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So, you’re heading to Europe to broaden your mind, soak up the culture and rediscover yourself.
But, how will you call your fellow travellers when you lose them in Disneyland Paris? How will you order your Uber in Barcelona? And how, for the love of all things good in this world, will you share that photo of your margherita pizza on Instagram?
Looks like you’re going to need to sort out a SIM card for Europe.
If the idea of wandering the streets of Prague searching for a Vodafone isn’t part of your holiday vision, you can always use your Australian SIM card in Europe. A number of Australian mobile service providers offer a special international roaming pack that will enable you to use your local number overseas – at a price, of course.
An Optus Travel Pack will allow you to roam for $10 a day. The bundle allows you to accumulate data by purchasing multiple packs at once, increasing the amount of time you’re covered for. For example, if you pay a $50 lump fee, you will get unlimited calls and texts, as well as 500MB of data, to use in a 5-day period. Extra data packs can be added at any time in-app or on the Optus website.
If Vodafone is your mobile provider, for just $5 extra per day you can add roaming to your current plan. This can be turned on and off as you wish, and provides you with the same calls, texts and internet data as you would have at home.
The Telstra Day Pass provides you with daily unlimited calls and texts and 200MB, which expires at midnight if unused. If you go over this limit, another 500MB, $10 extension will be added with a month-long expiry. This will only drop as you exceed your daily data limit.
Another positive of choosing Telstra is holiday-makers access to on Wi-Fi. An overseas comms extension to Telstra’s network, this system connects 21 million Wi-Fi hotspots worldwide, and makes for a good alternative to chewing through your data every day.
If you’re heading to Europe for a while, it can often be a better idea to consider a local SIM card to save you some money. Some of the best value pay as you go SIM card options include:
The majority of European SIM cards will work across country borders with roaming. Just to be safe, enquire with the provider if you’re intending on using one SIM in multiple European countries.
As of 15 June 2017, the EU has implemented a ‘roam like at home’ policy across all EU countries. This means any phone user with an EU SIM card will be able to access the mobile package and local charges they would in their home country from anywhere in the EU. This means that Aussie travellers can access this policy too if they purchase a local SIM card in the country they are holidaying in.
However, there are some important points that could limit your use of this policy:
There are a number of ways to go about getting your hands on a European SIM. One of the simplest ways of doing so is to visit a store once you’re in the country, using your Australian SIM as an emergency measure until you swap to a local SIM.
A number of major service providers will have stores or kiosks set up in the airports, so keep your eye out for these when you land. However, if you’re searching for one of the more budget providers, you might have to head into the town centre to sign up.
Signing up online is another option, but you may need a local address for the provider to mail out your SIM. In addition, most providers’ websites don’t have an English option, making them more difficult to navigate if you don’t have a command of the language.
— DigitalSingleMarket (@DSMeu) 7 May 2016
While Europe has relatively consistent network coverage across most countries, the quality of your connection can vary drastically depending on the region. This is especially apparent if you are trying to use mobile data.
For example, in the UK, you’ll be able to use 4G pretty reliably across main city centres in London, Manchester and Birmingham, but out in more rural areas you can see coverage fluctuate between 2G or GSM, sometimes dropping out altogether. Fortunately, free Wi-Fi is in plentiful supply across many European towns, so if you’re really in a jam, you can try to connect to one of these.
In terms of 4G/LTE coverage, recent stats from OpenSignal place the Netherlands and Hungary as the top performing countries, with Norway and Sweden close behind.
Now that you’re all clued up with your options for European SIMs and roaming, tick off the next item on your to do list and get your travel insurance sorted before you go.
Note: Information current as of 11th June, 2018.