Finding the best Sim card deals for long term travel in Europe and Uk was agonizing. I deliberated over this for months before we flew over to Europe. Only recently have roaming fee’s been abolished across Europe which is great news. Now we can roam across Europe on one Sim card. I’ll introduce these to you below. If you plan on staying longer than 3 months in Uk/Europe then you probably need to read on.
Having data and the ability to download and work whilst we are away is imperative! If you’re a digital nomad you hear what I’m saying. I scoured overseas websites for hours trying to find the best options and deals for roaming whilst in Europe. But we also need the ability to make texts and calls back to home as well right?
And, spending hours of time on the phone and in the store with my current local provider Vodaphone for the best options and or solutions. Even they were unsure of our best options as we were planning to travel longer than 3 months complicated things even more. If you want to find out more about how we travel around in Europe then click here for some tips and inspiration.
The issue is, I had just not long bought a new phone and signed new contracts for me and hubby again. Under the advice of our trusted sales people in Vodaphone. This proved to be a very costly exercise, one that I regret. So my only option was to pay out our contracts! OUCH! And, costing us a very hefty pay out figure $1800. So we own the phone out right but now we have to find a easy and affordable solution whilst in Europe.
We use our phones pretty much daily. Vodafone have got a good deal that allows Aussies to travel overseas and use their phone daily including texts, calls and data for an additional $5 per day. But, with the three of us using data and phones this would soon add up! And, we are staying longer than 3 months so what choices are available to long term traveller’s (not many).
We paid out our contract and bought a pay as you go bundle in the UK from Vodafone.If you want to keep your old number then make sure you add a pre-paid option to your current number which gives you some credit and 365 days to use the credit. Vodafone offers this option. So port your number if you have to over to Vodafone so you can keep it if you need it on your return.
The pro’s of keeping your contract are you can pay additional $5 per day roam when on holiday. And not have to worry about fair usage policy. You will still be able to use your data and phone as if you are at home with no penalties other than paying the additional $5 per day.
The con’s is the service isn’t great and download speeds are quite slow. Also, latency is also slow when overseas and when travelling out of main cities often you drop out completely. So buying a local SIM does definitely have its pro’s, when staying longer than average holiday. It will work out cheaper on a pay as you go sim card or rolling plan. BUT – you need a UK address and bank account to go on a plan here. If you do not have one then the only option you will have is to purchase a Pay as you Go bundle.
If you are planning to stay in the UK and have a UK address and UK bank account here are some options. EE has Flex plans that allow you to pay as you go monthly. Three has a Rolling plan which allows you to roll the plan over without having to lock into a contract. Both allow a great degree of flexibilty. They also allow you roaming whilst in Europe. Beware that you may get caught out with calling back home or texting back home (if outside UK or Europe).
There are add on costs for doing this. Three’s rolling plan is the best I find. It allows you to roll for up to 5 months if staying outside of UK. You will have a max of 19 GB of data. Check for SMS and Call costs as these often are additional if calling back home abroad. But should be included if texting and calling within UK and Europe. For plans in UK and use when in Europe I recommend Three
My advise is to read the fine print and then check in store and then again do your research. If you are looking for a good sim deal, go for the rolling plan if in the UK most of the time. Remember you must have a UK bank account and address to purchase. Otherwise you can buy a pay as you go with Three, Vodafone, EE, O2 and other smaller suppliers. Remember to check additional costs when abroad and using roaming. 12 month contracts are the cheapest if you’re staying in the same country, with great mobile Sim unlimited data plans. Vodafone has best deal at the moment.
If you do plan to travel over into Europe regularly check the fine print. You should be able to roam with most plans. But, do read the fine print and know that your data will be limited to less than 20 GB per month. You may have to pay additional for phone calls and texts. Best bet is to stick to using What’s App or Messenger to make calls back home using wifi or data.
You can buy a Pay as You Go SIM from Vodafone UK that will allow you to top up each month. This is a great option if you do not use much wifi and can access Wifi on your travels. 35 Pound gives you 20 GB per month, unlimited texts and calls in the UK and most European countries. But if calling abroad to States, Australia, NZ you will pay additional premium prices unless you pay for an ADD ON which currently costs 5 Pounds per month for 50 minutes of International calls.
Still this is a good option as you can top up when in Europe, continue to use same phone number, data and GB’s. There are Bundle packs that are really reasonable and will allow you to use your SIM whilst you are travelling in Europe. The downside is speed and connectivity. You will lose speed in Europe. But in UK Vodafone is the largest network.
These guys do it well too! 27 pounds per month will get you 50 GB of data, roaming in European countries, or you can check out their Roaming on EE plans here. EE also have a fair usage policy, if you use more than 15 per month you will incur surcharges. Just ensure your usage alerts are loaded prior to leaving to avoid any nasty surprises. If you wish to travel beyond Europe to the States, NZ or Australia it will cost you an additional 10 GBP per month. There are plenty of beefy add on’s you can also choose from to make the deal sweeter but at a cost as always. Again you can only roam for up to 3 months during a 12 month period.
My pic of the bunch for sim card only contracts in Europe would be with Three Advanced Plans. Now this is a great deal, you can currently pay 22 GBP per month. This includes unlimited data, texts, calls and roaming to over 71 destinations in Europe for no extra cost but it is a lock in contract of 12 months. Be wary though, you are not able to tether or hotspot your data to other devices on this plan. You will be limited to 19 GB when travelling abroad from UK, however the good news is you can do this for up to 5 months. Otherwise, you could try the pay as you go options. Please read the terms and conditions again regarding roaming zones, fee’s and allowances. Once you leave the UK your data is limited to 19 GB per month. These deals are changing all the time so check out latest offers.
This seems ridiculous to me. Why would all the big telco’s want you to ditch their plan and buy another whilst overseas for your 12 month stint? Beats me. Why would they not offer this $5 additional day for 12 months or longer to keep clients hooked into their service and network? I have no idea why not. I’d love to chat to a CEO of Vodaphone, Telstra or Optus in my home of Australia and ask them why its so difficult to stay with them whilst we are travelling. After all, Aussies do travel a lot and there are tens of thousands that travel abroad for longer than 3 months annually.
Because you can’t go longer than 3 months overseas and continue to use data without paying the exorbitant costs we used to pay 10 years ago. One where you would need to take out an additional mortgage to pay off your mobile phone bill upon your return (used to be me all the time, once I had a $700 bill!).
After 3 months your roaming will not allow you to pay the additional $5 per day. It will revert to charging you hefty roaming charges if you continue to use your sim whilst overseas. Then the only way to get through this dilemma is to choose a pay as you go SIM or SIM only Contract whilst overseas. There are some great deals over here now.
If you are like us and want to travel longer than 3 months in Europe you need to think smart! So lets consider we have a phone, most of us do, I’d imagine that if you are still here reading my blog then you must have a phone and one that you can use overseas. That is to say one that does not have a locked in sim contract.
Most providers don’t make you lock in your sim card nowadays as they appreciate that some flexibility is in order. If you do have a phone that doesn’t allow you the freedom to unlock your sim card and replace with another then it would most likely pay for you to buy a cheaper phone. One that allows you to unlock your Sim card.
If you’re not one to use your phone much but prefer to keep in touch via facebook or messenge. Or another possibility could be via What’s App. Then you could also consider not buying a SIM card, but a pocket wifi. There are some options available for Europe if you do not require more than 15 GB per month. This could be a good option. You could check out hip pocket wifi for their contracts and for European plans. Or alternatively you could also check out My Web Spot
My Web Spot allows up to 5 other services to link in as well. Roaming all over Europe. To rent the handsets you pay a rental and weekly fee. If you do need a phone and data and reasonable speeds then keep on reading! This is alot more expensive though than using a Sim Card option.
If you are travelling from country to country this can get really tricky. That’s why its worth while finding a SIM card that allows you to travel and roam without losing too much data on fair usage. Otherwise you will need to buy a new SIM card almost every time you hit a new country. Silly!
Vodafone is found in many European countries so therefore you can purchase similar deals when in Europe to what UK offers. Again check fine print and be informed. Particularly if you do not speak the language. Here are some other idea’s and options below you might like to consider if you are planning a longer nomadic trip.
You can check out the following providers if planning on European travel
We ended up with Voxi in the end as their deals were unbeatable, and seem to have good coverage. And have signed up for a 20 pound per month plan, this allows you 45 GB per month, unlimited texts and calls within the UK (not to be confused for texts overseas back home or calls overseas). UK to UK numbers only, not including some numbers within the UK that are service numbers. You can add extra’s as well. Add on’s also include international talk time and texts for 3 pounds per month. As well as unlimited downloads on your subscriptions such as Spotify and Netflix or Prime Amazon. That costs an additional 7 pounds per month. We have bought two cards so that we have enough data. We should also be able to travel on these as well once we hit Europe.
Remember to read the fine print to avoid disappointment. Digital nomad’s chat over the net and ask questions with the provider. Your data may be reduced to 19 GB per month as opposed to unlimited access from the primary country you bought or signed up. This is due to the fair usage policy when roaming. Also, check speeds and coverage you can expect when travelling. If its only 3G then it may well be worthwhile doing some more research and shopping around.
Let us know how you go and if you have any other awesome providers you might like to share.