Which pre-paid SIM card to buy for cross-Europe travel?
June 6, 2016 11:47 AM   Subscribe

Please give me some suggestions on a prepaid sim card (unlocked iPhone 5s) for a three month trip to Europe, based out of Germany. I need 1-2 gigs of LTE data per month and hope not to be gouged while roaming in a few other countries. Specific company suggestions would be much appreciated!

I'm flying to Berlin tomorrow, and, while I'll be there for most of the summer, I'll also be spending a few days or weeks each in Greece, the UK, the Czech Republic, and Sweden.

What I need: between 1 and 2 gigs of LTE data per month (I don't want it to be like the first 200mb are fast and the rest are sluggish). Texting and calls would be a fine perk but data-only would be fine. I know that roaming costs are less than they used to be, but if there's a company that doesn't bump it up at all, that'd be awesome.

Which companies are good and run on a fast network? And where should I buy it (grocery store, kiosk, mobile outlet only)? I would place transparency and reliability over cheapness.

posted by Beardman to Travel & Transportation (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I found this page to be useful in comparing the options. I would optimize for Germany and lean towards companies that have a presence in the other countries as well. I know O2 and Vodaphone have a UK presence, so I would go for those two over the other two options on the page. The carriers' websites are useful for roaming rates and most of them have a standard roaming rate for the whole EU.
Also, be sure to pack your sim card removal tool (actual or paper clip version) if you don't plan to go into a mobile store.
posted by soelo at 12:13 PM on June 6, 2016

What are you using the data for?

I ask this because -- is there a reason you can't just use wifi for the side trips from Germany? Or for the whole time?

This may be different in different European countries, but in Italy last year I found data to be too sluggish and unreliable to use it for something like turn by turn navigation. Which is the only likely use I can come up with where you'd be worried about lots of fast cellular data available at all times. I'd strongly suspect that this isn't the case in Germany, the UK, and probably Sweden, but for general Euro travel I really would not assume that you'll be able to navigate using cellular data.
posted by Sara C. at 12:27 PM on June 6, 2016

Will you be renting a car? Because most car rental places will include a wifi hotspot for a small fee, usually with unlimited data. I was in Germany for a month earlier this year and paid fifty euro for the hotspot.

Similarly, the airport in Prague had quite a few vendors who wanted to rent me a hotspot, as well.
posted by Master Gunner at 1:36 PM on June 6, 2016

Don't discount the possibility of buying a few country-specific cards. Especially for the weeks-long trips.

With data needs similar to yours, I did some research into this last year and found there was no multi-country solution nearly as cheap as buying country-specific cards. For my short travels, the value difference was enough that I was fine with the small annoyance and waste of switching cards a couple times.

And as for waste: if you've got a couple of bucks left on a card, it's a great feeling to give it away to a friend (or to anyone else you can trust not to use it for things you wouldn't want associated with you :)).

Specific company: in Sweden, I loved Comviq.
posted by kalapierson at 2:44 PM on June 6, 2016

In the UK, GiffGaff is good value for money. They are underpinned by O2.
posted by kariebookish at 5:59 AM on June 7, 2016

I just got back from a couple of weeks in a few countries in Europe. I looked into cards and plans that would let me use one card across 5 countries, but with roaming costs and some brands using networks with crappier coverage (Lebara) it made more sense to just get a new card in each country. For example, in Berlin I got a Vodafone sim with 1 gig of data for 5 Euros. Other countries was between 5 to 10 Euros for similar data caps. FWIW, I tried out Lebara, Lycamobile and Vodafone sims and got the best speeds and easiest setup with Vodafone. I was traveling as a tourist and went through a gig in about 5 days using a lot of maps and apps to find places to eat and things to see.
posted by homesickness at 1:16 PM on June 13, 2016

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