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
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.
Travelling the world with our kid has been the best thing we ever decided to do! You can too, explore the world with us. Subscribe to our newsletter to get latest travel tips.
WHO CAN STAY WITHOUT A VISA?
What areas and which countries are included in Schengen zone? Click here for the list. Australian’s, Americans and New Zealanders do not need to apply for a visa at this point. Because things are changing and soon we will be required to apply for a visa to travel into Europe. As of 2020. For now you are ok to travel to Europe, enter and stay for up to 90 days in any of the listed 26 Schengen countries.
Also to note that UK (Which includes Scotland and Northern Ireland) allow us Aussies, Kiwi’s to stay for up to 180 in a 365 day period (you beauty). Ireland allows us to stay for up to 90 days (this is in addition to UK 180 days and 90 days in EU). So really, if you want to schlep around for a year you can. You just have to be prepared to move a lot!
EUROPEAN COUNTRIES THAT ARE NOT PART OF SCHENGEN
In addition to the time you can spend in UK and Ireland you can also legally stay in other European countries. These include Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, Romania, Cyprus for up to 90 days in each of these aforementioned countries. Turkey is also another option if you are willing to drive that far. And, further afield you can also travel to Northern Africa, Morrocco, Casablanca, Fez.
SO, HOW DO I WORK OUT THE DAYS??? WHAT IF I OVERSTAY MY VISA?
Well, this is a good question, I was stressing about this one big time I must admit. It’s so tricky to work out the specifics. There is help though. There are other mad humans like us out there that want to travel the world and have some idea’s as you and me. So, thankfully there are some clever peeps who have made App’s that help you calculate you time in Schengen Zones. Phew, I hear ya.
Using an App to work out Schengen – OH GAH they are all terrible
These guys MSSDevLab have made an app that you can download both on Android and IPhone’s from Google play. The app is called Schengen calculator free or you may choose to pay a small fee for the premium app by same guys. It is not great but its the best one I could find. You can also search for other similar apps available via google play. If you find a better one please send me an email, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
WHAT’S MORE COST EFFECTIVE
Congratulations, you have made a decision. Because, it is the most cost effective way you can travel around the globe buying a van. To lease one for this period of time would cost way too much. Leasing is great for up to 3 months travel as you have the convenience of insurance, car break down, all your amenities on hand, the pick of the bunch. But, if you decide to travel for longer than 3 months, buying is your best bet!
WHERE TO BUY A VAN?
If you are from the USA, UK, Australia or NZ the best bet is to buy in the UK/ Scotland or Ireland. Buying in the UK means you can buy a right hand drive (although a bit challenging driving a right hand drive in Europe which is left hand drive you will adjust). If you are English speaking negotiations is much easier buying from English speaking country.
Then there is also the consideration that if you buy a reasonable van that you might also wish to ship it home to sell? Depending on the cost/value of your van it could be a viable option. And as long as you don’t spend over $66,000 AUD you keep you van under the luxury car import duty tax threshold. If you are not from Australia its worth while checking costs of shipping, duties and other taxes.
UK or EUROPE
There are several companies in Europe (namely, France, Germany and Netherlands) that offer buy back options where you can buy your van from them. Because, registration will be linked to their business address. And you will need to buy insurance still under your name, all you need is an address to link your insurance too. Once you have finished with the van you agree on terms of re-sale or buy back. The longer you have the van the less you will receive, losing a considerable amount of income.
SELLING IN AN ENGLISH SPEAKING COUNTRY
So we decided not to take this option. Because we wanted to be able to sell our van privately and to be honest with buy backs it seems much like renting really. Because, you end up selling back to they buyer at a premium. And, good van’s don’t depreciate that much over 12 months. The buy back system is convenient, but you will pay for it. I have not linked these companies here as I am not familiar with their practice so don’t wish to recommend as I have not had any personal experiences with them. If you google campervan/RV/Motorhome travel in Europe you will find them easily.
HOW TO BUY A MOTORHOME or CAMPERVAN
If you are buying a right hand drive in UK region then there are loads of FB pages with Campervan’s/Motothomes for sale! These are all private sales, or mostly private sells. Some of the pages I’ve been following are:
@Motorhome for sale around UK
@Hymer For Sale
@Motorhomes For Sale UK
You might also want to check out Auto Trader, Ebay and Gumtree for sales in the UK. Plenty there to choose from if you prefer to buy direct from a business rather than private sale. Please be wary though, not everyone is always upfront and totally honest. Our first van we had some guy say he was the owner of the van. When we went to view it, it was not his van but someone else’s.
BEFORE YOU HAND OVER ANY $$$
Once you have decided on a van, if you are not in the same country its really important you have a representative or friend, family member go and check out the van and make sure the sale is legitimate and all the books, history, motor registration known as MOT in UK checks out. And, once all is checked out if your friend, family member or representative is willing and able they can pick up the van for you.
Buying oversea’s or buying when you are in the country?
And they can store it until you arrive if you are planning on purchasing before you land. If that’s too much of a gamble for you then consider searching for your dream camper prior to landing and then make contact prior to landing with the owners/business and arrange times to view. We felt more comfortable buying Lottie once we landed. We only viewed 3 motorhomes in one day and bingo. We bought a van!
MAKE SURE YOU ARE BUYING A LEGITIMATE VAN
If you have decided to purchase prior to arrival, then make sure you representative/broker friend and or family can verify the legitimacy of the sale before ever sending or wiring any monies through. We preferred to wait till we arrived in the UK to buy our van so we could see it in the flesh. We wanted to view the van before we bought. Our representative went and viewed the van once we have narrowed down our preferences to 1 van that had all the bells and whistles and ticked all the boxes.
So, once the final decision has been made its time to hand over the DOSH right. So, this is always a bit scary, because lets face it most vans are anywhere between 20-60K. Its an expensive exercise. There are a number of ways you can transfer money from overseas if you decide to purchase and pick up direct prior to arriving.
The safest and cheapest option we have found to date is via Transferwise transactions. or you can also consider opening a HSBC Global account which is brilliant. Gives you the opportunity to load up in currencies and a debit card that doesn’t incur fee’s and exchange rate fee’s. You can check out their terms and conditions, costs as well via Google. Because, you will save you $$$ in transaction fee’s and conversion rates etc. We also use our ANZ Global account and international transfer as its relatively cheap, up to $9 per transaction (if you are in Australia).
REGISTERING YOUR VAN
Ok, so this is the tricky part. To be able to register your vehicle and insure it you need a UK address to register to. So, you need to be living or staying with someone such as a family or friend so that the V-LOG and registration papers can be sent to you. You will not be able to do it any other way unless you ask a family member or friend to insure it in their name which gets really complicated.
So best bet is to see if your family member, friend, or representative is happy for you to use their address when you go to insure your van and register it for the time that you own it. This will include MOT (Ministry of Transport vehicle safety check which is compulsory in the UK) as well as Insurance.
Once you have signed off on the deal you will need to transfer the previous owners name into your’s. In order to do this you need to sign a DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency UK) form and pay the transfer fee if you are purchasing in the UK its around 265 GBP. Ensure you hold onto the transfer slip as this allows you to on sell your van again.
Vlog and Registration
** Please note that you also need to ensure you pick up your V-LOG book if purchasing in the UK as this is a legal requirement and you will need to show this at border crossings in Europe if ever pulled over. This will show the officers that you are indeed the owner of van and you are legally allowed to drive it. Its basically a legal piece of paper stating you are the owner and its the transfer paper for when you sell, or export.
There are very few insurance companies that are willing to insure your van if you are not a resident of EU. We found that Down Under Insurance DUinsure.com.au are willing to provide insurance for Aussies Nomads whilst travelling in the UK. We chose Herts Insurance instead as they were considerably cheaper by around 400 GBP which is $800 in AUD. That’s a huge savings. For the same insurance.
Please**note Hert’s Insurance and Down Under Insurance will not cover your vehicle in Morocco, Montenegro, Turkey and further afield countries. However, when crossing over into these countries purchase insurance for the time you are there at the border. Border controls are stationed at each of these above mentioned crossings
INSURANCE INCLUSIONS AND EXCLUSIONS
Because there are limited options available premiums are very high. So, you want to travel on a budget for an extended amount of time, you have to pay the price. Make sure you check the policy, read the fine print and ensure it covers you for your whole intended stay and travels! **Note that you will not be reimbursed by either of the above underwriters if you do not have an immobiliser installed if your van is stolen. READ THE FINE PRINT ALWAYS.
WHAT IF I DON’T HAVE ANY FRIENDS OR FAMILY IN THE UK?
That’s what we were up against, so all this research only to come to another dead end, hence why I’m writing this blog to you good people out! You may instead nominate a representative instead. Please send me a quick email to find out all the details. We are really happy with our guy Mike or find Mike @Ukmotorhomefinder on FB
And, he is totally amazing and legit and really helpful to assist you on-selling your van (for a fee) and helping you to store it as well should you need to store it for a time. And, Mike will do all checks, ensuring that the van has not been stolen, or in a major accident, all the MOT registration checks and general inspection. If all checks out you are in the running for a new van!
WHAT TO CONSIDER WHEN BUYING A VAN
Time of the year you are travelling. If you will be travelling in winter, its so important to have heating! As well as cooling for hot summer days down the south. Consider seat belts. If you intend to have an extra friend stop buy or travel with you then having more than 2 seated belts is imperative. Check this out first. Storage, so you need to consider how much you can bring with you. If you have kids then you need to bring a lot less. You can buy when you are over there so make sure you are brutal when choosing what to bring.
Security – A safe is really important, if you buy a van with out one, then consider buying a good one to install, you wont lose money on this, it will be an added bonus on re-sale. Also, an Immobiliser is a must, an alarm, wheel clamp or steering wheel lock at the very least.
Strap to ensure the doors can not be opened. Vans do get stolen all the time here so it pays to ensure you secure your precious belongings and expensive investment. We also found these nifty window and door alarms that are really handy and cheap. You can attach to windows and doors and they will go off (loudly) if someone tries to tamper or enter your van.
Bike Racks & Bikes – vans are usually longer than 5 metres in length, travelling in and out of ancient and old cities and villages can be really challenging. You want to make sure you stay outside of the cities. Park up in a RV campervan ground and then catch public transport. Better yet, get some exercise in and hit the road on your bikes. A great way to get around smaller cities and villages, you can lock them up and then just cruise back to your van when you are ready to hit the road again.
And, bikes will save money and time in the long run as you won’t be waiting for public transport (buses in Italy can be very unpredictable) as well as paying the extra costs to travel. Plus you are getting in your fitness as well. Bonus! We love walking everywhere and buses are usually great as well.
EXTRA’s and MUST HAVES on YOUR VAN
Below you will find some other must haves when buying your van. If it doesn’t already have them, these items will keep you safe, sane and savvy on your trip!
CLASS A, B, or C CAMPERVAN/MOTORHOME
As mentioned above, you need to check your current drivers licence and make sure that you are qualified to drive the van. Usually C class licences cover weight of the van for up to 3500 kg. Some drivers licences cover over this weight, make sure you check what you can drive before you purchase. Campervan’s/motorhomes that range from 5-7metres sit within this range and 3500 weight.
INTERNATIONAL DRIVERS LICENCE
You need to apply for your international drivers licence prior to leaving your country. Valid for up to 12 months.
We hope that you find this blog useful and would love to hear your comments or thoughts, or any feedback you might like to share!
Enjoy Van life. Its pretty magical. If you want to learn more about camping in Europe and UK and Home sits why not click here.
Travelling the world with our kid has been the best thing we ever decided to do! You can too, explore the world with us. Subscribe to our newsletter to get latest travel tips.