UPDATE July 6th: Vodafone Ireland contacted Australian Business Traveller to point out a nasty piece of fine print buried in its standard terms and conditions -- if you use more than 20% of your roaming data in Europe on a non-Vodafone network, Vodafone Ireland will block your SIM card.
The carrier implies this is to prevent abuse of the scheme we've detailed below. Our take? We believe this is a pretty clear contravention of false advertising laws in Ireland given Vodafone's specific announcement of this deal makes no mention of this limitation whatsoever.
To cover yourself, make sure there's a Vodafone network in the country you're roaming in and have your smartphone or tablet connect to it manually rather than rely on automatic network selection, which could see your device accidentally roam onto another carrier's network.
Heading to the UK or Europe in July or August? We've discovered a great deal that'll give you 50MB of data each day for your smartphone or tablet for just $1.35 per day.
Yes, you read that correctly: $1.35 per day -- not per megabyte. That's what you'd pay to send a quick email on most Australian roaming plans.
Under a special 'European Summer' promotion by Vodafone Ireland, the carrier is offering its subscribers the use of data throughout Europe to the end of August at standard (non-roaming) domestic plan rates.
Here's the trick: you don't need to set foot inside a Vodafone store in Ireland to take advantage of this deal. You can buy a Vodafone Ireland Pay As You Go prepaid SIM package on eBay for €19.99 (A$27) which works with this deal. Standard size SIMs as well as Micro-SIMs for the iPhone 4 and iPad are available.
(And before you ask... no, unfortunately this offer is not available with Vodafone Australia SIM cards. You do have to buy a Vodafone Ireland SIM card to get it.)
Here's how the promotion works:
- Buy a Vodafone Ireland SIM card for €19.99
- Add credit to it
- Internet access costs €0.99 per day for a flat 50MB each day, deducted from the SIM card's credit balance on a daily basis
- If you go over 50MB on any one day, it will cost €1 per MB, deducted from the SIM card credit balance, as you use each MB.
50MB per day will be suitable for casual use, and while this won't be suitable for everyone it's still exceptionally good value. 50MB per day on standard Vodafone Australia roaming rates would normally cost $500... per day!
If you need more than 50MB per day, this offer might not be the best one for you -- check out the other data roaming deals listed at the end of this article for heavier-usage deals.
This special eight-week promotion covers the United Kingdom as well as 26 other European countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.
The press announcement of the deal seems to be the only information on Vodafone Ireland's website so far.
Also great for BlackBerry
The Vodafone Ireland SIM deal is also a fantastic opportunity for BlackBerry users to get internet connectivity in Europe.
If you remove your Australian telco's SIM card from a BlackBerry and replace it with a foreign network's SIM card, internet access usually stops working because all data is routed through a special BlackBerry gateway.
However, Vodafone Ireland offers its own BlackBerry plan for pay-as-you-go customers costing 50c per day out of the SIM card's credit.
This includes all internet usage done through apps that access the net through BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS), which typically includes mail, FaceBook, Twitter, Google Maps and most other apps on the BlackBerry.
The 99c per day fee that applies to other smartphones for internet access does not apply to BlackBerrys -- it's replaced by the 50c per day fee instead.
To get this deal, you have to put the Vodafone Ireland SIM card into your BlackBerry, and text "BlackBerry" to 50222.
Buying a Vodafone prepaid SIM card on eBay
You can find Vodafone Ireland SIM cards on eBay. Some sellers also include free worldwide postage. You'll need to allow about 10 days for it to arrive in the post from Ireland.
The SIM card account will have been opened in the name of the eBay seller, but they generally provide you a username and password login for Vodafone Ireland's website so you can make changes to the account yourself.
Don't forget that your phone will need to be unlocked. If you bought it on a plan from Telstra, Optus, Vodafone, 3 or one of the other Australian mobile resellers, chances are it will be locked to only use SIM cards from the original provider.
If you have had the phone for a while, most mobile networks will unlock the phone free of charge for you.
For tips on unlocking an iPhone bought in Australia, see our article, Top 5 tips for travelling with an iPhone.
Setting up your phone to work with a Vodafone Ireland SIM card
To get the internet working on your phone, you'll need to change its "Access Point Name" (APN) setting to match those of Vodafone Ireland.
Vodafone Ireland's APN details are:
Username: (not needed)
Password: (not needed)
Calling back to Australia
Calls to Australian landlines or mobiles from the Vodafone Ireland SIM card while you are in Ireland cost 15 euro cents ($0.20) per minute -- so while using Skype would certainly be cheaper, a 10 minute call is still only going to cost you $2.00.
In other European countries you'll be paying much higher rates, because this special offer provides cut-price roaming for data, not voice calls.
You can check the rates you'd pay in each country here. For example, in Germany it would cost you €1.39 ($1.88) per minute to call back to Australia.
Receiving calls from Australia
Your Vodafone Ireland SIM card will have an Irish country code +353 number, so it will be an international mobile call for people in Australia who want to reach you.
However, you can use our trick of diverting your Australian mobile through Skype to allow people to call you at no extra cost to them, and a fairly minimal cost to you.
Of course, you could also run the Skype app on your phone, and receive calls for free on that. Skype voice calls use very little data and should fit into your 50MB daily allowance easily provided you don't make lengthy calls.
Skype for mobile is available for iPhone, most Nokia handsets, and Android phones (from companies like HTC, Samsung, LG, Motorola and others). More details are at the Skype on your mobile site.
Other roaming SIM cards
If the Vodafone Ireland SIM card isn't for you (because you're not travelling to Europe, or you need more than 50MB per day) check out these other deals we've covered recently:
Worldwide (trip must start in Europe)
- Abroadband (data at 81c/MB)
- Telecom XT ($30 for 500MB)
- Three ($37.50 for unlimited data for a month)