn’t nice.

  • AT&T Worldwide Day Cross
    • For an additional $10/day you possibly can take your present AT&T plan and use it in Europe. Knowledge can be drawn out of your home plan allowance with the identical knowledge and velocity restrictions in order that’s fairly good if in case you have an excellent US plan. There are another circumstances so learn up on these.
    • AT&T mechanically opts you into the Internation Day Cross as quickly as your telephone tries to entry knowledge (many apps connect with knowledge within the background) so ensure 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 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-Velocity Knowledge Plan In Europe

You can too use your American smartphone in Europe by changing your telephone’s bodily SIM card with a SIM card of a European cellular provider so your telephone 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 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.

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 info speeds are a lot quicker, and also you’ll get rather more knowledge allowances in comparison with US plans.

For instance, you possibly can usually discover pre-paid plans that provide 20GB of high-speed knowledge for €20/month and the service works in any EU nation. Moreover, almost each plan may also include speak and textual content as a part of the package deal.

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

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 simple and may solely take a couple of minutes.

NOTE: Utilizing a European SIM card offers you a European telephone quantity so individuals received’t be capable of name your US quantity till you reinstall your authentic SIM card. Moreover, some apps and different providers generally use two-factor authentication that’s tied to your telephone quantity so these received’t work since your telephone quantity can be modified when the brand new SIM is put in. HOWEVER: This isn’t the case in the event you use an eSIM as a result of eSIMs allow you to use each your authentic 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 telephone received’t work in the event you set up a SIM card from one other firm.

Nevertheless, you possibly can unlock your telephone by calling your cellular 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 way of hoops and so they have completely different standards about which prospects are “eligible” to unlock their telephone. So contact your provider to see what you might want to do — I like to recommend not ready till the final minute in case there are points.

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

Sadly, some cellular carriers refuse to unlock telephones whereas they’re nonetheless underneath contract. On this case, I like to recommend utilizing an previous smartphone that you simply don’t use anymore or use 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 individuals promoting manufacturing unit unlocked telephones or low cost older-model smartphones on-line that can be completely caple of staple items like texting, Google Maps, and light-weight internet looking.

Bear in mind, you possibly can nonetheless use your present smartphone in Europe for images 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 bought by way of

The best choice is to purchase a pay as you go European SIM card earlier than you journey and have it mailed to your private home tackle — this fashion you’re able to go the second you arrive in Europe. The costs are sometimes somewhat larger than shopping for in Europe but it surely’s a extra handy choice.

UPDATE: In case your telephone 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 authentic SIM card in your telephone, and supply is on the spot so that you don’t need to pay for delivery. Take a look at 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. However others may need you register them on-line while you get the cardboard but it surely’s often fairly easy.

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


The Orange Vacation Europe Pay as you go 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.

Moreover, Orange is without doubt one of the largest cellular 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: 20GB
  • 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 loads of cellular knowledge for an honest 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 stated, you should purchase an additional 10GB of credit score after the 2 weeks are up for round $25.

If you happen to want much less knowledge and wish to save somewhat cash, try the $30 Orange Vacation plan that offers you 8GB of knowledge for 14 days.

The Orange Vacation plans are additionally obtainable as an eSIM—which implies you don’t have to attend for supply or pay for delivery (assuming your telephone is eSIM suitable). 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.

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


Three UK is one other giant European cellular provider 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 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
  • Should be activated in France however can be utilized wherever within the EU.

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

The place To Purchase A SIM Card in Europe

Shopping for a European SIM card is simple as a result of they’re bought just about in every single place — together with airports, merchandising machines, grocery shops, and extra.

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

  • Provider-Particular Retailers: The most important cellular carriers may have their very own shops the place they’ll assist get your service arrange. Most staff ought to communicate some English however they set up SIM playing cards all day in order that they’ll be capable of set you up with out a lot communication wanted.
  • Third-Occasion Telephone Retailers: There are various cell phone outlets that promote a variety of telephone plans from a number of firms. Staff would possibly be capable of supply some assist getting arrange however service most likely received’t be pretty much as good as carrier-specific outlets.
  • Newsstands, Tobacco Retailers, Merchandising Machines, and so on: You’ll 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.

Varieties Of Pay as you go Cellular Knowledge Plans in Europe

There are dozens of cellular carriers and every may 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 sometimes probably the most user-friendly and may provide the greatest velocity/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 definitely reload more cash 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 the event you use your telephone sparingly.

Bundle Cellular Knowledge Plans

A Bundle Cellular plan is the best choice for terribly heavy knowledge customers because you pay quite a bit much less per gigabyte of knowledge. Most carriers supply 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 in the direction of residents.

How A lot Do Cellular Knowledge Plans Price in Europe?

Cellular knowledge plan costs in Europe fluctuate extensively based mostly on the nation, plan choices, and numerous offers occurring on the time—so it’s laborious to precisely predict how a lot you’ll pay. Nevertheless, listed below are some instance costs so you possibly can have a greater thought 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 Pay as you go Vacation SIM Card (French) prices round €40 and it provides you 20 GB of cellular knowledge good for 14 days (you possibly can add extra credit score as you go). Whereas it’s costlier, you possibly can have this SIM card shipped to your US tackle earlier than you permit. Good all through the EU.
  • TIM (Italian) has a tourist-specific plan known as Tim Vacationer for €20 (+ €10 for the SIM) that included 15 GB of knowledge 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 that features 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 you might want 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 situated in somewhat slot on the facet of the telephone. You pop it out with a SIM card instrument or a paperclip. 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 Telephone: Android telephones sometimes have the SIM card situated the place the battery is situated 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 telephone will acknowledge the brand new SIM card and it ought to mechanically connect with the brand new provider’s community (it could immediate you to restart the telephone after putting in).

Your SIM card will include directions in English on learn how to end establishing your service. Usually, 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 providers (knowledge, speak, textual content, and so on.).

NOTE: Some international locations require that you simply register your SIM card so you could have to point out your passport and/or listing an area tackle (you possibly can usually use your lodge or rental condo tackle).

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 firms allow you to prime up by way of their web site or you should purchase credit score at newsstands, grocery shops, and so on. Usually you’re given a code that you simply enter into your telephone and that’s how the credit score is added.

Doable Issues Utilizing A European SIM Card

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

Needing An Handle/Passport: Some international locations require that every one SIM playing cards should be registered and that often means needing to present them an area tackle while you activate the service. Typically you possibly can simply put in any tackle (like a lodge, and so on.) however some locations require you to point out your passport as nicely.

Technical Hassle: For the most effective service, it’s beneficial to purchase your SIM straight from a cellular firm’s bodily retailer. This fashion they’ll be capable of get all the things activated proper there. Some cheaper firms make you telephone them to activate and they may not have any English audio system. The shop may not have English audio system both but it surely’s a lot simpler to get stuff completed 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 telephone’s specs.

Stick With Main 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 somewhat extra but it surely’s most likely price the price to keep away from points.

Extra Ideas On Utilizing Your Cellular Telephone In Europe

Purchase A Transportable Battery Charger

Utilizing apps like Google Maps and taking images kills your telephone battery so a conveyable battery is a must have. I take advantage of 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 individuals overestimate how simple it’s to seek out free wifi in Europe. Sure, free wifi is turning into extra prevalent all through Europe. Nevertheless, it’s laborious to rely completely on free wifi since it may be a ache to really discover a free community while you really want it.

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

Counting on free wifi fails with regards to day-to-day stuff like utilizing Google Maps, trying up restaurant critiques 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 belongings you sometimes 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 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 simple to unknowingly burn by way of loads 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 it’s essential to know learn how to restrict your knowledge utilization.

Use Airplane Mode And Block Knowledge to Particular Apps

I’ll put my telephone in Airplane Mode as a result of that disables all knowledge (however GPS nonetheless works in Airplane Mode). You can too go into the settings and disable knowledge 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 incessantly — 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 completed.

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 knowledge so offline Google Maps works pretty nicely (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 totally free calling and textual content messages — I’ve discovered that many Europeans completely use WhatsApp to speak (together with many Airbnb hosts).

Extra Europe Journey Recommendation From The Savvy Backpacker

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Thanks For Studying! — James

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