The Best International Sim Card For Europe with Data


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It seems that it was just yesterday when travellers to Europe had to be huddled around a computer in an internet cafe or buying international phone cards to call back home. These days, one of the first things visitors to the continent wonder is what is the best SIM card for Europe with data to take with them.

While you can certainly debate the various pros and cons that having constant internet access has had on travel, it’s undeniable that having a travel SIM makes the logistic aspects of travel a lot easier. Whether it’s finding directions to your hotel, hunting for a good place to eat or being able to easily stay in touch with family or friends, having a prepaid SIM card for Europe makes all this possible!

Are you wondering what the best travel SIM for Europe is? This article outlines all the best SIM cards to use in Europe to add to your packing list and what you need to check before you leave on your European adventure to ensure you can use your SIM card in Europe without any problems!

Want a quick answer? – My choice for the best international SIM card for Europe with data is this Three Prepaid SIM with 12GB data or the Orange Prepaid SIM with 20GB Data

April 2020 UPDATE: For a limited time only, you can get 20% off the Orange Prepaid SIM if you use the code SIMOFF20 at checkout. Buy now and use for a trip within 12 months! Click here to view the offer.

Best SIM Card for Europe Comparison

SIM Card Description Prices
Three Prepaid SIM Card
Data: 12GB
Expiry: 30 days
Calls: Unlimited (UK/EU only)
SMS: Unlimited (UK/EU only)
Hotspot Allowed?: No
Countries Covered: 71
Recharagable?: Yes
Check Prices
Orange Prepaid SIM Card
best sim card for europe with data
Data: 20GB
Expiry: 14 days
Calls:120 min
SMS: 1000
Hotspot Allowed?: Yes
Countries Covered: 30
Recharagable?: Yes
Check Prices (Use Code SIMOFF20 to get 20% off!)
EE Prepaid Data SIM Card
Data: 6GB
Expiry: 90 days
Calls:None
SMS: None
Hotspot Allowed?: Yes
Countries Covered: 48
Recharagable?: Yes
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Giffgaff Prepaid SIM Card
Data: 20GB
Expiry: 12 days
Calls:Local Only
SMS: Local Only
Hotspot Allowed?: Yes
Countries Covered: 37
Recharagable?: No
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Cellhire Prepaid SIM Card
Data: 8GB
Expiry: 60 days
Calls:None
SMS: None
Hotspot Allowed?: Yes
Countries Covered: 36
Recharagable?: No
Check Prices


Will my Phone Work in Europe?

Before jumping into what the best international SIM Card for Europe with data is, you need to ensure that your phone will actually work when you arrive. Most carriers around the world allow for international roaming, meaning your phone will work as soon as you arrive in Europe. The bad news? This service tends to be outrageously expensive and should be avoided at all costs – particularly if you’re planning on using data abroad.

Some carriers might offer an international data option, however, these plans also tend to be expensive, particularly when compared to prepaid SIM cards that you can buy online.

This means that the best option is to buy a prepaid SIM for Europe. Unfortunately, many phone providers obviously don’t want to make it easy for you to use another carrier abroad. These are, therefore, some things that are essential to consider before purchasing an international SIM card for Europe.

Does Your Phone Use GSM?

Mobile phones around the world use one of two different types of technology: CDMA or GSM. Without getting into the technical differences between the two, it means that you can’t put a SIM card that uses GSM into a mobile phone with CDMA technology or vica-versa.

In most of the world, including Europe, mobile phones use GSM technology. So if you’re travelling to Europe from anywhere except North America, then your phone will be compatiable in Europe.

In North America, whether your phone uses GSM or CDMA will depend on your provider. Out of the major providers in the USA, T-Mobile and AT&T use GSM while Verizon and Sprint have historically used CDMA.

However, Verizon is planning on switching off its CDMA network by 2020 and there is talk of other CDMA providers doing the same. In Canada, the use of GSM or CDMA varies by province.

If your phone uses CDMA, then these travel SIM cards won’t work in your phone. A possible solution is to buy a cheaper unlocked phone to use for your trip to Europe. You should however do the math and compare the cost of a new phone compared to using an international data pack with your existing provider.

Having data makes sharing photos in Europe a lot easier!

If you’re planning on going to Europe for more than a couple weeks you might be surprised that buying a new phone and a prepaid SIM card for Europe actually turns out to be cheaper!

For example, Verizon, charge $10 per day to use your phone in Europe. If travelling for a month, that’s $300 in extra fees — which would add a significant amount to your overall Europe trip cost! Some unlocked phones that I recommend for travellers to Europe are the Samsung J2 Prime or Samsung A50

Another option if you don’t want to buy a new phone is to invest in a mobile WiFi hotspot which is particularly useful if travelling outside of the European Union. You can also rely on public WiFi which is commonly available in Europe, however, make sure you subscribe to a quality VPN such as ExpressVPN.

If you’re unsure which technology your phone uses, call your provider and ask.

Is My Phone Unlocked?

The next thing you need to consider is whether your mobile phone is unlocked or not. Typically, when you go on a mobile phone plan, they lock your mobile phone so it can’t be used with SIM cards that aren’t provided by your carrier.

If your phone is currently locked to your provider and you are not under contract with them, then call them up and ask them to unlock your phone. They are required to do this legally and it shouldn’t cost you anything.

If on the other hand, you are under contract with your mobile phone provider, then they will likely request a huge fee (or deny you all together) to unlock your phone. In this situation, one option is to find a third party to unlock your phone for you. These are often significantly cheaper however it might void your warranty with the mobile phone provider.

If unlocking your phone isn’t possible then you’re left with the same dilemma as if you’re mobile phone uses CDMA technology. You can either opt for an expensive international data pack or buy an unlocked phone online and pick one of the best prepaid SIM cards for Europe outlined below.

Make sure to also check the speed that is offered on international data packs. A number of carriers only offer slow mobile data speeds such as 2G which will make accessing the internet on the go a slow and painful process, particularly if relying on data when driving around Europe!

having the best sim card for europe with data will help with driving directions.
Having data is extremely handy when driving in Europe

Best International SIM Card for Europe with Data

These are some of the best SIM cards for Europe travel if you want to ensure you have easy access to data and making phone calls!

Three Prepaid SIM with 12GB Data

This Three Prepaid SIM Card is undoubtedly one of the best SIM cards for travelling Europe. It comes with 12GB Data, unlimited calls and texts that can be used over a 30 day period. This SIM card will work across 71 countries worldwide including all countries within the European Union.

If you’re from one of these 71 countries that include places like the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand & Singapore you can activate your SIM card at home to ensure that it works before travelling to Europe.

This fantastic international SIM card is run by Three UK meaning you can easily recharge online or via the phone while on the road without any language barriers if you speak English.

A couple of things to keep in mind with this SIM card is that you can’t use it as a personal hotspot when abroad and to make sure to switch off data if visiting a country that isn’t included in their 71 countries list as the data roaming costs can be very expensive.

You can also use the minutes included in the pack to only call other UK or European numbers so this SIM card isn’t ideal if you plan to call other international numbers. Though, there is obviously plenty of data to use for Whatsapp or Skype instead!

If you are going on a longer trip to Europe, it’s also possible to purchase a Three SIM Card with 12GB data and 1-year validity or alternatively 24GB data and 2 years validity here. However, there are no calls or SMS credits available with these SIM cards.

This Three Prepaid SIM Card is undoubtedly one of the best international SIM cards for Europe if you’re looking for a large data limit and the ability to call other European numbers when abroad.

Orange Prepaid SIM Card with 20GB Data

The Orange Prepaid SIM is one of the best roaming SIMs for Europe as the plan allows you to use your minutes allowance to call anywhere worldwide. It comes with 2 hours and 1000 texts that can be used to call any number as well as 20GB of data that works across the UK and many European countries.

The prepaid credit is active for 14 days so is ideal for heavy data users who want to call back home and are going on a short European holiday. You can easily top up your credit online with an international credit card and there are several options to choose from.

The Orange Prepaid SIM also allows you to use it as a mobile hotspot making it ideal for travellers who want to have internet access on their laptops or tablets which makes it undoubtedly one of the best SIM cards to use in Europe and the UK.

best sim card for europe with data

EE Prepaid Data SIM Card with 6GB Data

If you don’t need the ability to make phone calls to other numbers and are simply looking for the best data SIM for Europe then this EE Prepaid Data SIM is a fantastic option.

Coming with 6GB of data it has the advantage of only expiring after 90 days compared to the Three Prepaid SIM which has a larger data limit but expires after 30 days. This makes this SIM card a fantastic option for lighter data issues or if planning multiple shorter trips in Europe over a long period.

Another advantage of the EE Prepaid Data SIM is that you are able to use it as a mobile hotspot though this can obviously quickly use up your data!

Giffgaff Prepaid SIM with 20GB Data

If you simply want to get as much data as possible for your European trip, then this Giffgaff Prepaid SIM is a fantastic option.

The SIM card comes with 20GB of data that can be used across the UK and the majority of European countries. The credit expires within 12 days making this one of the best data SIMs for Europe if you’re a heavy user. It also allows you to use the data as a hotspot, making it ideal for situations where you don’t have WiFI access.

You can call and text other numbers within the same country you are in but call credits for back home are not included.

So if you’re travelling with friends this make the GiffGaff Prepaid SIM a great option if each person buys one as you can easily keep in touch. It is possible to call other UK phone numbers however there are additional charges.

Cellhire Prepaid SIM Card with 8GB Data

This Cellhire Prepaid SIM Card comes with 8GB of data that is valid for 60 days and can be used across 36 European countries. It doesn’t come with any phone call allowance and cannot be recharged after it’s initial use.

This SIM card is a good option for travellers who might not be regular visitors to Europe and just want to buy a single SIM card that they can use once. You are also able to use it as a hotspot to connect other smartphones so can be a good option if travelling with a friend or as a couple and you want to share data access.

The Cellhire Prepaid SIM Card comes in variable data limits so you can choose a card that is suited to your expected data usage!

What About Buying a Local SIM Card?

There are a couple of reasons why I think buying a global SIM card is a better option than purchasing a local SIM card when you first arrive in Europe.

One of the main advantages of buying a global SIM card is that you can ship it your home address and be able to use it as soon as you arrive in Europe.

If you choose to buy a local SIM card, then you won’t have data access when you first arrive (which can be very handy when trying to get to your hotel or hostel jetlagged!) and you need to spend precious time going into a store in Europe to buy a SIM card.

There might also be language barriers in buying and activating a local SIM card. In some countries, you are required to have a passport or local address to buy a local SIM and it can be harder to understand exactly what data or calls are included. This might result is unexpected charges which can easily be avoided when buying a global SIM card!

best international sim card for europe with data

 

It can be challenging to buy a SIM card in Spain if you don’t speak Spanish!

When travelling to Europe, having access to data on your phone can make your trip infinitely easier. Buying one of these best SIM cards for Europe with data will make it straight forward to have internet access as soon as you land!

Are you wondering what the best international SIM card for Europe is? Which ones do you recommend? Let us know in the comments below!

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Michael Rozenblit

Michael is a co-founder and writer for The World Was Here First. When not obsessively searching for flight deals, Michael likes being ultra-competitive at table tennis, gazing at street art, and contemplating life while sipping a dram of fine single malt whisky.

Comments

  1. Hi, are you sure about the Three SIM card and activation outside the UK?
    This appears to be a SIM card for UK domestic customers offering great roaming service.
    However, they do insist on fair roaming use (which is o.k. with the mentioned limits).
    AND: There could be a risk , that you first have to activate it inside the UK using the Three network – any comment on this?

    Thanks,
    Daniel

    Reply
    • Hi Daniel, There are a number of reviews on Amazon of people activating the card abroad and using it when they land in Europe so I don’t think you should have an issue.

      Reply
  2. Hi, regarding the EE pay as you go 6GB SIM card, on amazon seen a comment advising card doesn’t work in Europe, is Uk only.
    Is this the case?

    Reply
    • The version of the EE SIM card sold in the UK doesn’t appear to let you use it Europe however the versions available in the USA & Canada include Europe coverage.

      Reply
      • Hi there,
        I’m from Canada and next year I plan to trek the “Walker’s Haute Route” which starts in Chamonix and finishes in Zermatt. I would like a card that allows me to call (And text) and use data in countries such as France, Germany and Switzerland in addition to the UK. Mainly I want to be able to use google maps (or another app) to download and use GPS trail coordinates during the trek (14-15 days) but also be able to phone and/or text in advance to book accommodations as I go. I would prefer 30 days if possible and the one with best coverage ( I worry I won’t find a place to top up after 14 days along the way?). I would like to have it working in Canada just before I leave
        Wondered which card you recommend for these needs…Orange or UK three.
        Thank you

        Reply
        • Hi Pam, the three SIM has 30 days validity while the Orange SIM has 14 days however it can be topped up before you leave to make it 30 days. Both will work in the countries you’ve listed however neither SIM Card will work in Canada.

          Reply
  3. Hi,
    I’m going to study abroad for 2 months. short of getting two different 30 day cards, any other suggestions other than sucking it up to pay the international fees on my current US plan? thanks!

    Reply
  4. Hi Michael,
    We are planning to spend 9 months to a year in Europe (Spain and the UK). What Sim card would you recommend and where should we purchase it?
    Also, can we transfer the contacts and apps from our current phones to the new phones that we purchase?
    Thanks.

    Reply
    • Hi Mark, I suggest purchasing the Three Prepaid or Orange SIM listed above so you have access to data as soon as you land. As you’re staying for 9 months, your best bet is to then buy a local SIM card once you arrive in Europe to use over the longer term.

      You should be able to transfer your contacts and apps – the process will depend on which phone you are buying.

      Reply
  5. Hi Michael,
    We are planning to spend 21 days within UK, central and eastern Europe. My concern is the speed during road trip, as I’ll use the hotspot device. Can u suggest best service among all these carriers.

    Reply
    • Hi Nadir! The Orange 20GB SIM Card gives 4G/LTE service in all the countries that it works in. This might be your best option as the Three SIM card doesn’t allow you to use it as a hotspot. Have a great trip!

      Reply
  6. Hi
    We are spending 90 days in uk/ Europe mostly Europe will need data and a smal about of calls texts what do you recommend
    Cheers
    Dave

    Reply
    • Depending on your data usage, the EE SIM is a good option as the credit lasts for 90 days. However, it won’t work in the UK so you could also get a Three or Orange SIM for use during your time in the UK.

      Reply
  7. Hi Michael
    We are travelling in August to England, Wales, Ireland, Scotland and Paris and need a prepaid travel sim with data .
    We will be away for 5 weeks ,what would you recommend for us
    Kind regards Chrissie

    Reply
    • Hi Chrissie, The Three Prepaid & Orange SIM are the best cards in my opinion. Which was is better for you will depend on your data usage and whether you intend to use it as a hotspot.

      Reply
  8. Hi Michael,
    Our plan is to spend 60 days in Europe including France (first stop), Ireland, Portugal and UK.

    Need phone to EU & SMS. Data use would be moderate & mainly for map, hotel & news search etc & also able to use as hotspot.

    Regards,
    Laurence

    Reply
  9. Me and my family (we’re 4) are planning to spend 11 days in Europe (2 in Milan, 3 in Budapest, 3 in Vienna and 3 in Prague) and we would like to buy a SIM card that works in all counties we’re going to visit? what would you recommend for us?

    Reply
      • Hi Lubna, all the SIM cards listed should work in all the destinations you are visiting – I recommend the Three or Orange SIM Card. The SIM cards listed in this article you will need to purchase online.

        Reply
  10. Hello Michael
    I want to use SIM card with data in Europe and other countries. Could you please tell me which SIM card is suitable and economic?

    Reply
  11. I went to Italy last May and bought Orange SIM card before I left Canada. I had problems activating it while waiting for my connecting flight in Amsterdam. I ended up buying Wind sim in Florence. Will be on a Baltic cruise soon and looks like orange is the sim I need for hotspot but afraid it would not work again. Any tips on how to activate it if I get another one for my upcoming trip? Thanks

    Reply
    • Hi Grace! If you plan to buy the SIM card through SimOptions then I suggest contacting the customer service and getting them to help with any issues. It should work upon inserting the card into an unlocked phone when you arrive in Europe.

      Reply
  12. My spouse and I are from Canada . Our cell phone provider is Bell Canada. We are heading to UK and then Europe for several weeks. Are we able buy a sim card either through on-line purchase or pick one up after we arrive UK and use it on our travel (if yes, what woul upu recommend- need to stay in touch with family and friends back home using text messaging or via Whatsapp) or should we just get the add tavel features from Bell?

    Reply
    • The SIM cards listed in this article will be significantly cheaper than travel plans with your home phone carrier. I recommend the Three SIM or Orange SIM listed in this article.

      Reply
  13. Hello there, I tried researching more about the THREE PREPAID Sim Card, and it seems that video streaming is not allowed. Would this mean that I will not be able to access any forms of videos on social media, netflix etc? Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hi Isabelle, I haven’t had any issues streaming videos on social media or YouTube. I’m not sure if Netflix will work but you probably won’t have enough data for it anyway. I suggest getting the Orange SIM if video streaming is important to you.

      Reply
  14. Hi, I will be traveling from India to Europe for 23 days covering Germany, Paris, Switzerland and Italy. And most of the places I will be driving so I will need good connectivity to internet for live Google maps and also few calls to make to the hotels where I am staying for the updates. Can you please suggest me a good data plan for this trip? And also how and where can I get it in India before starting my trip? Thank you!

    Reply
    • Hi Supriya! I suggest the Orange SIM Card for you which is listed above, though it’ll need to be recharged after 14 days during your trip. It is possible to ship it to India.

      Reply
  15. Hi Michael,

    Great article.

    We are planing to travel from the Caribbean to Europe for 15 days, the countries includes France, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria and Italy. We need to make minimal calls in these countries ( hotel, taxi & restaurant) , more data for maps and WhatsApp calls, messages and video.

    Please let us know our best option for sim purchase.

    Thanks

    MY ITHER

    Reply
  16. Hi Michael,
    That one only have 14 days validity, do you know if there’s one at least for 30 days and can call USA? Will be there for about 20 days.
    Thanks,
    Lei

    Reply
  17. What SIM card would you recommend using for a Portable Language Translator Device? I’m a U.S. student planning to study abroad in Europe (France) for 5 months and plan to visit Spain/Germany/Italy. Should I start with an International SIM card (for immediate connectivity when I arrive in France), and then buy a local SIM card for longer use in France? Then use the International SIM card again when I travel to Spain/Germany/Italy (reloading the card again each time due to the calendar expiry)? Any idea how much data I would need for supporting a Portable Language Translator Device (assuming daily use throughout the day)?

    Reply
    • Hi William,

      As you’ve suggested, I would buy one of these SIM cards so you can be connected as soon as you land and then get a local SIM in France for the duration of your stay. The local SIM from France should work in those other EU countries so no need for additional SIMs when you take trips within the European Union. I’m not sure about the data requirements for your device so opting for a large data limit is probably best.

      Reply
  18. Hi Michael
    Thanks for your blog. It’s super Interesting!
    We are visiting Serbia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Albania in a couple of months. As far as I can make out – the SIM cards you suggested above don’t include these countries? I know you have spent a heap of time in the Balkans so do you have any recommendations for SIM card in these countries?
    Thanks heaps for any advice you might have.
    Troy

    Reply
    • Hi Troy! In the Balkans, I think the best and cheapest option is to buy local SIMs in each country as I haven’t any prepaid SIMs that work in the Balkans (aside from countries in the EU). There are some SIM cards in the Balkans that offer roaming in other Balkan countries but it’s relatively pricey and the one time we tried to use it, it didn’t work!

      Reply
  19. Hello from California,
    I will be traveling in September to UK, Prague, Switzerland and France, for 3 weeks. I’m not sure if I should get inexpensive phone and plan or a sim for my iPhone. I will only use it for Maps. No calls or texts. Would it be best to get something here or wait and get it there.
    Any suggestions.
    Thanks

    Reply
    • For a short trip, I would buy a SIM before you leave as long as your iPhone is unlocked. This will save you time at your destination and you’ll be able to use it as soon as you land. Hope you have a good trip!

      Reply
  20. Hi Michael I am traveling this month from South Africa to the Netherlands to do a 1 year masters degree. I am planning to travel to the UK and within Europe (Pandemic permitting) when I have holidays. Any suggestions on what SIM card/ plan I should use whilst there? I would mainly want data but might need to make a few calls when traveling.
    Thanks

    Reply
    • Hi Ashleigh – I would suggest buying the Three or Orange prepaid SIM listed in this article before you arrive so you have instant data access once you land. You can then purchase a local plan in the Netherlands to use during your year there – you’ll also be able to use it in the rest of the EU and possibly the UK depending on the situation with brexit.

      Reply
  21. Hi Michael,
    Hope your well!
    I have traveled this month from UK to the Guadeloupe, a French overseas region, I will be here for 2+ years, I would like to keep my UK number.
    I am with BT, who are telling me they allow “Roam Like Home” for up to 4 month, any suggestions on what SIM card/plan I should switch whilst i am here? I would mainly want ~(5-10)GB data but also need to make few phone calls ~(120-240)min per month UK mainly.
    Any Suggestion is welcomed, as i have looked around and can’t seem to find a longer term solution.
    Regards,
    M

    Reply
    • Hi Mehari, I would suggest buying a local SIM card and using that for your day-to-day communication. You can then move your current UK plan to the lowest possible monthly fee and keep the number while you’re away.

      Reply

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