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Best SIM card for Europe

Hello, Fellow Travelers! I will be in Europe for about 2 months. I want to purchase an iPhone 13 ProMax which will be unlocked and can have two SIM chips installed. I intend to use that phone in France, but I will also be traveling in Italy, Spain, Switzerland and Germany. Should I purchase a SIM card and chip in the U.S. or should I purchase them in France after arriving there? Also, can someone recommend the best phone network for most of these destinations and for France? (We used Orange.FR through T-Mobile on our last trip but that was only 2G and I couldn't download anything.) Thanking you all in advance for your advice. (I hope that I used the correct terminology. :-)

Posted by
1087 posts

I think your iPhone will not have two physical SIM slots but instead will have one physical slot and one eSIM slot. It may not matter if you only want to activate one phone number. If you want to have your phone connected to your home cell account as well as a foreign account, however, I suggest you use the eSIM connection for your home account, which generally means you have to have an account with the major carriers, Verizon, AT&T, or T-Mobile. You mention T-Mobile in your post. If that is your carrier, T-Mobile will work with an eSIM.

I'd then use the physical slot for whatever carrier you use for your foreign account. I suspect others will chime in on which French or Italian carriers might be best for your situation. There is one alternative that I personally would consider if I was in your situation, however, and that is Google Fi. Although Google Fi uses T-Mobile for its U.S. coverage, Google Fi offers faster data coverage internationally. There is no long term commitment to the service and you can easily find information how to use it outside the U.S. in English. Also, having a U.S. number might be helpful should someone back home need to reach you.

One final thought: Although your experience was that T-Mobile's standard international data speed was too slow, it is possible to purchase high speed data passes from them to get faster convections. You might want to check that out: High Speed Data Passes

Posted by
838 posts

Your very best bet is Google Fi.

This is THE deal to get. It allows global usage in most countries. No roaming fees. Do an internet search for it. Google Fi has been recommended many times in this forum. Just ensure that you activate it before leaving the US.

Posted by
57 posts

There is very little reason (IMHO) to deal with swapping sim cards these days. I did this for years when I traveled to Europe and Asia on business frequently when roaming rates were exhorbanant, but you can get reasonable temporary international plans through AT&T and Verizon and I believe T-Moble may still be free.

I have AT&T and have a plan (I think they call it day pass) where if I use my phone on a roaming network its $10 a day (it uses my US data plan). If I don't use it, then it costs me nothing. Also the presence of Wifi in europe is much more prevalent now that it was even a couple years ago. If you use wifi calling it doesn't (with AT&T) cost anything to call from international location to the US.
I try to keep my use to Wifi when possible and usually on a two week trip I only trigger the $10 a few times. Usually I use it most for Google maps when I am out and about. Recommendation: Turn off any sync'ing of photos / icloud over the network.
I suppose some will complain about the $10/day but it is much easier than using SIM cards, they were always micky mouse at best and having to keep swapping back to try and get my US messages. Definitely not worth the hassle in the modern world and is kind of an era gone by. Your iPHone 13 will work with whatever network is available, sometimes it is spotty, but it doesn't get any better simply by having a local SIM.

Posted by
2415 posts

As my trips have gotten longer, and I want to use various local transportation and other apps while I'm in Europe, I find paying the $10 / day for my Verizon International plan isn't cost effective. Having a local SIM allows me to buy a 30 day plan that gives me enough phone/ text/ data, at less than the cost of 2 or 3 days and gives me the freedom to use my phone as I would at home. I don't have a dual SIM phone so I bought a Vodafone UK SIM, set it up in advance and use it in an older phone whenever I travel to Europe.

You can search the forum for "Vodafone" to find my post with exact details.

Posted by
620 posts

I agree that roaming on a Verizon or ATT plan is a foolish expenditure after more than a few days. I wish Google Fi were an option for me, but a sense of coverage at my home rules it out.

I’m on week three of four in Spain. My Spanish Vodafone SIM gives me double the data for a fifth of the cost of my ATT plan, and less then the cost of three days of ATT global day pass. Includes calling but no traditional SMS sending—not a problem because everyone uses WhatsApp anyway.

A French SIM will allow roaming in Europe.

Google “Too many adapters”, a website that reviews SIM/provider options for travelers in different counties.

I always buy my sims in country, after arrival.