7 Best SIM Cards for Europe in 2023

by Global Viewpoint
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From the cafes of France to the villas of Spain, Europe beckons many travelers from all over the world. Depending on where you’re traveling from, though, visiting Europe can be intimidating, especially if keeping in touch with friends and family is important. Roaming charges can quickly put the kibosh on your ability to stay connected. It doesn’t have to be that way, though. By making use of the best SIM cards for Europe, you can explore, comfortable in the knowledge that your loved ones are only a phone call away.

Though Europe is known for its grandeur, traveling to Europe doesn’t have to be expensive. That’s as true for communication as it is for transportation and lodging. Most mobile carriers today charge exorbitant fees for calls, texts, or data use outside a customer’s home country. Fortunately, you can get around that by switching your phone’s SIM card.

Yes, it really is that simple. By buying a prepaid SIM card for Ireland, Italy, Poland, Greece, or any other country in the European Union, travelers are able to avoid roaming charges completely. If you’re planning to fly to Europe anytime soon, do yourself a favor and pick up one of the best SIM for Europe mentioned in this blog. It will save you a lot of money and headaches, allowing you to fully enjoy your European vacation.

> Don’t have time to read the full guide? Here’s my top pick for a SIM Card in Europe: SimOptions

This article on the best SIM cards for Europe contains affiliate links where I may earn a commission at no cost to you.

Reasons for buying the best SIM cards for Europe

Europe is full of hidden gems, but the best-kept secret for countless travelers may not be an attraction. Rather, it’s the fact that using a local European SIM card can provide several unique advantages.

Here’s why you should consider picking up one of the best SIM cards for Europe.

Cost-effective communication

When roaming with your home country’s mobile carrier, international roaming charges can quickly add up. This can result in an unpleasant surprise on your phone bill. By purchasing a local SIM card, you can avoid exorbitant charges and enjoy local rates for calls, texts, and mobile data. Local providers often offer affordable prepaid plans that cater to travelers, ensuring you stay connected without breaking the bank.

Seamless navigation

Exploring unfamiliar cities can be daunting, but a local SIM card can turn your smartphone into a powerful navigation tool. With access to high-speed mobile data, you can rely on GPS and map apps to effortlessly find your way around bustling streets, charming alleys, and public transportation systems. By staying connected, you can quickly adapt to changes in your itinerary, making your travels smoother and more enjoyable.

Real-time travel updates

When traveling, unforeseen circumstances can occur, such as transportation delays or sudden changes in attraction opening hours. Having a local SIM card allows you to stay updated in real-time through travel apps and official websites. Whether it’s checking train schedules, confirming ticket availability, or monitoring local news, having a reliable data connection ensures you make the most out of every moment.

Immersive cultural experiences

In the digital age, sharing your travel experiences with loved ones is almost second nature. With a local SIM card, you can easily share your journey with friends and family through social media, video calls, and instant messaging apps. Furthermore, having internet access at your fingertips encourages you to research local customs, language phrases, and cultural tips. This can enhance your interactions with locals and make your experiences more authentic.

Safety and security

Traveling is an exhilarating adventure, but safety is always a top priority. By having a local SIM card, you can quickly contact emergency services or your accommodation in case of unforeseen circumstances. Moreover, some European countries require tourists to register their phone numbers to use public Wi-Fi hotspots. With a local SIM, you can bypass this requirement and enjoy secure internet access without compromising your privacy.

Where to buy the best SIM cards for Europe

In addition to providing numerous advantages, one of the great things about the best SIM cards for Europe is that they’re very easy to acquire. You can buy a local SIM card in just about any country in Europe. Alternatively, you can buy one online before you even leave your home country.

Not sure where to start looking to find the best SIM cards for Europe. Here are some suggestions.

Close-up of a row of mobile phones display in a store
The best SIM cards for Europe can be found at most mobile phone carrier stores.

Airports and transportation hubs

One of the most convenient places to buy a prepaid SIM card is at international airports and major transportation hubs across Europe. These locations often have kiosks or stores operated by reputable mobile carriers. Here you’ll find a range of prepaid plans tailored to travelers. Upon arrival, you can easily purchase a SIM card and activate it on the spot. This will enable you to stay connected from the moment you step foot on European soil.

Local mobile carrier stores

Another reliable option is to visit the stores of local mobile carriers in the country you’re visiting. These stores provide a wide selection of prepaid SIM card options, each designed to suit different traveler needs. Not only will you have access to knowledgeable staff who can assist you in choosing the right plan, but you can also enjoy special promotions or discounts that might be available exclusively in-store.

Tourist information centers

Many European cities have tourist information centers that cater to the needs of travelers. These centers often provide useful resources, including maps, attraction guides, and, yes, prepaid SIM cards. Visiting a tourist information center can be a smart move, especially if you prefer face-to-face interactions and want to ensure you get the most suitable SIM card for your itinerary.

Mobile apps and vending machines

For tech-savvy travelers who prefer a quick and efficient approach, some European countries offer SIM card vending machines at airports or major tourist spots. Additionally, some mobile carriers have developed user-friendly apps that allow you to purchase and activate prepaid SIM cards directly from your smartphone. These options are excellent choices if you’re seeking a hassle-free and instant solution.

Online retailers

In the digital age, online shopping has become increasingly popular for travelers looking to buy a prepaid SIM card before their trip. Numerous reputable online retailers offer prepaid SIM cards specifically designed for European travel. You can browse through different options, compare prices, and have the SIM card delivered to your home address before you depart. This approach can save you time upon arrival, as you’ll already have a functioning SIM card at your disposal.

Ranking high among the online retailers offering the best SIM cards for Europe is SimOptions. In fact, SimOptions is considered Europe’s #1 marketplace for international prepaid SIM cards. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a retailer that you’re already familiar with, you might be surprised that Amazon also sells some of the best SIM cards for Europe. Last but not least, if you’re more interested in buying eSIMs, check out Airalo. It’s not only the first online store for eSIMs, it’s also one of the very best.

The 7 best SIM cards for Europe right now

There are as many different SIM cards on the market as there are countries in Europe. In other words: a lot. To help you narrow down your choices, I did some research. I compared pricing plans, data plans, and coverage networks. I read reviews and consulted fellow travelers all over the world. Now, I’m happy to present to you what I feel are the seven best SIM cards for Europe today.

1. Orange Holiday Europe

A screenshot from SimOptions detailing the features of the Orange Holiday Europe Card, one of the best SIM cards for Europe
Though pricier than other SIM cards, the Orange Holiday Europe Card is a wise investment for travelers.

When it comes to the best SIM cards for Europe, it’s hard to beat the Orange Holiday Europe Card. In addition to an exceptionally high data cap of 20GB, the card offers unlimited talk and text within Europe. It also included 120 min of global calls and 1,000 text messages from Europe to the rest of the world. 

Though the Orange Holiday Europe Card is one of the pricier prepaid SIM cards on the market right now, retailers like SimOptions often have it on sale. If you’re someone who uses a lot of data when traveling, you can’t go wrong with this card. Every penny will be well spent.

2. SIM2Roam Europe Data SIM

A graphic detailing the features of the SIM2Roam Europe Data SIM Card
SIM2Roam is a company known for offering some of the cheapest and best SIM cards for Europe.

If the Orange Holiday Europe Card’s hefty price tag made you cross your eyes, the SIM2Roam Europe Data SIM Card might be for you. Available in three variants (3GB, 6GB, and 10GB) for around $20-30, it’s definitely among a bargain hunter’s best SIM cards for Europe.

Despite its low price, the SIM2Roam Europe Data SIM Card gives customers access to the most reliable network in Europe. What’s more, unlike some other cards, this one requires no registration or activation. Just insert the card into your mobile device and, voila, you’re ready to go.

3. Vodafone Europe 19GB

A graphic detailing the features of the Vodafone Europe 19GB Card, one of the best SIM cards for Europe
In addition to providing 19GB of data in most European countries, this Vodafone card boasts 140GB of data in Spain.

Along with Orange, Vodafone is one of the top dogs when it comes to the best SIM cards for Europe. The company is known for providing extensive coverage and a diverse array of options for travelers with different needs and budgets. The Vodafone Europe 19GB Card is highly recommended in particular.

Why? Well, if you’re traveling to Spain, it could be because its data cap for the country is over 100GB! It’s not too shabby elsewhere in Europe either, topping out at 19GB in other countries. It also comes with free roaming in 34 countries. This makes it a superior choice for anyone planning to travel across the continent.

A screenshot from the Airalo website showing multiple different variants of the Eurolink eSIM
The Eurolink eSIM from Airalo comes in a number of variants, making it one of the best SIM cards for Europe.

For some tourists, the best SIM cards for Europe aren’t actual physical cards at all. Instead, they’re eSIMs. An eSIM card is a digital version of a traditional card. As a result, it’s a lot more convenient and easy to use. When it comes to eSIMs, they don’t come much better than the Eurolink eSIM from Airalo.

Like all of Airalo’s offerings, the Eurolink eSIM is available in multiple variants. These range from an ultra-affordable 7-day card with a 1GB data cap to a pricey but powerful 180-day card with a whopping 100GB data cap. This versatility not only makes the Eurolink eSIM attractive to a broad segment of travelers, it also makes it exceedingly easy to “top up” your purchase with more data as needed.

5. Bouygues Telecom Travel Basic+

A screenshot from SimOptions detailing the features of the Bouygues Telecom Travel Basic+ Card, one of the best SIM cards for Europe
The Travel Basic+ excels among SIM cards when it comes to value for money.

Similar to SIM2Roam Europe Data SIM Card, the Bouygues Telecom Travel Basic+ is one of the best SIM cards for Europe when it comes to value for money. What sets it apart, though, is that just like the Eurolink, this is actually an eSIM. In other words, you get all the benefits of a physical card with none of the hassle of having to manually change your phone’s SIM.

The Bouygues Telecom Travel Basic+ is a great deal, with unlimited text and talk plus 15GB of data for 15 days. That makes it perfect for travelers who need something more than the Eurolink’s 7-day or 10GB options, but who don’t want to fork over the cash for the costly 90-day 50GB option. This one is in the Goldilocks Zone, meaning it’s not too much and it’s not too little. It’s just right.

6. Simify Europe & UK

A graphic detailing the features of the Simify Europe & UK Card, one of the best SIM cards for Europe
With free roaming across 71 countries, it’s clear why this is one of the best SIM cards for Europe.

One of the big pains in the butt with SIM cards (even the very best SIM cards for Europe) is that some of them have expiration dates. If they remain inactive for too long, they cease functioning. Not so with the Simify Europe & UK Card. You can keep this one as long as you want and it’ll still work as good as new when you finally decide to insert it into your phone.

That’s not the only thing that makes the Simify Europe & UK Card worthwhile, of course. It also comes with 12GB of data, plus unlimited talk and text to European and UK numbers from Europe and the UK. Roaming is free across 71 countries, including several in Asia and South America as well as Europe.

7. Three PAYG MBB 24GB

A screenshot from SimOptions detailing the features of the Three PAYG MBB 24GB Card
Three boasts having 99% cover all across Europe, making it the perfect choice for a European vacation.

Not every traveler needs talk and text functionality to keep in touch when on the go. For those who are solely interested in data, the Three PAYG MBB 24GB Card is easily one of the best SIM cards for Europe, bar none. Not only does it boast a very generous mobile broadband data limit, it also comes with a longer-than-usual 2-year credit validity once activated.

Three’s website claims the company has 99% coverage all over Europe, which would make it one of the most robust and reliable networks in the EU. That claim is supported by the fact that the Three PAYG MBB 24GB Card can be utilized in more than 70 countries, making it easy to browse the Internet, stream video, or upload pictures no matter where you travel.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ) about the best SIM cards for Europe

Don’t start packing your bags just yet! Before you go, there are some things you need to know about European SIM cards. Below are my answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the best SIM cards for Europe. Happy travels!

Do I need a different SIM card when traveling to Europe?

Yes, when traveling to Europe, you will need a different SIM card. Your home country’s SIM card may not work or could be subject to high roaming charges while in Europe. Purchasing a local prepaid SIM card in the country you’re visiting is a practical and cost-effective solution. It allows you to have a local phone number, access local rates for calls, texts, and mobile data, and avoid the exorbitant fees associated with international roaming.

Additionally, using a local SIM card grants you seamless access to essential services like navigation apps, translation tools, and real-time travel updates, enhancing your overall travel experience. Most European countries have a variety of prepaid SIM card options tailored to travelers, offering competitive data packages and network coverage.

Before buying a local SIM card, ensure that your smartphone is unlocked and compatible with the European network frequencies. Some carriers offer mobile apps for easy SIM card activation and management. Having a local SIM card not only keeps you connected but also allows you to fully immerse yourself in the culture, communicate with locals, and make the most of your European adventure without worrying about excessive roaming fees.

A tourist taking a photo of the sunset near a European beach
The best SIM cards for Europe make it a cinch to upload your travel photos to the cloud.

Is it worth getting one of the best SIM cards for Europe?

Yes, getting a SIM card for Europe is definitely worth it for most travelers. Here are some reasons why:

Cost savings

Using your home country’s SIM card for calls, texts, and data in Europe can lead to high international roaming charges. Purchasing a local prepaid SIM card in Europe allows you to access local rates, which are usually more affordable and can save you from unexpected and costly roaming fees.

Seamless communication

Having a local European phone number through a prepaid SIM card makes it easier for you to communicate with locals, businesses, and other travelers within the country you’re visiting. It also ensures you can be easily reached by others, improving your overall travel experience.

Reliable data access

With a local SIM card, you’ll have access to mobile data, enabling you to use navigation apps, stay updated with real-time travel information, and share your experiences with friends and family on social media. This constant connectivity enhances your safety, convenience, and ability to explore new places.

Flexibility

Prepaid SIM cards in Europe often come with various data and calling packages, allowing you to choose a plan that aligns with your specific needs and budget. This flexibility lets you tailor your connectivity to suit your travel activities.

Avoiding network congestion

During peak tourist seasons, international roaming on your home carrier’s network may lead to slower data speeds due to network congestion. Using a local SIM card allows you to connect to local networks, which generally provide better performance and speed.

Buying one of the best SIM cards for Europe is highly advantageous for travelers. That said, be sure to check your phone’s compatibility, unlock status, and research local prepaid SIM card options in the country you’re visiting to make the most of your European adventure.

Do the best SIM cards for Europe change your phone number?

Yes, using a SIM card for Europe will typically change your phone number. When you insert a new SIM card into your phone, it connects to the local network of the country where the SIM card is from, and you are assigned a new phone number associated with that specific SIM card.

Your original phone number from your home country, which is tied to your home country’s SIM card, will not be active while the European SIM card is in use. Your contacts, messages, and other data associated with your original number will not be accessible unless you switch back to your home country’s SIM card.

Having a local European phone number offers several advantages. Firstly, it allows you to receive calls and texts from local businesses, services, and contacts within the European country you are visiting. Secondly, it enables you to make local calls to other European numbers at more affordable rates compared to international roaming charges.

If you wish to keep your original phone number while traveling to Europe, you have a few options. Some carriers offer international roaming plans that allow you to use your home country’s number while abroad, but these can be expensive. Another option is to use services like virtual SIM apps or international roaming packages from your home carrier, but these might still incur additional fees.

How much data do I need for a month in Europe?

The amount of data you need for a month in Europe depends on your usage habits and the activities you plan to engage in while traveling. Here are some factors to consider when estimating your data needs:

Internet usage

If you use your smartphone primarily for casual browsing, social media, and occasional emails, a lower data allowance (e.g., 1GB to 3GB) may be sufficient. However, if you plan to use navigation apps, stream videos, or upload high-resolution photos regularly, you’ll need a higher data plan (e.g., 5GB to 10GB or more).

Streaming and video calls

Streaming services like Netflix or YouTube can consume significant data. If you intend to stream videos frequently or make video calls using apps like Skype or FaceTime, allocate extra data for these activities.

Map and navigation apps

Navigation apps like Google Maps or Apple Maps are helpful for exploring new places, but they also require data. Downloading offline maps can reduce data usage, but it’s wise to have sufficient data for real-time navigation when needed.

Social media and sharing

Uploading photos and videos to social media platforms, such as Instagram and Facebook, can consume data. Consider your social media usage and allocate data accordingly.

Email and messaging

Regular email usage and messaging apps like WhatsApp or Messenger typically consume minimal data, so they may not significantly impact your data needs.

Wi-Fi availability

Take into account the availability of Wi-Fi in your accommodation and public spaces. Utilizing Wi-Fi whenever possible can help conserve your data.

As a general guideline, a moderate data user might find 5GB to 10GB of data sufficient for a month in Europe. Heavy users who engage in frequent streaming and video calls may require 15GB or more. To make an accurate estimate, review your current monthly data usage at home and adjust based on the activities you expect to engage in during your European travels. It’s better to have a bit of extra data to avoid unexpected overage charges or running out of data mid-trip. Additionally, consider purchasing local prepaid SIM cards with data packages tailored for travelers to get the best value for your data needs.

Close-up of a traveler gathering gear for a trip to Europe, including a mobile phone using a local SIM card
No matter what part of Europe you’re visiting, prepaid SIM cards can help you stay in contact while saving money.

Can I get the best SIM cards for Europe in the US?

Yes, you can get a SIM card for Europe in the US. Many online retailers and travel companies offer international SIM cards specifically designed for travelers going to Europe. These SIM cards are typically prepaid and come with various data and calling options to suit your travel needs.

Before purchasing one of the best SIM cards for Europe, consider the following:

Compatibility

Ensure that your smartphone is unlocked and compatible with the network frequencies used in Europe. Most modern smartphones are designed to work on multiple frequencies, but it’s essential to verify this before buying a SIM card.

Coverage

Check which European countries are covered by the SIM card you’re considering. Some cards may have coverage in all European Union countries, while others may be limited to specific regions.

Data and calling plans

Review the available data and calling plans to find one that aligns with your expected usage. Consider factors such as the amount of data you need, international calling rates, and any extra features like roaming.

Activation and usage

Some SIM cards require activation before use, while others are pre-activated. Familiarize yourself with the activation process and ensure you understand how to top-up or recharge the SIM card with additional credit if needed.

Delivery time

If you’re purchasing the SIM card online, check the delivery time to ensure you receive it before your departure date.

Buying one of the best SIM cards for Europe before leaving the US can be a convenient option. First and foremost, it will allow you to have connectivity from the very moment you arrive in Europe. It can also save you the hassle of searching for a local SIM card upon arrival. However, be sure to compare prices and features to make sure you’re getting the best value for your needs.

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