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This summer I will go on a road trip from West to East Europe and back. Being able to call and especially access the internet is useful on the road, so it made me wonder whether I could buy a European SIM card or something that would let me access the web or make calls regardless of the country I was in.

I know of the provider Mobile Vikings that offers a European roaming package for data. Are there any other alternatives? Data is the main priority because calling or texting within Europe isn't that expensive to begin with, with recent regulations. Also I could use the data to call using VOIP anyway, which is even cheaper.

  • 1
    When comparing sim packages, beware on how they compute you usage. Some charge your actual usage others round to Mb every time you connect, where most connectipns remain in the kb zone. My mobile Viking sim often is the cheapest in the long run, compared to local Sims, who publish cheaper fees but charge per Mb – user141 Feb 28 '15 at 15:28
  • A useful link is Roaming Tariffs from the EU site. From end of April 16 the european tariff is basically "domestic rate + a few cents per minute/megabyte" and from june 2017 there will be no extra charge for calling/texting/connecting to the internet in EU. – Bakuriu Aug 23 '16 at 12:47
  • @Bakuriu "no extra charge" always makes me wonder. Data is usually included in your prescription in your home country, you don't pay for it separately.So will that mean, that this includes foreign data as well? Will I be able to use all my data in the whole europe? Because if so, I think I'll get a foreign card, cos our rates suck. – Peter Raeves Aug 24 '16 at 8:21
  • Did you read the link? It says that by law from the 30 of april 2016 internet charge when you are inside europe (but outside your "domestic country" where you took the sim) is domestic price + 0.05€ per megabyte (and the costs must be charge for every kilobyte, so nothing like "you connect and pay immediately for 100MB". From June 2017 you'll pay exactly the same everywhere in europe without any kind of extra charge. – Bakuriu Aug 24 '16 at 8:24
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Sort of. Every one sort of has roaming though, or per meg data charges. It's still got to be based somewhere.

The closest I've heard of is Go Sim which has a 'Europe Sim' for this use case.

Includes: a Europe SIM Card with $10 airtime

We've got the SIM for you! Our all-in-one replug sim will work in any unlocked mobile device (including iPhones, iPads and more). Simply pop out the size you need and follow your mobiles instructions on how to insert the SIM. There's no need to worry about which size to order!

Make Calls: from 25c/min
Receive Calls: from 25c/min
Send and Receive Texts: 25c/message
Prepaid Data: $0.25/MB in Europe Zone, $0.59/MB in the Rest of the World
$10 Airtime Included

Frankly, though, there's so much wifi around, I'd personally not bother even getting one if you're on holiday, but obviously everyone is different.

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    Thats even more expensive than my (belgian) sim's roaming costs... actually my wifi experience in europe has been pretty bad. You either have to register or have slow connections. With wifi you also have to stay in the same spot if you find a hotspot and thus cant access the internet on the road, street, bus or train. So I guess Im best of with the mobile vikings package of 350MB of data, whereever I would be in Europe, for just 20 euro/month. Thanks anyway though! – Peter Raeves Feb 18 '15 at 1:08
  • Really? Hostels were amazing when I travelled there, not sure about hotels. – Mark Mayo Feb 18 '15 at 1:13
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    I wouldn't consider WiFi coverage 'good' in Europe. In the Netherlands and Finland you have it practically on every street in central areas, but go to South, for example Slovenia, Croatia, Bulgaria or even Spain, and free WiFi is pretty much nowhere to be found, except for hotels/hostels obviously. Cafes where you sit and purchase something also share the WiFi password with you, but this is not free or even cheap compared to what you're supposed to pay for internet if the wishes of the OP are to be satisfied. – downhand Feb 18 '15 at 10:18
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    @DavidRicherby it's more than one comment, the thread between me and downhand started in Europe and then we moved on to that. Sometimes not all the comments show at once. – Mark Mayo Mar 2 '15 at 5:55
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    Mark, could you update your answer? EU Roaming is now a thing of the past, you can get more details here: ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/en/faq/… – JonathanReez Nov 12 '17 at 15:51
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+50

A lot has changed on the European cell phone market since this question was asked 2.5 years ago and the other answers are pretty much all outdated.

Since June 15th 2017, EU roaming regulations basically prohibits roaming surcharges when using a subscription from one EEA country in another EEA country. In most EEA countries, you are as a tourist easily able to get a pay as you go subscription and use it for the same costs in all other EEA countries.

Operators are however starting to get creative in their search for reasons to make use of any of the exceptions to the 'roam like at home' intent of the new regulation, some operators use bandwidth throttling as a mean to restrict data usage abroad and some operators are even disallowing roaming completely on their cheaper products.

With products, practice and pricing changing almost daily, it is impossible here to recommend any specific service.

  • Note an important caveat - calls to a destination outside the EU are not covered, so you may be charged several Euro/min. Use data calls. – ugoren Nov 12 '17 at 20:01
  • @ugoren To be precise, calls to destinations outside the EEA are not covered. International calls, at least to non-EEA countries, are usually very expensive anyway with most European pay as you go subscriptions, not just when roaming. – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Nov 12 '17 at 20:31
  • Destinations outside the EEA indeed. But these calls are not necessarily expensive - for example, tescomobile.ie takes 2c/min for calls from Ireland to USA, which jumps to 2.40 Euro/min when roaming. – ugoren Nov 13 '17 at 8:39
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    This should be the new accepted answer – BritishSam Nov 13 '17 at 11:51
  • Calls to destinations inside the EU are not covered either. It only considers where the caller is located. A German SIM can still charge calls to France or Sweden higher than calls to German numbers, regardless of where in the EU the caller is located. However, calls within the EU are now supposed to be capped, this has nothing to do with roaming. – gerrit Jun 20 at 8:50
13

After reading the comments, I thought I'd summarize what was said as an alternative to Mark Mayo's solution. It seems that there is no solution that really stands out at time of writing and it all depends where you come from.

Outside of Europe

If you come from outside of Europe, it seems like Mark's solution would probably suit you best, as you can prepare your sim card before you arrive in Europe.

Inside of Europe

If you start your journey inside of Europe, or think you can manage a few days without a working sim, you are best off with one from a local vendor. We have come a long way since the 2007 European roaming regulations and by now most European countries have lowered their prices to an acceptable rate, even lower than the rates offered by Go Sim. Roaming rates were planned to be abolished December 2015, but after recent talks the effect date is sadly moved to 2018. So while we wait, I'll give you an overview of current rates. Keep in mind that every country has multiple providers, so that you could get cheaper rates, but the list is to give you an idea about an approximate roaming cost.

French roaming rates as mentioned by JoErNanO:
Send call: € 0.23 / min
Received call: € 0.06 / min
SMS: € 0.072 / SMS
Data: € 0.24 / MB

Finish roaming rates as mentioned by downhand:
Send call: € 0.24 / min
Received call: € 0.06 / min
SMS: € 0.07 / SMS
Data: € 0.25 / MB

Belgian roaming rates as mentioned by my provider:
Send call: € 0.22 / min
Received call: € 0.07 / min
SMS: € 0.07 / SMS
Data: € 0.20 / MB

Belgium

If you start from, or plan to travel to, Belgium, you might want to consider a sim card by the provider called Mobile Vikings. They offer Data Roaming packages, specifically made for situations like these. All mentioned data can be used everywhere in the EU without additional charge.

Day Package: € 2 / 25 MB
Week Package: € 10 / 150 MB
Month Package: € 20 / 350 MB

For calling and texting from outside Belgium you have the same roaming rates as mentioned above, as these packages are provided for regular MV sim cards. Alternatively, you could also call using your data. A lot of different VOIP services are available, so I'll limit my answer to the provider I'm promoting here. MV offers something called Viking Talk, which you could use in combination with the mentioned data or over Wifi as any other VOIP service.

Viking Talk calling rates:
For Belgium: € 0.025 / min
For Europe + USA: 0.05 / min

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    +1 For the summary I was too lazy to write. Glad that someone took the hint, though. :) – JoErNanO Feb 20 '15 at 20:35
  • @JoErNanO Though, in the end, only two people cared for the summary lol. – Peter Raeves Aug 5 '15 at 7:59
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This is not a total a Europe solution, but from the UK one might want to look at Three Pay As You Go "Feel at home" SIM Card. For 15 EU unlimited data for 30 days in Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, Norway, Republic of Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland, and as a plus the USA. I'm leaving for Europe again Sunday and haven't actually tried it, but its working fine in the US.

Germany that I visit frequently is missing so I have used and just paid for another 30 days of 7.5 GB of 4G data from O2 Deutschland. They have several data packages for 30 days the 7.5 GB 4G data is 35 EU. All their webpages are in Germany, but Google Chrome translates them on the fly. I ordered both cards from ebay and use a dual SIM phone.

Another SIM I have used is OneSimCard that has several different size Europe data packages the largest gives you 1 GB data for 30 days-kind of high at $125. These packages mostly cover EU countries plus Russia and few other countries: Austria, Azores, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canary Islands, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guadalupe, Guernsey, Hungary, Iceland, Isle of Man, Ireland, Italy, Jersey, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, St. Barth, St. Martin (French) Svalbard, Sweden, UK and Vatican City.

And yet another option is Truphone 9 cents per minute, text or MB in UK, the US, Netherlands, Poland, Spain, and Germany plus some other non-Europe. I actually use this SIM for one of my phones here that is used infrequently as there is no monthly charge – just use.

2

Some of the cheap US T-mobile plan gets you free & unlimited texting and data pretty much world-wide. Calls are 0.20c/minute. Data is technically only 2G but it often upgrades for 3G or even 4G, if that's the only thing available. Works great for navigation like Google Maps. If you have a friend that's already on a T-mobile plan you can probably tack on an extra line for $10/month. I think it's $20 one time for the SIM.

2

Since July 2017, there are no more roaming fee in European Union

Basically, you can use your mobile data / text messagse / calls as if you were in the country where you bought your sim card.

European Union roaming regulations apply to the 31 members of the European Economic Area; the 28 members of the EU and their outermost regions plus three EFTA member states Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

Quoted from wikipedia, There is a fair limit usage :

To prevent misuse (i.e. cheaper tariffs available in the eastern members to be used constantly in the western members where tariffs are higher) a fair-use policy was mandated which would allow EEA citizens to use their phones while roaming without extra charges for business and leisure, but would still limit the use to prevent misuse and extra costs to mobile operators

So for example, if you buy a sim card in France, you can use it without any roaming free in Spain, Norway, Malta etc...

1

International sim is a good option, but if you need internet, I would suggest you to get a local prepaid sim. I found it much cheaper. When I went to Lithuania, I took a prepaid sim ezys (http://www.ezys.lt/en/) which I was suggested and for a bit more than 2 € I got 1GB of 4G internet! I don’t say that in other country you will find the same prices, but I assume that you can find something similar or at least cheaper than paying for every KB. So really worth checking the local prepaid sims to the country you go to as well if you need more than few KB. And if you don’t need much, so I guess Wi-Fi spots would be enough.

0

If you make your calls through internet, I can recommend you the German tariff "Netzclub Sponsored". After you have used the 100 +300 free MBs, you still have throttled mobile data. That's enough to make free phone calls through internet. In 2017 I tested it while I was in Scandinavia, and indeed I got no extra fees. If you cannot call your contacts via instant messenger software, you still can call landline numbers via cheap VoIP providers. After you registered your VoIP account, you can set the provider's server data in your smartphone's SIP settings.

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