"Euroaming" arrives: best roaming SIM options for Europe

By John Walton, June 22 2012

Local SIMs are a useful way to avoid the global roaming rort from Telstra, Optus and Vodafone -- which can be an eye-watering $15 per MB -- but it's a pain having to swap SIM cards and recharge every time you change European country.

But no more -- thanks to pressure from the EU government, European mobile networks are slashing roaming rates and creating continent-wide "Euroaming" deals, covering most of Europe.

"Most" varies slightly by provider, but usually means:

Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Monaco, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Guernsey, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Isle of Man, Italy, Vatican, San Marino, Jersey, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

So that SIM card you pick up when you arrive in London will work -- for a less eyewatering charge -- in other European countries. It won't be as cheap as getting a local SIM card in each country, but if you're only in each place for a few days then it's well worth it for the convenience.

Among other things, "convenience" means not having to figure out how to top up your phone in, say, Estonian.

Expect most European networks to be offering these "Euroaming" deals, though the best without a contract for Australian travellers in Europe tend to be from UK networks.

That's partly because London is still such a European gateway (with machines selling SIM cards on the way down to the trains), and partly because it's easier to sort things out if all the documentation and support helplines are in English.

We've focussed on data rather than voice calling, since most of our readers tell us they're looking to get online with their smartphones and tablets rather than phoning home -- which they can do using Skype or other VOIP apps anyway.

The options are all slightly different, and it'll depend on how much roaming you want to do, and whether you want a daily, weekly or untimed block.

(Note that we haven't converted pounds to Australian dollars, but it's roughly A$1.50 per £ at the moment.)

Five good UK-based SIM options for "Euroaming"

  • Virgin Mobile has 7-day Travel Passes available: £6 for 5MB, £12 for 10MB and £24 for 20MB. (No, there's no discount for buying bigger blocks.) 
  • T-Mobile offers 7-day Euro Internet Boosters: £1 for 3MB, £5 for 20MB and £10 for 50MB. 
  • O2 pay-as-you-go customers get charged £2 per day for up to 25MB of data outside the UK. Go over the 25MB and you can pay another £2.
  • Vodafone will charge £8 for up to 100MB per day.
  • Orange offers several data bundles (that's their page for using your phone in Germany) -- 30MB for £3 per day, or three monthly offers: £15 for 30MB over a month, £50 for 150MB over a month or £150 for 500MB over a month.

Keep an eye out for new options springing up now that the main UK networks are offering deals. A price war would be music to business travellers' ears.

Other roadtested options for getting online in Europe

UK network 3: Euro Internet Pass is available if you're one of their pay monthly customers: £5 (A$8) per day for unlimited data use, but no iPhone tethering.

Droam: rent a 3G-wifi router (which you might know as a "mifi"), which will also work in countries across the world. 

Maxroam: a true global roaming SIM for voice and data. Roughly 60c per MB in most European countries, but also works in other regions.

Tep: rent a smartphone or a 3G-wifi router for a convenient (though not cheap) daily rate.

For more tips on how to avoid the overseas data roaming rip off, we've got you covered. 

What's your favourite option for avoiding the global roaming ripoff in Europe? Share your insider knowledge with your fellow AusBT readers in a comment below!

For more tips like this -- and the latest news, reviews and advice for business travellers, follow us on Twitter: we're @AusBT.

John Walton
John Walton

John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.

jinxy

jinxy

06 Feb 2012

Total posts 18

Disappointed with this article...and one I have been waiting to read for a while now.

Not many options presented. Would have been good to see the main choices compared for us aussies like Go Talk, Go Sim, Travel Sim, Telestial etc etc It gets very confusing when looking at the various websites. Not everyone's trip commences in the UK.

I have purchased Go Talk for my upcoming trip and the rates look ok for both calls and data in the countries I'm visiting. Previously I have used individual sims, which works well in some countries but not others

John Walton

John Walton

03 Jan 2011

Total posts 673

I think you might have missed the point of this article, jinxy.

This one compares the new batch of EU-roaming SIMs in Europe, not the worldwide roaming SIMs like the type you mentioned, which are a good choice if you're hitting ten countries on a round-the-world trip or stopping off in Asia on the way to and from Europe.

Having had a quick look, that Go Talk SIM seems to be a decent enough deal for a global roaming SIM: around 40c per MB, not taking into account the $20 that the SIM itself costs. However, for most use cases it's more expensive than several of the options I outlined above. Let us know how you go with it, though? We're always interested in how our readers find various SIMs.

Incidentally, when did you travel, and which SIMs did you try in each country?

The reasons I picked UK based SIMs rather than another EU country:

  • English language documentation, websites and helplines
  • UK SIMs themselves are usually available free
  • London, Heathrow and the UK remain a massive gateway for Europe
  • "instant-on" data, unlike France where you have to wait 48 hours for data to start working
  • available using credit cards, unlike some of the German options I tested last month, which required cash
  • don't require a passport, unlike Italy

gewatson

gewatson

24 Jun 2012

Total posts 1

roamline.com 19euro activation incl card,shipping and 0.39 Euro/mb in europe,us,canada and 0.89 Euro/mb 130 countries. Postpaid per useage and backed by kpn netherlands. Data only but a good deal incl 1kb rounding.Testing this one on an upcoming trip

 

Petermeyer

Petermeyer

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 Jun 2012

Total posts 5

I've had a quote from droam of 95 Euro for about two weeks roaming in Europe which I thought was not bad, but 68 Euro to ship it to my address in UK I thought was a bit excessive from the Netherlands!

John Walton

John Walton

03 Jan 2011

Total posts 673

That does sound a little much...have you tried getting in touch with them via Twitter (@droam)? They're pretty responsive, I found.

John Walton

John Walton

03 Jan 2011

Total posts 673

...and, frankly, for 95€ you're potentially better off getting an Euroaming SIM anyway!

travelgear

travelgear

06 Mar 2012

Total posts 2

I've found that the O2 sim works well. You can buy it from us in Australia for $10 so you have your number to print on business cards and divert your phones to and within five minutes of clearing customs you can have it loaded with credit and active. The £2/day Euro roaming is a big improvement over the £3/MB charge that one had to pay last month, and compared with other UK networks it even works in some non-EU countries such as Andorra and Switzerland. 

Another option (if you're flying into Germany first) it the Ortel German SIM, which has a €5 charge for 50MB/7 days when roaming in the EU outside Germany. We sell these for $24 and they seem to be doing well.

Of course the drawback with any of these SIM cards is that you need to add credit in their home country (unless you have a UK/European credit card), so a relatively big top up is needed just before leaving the UK to keep you going throughout your European travels.

John Walton

John Walton

03 Jan 2011

Total posts 673

A hearty "nope" to the drawback there: O2 lets you recharge by dialling a regular 4-digit number (4444 if I remember correctly).

It's currently my favorite UK roaming option.

mobipassport

mobipassport

02 Apr 2012

Total posts 5

If you are not going straight to the UK, but want to take advantage of this option, you can get a O2 SIM pre-loaded with credit at mobipassport.com.au.


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