EU SIM Cards: Best for Long Term Travel & Digital Nomads

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Are you planning a long trip to Europe? Having reliable data is important when you’re traveling but most American and UK service providers will not cover your data needs in Europe without expensive extra charges and punitive fair usage policies to limit your online activity.

Whether you’re looking to keep in touch with family, post those iconic images to your socials, or work on the road, we’ve got all the information you need about sim cards for travel in Europe, to keep the data flowing and your costs down.

We’ve spent over four years in Europe, covering many thousands of miles through almost all of Europe’s countries, and blogging and vlogging as we go. In this guide to SIM cards in Europe, we’re sharing what we know about data roaming in Europe and the best European SIM cards for long-term travel and digital nomads.

EU SIM cards

Do You Even Need a Europe SIM Card?

Most European hotels, cafés and restaurants have pretty good wifi services, so you may be wondering why you even need a SIM card for travel in Europe.

If you’re always on the go, using public transport or driving, and hopping between cities and attractions, then a travel SIM card is invaluable. The convenience of being able to check your bank balance, use your mobile phone for Google Maps or to translate, order an Uber, book a hotel or even call for roadside assistance, just make life on the road a little bit easier.

Also, public networks in accommodation, shopping malls and eateries do not offer secure internet access. If you need to manage personal banking, send emails or do anything other than browsing and streaming, you’ll be vulnerable using public WiFi.

Good to Know: The availability of 5G across the European Union depends very much on location, and some providers will charge more for SIM cards with 5G capability, which you may not need to even be able to access.

Planning a road trip adventure in Europe? Get all the best road trips in Europe including maps, itineraries and ideas about what to see and do on the way.

Using Your Existing Mobile Data Provider

Virtually all modern smartphones are compatible with Europe’s mobile infrastructure and every major US and UK carrier has an international SIM data plan that partners with different local carriers in each country, so your phone should work once you step foot onto European soil.

However, EU data plans are really expensive and most traditional providers will cap the amount of data you can use, and also limit how long you’re allowed to roam before deeming you a permanent traveler and cutting off your EU service.

Good to Know: If you do choose to use your domestic provider’s EU data plan, be very careful about monitoring usage or ask your provider to add a spending cap. Some of the plans can be super complicated and if you don’t manage your usage, it’s easy to find yourself going over and getting an expensive bill.

US Providers

Most providers say that data roaming is not for extended international use; you must reside in the US and primary usage must occur on our network“. Dig a little deeper into the T&C’s and you’ll find something like this “if more than 50% of your data usage requires connection to another provider’s network for any two billing cycles within any 12 month period, your service may be cut off“.

Basically, this means that even if you’re using your data allowing in Europe (because your US provider will need to piggy-back onto a different network) you may not do so for more than one month in a two month period. Additionally, you must pay around $5-10 a day to use your data on an international plan, or $2 per 1GB off-plan.

UK Providers

All UK providers have introduced extra fees after Brexit and now set data caps on EU roaming, even with unlimited data plans. Many also charge a daily fee, usually £2, for using your data in Europe.

In addition, fair usage policies limit how many days in a rolling period (usually 60 days in a rolling 120 day period) you can use your SIM to roam in Europe, to ensure you’re not a permanent traveller.

If you go over your data allowance, you’re looking at charges of £3 per gigabyte of data, and you’ll be cut off if you exceed the fair usage roaming time period.

Buying a Local Prepaid SIM Card

To avoid potential charges and additional costs, we think one of the best options is to buy a local prepaid SIM for Europe, but only if you’re staying in one country for a week or more.

How Does it Work?

This option does require you to remove your regular SIM (unless you have a dual SIM phone …lucky you!), and your phone, tablet or MiFi device must be unlocked. It’s easy to use WhatsApp, FaceTime or Messenger to call home and send messages.

Good to Know: If you regularly use 2FA (two factor authentication), removing your SIM may be inconvenient – I carry an old smartphone which is home to my regular SIM when I’m using a local SIM card, and turn it on when I need to receive a one time passcode by SMS.

Which Provider Should I Use?

All European counties have their own popular cell phone providers. You will see familiar international brands such as T-Mobile, Vodafone and Verizon, and EU brands such as Orange, Movistar and Telefonica.

A little internet research will provide you with all the information around price, cell coverage and likely signal strength that you need to make a choice of country specific mobile phone SIM provider.

How to Buy a Local SIM Card

Head to the store with your phone and passport, and the staff will let you know what deals they can offer. Expect to pay an average of around €1 for 1GB. Some countries charge a little more, and some a little less.

Most EU providers now have an app which allows you to check data and credit, and top up your prepaid SIM with data, calls and texts easily. Check with the provider whether their app is geo-locked, as it can be almost impossible to get around this, and not being able to top-up online might be a deal-breaker for you.

Good to Know: Most EU providers offer some data roaming outside of their own country. This means if you are travelling to maybe two or three EU countries over a few months, you may be able to roam with a SIM from one EU country, depending on your data usage. Make sure to check with the staff how to activate data roaming when you buy the SIM.

Get our complete guide to planning a road trip, including tips on budgeting, packing, booking and free downloadable checklists so you never forget anything again!

Using an eSIM in Europe

An eSIM is a virtual data SIM and is a good option if you’re travelling between a lot of different European countries over a long period of time, and don’t want the hassle of buying a local SIM for each one. The other benefits of eSIMs are multiple;

  • An eSIM works in your phone in conjunction with your normal SIM – you can move between using one or the other, meaning you can keep your usual number.
  • You buy your eSIM online, making them extremely convenient.
  • eSIM providers work with lots of networks, meaning you’ll connect to the best one wherever you are.
  • An eSIM can cover multiple locations and not tie you to one country, perfect for travelling a whole continent or region.
  • No data roaming fees – you know the costs upfront.
  • You can organise your eSIM at home and activate it on arrival.
  • These data-only SIM cards mean you’re not paying for minutes and texts you don’t need and won’t use.

These are some of the best SIM cards in Europe, but you do have to pay for the convenience, and the per GB cost is high in comparison to local prices. 1GB of data in Europe with popular eSIM provider Airalo costs £1.75/US$2 if you buy a 50GB pack, in comparison to the European average of £1/US$1.15 for 1GB of top-up data.

Good to Know: Your device needs to be unlocked. e-SIMs don’t work with all mobile devices – you can check whether your phone is compatible here.

Holofly

Price: £19 to £87 / US$19 to US$99

Included: From 5 days to 90 days of unlimited data across Europe. There is no tethering or hot-spotting allowed with these EU unlimited data SIM cards, but we still think this is the best SIM card for Europe with unlimited data.

Top-Up: At the end of the unlimited period, just buy another data pack online.

How: Buy online and receive a QR code (so you need a second device or someone with you) to scan, and you’re good to go.

Airalo

Price: £4.30 to £160 / US$5 to US$185

Included: From 1GB to 100GB of data, valid for seven days to 180 days for the largest 100GB data pack. There is no unlimited data option. These eSIMs can be used for tethering and hotspotting.

Top-Up: Add additional data and validity by topping up online. When you top up, your existing validity does not add to the new SIM validity i.e. if you top up two weeks before the end of your time, you’ll lose those two weeks, so best to top up as close to the end date as possible …or, just buy another pack.

How: Buy online and receive a QR code (so you need a second device or someone with you) to scan, and you’re good to go.

Good to Know: Airalo cover European countries like Albania and Montenegro, which others don’t. If you’re visiting a specific country, make sure to check with your chosen eSIM provider that it’s covered.

BreatheSIM

https://www.breathesim.com/

Price: £1 to £54 / US$1.50 to US$75

Included: From 1GB to 20GB of data, with all but the smallest two packs valid for 30 days. You can use this Europe travel eSIM to tether and hotspot.

Top-Up: At the end of the unlimited period, just buy another data pack online.

How: Buy online and make some changes to your settings (explained very clearly on their website) and the eSIM will activate automatically once you connect to a network in a country covered by the bundle.

Nomad

Price: £8 to £16 / US$9 to US$18

Included: From 1GB to 5GB of data valid for 7 days for the smallest data pack and 30 days for the larger packs. You can use this SIM card Europe to tether and hotspot, and there are top-up options available via the Nomad app.

How: Buy online and receive a QR code (so you need a second device or someone with you) to scan, and you’re good to go.

ETravelSIM

Price: £9 to £56 / US$10 to US$65

Included: From 1GB to 25GB of data valid for 28 days, and three unlimited eSIMs valid for 7, 15 or 28 days. You can use this eSIM to tether and hotspot, but the unlimited data plans have a fair usage policy of 2GB of data per day, after which data usage is barred.

Top-Up: At the end of the unlimited period, just buy another data pack online.

How: Buy online and receive a QR code (so you need a second device or someone with you) to scan, and you’re good to go.

Get out take on the 150+ best road trip songs and the best podcasts to listtn to when you’re driving – that’s a great way to use your European travel SIM card!

Order a European SIM Card Online

If you like to be organised and want to slip that travel SIM card for Europe into place as soon as you arrive, then ordering a European SIM online for delivery to your home or workplace is a great option. Other reasons to buy a SIM card online include:

  • Providers work with lots of networks, meaning you’ll connect to the best one wherever you are.
  • These SIMs can cover multiple locations and not tie you to one country, perfect for travelling a whole continent or region.
  • No data roaming fees – you know the fixed costs upfront.
  • Your SIM can be delivered anywhere in the world and activated on arrival.
  • Offers better value for money than an eSIM.

The only downside to this type of SIM is that (unless you have a dual SIM phone), you need to replace your usual provider’s SIM card. Some domestic providers allow you to port your number, but if you don’t want that inconvenience, you could forward calling or use a service like WhatsApp for calls and messaging.

Good to Know: Remember that your phone must be unlocked to use a replacement SIM like this.

Simify

Price: £23 to £56 / US$26 to US$65

Included: From 12GB to 140GB valid for 28 days, and 12GB valid for 365 days.

Top-Up: There are no top-up options, but if you need more time and data, you can buy multiple SIMs, which can be held inactive indefinitely. When buying two or more of the same SIM, you can checkout with the code MULTISIM10 for 10% off your order.

How: Buy online and receive in the post within 3-5 days. Insert the SIM into your phone on arrival and it’s automatically activated.

Good to Know: Simify doesn’t currently offer shipping outside of America.

Popit Mobile

Price: £13 to £25 / US$15 to US$30

Included: From 10GB to 100GB on a rolling 30 day contract, which can be cancelled at any time. Roaming is capped to six months at a time, but Popit are open to discussing your needs and tailoring a plan for you.

Top-Up: Add additional data by topping up online.

How: Buy online, receive in the post and activate on the Popit website, and you’re good to go.

Good to Know: The SIM card can only be posted to a UK address, but there is no requirement for you to be a UK resident. This could work well if you’re visiting the UK as part of a wider trip, or have someone in the UK who could post the SIM to you.

Tiekom

Price: €39.90 to €59.90

Included: 300GB or 400GB of data a month at speeds of up to 150mbps, on a contract without permanence, making this one of the best European SIM cards for travellers who need a lot of data over a long period of time.

Top-Up: No top-ups are available, once you’re out of data you need to wait for the new 30 day period to start.

How: Contact Tiekom and organise your contract and delivery.

Good to Know: Tiekom are super helpful and will deliver your SIM across Europe to pretty much any address. This is a great option if you’re a digital nomad looking for lots of data.

SimCorner

Price: £15 to £52 / US$21 to US$58

Included: 8GB to 140GB valid for between 28 and 60 days. Some SIM cards include calls and SMS texts.

Top-Up: No top-ups available, just buy a couple of SIMs if you need more time or data.

How: Buy online, receive in the post and the SIM activates when you place it into your phone or MiFi device.

Good to Know: SimCorner have stores for the USA, United Kingdom, Canada, Europe and New Zealand, and will also ship to Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and South Korea.

Orange Holiday

Price: €19.99 to €39.99

Included: 8GB to 20GB valid for between 14 days, including unlimited calls and texts in Europe. The SIM includes a French phone number.

Top-Up: Recharges are available online.

How: Buy online, receive in the post and the SIM activates when you place it into a device.

Good to Know: You will need to register your Orange Europe SIM card on their website to keep using it after the first 30 days. Once successfully registered, the validity of your SIM card will be extended by 6 months.

Portable WiFi Devices for Europe

A portable WiFi device or portable hotspot means you can keep your number, and tether or hotspot to the device, wherever you are. A pocket WiFi device like this operates like a router at home, meaning more than one device can be connected simultaneously.

Instead of connecting to your internet service provider, these wifi devices use cloud SIM technology, meaning you don’t need to buy a SIM card because it’s already included.

Connect+

Connect Plus allows you to connect your phone, tablet and laptop to fast and secure portable WiFi with cloud SIM technology across the whole of Europe. In fact, you can connect up to ten devices, so this Europe internet solution is ideal for couples and families.

The device is included in the plan price and can be delivered anywhere in the world. From £99/US$110 a month for unlimited global data, this is perfect for heavy users.

GlocalMe

GlocalMe devices usually come pre-loaded with a few GB of data, and then you can buy more data via their app or online. GlocalMe offers a variety of packs from one-day passes for £3.60/US$4, to an 8GB 30-day pack for £40/US$45.

Just register your device online or in the app and purchase data packs for immediate mobile internet connectivity.

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Best SIM cards Europe