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 lately — particularly for navigating with Google Maps and discovering restaurant suggestions. Sadly, utilizing iPhones and Android smartphones in Europe might be complicated and costly should you’re not cautious.

On this information, I’ll cowl the whole lot it’s good to find out about utilizing smartphones in Europe — together with tips on how to purchase low-cost high-speed knowledge plans, tips on 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 cell infrastructure and each main US service has worldwide knowledge plans — so your smartphone ought to robotically work when you arrive in Europe as a result of the key US carriers have partnerships with native European carriers.

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

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

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

Utilizing Your American Cell Knowledge Plan In Europe

The best method to make use of your American cellphone in Europe is so as to add a global knowledge plan to your present cell service — each main service enables 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 circumstances, your cellphone will robotically join with out you needing to do something.

The main draw back is excessive prices and never nice service—you typically 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 value as a lot as $.25/message. So yeah, it’s fairly horrible…

If you would like 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 truly 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 carries declare to offer 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 net looking.

Utilizing T-Cell In Europe

T-Cell 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-Cell a very talked-about alternative for funds vacationers.

Clients 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 net 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 rapidly eat up your knowledge.

If you happen to want extra knowledge, you’ll be able to 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 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 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 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-Cell web site for extra info.

Utilizing Verizon In Europe

Verizon isn’t nice in terms of 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’ll be able to principally 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 your entire month. After you hit your restrict your speeds are throttled down.
  • Pay as You Go pricing
    • You too can pay as you go but it surely’s extraordinarily costly. Knowledge is $2.05/MB and texts value $.50 every.

Go to the Verizon web site for extra info.

Utilizing AT&T In Europe

AT&T is respectable in terms of utilizing their knowledge 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. Knowledge will likely be drawn out of your home plan allowance with the identical knowledge and velocity restrictions in order that’s fairly good you probably 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 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.
    • Observe: They cost a hefty overage of $30/GB so watch your knowledge utilization.

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

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

You too can 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 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 cell service is less expensive, the info speeds are a lot sooner, and also you’ll get way more knowledge allowances in comparison with US plans.

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

NOTE: By regulation, there are not any worldwide roaming fees throughout the European Union so should you purchase your SIM card throughout the EU then that service will work in some other EU nation with no further fees.

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 normally very easy and will solely take a couple of minutes.

NOTE: Utilizing a European SIM card will provide you with a European cellphone quantity so individuals received’t be capable to name your US quantity till you reinstall your unique SIM card. Moreover, some apps and different companies typically use two-factor authentication that’s tied to your cellphone quantity so these received’t work since your cellphone quantity will likely be modified when the brand new SIM is put in. HOWEVER: This isn’t the case should 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 cellphone firms use software program to “lock” their smartphones to their community so the cellphone received’t work should you set up a SIM card from one other firm.

Nevertheless, 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 may 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 bounce via hoops they usually have totally different standards about which clients are “eligible” to unlock their cellphone. So contact your service 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 Cell 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 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 possibly can typically discover individuals promoting manufacturing facility unlocked telephones or low-cost older-model smartphones on-line that will likely be completely caple of staple items like texting, Google Maps, and lightweight net looking.

Keep in mind, you’ll be able to nonetheless use your present smartphone in Europe for photographs 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

The best possibility is to purchase a pay as you go European SIM card earlier than you journey and have it mailed to your house deal with — this fashion you’re able to go the second you arrive in Europe. The costs are usually a bit larger than shopping for in Europe but it surely’s a extra handy possibility.

UPDATE: In case your cellphone is eSIM suitable, 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 prompt so that you don’t must pay for transport. Take a look at the eSIM knowledge plans at SimOptions for standard 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 might need you register them on-line while you get the cardboard but it surely’s normally 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 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 possibility for SIM playing cards that may be bought overseas as a result of it provides lots of knowledge for an excellent worth — and it consists of lots of worldwide calls and textual content.

Moreover, Orange is among the largest cell firms in Europe they usually 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 sweet as a result of it provides you lots of cell knowledge for a good worth however the one doable disadvantage 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.

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

The Orange Vacation plans are additionally out there as an eSIM—which suggests you don’t have to attend for supply or pay for transport (assuming your cellphone 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 cellphone accepts eSIM playing cards in my Information to Pay as you go eSIM Knowledge Plans in Europe.


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 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 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 anyplace within the EU.

Observe: has different playing cards on the market however these are one of the best 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 offered just about in all places — 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:

  • Service-Particular Retailers: The main cell carriers may have their very own shops the place they’ll assist get your service arrange. Most staff ought to converse 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-Get together Telephone Retailers: There are a lot of cell phone outlets that promote a variety of cellphone plans from a number of firms. Staff may be capable to provide some assist getting arrange however service most likely received’t be nearly 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.

Varieties Of Pay as you go Cell Knowledge 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 key carriers since they’re usually probably the most user-friendly and will provide the greatest velocity/protection.

Pay-As-You-Go Cell Knowledge

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 extra money 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 affordable possibility should you use your cellphone sparingly.

Bundle Cell Knowledge Plans

A Bundle Cell plan is the most suitable choice for very heavy knowledge customers because you pay lots much less per gigabyte of knowledge. Most carriers provide a number of bundle plans so simply choose 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 Cell Knowledge Plans Value in Europe?

Cell knowledge plan costs in Europe differ broadly based mostly on the nation, plan choices, and numerous offers happening 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’ll be able to have a greater concept of how a lot you’ll doubtlessly pay:

  • SFR (French) provides 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’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 deal with earlier than you allow. 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 easy and solely takes a minute — all it’s good 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 a bit slot on the aspect of the cellphone. You pop it out with a SIM card software 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 usually 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 cellphone will acknowledge the brand new SIM card and it ought to robotically connect 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 tips on how to end organising 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 provides you a bundle of companies (knowledge, discuss, textual content, and so forth.).

NOTE: Some international locations require that you just register your SIM card so you could have to point out your passport and/or record an area deal with (you’ll be able to typically use your lodge or rental residence deal with).

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.

Doable Issues Utilizing A European SIM Card

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

Needing An Tackle/Passport: Some international locations require that every one SIM playing cards should be registered and that normally means needing to offer them an area deal with while you activate the service. Usually you’ll be able to simply put in any deal with (like a lodge, and so forth.) however some locations require you to point out your passport as nicely.

Technical Hassle: For one of the best service, it’s really useful to purchase your SIM instantly from a cell firm’s bodily retailer. This fashion 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 both but it surely’s a lot simpler to get stuff performed in individual.

Getting The Right Measurement 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 one of the best service and speeds. You may find yourself paying a bit extra but it surely’s most likely price the associated fee to keep away from points.

Extra Ideas On Utilizing Your Cell Telephone In Europe

Purchase A Transportable 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 inexpensive however there are a number of choices.

Utilizing Free WiFi Whereas Touring Europe

I feel individuals overestimate how straightforward it’s to seek out free wifi in Europe. Sure, free wifi is changing into extra prevalent all through Europe. Nevertheless, it’s laborious to rely solely on free wifi since it may be a ache to truly discover a free community while you really need it.

The perfect locations to seek out free wifi are McDonald’s, Starbucks, cafés, espresso outlets, and hostels/inns — 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 evaluations 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 belongings 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 Cell Knowledge Utilization

Knowledge might be costly and it’s extraordinarily straightforward to unknowingly burn via lots of knowledge as a result of many apps use knowledge within the background. Fb, e-mail, Instagram, Snapchat… these all always use knowledge all through the day with out you figuring out it. That’s it’s essential to know tips on how 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). You too can 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 continuously — 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 performed.

Obtain Offline Maps

Google Maps enables 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 the whole lot.

Make Calls Over WiFi

WhatsApp is a superb 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

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Thanks For Studying! — James

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