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Getting a SIM card ASAP

I always buy a SIM card with calls and data when I arrive at my destination. It's great to be able to make local calls easily, to use the maps/GPS function, and to check out web sites for places we're visiting while we're there. I've bought them in Ireland, Spain and France.

But every time I've bought a SIM card I've spent between one and three hours getting everything set up. It's never been as simple as buying a SIM card and plugging it into my phone.

I'd like to buy a SIM card here in the U.S. that I can plug in and use all over Europe, or at least in specified countries. That would save me time when I get to my destination. Does anyone know of such a card/service?

Alternatively, if anyone has advice on how to obtain a SIM card and phone account in a more time efficient manner, I would love to hear about it.

Posted by
11613 posts

I go to a provider store and have them install the SIM card, less than 15 minutes if there is no line.

Posted by
6920 posts

My experience is the same as Zoe's, usually fifteen minutes once a salesperson is available, and usually at an SFR store in France. This we get for my husband. However, I now use a Google Project Fi phone which operates the same in 100+ countries, so no more overseas sim card is necessary.

Posted by
823 posts


I've never had it take more than 15-30 minutes to get service up and running after installed a pre-paid SIM in Europe. It's always been a pretty seamless and transparent process once I started putting country specific dialing codes in my contact list.

There are several "travel orientated" international phone/SIM venders (MOBAL, Telestial, etc.) out there but their tariffs are just horrendous. If you decide to go that route, take a really (REALLY!) close look at their rates. One such pre-paid plan is almost $60 a month plus $10 per GB over the first (included) GB of data and outgoing calls are 30¢ - 90¢ a minute. That doesn't sound like a very good deal to me...

Posted by
31055 posts


You could buy a SIM card from one of the travel phone firms such as iRoam, Cellular Abroad, Mobal, etc. However they usually have very limited (expensive) data allowances.

Which network are you with in the U.S.? You may find that it's not that expensive just to get an international roaming plan with your home network.

Posted by
7286 posts

I don't understand what takes 1-3 hrs...

We walked into an Orange store in Paris 2 mos ago, bought a SIM card in 2 min, put it in ourselves right there in the store and started using it right away. We didn't have to do anything else. I have an iPhone 6s which already had everything on it that I needed... apps, etc.

Posted by
607 posts

I always advise to wait until you are settled in your hotel and buy a sim close by instead of buying the sim as soon as you arrive at the airport. Sometimes there is a delay in activation or something goes wrong and it is much better to go back to the original dealer to fix. This happened to me in Venice. It took more than an hour to activate(was told it was a network issue). And then when it did work, everytime i made a call or text the Italian provider would send me a text showing how long my call was which ate into my credit. I did not know ho to turn off this feature and could not speak Italian with the customer service on the telephone. I was glad that the dealer was less than a 5 minute walk away, and she was cute too.