The 5 Best International SIM Cards for Traveling in Europe in 2023

travel in europe sim card

Planning a European adventure? If your home phone plan doesn’t offer international roaming, you’ll need a new SIM card to use your phone while abroad. In this article, we’ll explore the best international SIM card options for traveling to Europe. We’ll also discuss where to buy them and introduce you to a smart and cost-effective way to spend while in Europe using the Wise card.

Where to Buy an International SIM Card for Europe

Before diving into the various providers and packages, let’s discuss where exactly you can purchase international SIM cards for Europe. Fortunately, there are several options available:

  1. Buy a Travel SIM Card Online: Start your search on platforms like Amazon, BestBuy, Walmart, and SimOptions. These online stores offer a wide range of international SIM card options.

  2. Buy a European SIM Card in a Store or at the Airport: You can find European SIM cards at international airports or popular stores like Walmart, Walgreens, and 7-Eleven.

  3. Buy an eSIM Card Online: Check if your cell phone is compatible with eSIM cards, which are virtual SIM cards that eliminate the need to replace your physical SIM card. If your device supports eSIM, you can purchase eSIM packages for Europe from websites such as Airalo and Holafly.

  4. Check with Your US Carrier: Inquire whether your US carrier offers roaming plans for Europe. This could be a convenient option if it suits your needs and budget.

  5. Buy a SIM Card Once You Arrive in Europe: If you prefer to wait until you reach Europe, you can pick up a SIM card from international airports or stores like Orange, Vodafone, Movistar, SFR, or Three.

Can I Get a European SIM Card in the US?

Yes, you can purchase international SIM cards for Europe before you travel. However, there are pros and cons to consider for this option. The main advantage is that you’ll be able to use your phone in Europe right away without the hassle of finding and buying a SIM card locally. This allows you to compare prices and choose the best option instead of settling for the first available card at an airport.

However, buying a SIM card in advance may not always be the cheapest option. Airport purchases tend to be more expensive, and roaming plans offered by your US carrier can be costly as well.

Checking Phone Compatibility with International SIM Cards

Before buying a new SIM card, it’s crucial to ensure that your phone is unlocked. Unlocked devices are not tied to a specific network and can accept new SIM cards. Contact your US carrier to confirm if your phone is unlocked.

What are the Best International SIM Cards for Europe? Here Are Your Options

Let’s now explore the five best international prepaid SIM cards for Europe, including a couple of eSIM options. This will help you find the most suitable choice for your trip, cell phone, and budget.

1: Orange Holiday Europe SIM¹

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This SIM card by the French 4G mobile network Orange is available as a standard SIM card or an eSIM. Priced at $49.90, it offers the following features:

  • 14 days validity
  • Coverage in 30 EU countries
  • 20GB internet in 4G
  • Unlimited calls and SMS in Europe
  • 2 hours of global calls and 1,000 global SMS to stay connected with home in the US

The Orange Holiday Europe SIM is ideal for vacations in Europe, thanks to its two-week validity. It’s available for purchase at SimOptions and can be delivered to your US address before you travel (shipping fees may apply).

2: Bouygues my European SIM/eSIM²

Another option from a French network, Bouygues Telecom, offers both a physical SIM card and an eSIM for €39.90 (approximately $44). This card could be a better value than the Orange Holiday Europe SIM, offering the following features:

  • 30 days validity
  • Coverage in 52 European countries
  • 30GB internet in 4G
  • Unlimited calls and SMS throughout Europe
  • €25 EUR credit for international calls and texts
  • Free tourist guide, stickers, and souvenir keyring

You can choose between a physical SIM card or an eSIM. Bouygues Telecom provides global delivery, but both SIM types can only be activated within Europe.

3: Three PAYG Data Pack 10GB³

If you don’t require a large amount of data for your trip, the Three PAYG Data Pack 10GB from the UK network Three is a more affordable option. Priced at $24.90 from SimOptions, it includes:

  • 30 days validity once activated
  • Coverage in 49 European countries
  • 10GB of 3G/4G/5G data in Europe
  • Unlimited calls and SMS within Europe
  • Standard, Micro, and Nano SIM formats to fit your device

Keep in mind that this option doesn’t include calls or SMS outside of Europe. However, you can receive calls and SMS for free.

4: O2 Go Card⁴

The O2 Go Card from O2 Czech Republic offers a deal similar to the previous SIM card on our list. Priced at $24.90, it includes:

  • 30 days credit validity once activated
  • Coverage in all European countries
  • 10GB of 3G/4G data in Europe
  • Standard, Micro, and Nano SIM formats to fit your device
  • 50 Czech Koruna (CZK) credit for calls and SMS to local numbers in Europe (approximately $2 USD)

With only a small allowance for calls and SMS, this SIM card is primarily focused on data usage. If your main goal is to access the internet and use messaging apps like WhatsApp, this budget option is worth considering.

5: Airalo Eurolink eSIMs⁵

For quick online access in Europe, eSIMs are an excellent choice if your phone supports them. Airalo’s Eurolink SIMs offer various validity and data packages, all available on the Airalo website. Here are a few examples:

  • 1GB of data for 7 days: $5 USD
  • 100GB of data for 180 days: $185 USD

These eSIMs provide coverage in 39 European countries and are designed specifically for data usage.

Low-Cost Spending in Europe with the Wise Card

While sorting out your SIM card, it’s essential to think about how you’ll cover your expenses while in Europe. The Wise card is an ideal choice for low-cost international spending. Here’s why:

  • Spend and withdraw cash from ATMs in 150+ countries, including Europe.
  • Automatically convert your USD to EUR at the mid-market exchange rate whenever you make a purchase. There’s just a small fee for currency conversion, and no transaction fees.
  • Enjoy free withdrawals of up to $100 from overseas ATMs (though the ATM operators may charge their own fees).
  • Receive free EUR bank details, allowing you to receive euro payments without any fees while in the US.

The Wise card is available for a one-time fee of only $9 when you open a Wise Account. This account also enables you to send money to and from Europe with low and transparent fees. Additionally, you can use the Wise card to pay for your new SIM card.

Wise is a trusted money service business that offers a multi-currency account, international money transfer services, and a debit card.

Bottom Line

Choosing the best SIM card for Europe depends on the duration of your trip, phone usage, and data requirements. The options mentioned in this article offer Europe-wide coverage, ensuring they work seamlessly in your desired destinations.

Similarly, don’t forget to consider the Wise card, which provides convenient and cost-effective spending options in over 150 countries, including Europe. Make sure to acquire it before your trip to enhance your overall travel experience.

For more travel planning tips, check out our guides on using credit cards in Europe and opening a European bank account.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I get an international SIM in Europe?
Once you land in Europe, you can purchase a SIM card from phone stores or at the airport. However, keep in mind that this may not be the most economical option for obtaining an international SIM.

Do you need a SIM card for each country in Europe?
No, all the SIM card options mentioned in this article provide coverage across multiple European countries. You can use them in any of the countries listed by the provider.

Sources:

  1. SimOptions – Orange Holiday Europe SIM
  2. Bouygues Telecom – My European eSIM
  3. SimOptions – Three PAYG Data Pack 10GB
  4. SimOptions – O2 Go Card
  5. Airalo – Europe eSIMs

Sources checked on 26-Jul-2023.

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