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Dutch Vodafone SIM card for use in Europe

Because I mentioned this again today in another thread, I thought I'd post how I used a Dutch Vodafone SIM in Europe in May. I was able to buy the SIM before I left the US and set it up; it worked when I landed in Venice. Because the EU has mostly eliminated roaming fees within the EU, it worked as soon as I crossed a border. The Netherlands has no requirement that you have to register a SIM with your passport as you do in France or Italy, so I never needed to visit the Netherlands to activate my SIM.

There are other SIMs that may be a better value than this - but I know it works, and I know it works with Skype and Google Hangouts, and I was able to use my Android phone as a hotspot (free tethering). I have heard of issues with iPhones and tethering with this Vodafone SIM however. Because I wasn't making phone calls to Europe, I didn't care about the cost of local calls - all I need was data. Google Hangouts lets you make phone calls to European phones for a few cents a minute.

Here's what I did:

  1. Bought the SIM on eBay. Took about two weeks to get to me in Oregon. The SIM was new and sealed. Today, you can get one for about $8.50 USD shipped (no credit on it).
  2. Turned off phone, inserted the SIM in my unlocked GSM-compatible smart phone while in the US.
  3. Turned on phone; turned on data (required to receive texts) and got a "Welcome to the United States!" text from Vodafone. Incoming texts are free; the SIM came with 0 credit anyway, so nothing to lose. I wasn't going to drain any credit with expensive roaming fees in the US (but if I were using the SIM in the US, roaming would be expensive.) My phone roamed to the T-Mobile network in the US.
  4. Signed up for a My Vodafone account on the Dutch Vodafone website. Yes, it's in Dutch, and you have to use the Dutch version - but I used Google Chrome which translated it well enough. Signing up for this account requires receiving a confirmation text from Vodafone on your new Dutch number - hence, you have to insert the SIM as above to get the code.
  5. Bought 20 Euros credit with my US credit card on the My Vodafone account. (For first top-off, I got a bonus of 5 Euros - not sure if you still can). Credit is good for a year. Weird message after completing my purchase - not really a confirmation, thought my credit card had been rejected because I was returned to the purchase page. But, after ten minutes, I checked my credit again and I had 25 Euros! Confusing but just had to wait. If your US card is rejected for some reason, there are options to top-up with Paypal.
  6. JUST BEFORE leaving for Europe, I bought a "You" bundle with my My Vodafone account using the credit I had bought. Bundle is good for only 30 days, so it's important not to buy it until you are about ready to use it. You can buy different bundles; mine was 20 Euros for 3GB of data.
  7. Turned on the phone when I landed in Italy and it worked perfectly.
  8. Used Google Hangouts in Europe to make and receive voice calls - free calls to the US, even to landlines, using WiFi or mobile data. If on mobile data, FYI, calls seem to use about 2MB per minute.

One thing to watch out for: Vodafone "helpfully" adds a 1GB roaming limit to your SIM even if you buy more in your bundle. Apparently, they will cut you off at 1GB unless you disable the warning. I think you can do that by texting "DATALIMIET UIT" to 5000. I used the Vodafone app (see below). I used 2GB in 17 days out of my 3GB.

If you have an Android phone, it's possible to get the Dutch Vodafone app - but not through Google Play! The app is available only through the Dutch Google Play site - or by downloading it from some other source, which is what I did. The app is all in Dutch too but I did find it useful a few times. You can text 'English' to 4000 to get text responses in English, though. Not sure if sending texts is free outside of the Netherlands, though - but receiving them is free anywhere!

Posted by
5687 posts

I didn't do a speed test while I was in Europe. But I mostly connected to 4GLTE networks; sometimes 3G. This was in Slovenia, Italy, and France. I trained most of the way from Slovenia through Italy to the South of France and then up to Paris and used it on the train much of the way and got these connections. It never really seemed slow.

I have read that technically Vodafone Netherlands does not allow tethering (e.g. hotspot) but that with Android they are unable to prevent it. I used hotspot via my Android phone all the time - probably half of my data use was for hotspot. No issues. I've heard that iPhones may not work as hotspots with this SIM, however.

Posted by
7654 posts

I used Dutch Vodaphone in Amsterdam, Haarlem, Antwerp, Bruges, and Brussels on a trip last month (just bought the SIM there). Speeds were good, usually 4G, but I did notice the network was more city centric. On the train, the signal would degrade to 2G, then G, then E and get better as we approached a town. Even in Amsterdam, in the historic center there were some patchy spots, probably due to restrictions on antennas. Also used Vodaphone in Germany last year, noticed way fewer reception problems.

Posted by
5687 posts

Ironically, Paul, I have no idea what Vodafone's coverage in the Netherlands is, because I haven't been back there since I bought the SIM! I bought it for general Europe roaming and wasn't particularly worried about how great their coverage is, only about their roaming policy, ability to use hotspot, ability to validate a SIM without being in country, etc. And Vodafone is a major European mobile company in numerous countries, so I know they would have decent enough coverage in many countries.

Posted by
2 posts

Do you need to have a nl credit card to put credit on though? A person on a fb travel group said she was unable to do it that way. She did not try adding credit via computer. Just checking...

Posted by
5687 posts

I added credit to my Dutch Vodafone SIM using my US credit card (issued by a big US bank). I did have to create a My Vodafone account on the Dutch Vodafone website, though, first (at least, that made it easier). To create such an account, you need the SIM to be active, because you'll need to enter your new Dutch phone number when creating the account, and after that you'll get a confirmation text message with a code you need to activate the account.

Incoming texts are free, though. My SIM had no credit at all when I bought it and was still able to receive text messages immediately. I inserted it into my unlocked phone while in the US, turned the phone on, and got the "Welcome to the United States" text. Then I received the confirmation text message to create my account. No cost for the texts.

The process of buying top-up credit was a bit odd though - the credit card transaction seemed to have failed at first and I was going to try again...but I waited about ten minutes, and then magically my 25 Euro credit appeared in my account!

You can buy top-up credit also without a My Vodafone account or even on other sites using Paypal I believe. Then you will get a long code for the credit that you must enter into the phone to transfer it to the SIM. But I found it easier to do it all directly with a My Vodafone account.

If all of this sounds confusing or risky somehow, keep in mind that I did it all before leaving for Europe, so had the process failed somehow, I would not have lost much, only about $7 USD I paid for the new SIM. I didn't have to mess with anything while I was in Europe. Had it not worked, I might have just gone with T-Mobile or bought a different SIM after I arrived.

Posted by
34 posts

After reading and researching, it looks like Vodafone is the clear choice for European travel. I wonder though why not opt for a UK or Irish sim, so you dont have to deal with a Dutch web/app interface? While it should be noted that Vodafone doesnt charge for SIMs, they also wont ship them overseas, you, or someone else, needs to go into the store with proper ID to recv. But there are plenty of options on Ebay for Irish and UK Vodafone sims. Just a thought

Posted by
5687 posts

One need not go to the Netherlands with proper ID just to pick up a Dutch Vodafone SIM. As I said above, I bought mine on eBay and activated it in the US. (No, Vodafone did not ship it to me directly - a third party seller in the Netherlands did. My SIM was unopened in a little cardboard envelope.) I never visited the Netherlands (on that trip) before using the SIM in Europe.

Sure, one can buy SIMs from the UK and Ireland on eBay too. I started this thread not to discourage people from other options but to give them one example of something I know works. I encourage people to look at other options. Some SIM plans have a lot more data than Vodafone offers, but I used only 2GB of the 3GB I had anyway, so more data wouldn't have helped me. It is important to note that many European countries do not allow SIM cards to be activated without passport/ID (e.g. France, Italy). The Netherlands, the UK, and a few others do not (yet) have this requirement. So if you wish to buy a SIM ahead of time before arriving in Europe, there aren't many country options to choose from.

Some reasons I settled on the Dutch Vodafone over UK or Irish SIMs: I was able to top-up online with my credit card directly on the Dutch Vodafone website, without needing to buy top-up credit in the country. The UK does not seem to allow this (not sure about Ireland), though one can use Paypal via a third party as I understand it (just didn't feel like dealing with that). Also, Vodafone Netherlands allows tethering/hotspot (at least on Android) and does not block VPN or VoiP calls. I know someone who used a UK SIM last year who could not use hotspot on his regular phone - he had a rooted phone and had to use that. I just didn't want to deal with any of that. And the SIM purchased on eBay was only $8 USD shipped and took only two weeks. And Vodafone Netherlands keeps the SIM "alive" for a year after you've last added credit, so I can keep using the SIM every year without needing to add credit that often. Other SIMs may not stay active so long.

Having to read Dutch language was not an issue; Google Chrome translates the Vodafone website to English automatically. No, it won't translate the Vodafone app I used on my phone - I managed to use it anyway without understanding Dutch.