In the past, getting internet connection while travelling around Europe has been a way of cutting into your travel budget. When travelling around Europe, the best way to get a cheap internet connection on your phone is to purchase a cheap sim card in the country you are currently visiting. The downside of this method is that mobile phone providers, their organization, setup and tariffs can vary greatly from country to country and most, if not all, of the terms and conditions will be in a language that you don’t speak. It’s hard to pick the right one when you have to find your bags, locate your hotel, and plan where you’ll go.
We have put together a little guide to help you navigate this complex world easily and arrive to your destination with all the knowledge you need to pick the right service.
First, a Small Distinction
We are going to talk a lot about mobile network operators and mobile virtual network operators. Just so people are not confused by all the abbreviations, here is some background information on these two categories.
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The main network providers in a location own or lease the network. In Europe, there are three examples.
The infrastructure owned or leased by the MNOs is the subject of these companies. Surplus capacity can be sold on to these companies. SomeMVNOs have their own customer services, while others use the systems of the MNO to provide billing and service information to the customer. There are many smallMVNOs out there as well as big ones in Europe.
The main reason for this distinction is that the mainMVNOs try to differentiate themselves by offering cheaper rates. Sometimes the result is a straight up better deal, however there can be drawbacks if you don’t get the same access to all the services that MNO customers do. A good example of this is 4G. We will try to keep you informed about any known issues with MNO andMVNO interaction as we go, but this is not necessarily the case with allMVNOs.
SIMs and Deals in France
If you want the best coverage and the best rates, you should stick with the main MNOs. Competitive rates are offered by SFR, Orange, and Bouygues Telecom. You will need to purchase a 40 euro package to get a larger allowance than the 10 euro package. You will need to pay 3.99 for a sim card from SFR, and they only give you a few data allowances. The 10 and 30 euro options give you 1 and 2gigabyte of data.
Most of France has 3G coverage. Bouygues Telecom offers access to their 4G networks on all tariffs, even though most networks restrict access to their 4G networks.
When purchasing a sim card in France, you will need your passport. The best place to purchase a sim is in the main branch, as other locations can result in delays with the activation of the sim. Several airports are included in the locations of Orange.
SIMs and Deals in Spain
You will need your passport when you purchase an in-store Sim. Low amounts of data are offered by cheaper sims. The highest data budget offers we could find were from Lebara Mobile. If you want to purchase a sim from them, you can either buy it online or go to a phone store and purchase it. The credit comes with the cost of the phone. All the way up to 5GB is included in the data costs. You can get a Movistar sim for 10 euro with 10 euro credit loaded. 3G and 4G internet is available for 5 euro. There is a 5 euro card that comes with 5 euro credit and a 14c per MB of 3G internet at the MVNO.
Orange and Movistar have the best coverage in Spain. The two are the best for 4G service because they make it available on most of their tariffs.
SIMs and Deals in Germany
Germany has a large portion of the market space that is used byMVNOs. They are the best option when it comes to cheap data. If you are a traveler, you will need to provide your hotel address and passport. You will need to travel to a phone shop or a normal store if you want to purchase an mvno sim at the airport. You can purchase a sim from the same checkout that you buy groceries at.
Flat rate packets are offered by Blau on the E-Plus network. You can get 1GB for 9.90, and then you can get a 5GB deal for 19.80 The supermarket brand offers mobile service. They are the best value for a packet of 5 gigabytes. Tchibo Mobil works off of the O2 network and charges 6 euro for 300MB of data.
Even in the farthest flung corners of Germany, 2G and 4G coverage is available from all providers, but it’s easiest to get 4G coverage from the main mobile network operators.
SIMs and Deals in Italy
The main operator here is TIM, and they offer tailor made sims to tourists. Many of the main airports have kiosks where you can purchase a sim. You can top up your credit cards in shops, tobacco stores and newsagents. The 3 network has some tourist offers, but they aren’t much to talk about. You can get a regular voice and data plan that gives you 2GB of internet for 12 euro.
On the plus side, Wind offers good prices on internet packets and gives access to 4G on all of their tariffs. There is a voice and data offer where you can get 2gigabyte for 7.5 euro. The data only sim offers 8 gigabytes for 18 euro. The deals last for 28 days unlimited data sim instead of the usual 30. They don’t ask us why.
Most locations have 2G and 4G coverage, however it is only available to customers on the MNO tariffs.
SIMs and Deals in the UK
This is a measure that is put on all phones. This isn’t much of a problem for you, but keep in mind that this will restrict access to all content that isn’t specifically labeled “Not Adult” This can include content that isn’t inappropriate but hasn’t been designated. The easiest way to deal with it is to request the removal of the lock when you buy a sim card. It’s a good idea to visit the main branch when purchasing a phone. There are some kiosks and stores at the airports, but they are more likely to be found in the city.
You can get a similar deal with GiffGaff if you want to maximize data for the best price. The lower priced data packages are not as competitive as the major MNO EE, which has several competitive packages.
There is 4G coverage with most of the operators. EE has 80% of the coverage followed by O2 and 3. It’s a good idea to ask the store if they can check the area you’re travelling to for good coverage, even if it’s just 20% shortfall.
SIMs and Deals in Portugal
MEO has the most coverage of any service provider. Most areas have 4G coverage for most providers. You can get a sim card from MEO. If you want to do a lot of surfing, the Ultra Plus tariff gives you 15GB per month, which is a lot of storage. It is the best option for a high-volume data pack that lasts the month. High volume data packets can be found on the data-only sim of the company. Some short-term visitors may find the tariffs interesting. The data package lasts the same number of days as the number of gigabytes and the tariffs are 15 EURO and up.
MEO will ship one online but only to an address in Portugal, and both companies offer in-store purchases. If you don’t want to go with either of these companies but still want something to get you started quickly after you land, Portugal Internet is an unusual style of service. Rental of unlimited data is available for a set number of days. You pay 15 and 30 for 3 and 8 days. It works out more expensive than getting a sim from the providers mentioned above, but it also cuts out a lot of the middleman and the extra work, so it might be worth it for some.
Some of the most popular destinations in Europe have been the focus of our attention. If you are traveling to places outside of these countries, there are many websites that will allow you to place an order online. You can find out if such service is available for your location by doing a little research.
Additional Pro Tips for staying connected while traveling
You just need to take care of a few more details now that you know what you want. To be sure.
Get the right size SIM card
You might think that you know what kind of card fits your device, but some people end up getting a card that is too big or small. If it is too large, you can ask the salesperson at the counter to make it smaller for you or cut it yourself. You should check what size you need.
Mobile wireless hot spots are a blessing.
Sharing a single mobile internet connection is better for traveling with a group. With more volume, the price will go down.
If you want to share your mobile internet with others, you can either insert the travel sim into your phone or open a wireless hotspot, but it will drain your battery so fast that you will run out of juice by the afternoon. If you want to avoid this, you can either use portable hotspots or external battery packs.
A mobile wi-fi hotspot is a small device that creates a wi-fi network and shares a mobile internet connection from the card you bought. You just take the card, put it in the hotspot, and you are done. You and your friends will be able to use the internet on the go. You could also run out of battery here.
Simply buy a portable battery pack, plug in your mobile internet hotspot, and enjoy a good few days of free internet while travelling Europe.
Our guide can help you find a cheap internet option. Let us know if you found a better deal in one of these countries.