Join 3,572 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Best PAYG SIM for multiple EU countries?
July 3, 2013 9:44 AM   Subscribe

I'm going to be traveling in Europe for 3 weeks, which PAYG SIM plan should I get for my unlocked iPhone 4?

I have seen this previous question, but it seems some EU regulations changed in July last year, and this previous question which is only for the UK. I will be in the UK, France, and Sweden with an unlocked AT&T iPhone 4. I am generally a very light user of call minutes, and a relatively heavy user of data. I would like to buy just one SIM card at the beginning of the trip in the UK, and have that work hassle-free for the rest of the trip.

Should I just walk into Carphone Warehouse and ask their advice, or is there a specific plan or provider that is likely the best bet? If I buy a PAYG SIM card, is there any requirements to keep topping up, or can I just use it for one month and then stop?
posted by Joh to Technology (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Relatedly, the new regulations just came into force, capping roaming charges within the EU.
posted by modernnomad at 9:55 AM on July 3, 2013


Three weeks traveling between 3 countries is going to make it tricky to make an easy recommendation. If it were me I would connect via wifi whenever I could and then use a service like Viber for calls. Any PAYG contract is going to be for a month and you are going to have the hassle of getting hold of the SIM - and cancelling the deal at the end.

Within France Free's €19 a month PAYG offer is pretty good. It also allows you to make free calls to fixed line phones in various other countries - and to mobile phones in France. During the initial implementation of the package support for roaming was rather limited however - I gather this has improved a little - but it is a France-centric solution.
posted by rongorongo at 10:07 AM on July 3, 2013


A buddy of mine works for Doodad, they're a legit company and seem to be competitively priced and above board.
posted by Oktober at 10:08 AM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes, the landscape has changed and is changing. If I were you, I'd get a UK pay-as-you-go SIM with the best roaming rates. Which one is that? You may have to decide that for yourself.

Here's O2 Travel. Here's Vodafone.

If I buy a PAYG SIM card, is there any requirements to keep topping up, or can I just use it for one month and then stop?

You can use it for a few days if you like, and stop. It is only as good as how much money you have on it. If that reaches zero, the phone stops working until you add more money.
posted by vacapinta at 10:15 AM on July 3, 2013


I would like to buy just one SIM card at the beginning of the trip in the UK, and have that work hassle-free for the rest of the trip.
If you're doing this for convenience/simplicity then fair enough, but if you're doing it to save money then you should realise that you can do this for about €/£10 per country, so we're not talking the enormous amounts of money you might be used to in the US.

So while things are much cheaper in each country than in the US, I don't know of any roaming data packages that make "heavy" use affordable. The new EU caps on data charges are smaller than they were, but they're still several tens of pence per MB, so a single SIM is still going to be far from affordable for anything more than checking your email every day or so, and maybe the occasional map. (At 60c/MB this is also true of Doodad!)

I would just get three SIMs (and maybe do a Google Voice/Skype thing to consolidate phone numbers). You can probably get the SIMs in advance via eBay sellers if you want them in your luggage before you set off. In the UK, the standard recommendation these days is giffgaff.
Any PAYG contract is going to be for a month and you are going to have the hassle of getting hold of the SIM - and cancelling the deal at the end.
I can't speak for France or Sweden, but this is not true in the UK or Germany. The whole point of PAYG is there is no contract, and nothing to cancel. You get a card (which is free). You add credit. You spend the credit either on a per minute/text/MB thing, or on some sort of "bundle", which will usually be valid for a month. There's nothing to cancel.
posted by caek at 10:19 AM on July 3, 2013


I've just been through this as I'm just finishing up a 3 week Europe Trip to London, Paris and Rome.

Our original plan was to get a Vodafone sim in the UK and just use the 25mb for 2 pound a day default option. To do this you just buy a standard sim and top it up (we opted for the internet freebee of 500mb but ended up not using any of it due to a free internet promotion they were running). This cost us 10 pound as the sim was free. It will automatically go to the 25mb a day option when you enable roaming.

We struck a problem once we got to France however as there were issues with our Airbnb rental and we used our credit calling the USA to try and resolve it. We only have Australian credit cards and to top up on the internet or over the phone you need a credit card with a UK postcode.

After giving up on trying to top up the UK sim we decided to buy a French one. We found that free wifi was reasonably hard to find in France and we resorted going to McDonalds to google a few phone places to check out. We went to the Phone Warehouse on the corner of Boulevard Montmatre and Rue Vivienne where they spoke English. They sold us an Orange sim card for 30 Euros (20 for sim, 10 for credit) which included 500mb. The man who served us activated the sim for us and everything. Orange do not let you tether other devices to share the internet connection but do offer free internet to Orange customers in some places (Versailles for one).

The French sim wouldn't connect to the internet in Rome but it did send us a text message offering us some roaming packages so this might work well for you if you can read French. We got an Italian sim from Three which is by far the most generous although probably not helpful for you (but I'll include it for others). For 30 Euro we got a sim and 3gb. We have just received a message saying we also have 3gb to use next month. You can share this internet with other devices. One problem we have come across today is that if you turn your phone off it will ask for the sim pin again so don't throw it out, oh and you have to wait until midnight for the sim to activate. Also McDonald's in Italy require a European cellphone number to send a password to before you can use free wifi.

Both the French and Italian places required ID, preferably a passport but we were able to us our Driver's Licences.
posted by poxandplague at 1:59 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Any PAYG contract is going to be for a month and you are going to have the hassle of getting hold of the SIM - and cancelling the deal at the end.
I can't speak for France or Sweden, but this is not true in the UK or Germany.


Apologies - the free mobile deal I mentioned is not a contract: but you do have to remember to cancel the monthly debit that you set up. You might also experience issues in France (at least) if you don't have an address and/or a bank account in the country. You may also run into language problems when either obtaining the SIM or dealing with any issues.
posted by rongorongo at 4:19 PM on July 3, 2013


« Older I need a very basic web-based ...   |  I need group health insurance,... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.