Last Updated September 9, 2023

5 Best European Data Sim Card Options for Travel

When we travel, we carry all our trip information like flights, accommodations and skip-the-line tickets for activities on our mobile phones. We use our mobile phones for GPS navigation, communicating, social media updates and just general Googling. Here are the 5 best European data SIM card options for your trip to Europe with great data plans.

See the quick comparison, complete reviews and breakdown (for those who like to go in-depth) and a "quick answer" for those who don't have time to read it all!


Before You Continue Reading!

The world of cell phones is changing rapidly. Most newer cell phones now have eSIM included even if they have a physical SIM also. The latest Apple phones only have eSIMs. Check if your phone is eSIM compatible first.

ESIMs are way easier to install and set up. You can even get an eSIM after you have arrived and set them up immediately (I still purchase mine well before I go). 

Click below and you can read all about them. You'll be glad you did if your mobile is eSIM capable. 

Learn more about eSIMs here!

Quick and easy to set up!

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To help keep this site going, I use some affiliate links. These links will take you to trusted travel partners and it costs you nothing extra to purchase a product or use their service. I may receive a small commission, which I use to keep this site running. (full disclosure here

If you found this site useful and want to support it, all you have to do is use the links. It's that simple.

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Disclaimer: This post doesn't have all the fine details of every plan. While all the mobile plans are designed to be straightforward for travellers, there are fair use policies in place. If you have any questions before you buy, refer to the individual companies website.


I get it, you don't have time to read this whole post. So here is the quick answer. If I were to recommend the best travel European data SIM card that gives you the most data and the ability to tether other devices.

It covers over 34 European countries, 30 GB of high-speed data, 14 days credit validity, easy to reload, tethering is allowed, unlimited calls and texts within Europe and a bonus 2 hours of calls and 1000 SMS from Europe to any country in the world.

There is a big demand now that travel is opening up again. Get yours now before they sell out. 

Before You Buy Data SIM Card for Europe

Getting an Europe travel SIM card is easy nowadays. Before you do buy one, there are two crucial things to know.

  1. Is your mobile phone unlocked?
  2. Is your mobile phone a GSM phone?

Is My Phone Unlocked?

When you plan on travelling to Europe and using your mobile phone with a SIM card from another mobile company, your phone needs to be unlocked.
Every country has different rules about unlocked phones. In Canada, for instance, carriers are no longer allowed to sell locked phones (article here). 

Here are a couple of ways to check if your phone is unlocked. 

Is my Iphone unlocked?

There are two ways you can try and determine on your own if your iPhone is unlocked.

First Method

  1. Go to Settings then Cellular
  2. Do you see an option called Cellular Data?
  • Yes. This means your iPhone is probably unlocked.
  • No. This means your iPhone is locked.

This doesn't 100% mean your phone is unlocked. It is a good indication. If you try the second method, it will give you a clearer picture. 

Second Method

For this method, you'll need to find someone with a SIM card on a different carrier than you are on. 

  1. Power off your iPhone.
  2. Open the iPhone SIM slot with a removal pin (paper clip may work).
  3. Replace your SIM card with the one from the other carrier.
  4. Power on the iPhone.
  5. You should be able to see the carrier name on the top of your home screen. 
  6. Try making a call.

Did the phone call work? If yes, then your iPhone is unlocked. If no, then your iPhone is locked. You may also see a message on the screen telling you that the phone is locked. 

Is my android unlocked?

There are two ways you can try and determine on your own if your Android is unlocked.

First Method

  1. Go to Settings then Connections
  2. Go to Networks (could also be called Cellular networks or Mobile Networks)
  3.  Select Network Operators (there could be a list here, if not go to the next step)
  4. Choose Select Manually (scan for all available networks)

If only one network appears from the scan, or if you can't even see Network Operators, then there is a good chance your Android is locked.

If you see other networks, try selecting another one (could take a minute or two to connect) and try making a call. If the call works, then your Android is more than likely unlocked

This doesn't 100% mean your phone is unlocked. It is a good indication. If you try the second method, it will give you a clearer picture. 

Second Method

For this method, you'll need to find someone with a SIM card on a different carrier than you are on. 

  1. Power off your Android.
  2. Open the Android SIM slot with a removal pin (paper clip may work).
  3. Replace your SIM card with the one from the other carrier.
  4. Power on the Android.
  5. You should be able to see the carrier name on the top of your home screen. 
  6. Try making a call.

Did the phone call work? If yes, then your Android is unlocked. If no, then your Android is locked. You may also see a message on the screen telling you that the phone is locked. 

Getting Your Phone Unlocked

If you are still unsure, then call your carrier and ask if your phone is unlocked. They will need your IMEI number for that. I will explain where to find your IMEI number below here.

You can ask your carrier to unlock it. Some mobile carriers will charge a fee, while others will do it for free. It is up to you to determine if it is worth it for you.

Some travellers decide to get a dedicated unlocked phone for travel. There are some great options out there for even under $150.

Why have a second phone? It's a bit of peace of mind. If something were to happen to it, like it gets lost or stolen, you'd rather it be the $100 phone and not your $900 phone.

Is My Phone a GSM Phone?

All the SIM cards listed here only work with GSM phones

CDMA and GSM are the two main types of phones around the world (5G is slowly coming).

CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access): is used by carriers in the United States like Sprint, Verizon, and US Cellular. 5G will be replacing CDMA in the next few years.

GSM (Global System for Mobiles): is in most of the rest of the world. Especially in Europe. 5G will also be replacing GSM in the future.

How to Check If Your Phone is a GSM Phone

To see if your phone is GSM or CDMA :

On iPhone: Go to the Settings app, click on General and then About. Look to see if you have a MEID, ESN, or IMEI number. It should be near the bottom.

On Android: Go to Settings, click on System and then About phone, then click on Status. Look for an MEID, ESN, or IMEI number.

If your phone has a MEID or an ESN number, it is a CDMA phone.

If you see an IMEI number, then it is a GSM phone. If you see both, then your device supports both CDMA and GSM.

Quick Comparison of the Best European Data SIM Cards

If you are looking to buy a European SIM card with data, here is a quick comparison of five of the best European data SIM cards.

There are pros and cons to each of these international sim cards. It's more than just the data amount.

To learn more about a specific one of these European data SIM card companies and what the sim card offers, then click on Read Full Review in the comparison.

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Orange Mobile Logo

Orange Prepaid SIM Card

Holiday Europe

5 / 5

High-Speed Data


Valid for

14 Days





Tethering allowed




Countries Covered


Orange Mobile Logo

Orange Prepaid SIM Card

Holiday Zen

4.5 / 5

High-Speed Data


Valid for

14 Days





Tethering allowed




Countries Covered


Three Mobile Logo

Three UK Prepaid SIM Card


4 / 5

High-Speed Data


Valid for

30 Days





Tethering allowed


Unlocked Phone, Tablet or Pocket Wifi


Countries Covered

49 European / 22 GO roam countries

O2 Mobile Logo

O2 Prepaid SIM Card

Go Card

3.5 / 5

High-Speed Data


Valid for

30 Days


$2 (USD) Credit



Tethering allowed


Unlocked Phone, Tablet or Pocket Wifi


Countries Covered


Important Terminology

All these travel SIM cards have a validity for the SIM card itself and the validity for the credit that is on it. (Giffgaff SIM cards are different)

SIM Card Validity

SIM card validity is the time the SIM card is valid after the last reload. If you have one of these travel SIM cards and its validity, for example, is for one year, this means that if you haven't loaded credit onto it for a year, it now can't be used again. You need to get a new SIM card.

Each time you add credit within a year, you have another year before the SIM card expires.

Credit Validity

Credit Validity is the time that you can use the amount of data, calls or SMS. For example, if you get a card with 20GB and it has a credit validity for 14 days, after 14 days, you need to reload the SIM card, as the data is left is gone.


Any other device capable of connecting to the internet via Wi-Fi can access the internet by tethering to your mobile phone and using it as a hotspot. (Orange, O2 and giffgaff allow it)

If you are travelling with someone the whole time, you could, for example, get one travel SIM card with lots of data and run two phones off of it.

It will drain your battery faster doing this all the time. When you are taking a break, turn on tethering for other devices. Otherwise, turn off your Wi-FI! You are enjoying Europe!


A reloadable travel SIM card allows you to add more credit, generally more data or add calls and SMS. Make sure you read each company's rules about reloading their cards.

Some require a credit card from the country of origin, like Three (United Kingdom) and O2 (Czech Republic).

Each one of these international SIM cards is different when it comes to reloading. 

Sim Card Europe

Europe Unlimited Data SIM Card? (are they really unlimited?)

You have to understand that there is a bit of word trickery going on here. Why do some mobile companies all list a GB amount if they are an unlimited data SIM? 

The GB amount that they list is the amount of high-speed data on 3G or 4G networks you get with the European SIM cards. Once you use those GBs up, it will go to the slower 2G. So technically unlimited data, yes. You can reload it to get more high-speed data.

Internet Speeds Comparison Chart

I've used a SIM card after it has run out of GBs. It was slow, but it still worked. From my experience, it's best to top-up and get more high-speed data.

You'll have to read up on each company's website to see if their Europe SIM cards cut off or gets throttled back.

SIM Card Sizes

Each SIM card comes in all three formats.  You will get one SIM card that is pre-cut with all three sizes. Just pop out the size you need. 

  • Standard SIM 25 x 15mm
  • Micro SIM 15 x 12mm
  • Nano SIM 12.3 x 8.8mm
Best SIM Cards for Europe

Activating Your Europe Data SIM Card

All the SIM cards on this list, except one (giffgaff you have to activate online) activate on insertion. That means when you land in Europe. You can swap your mobile phone's current SIM card for your new European travel SIM card.

These SIM cards come pre-cut, meaning you can select the appropriate size for your phone. If you don't know what size your phone has, use a SIM card ejector to open the tray. Compare the size of your existing SIM card to the pre-cut options.

SIM card and ejector

Don't insert your travel SIM at home before your trip! Your credit validity starts as soon as you insert it. 

Consider where you will store your SIM cards and ejector. A paper clip can work in a pinch. I use to keep my SIM card ejector on my keyring. You can also purchase a SIM card holder case, which is super cheap.

They come with SIM card adaptors, an ejector pin, space for extra SD cards, all handy for travel. The adaptors are great if you accidentally pop out the wrong SIM size.

Roaming in Europe

The European Union has a Roam Like at Home agreement between countries. Roam Like at Home means that you can use your European SIM card for free roaming in Europe without incurring any roaming charges.

With Brexit having gone through now, United Kingdom mobile companies could potentially change things, but until now, they plan on keeping things the same. On this list, Giffgaff and Three UK are UK SIM cards. Check their current roaming rules to ensure it works for your trip.

The best place to learn about all the rules about Roam Like at Home for Europe is here at Your Europe. You'll find all the current rules and regulations here. 

Why Not Use My Phone's Roaming Plan?

Roam Like Home plans or options have become popular in the last few years. Most people know about them now. What most people don't know is how cheap these prepaid international travel SIM cards can be. 

A Roam Like Home from your home country plan can cost around $15-20 a day. One day. Multiply that times 14 days, and you are looking at $210. You get the picture.

Getting European SIM cards that are prepaid is much easier now. The SIM for Europe gets sent to you at home. The plan activates once you insert them. As soon as you arrive, you swap your SIM cards, and you are up and running. 

Why Not Get a Local SIM card in Europe?

Getting a local travel SIM card in Europe is not a bad option. I have done it on two of my trips.

The initial card cost €15, and I got about 1GB of data and a little bit of credit left for a few phone calls and texts. I had to really manage my data. I ended up topping up for another €15.

In total, I spent about $36 USD for far less data than a prepaid card. There were other minor issues with getting SIM cards in Europe. 

At the Airport

When I got to the airport on one trip, it took about 30 minutes to get everything set up. The staff at the mobile store got me set up, which made it easy.

I could buy a top-up card at any grocery store, but only in that country. For that trip I was mostly in one country, so that was fine. If you were travelling to multiple countries, now it gets trickier.

On my next trip, I arrived on a Sunday at 6 am. The mobile store didn't open until 11 am. I had to pick my car up at 10 am off-site. I was relying on my phone for GPS navigation.

I had to go without my phone navigation, almost missed my car pick-up (most things are closed on Sundays) and luckily found my way around.

 It would have been nice, in both instances, just to plug a new SIM card in and go.

At a Train Station Kiosk

Because I missed my opportunity to get my SIM card at the airport, I got one at a Kiosk at a train station. Now I had to deal with the language barrier. On top of that, the employee took our phones in the back, unlocked, out of sight.

Luckily nothing happened, but it's not a comfortable feeling when someone takes your phone out of sight, and you don't know what they are doing.

Topping Up the Phone

When you get a European data SIM card when you land, you really have to do your research on the best mobile company to choose from.

Where can you get a top-up? Can you top it up through your phone?

I tried topping up through my phone, and I struggled because the voice prompts weren't in English. It took me a while to figure it all out.

When you buy one of these prepaid travel SIM cards on this list, you can read up in advance on topping up and know which websites to go to top-up and how it all works. It's far less stressful. 

Managing Your Data

Managing your data as you travel Europe can be important if you purchase a lower package with less GB. Use free WI-Fi when can, just be careful in high tourist areas where people may set up "fake free Wi-Fi" to steal information from your device. 

One way to protect yourself is to get a VPN (virtual private network) on your phone, laptop or tablet.

 I use a password keeper and VPN program called Dashlane. I wouldn't travel without it. It gives you secure browsing whenever you login to free Wi-Fi places. Best part is that it is a password keeper also. You never have to remember a password again and it's super secure. The VPN is included, so it's a great 2-in-1 solution!


There are lots of apps out there that can save you data. Apps like Whatsapp allow you make calls and texts to your contacts for free because it runs through data. Sending pictures through here barely uses data, so you can keep people up to date about your trip.

Save the social media posts and checking when you are back in free Wi-Fi. Social media, especially anything with pictures or videos, eats up a lot of your data. Read more about using your phone when you travel here

European SIM Card Full Reviews

Here you will find the full reviews of each of these international data SIM cards, broken down by each company. Each brand has their own pros and cons which are listed here. You'll also see other plans that are offered by each of the European data SIM card company.

This way if one of the top 5 picks doesn't quite have what you are looking for, you can see what else they offer. I'm sure you will find a travel SIM card here that will work for you. 

Orange SIM Card Europe Review

Orange Mobile Logo

Orange travel data sim cards from France, and you'll receive a French mobile number (+33).

Orange is the best SIM card for Europe for many reasons.

They have the most flexibility, are easy to reload and include calls and SMS texts outside of Europe (excluding Holiday World).

They have the best international data SIM card. They offer free incoming calls and texts and outgoing calls and texts to 50 European countries, along with a number of free minutes and texts (depending on which plan) to approximately 200 countries worldwide. 


  • Tethering
  • Includes international calls & texts
  • Easy to reload
  • Activates on insert


  • 14 days credit validity (if your trip is longer you will have to reload)

The Orange Basics

  • Choose between three plans: Holiday Zen, Holiday Europe, Holiday World. 
  • Runs on 3G, 4G, and LTE network.
  • 14 day credit validity / 1 year SIM validity.
  • Various reloadable options.
  • Roaming in Europe included.
  • Unlimited calls and texts in Europe (excluding Holiday World SIM cards).
  • International calls and texts included (excluding Holiday World SIM cards). 
  • Tethering is allowed.

50 European Countries included with Holiday zen & Holiday Europe

Andorra, Azores, Aland islands, Germany, Austria, Balearic islands, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canary islands, Cyprus, Corfu (island), Crete, the Cyclades, Croatia, Denmark, Spain, Estonia, Faeroe Islands, Finland, France (mainland), Gibraltar, Greece, Guernsey, Hungary, Ireland, Iceland, Italy, Jersey, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madeira, Malta, Isle of Man, Norway, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Czech Republic, Rhodes (island), Romania, San Marino, Sardinia, Sicily, Slovakia, Switzerland, Sweden, United Kingdom, Vatican City

The Orange Prepaid Travel SIM Plans

Here are the three international travel SIM cards that Orange offers.


By far, Orange is the best European data SIM card plan out there. I need tethering so I can use my laptop and mobile phone to work remotely. The Orange Holiday Europe, in my opinion, the best SIM card for Europe.

Anyone travelling with me could also use their phone by tethering their phone to mine with the 30 GB amount. Having the extra calls and texts outside of Europe included is a nice bonus for staying in touch.

If I was travelling Europe without my laptop, I could get by with the 12GB package and reload if needed.

The Holiday World plan from Orange is data only. If you are travelling to places in Europe and outside of Europe, then you could consider this SIM card. Just keep in mind that you can't make calls or send texts with this. 

Three Prepaid SIM Card Europe Review

Three Mobile Logo

Three UK prepaid SIM cards' best feature is the 30 days credit validity. With multiple options of GB, you can pick what you think will cover your trip. 30-days will cover most trips to Europe, and you won't have to worry about reloading.

Reloading is a little trickier with the Three UK SIM card. You need a credit card registered in the UK to do it online. If you are travelling in the United Kingdom, you can go to a shop and get a voucher to top up. Topping up doesn't work if you are travelling outside of the UK.

The best way is to get a credit amount that you think will last your trip. They offer some great options. Pair this with keeping track of your usage, and you should be able to manage your mobile data just fine.

 It doesn't include tethering, so if this is important to you, then go with Orange.


  • 30-day, 1 & 2-year credit validity
  • Unlimited calls & texts in Europe (Data Pack 10 plan)
  • 10, 12, & 24GB plans
  • Three plans to choose from
  • Activates on insert


  • No tethering
  • Unable to reload with non-European credit card online.

The Three UK Basics

  • UK (+44) mobile number on 3G+/4G where available.
  • 30-day credit validity for the 10GB plan / 1-year on PAYG MBB 12GB / 2-years on PAYG MBB 24GB
  • Reload with vouchers or through third-party apps (because a UK credit card is required).
  • Roaming in Europe included.
  • Tethering is not allowed.

55 Countries Worldwide included in Roaming

Australia,  Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica,, Croatia ,Cyprus ,Czech Republic ,Denmark, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Guatemala, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macao, Malta, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sri Lanka,  Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom (UK), United States (US), Uruguay, Vatican, Vietnam

The Three UK Prepaid Travel SIM Plans

Here are the four international travel SIM cards that Three UK offers.


The Three UK plans credit validity and country coverage are the best of all the travel SIM cards on this list.

The biggest drawback I have with them is the difficulty in reloading them. You can only use a UK credit card unless you get an in-store voucher, which means you can only get that when you are in the UK. The 30 days validity should be able to cover most European trips if you manage your data.

The other thing I wish it had was tethering. That is a personal preference since I would use a laptop a lot. If you have a place with free Wi-Fi, then this may not be as important to you. 

O2 Go Card Travel SIM Cards Review

O2 Mobile Logo

The O2 Go Card Travel SIM card is one of the cheapest options here. It is an odd one because O2 is a UK company, but this card is from the Czech Republic. You get a Czech Republic phone number (+420) with the travel data SIM card.

For the price, you get a decent amount of data at 10GB. I made it through a four-week trip on only 3GB (managing data usage), meaning if you are on a budget or in Europe for a shorter trip, this card could work for you.

It does give you a little credit towards calls and texts (2 USD each), which for some may not be as important. The small amount that comes with it might be good for an emergency call, but not for regular phone calls.

Only EU citizens only can use credit cards or Paypal to top-up SIM cards. This policy sounds strange, considering these SIM cards are marketed towards travellers.

If you are not an EU citizen, then you can top-up only within the Czech Republic. I called them to verify this, and as strange as it sounds, it's true.


  • Very affordable
  • 30 day credit validity
  • Tethering is allowed
  • Activates on insert


  • Online reload only for EU citizens
  • Non-EU citizens reload only in Czech Republic
  • Limited calls and texts
  • Notable countries missing: Serbia & Switzerland

The O2 SIM Card Basics

  • 10GB plan on 3G+/4G wherever available
  • You get a Czech Republic mobile number.
  • 30 credit validity / 1 year SIM validity.
  • $2 USD credit for calls & $2 USD credit for texts to European numbers
  • Tethering is allowed.

34 Countries Worldwide included in Roaming

Austria ,Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom (UK), Vatican.

The O2 Go Card Basics


The O2 is my least favourite travel SIM card of them all. They are a bit limiting. If you can get by on the 10GB, it's nice to have the tethering and 30-day credit validity. 

Maybe you end your trip in the Czech Republic, and topping up could work for you. A shorter trip of two weeks, 10 GB might be enough, but then I would pay the extra $5 for the Orange Holiday Zen SIM card, and have the option to reload it if need be. 

About the author

Welcome to my website Ačiū, the home of practical travel tips for exploring Europe on a budget. As a travel enthusiast who's experienced the highs and lows of globetrotting, I'm committed to providing trustworthy and up-to-date information that won't break the bank or leave you stranded.

From my personal experiences to extensive research, I've got you covered with insider tips on saving money, hidden gems, must-see attractions, and everything in between. You won't find any fluff or fake Instagram-worthy photos here, just real advice for real travellers.

So if you're ready to embark on a European adventure that won't drain your wallet or leave you feeling stranded, stick around and let's explore together. Because life's too short to miss out on the magic of travel.


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