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SIM for multi-country Europe trip and options for calling home

Old Aug 17, 2023, 8:44 am
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Last edit by: serpens
Here are instructions for what phone settings to use when a travel SIM has been activated. The initial wiki is for an iPhone (in particular, an iPhone SE 2020 with iOS 16.6), but perhaps others will expand the wiki to clarify the steps for other phones or other operating system versions.

* Before arriving in the travel area, turn off roaming on the home SIM (to avoid any roaming charge).
- At Settings > Cellular, under SIMs, choose the home SIM and turn off Data Roaming.
If there is a Network Selection option (which is apparently not available with Consumer Cellular), choose a network on which the phone cannot roam, for example, 313-100.

* After arriving in the travel area, use the following settings.
- At Settings > Cellular > Cellular Data, choose the travel SIM and turn off Allow Cellular Data Switching.
- At Settings > Cellular > Default Voice Line, choose the home SIM.
- At Settings > Cellular, under SIMs, ensure both home and travel are On.
- At Settings > Cellular > [home SIM], ensure Wi-Fi calling is On and Data Roaming is Off.
- At Settings > Cellular > [travel SIM], ensure Data Roaming is On and (optionally) Low Data Mode is On.

Corrections are welcome, as are elaborations of what these settings mean and do.
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SIM for multi-country Europe trip and options for calling home

Old Apr 17, 2022, 3:11 pm
  #151  
 
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Hi folks. Kid doing a month in Europe: Ireland, Italy, France. Back in 2019 we visited the latter two and used a UK3 sim card that I bought on Amazon. Worked great. I've included the link below. However, there are a lot of recent negative reviews so now I think I need to try something else. I wanted to see if anyone could recommend with an Amazon link (largely bc that's easiest for me and I don't mind spending a little more if nec). Above all, I need something tried and true and bc kid will have less resources to correct a problem if there is one.

Amazon Amazon
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Old Apr 17, 2022, 3:20 pm
  #152  
 
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Originally Posted by Stgermainparis
Hi folks. Kid doing a month in Europe: Ireland, Italy, France. Back in 2019 we visited the latter two and used a UK3 sim card that I bought on Amazon. Worked great. I've included the link below. However, there are a lot of recent negative reviews so now I think I need to try something else. I wanted to see if anyone could recommend with an Amazon link (largely bc that's easiest for me and I don't mind spending a little more if nec). Above all, I need something tried and true and bc kid will have less resources to correct a problem if there is one.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1
Starting May 23, 2022, free data roaming will end for Three UK sim cards. His best bet is to get a prepaid Three Ireland sim in Ireland if thats his first destination because itll be free roaming in the rest of Europe and the UK. Cant buy those from Amazon unfortunately.
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Old Apr 17, 2022, 4:43 pm
  #153  
 
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Originally Posted by Nayef
Starting May 23, 2022, free data roaming will end for Three UK sim cards. His best bet is to get a prepaid Three Ireland sim in Ireland if that’s his first destination because it’ll be free roaming in the rest of Europe and the UK. Can’t buy those from Amazon unfortunately.
Okay. Thanks. I guess I need to find recs for SIM cards that do include roaming in Europe. Orange? Virgin? O2? Does anyone else have suggestions? Trip is going to be kid’s college grad gift so I want to make it as seamless as possible and worked out ahead of time. There have been trips where I spent hours and hours trying to get a sim activated upon arrival. Don’t want him to deal with that.
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Old Apr 17, 2022, 4:55 pm
  #154  
 
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An option I am considering is an eSIM from these folks: http://www.airalo.com/. It's data only and eSIM only but $13 gets you a month of all of Europe and 3GB. He would have to use Skype calling, which is quite cheap, and incoming calls would require a Skype number, also quite cheap. It could be worth it as a backup if nothing else. I did a trial run with one of their US SIMs and the process was quick and easy.
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Old Apr 17, 2022, 4:59 pm
  #155  
 
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Originally Posted by MADPhil
An option I am considering is an eSIM from these folks: http://www.airalo.com/. It's data only and eSIM only but $13 gets you a month of all of Europe and 3GB. He would have to use Skype calling, which is quite cheap, and incoming calls would require a Skype number, also quite cheap. It could be worth it as a backup if nothing else. I did a trial run with one of their US SIMs and the process was quick and easy.
Thank you! Ill investigate this. I also have been reading about Google Fi and wondering if I can get one of those sims and get an unlimited plus plan or a pay as you go one for a month then cancel. Im still researching that.

Last edited by Stgermainparis; Apr 17, 2022 at 5:06 pm
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Old Apr 22, 2022, 4:47 pm
  #156  
 
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orange holiday sim for europe. actually no need to buy sim, it's fairly easy to buy a travel sim after landing in europe.
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Old Apr 30, 2022, 2:31 pm
  #157  
 
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Google Fi. works everywhere. sim or esim. Was in Germany, Austria, Czech, Hungary, Slovakia, Switzerland and Italy between December and last Monday. Was flawless. Also worked in Egypt January 2020.
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Old May 3, 2022, 5:35 am
  #158  
 
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Originally Posted by apollo927
orange holiday sim for europe. actually no need to buy sim, it's fairly easy to buy a travel sim after landing in europe.
you can buy the Orange Holiday and Orange Zen SIMs on Amazon. I usually buy one a couple weeks before a European work trip and it's deliviered within a couple days via Prime.

I guess now there's a question about whether it would work in the UK though post Brexit.
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Old May 5, 2022, 9:26 am
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Part 1: (Initial Rational) So as a lot of us know, T-Mobile offers multiple High Speed passes as well as a $50/mo 15GB High-Speed data add-on. These are expensive for what they offer. For a long while what Ive been doing is using Google Fi in a Dual SIM config with my T-Mobile account moved to my iPhone ESIM. Google Fi offers High-Speed International Roaming for $10/GB, but it also has a min. cost of $20/mon. At first glance this is pricier than a T-Mobile High-Speed Pass, however, Google allows you to suspend the service plan when not in use, so effectively when not on the layover is just suspending the service and only paying for the data used. On average with 2 or so international trips a month Id use about 3.5gbs of Data as Im only using while out and about, and on the hotel, Wi-Fi when back at the hotel. So $35/mo + whatever I pay in normal cell use, and if I didnt go international at all then Im not stuck paying for a $50 add-on Im not using, this was working great for me overall. Plus while in Dual SIM mode I still kept my T-Mobile US number active the whole time so I could still get my calls and texts/iMessage.

Part 2: (Realization) The EU as a whole has an EU-Wide roaming law so if you have a phone plan from one EU member nation, it must work at no additional cost in another (some caveats and I'm simplifying) generally the roaming data cap is 20GB of high speed so this is perfect for those of us who do not live there full-time. I started to research multiple EU carriers, I was looking for something easy (don't have to be in the country to get a SIM), no commitments (Don't want to pay for something I won't use that month), and most importantly Value. Initially Free Mobile in France looks great, 19.99 Pre-Paid, 100GBs/mo (in France, 20 roaming) but you have to get the SIM in person while in Paris, not a huge deal breaker, but takes away time from the trip. Finally, I found the carrier that meets all of *MY* needs.

Part 3: (Get to the Point) Although Brexit happened, UK phone carriers are still allowing EU roaming, some with fees now like 3, some without. GiffGaff in the UK is a PrePaid phone carrier that runs on O2, you can get 10GB for 10 which is the perfect amount for me for small layover trips, and ~$1/GB vs $10/GB is much much better. They will mail a SIM to you for free to your US address. So no need to go out of the way. You'll get a UK number, so you can make free calls to other UK numbers and EU numbers. All your 10GB is useable in the EU, if you want more data just don't buy a plan that offers more than 20GB as that's the max allowed to be used outside of the UK, NI, Whales, and the Republic of Ireland. You also get access to a WiFi profile so you can get free wifi while on the Tube in the UK!

Some Caveats, your phone must be unlocked, iPhone users can go to (Settings>General>About> scroll down to Carrier Lock if it says No SIM Restrictions you're good! If it is locked, call your carrier and request an international unlock I know with T-Mobile you can request this on devices you making monthly payments on, and is free, you'll also want to move your number off of the physical SIM in your phone currently to its ESIM, you can do this with all major US carriers, this will allow you to keep your US number active while using GiffGaff for Data, and allows you to tunnel your US over the Data SIM like wifi calling.

This plan MUST touch the UK at least once every 63 days, so if you don't go to the UK at all, getting Free may be the better choice for you. For those of you who like to enjoy Adult Content this carrier like all UK carriers is subject to the UK's On by Default Porn Filter you can disable this to access whatever Hubs and Tubes you want if you provide your passport information, or use a VPN.

Part 4: (Order your SIM)

This is my referral link, we both get a 5 credit, so your initial month is only 5.

https://giffgaff.com/orders/affiliate/natha87529?app=1

If you don't want to use my referral, here's the direct order link, no free credits on this one though: https://www.giffgaff.com/freesim-international.
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Old May 5, 2022, 11:19 am
  #160  
 
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Originally Posted by SirSherlockHolmes
This plan MUST touch the UK at least once every 63 days, so if you don't go to the UK at all, getting Free may be the better choice for you. For those of you who like to enjoy Adult Content this carrier like all UK carriers is subject to the UK's On by Default Porn Filter you can disable this to access whatever Hubs and Tubes you want if you provide your passport information, or use a VPN.
So first, that's good if GiffGaff is now shipping SIMs to the US. I haven't used them in a few years because at the time I used them, you had to have the SIM mailed to a UK address, so I would have to always ship it to my company office in London, and pick it up in person. I tried having them ship one to my hotel in the UK once, and they didn't bother shipping at all.

I also, at the time, had to have a UK address/post code in order to even register the SIM and activate it, though they were fine with my US credit card for payment. That said, I have no complaints about the actual service in the UK, but the last time I tried to use then, I had to, as I said, pick up the SIMs (I ordered two for me and my wife), activate using my company's office address, and then after we were done with the UK portion of our trip we flew to Malta (An EU country) and they failed to work at all, so we had to hunt down a Vodaphone office and buy local SIMs there since there to be able to use our phones.

The "Must touch the UK" bit is also annoying, my Orange SIM I can register and actually just keep renewing, though it's cheap enough for them I just buy new ones for each trip. Orange Holiday Europe is $50 on Amazon, Orange Holiday Zen (8GB) is $27 on Amazon. Though I just now also found giffgaff sold on Amazon too, so maybe on my next Europe trip I'll see about buying one of htose as well to try it out now.

As far as UK sims and EU roaming though, GiffGaff may not charge for now, but I imagine that will likely change if O2 decides to start charging roaming feels like the other major UK carriers.

"All four of the big operators previously said they had no plans to introduce roaming charges." BBC.

For EU specific, I've also had good experience with Vodaphone in Malta, Germany, Switzerland, Czech Republic and Hungary... Orange so far in France, Germany, Denmark, Switzerland, Hungary and Spain.

FWIW, I don't want to be necessarily negative, it sounds like a lot of my complaints with GiffGaff have been worked out since the last time I used them several years ago, and I really did have a good experience with the service at least while in the UK. I'll certainly order a SIM trial them on my next trip out to Europe later this summer. I wish I still had cause to visit London on the company dime.
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Old May 5, 2022, 3:02 pm
  #161  
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Originally Posted by Dread Pirate Jeff
So first, that's good if GiffGaff is now shipping SIMs to the US. [...]

I also, at the time, had to have a UK address/post code in order to even register the SIM and activate it[...]
Giff Gaff sent a SIM to my US address in 2018. Maybe you had tried to use Giff Gaff before then, or maybe someone gave you bum information. (That happens all too often across all too many businesses.)

Also in 2018, I didn't need a UK address to activate it. (I don't know what you mean by register the SIM.) I put the SIM in my phone on the flight from USA and activated it before I left Heathrow.

Originally Posted by SirSherlockHolmes
[...]This plan MUST touch the UK at least once every 63 days[...]
Giff Gaff didn't bug me until six months after I left, and then Giff Gaff only asked me to add money to my Goody Bag. I understood (but didn't test my understanding) that I could have added a small amount of money every six months until I went back.

Things change, and what I experienced in 2018 might not be what would happen now.
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Old May 5, 2022, 6:06 pm
  #162  
 
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Just saw $25 off $50 for Google Fi in my Amex offers. That’s what I’m going to do for kid. We can set it up at home before he goes. I’ll just do the big unlimited one for $65 bc with the discount it will be $40 and tax. That’s worth the peace of mind to me. And somewhere I read that if you pause or cancel, they will prorate. So that all works. Now just need to figure out how to do the dual sim with Google Fi esim on his unlocked iPhone.
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Old May 8, 2022, 8:23 pm
  #163  
 
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Originally Posted by serpens
Giff Gaff sent a SIM to my US address in 2018. Maybe you had tried to use Giff Gaff before then, or maybe someone gave you bum information. (That happens all too often across all too many businesses.)

Also in 2018, I didn't need a UK address to activate it. (I don't know what you mean by register the SIM.) I put the SIM in my phone on the flight from USA and activated it before I left Heathrow.



Giff Gaff didn't bug me until six months after I left, and then Giff Gaff only asked me to add money to my Goody Bag. I understood (but didn't test my understanding) that I could have added a small amount of money every six months until I went back.

Things change, and what I experienced in 2018 might not be what would happen now.
Although Stgermainparis now seems to have found a good answer for this situation, I wanted to corroborate that giffgaff almost certainly continues to work in this manner, and I'll have a more certain experience beginning in a week when I start a trip to Ireland. I've had a SIM from giffgaff since before the pandemic and kept the account alive despite no trips to Europe since August 2019. They will send a SIM to the US, they accept US credit cards for payment, and I've kept my SIM alive by making small purchases to add to my giffgaff account every six months.

I'm about to use the credit I now have, 27 pounds, to buy a goodybag at 20-25 pounds for my two-week Irish trip. I'll be in Northern Ireland for three days so not roaming there. I'm not likely to exhaust my 20GB of data during the remaining time in Ireland. I'm very happy with their service, and combined with a Google Voice number, you can easily stay in touch with folks in the US while making local calls without a concern about exhausting your account balance. And as my plan is PAYG, I don't have to do anything when I return home other than to put more funds in my account no more than six months from the end of my trip. Giffgaff will even remind you that it's time to do that.

The icing on the cake? I don't have to learn a new European contact number every time I take a trip plus I have a SIM that's working as soon as I land anywhere in Europe.

If my experience in Ireland in the next few weeks differs from my expectations in this thread, I'll come back to explain the differences.
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Old May 9, 2022, 6:14 pm
  #164  
 
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Originally Posted by Stgermainparis
Okay. Thanks. I guess I need to find recs for SIM cards that do include roaming in Europe. Orange? Virgin? O2? Does anyone else have suggestions? Trip is going to be kids college grad gift so I want to make it as seamless as possible and worked out ahead of time. There have been trips where I spent hours and hours trying to get a sim activated upon arrival. Dont want him to deal with that.
Orange Holiday Europe and Orange Holiday Zen are both available from Amazon and work everywhere in Europe that I've traveled. That said they are only valid for 2 weeks unless you register it and then top it off. I've not traveled long enough in one stretch to top one off so I have no idea how to go about that, they provide instructions but I've never really paid attention to it. There are other, more expensive, options out there too, but the Orange ones have worked for me so far. Also, I've had good luck in the past with Vodaphone and Swisscom, though he'd have to buy those in Europe.
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Old May 13, 2022, 12:25 am
  #165  
 
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Originally Posted by Stgermainparis
Okay. Thanks. I guess I need to find recs for SIM cards that do include roaming in Europe. Orange? Virgin? O2? Does anyone else have suggestions? Trip is going to be kids college grad gift so I want to make it as seamless as possible and worked out ahead of time. There have been trips where I spent hours and hours trying to get a sim activated upon arrival. Dont want him to deal with that.
Any EU SIM will roam anywhere in the EU at "home" prices -- but most also will let packages roam (eg xxGB data in a month for yy) Of course this used to include the UK until that unfortunate event a few years ago

I have a Vodafone NL SIM I've kept alive for years -- just need to top up on the website every 6 months (5 min) -- and they let you use US credit cards. In fact, I even get the "Wireless" 5X points on my Chase Ink But I did buy it in Amsterdam.

Packages usually include calls and texts to other EU mobiles (land lines can be excluded) and calls back to the US will pay a minute rate, though I mostly use VOIP for that.

In my iPhone I have my (US) T-Mobile SIM as an eSIM and I pop in the Vodafone and make it primary when I arrive. Then people in the US can still contact me at my regular number and for 20 I get more data than I ever use.

Many years ago (before the EuroTariff) I bought a IE 3 SIM in a 3 store in Dublin and it was no problem getting it activated. Things may have changed, but I'd expect a college grad could handle it
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