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Recommended SIM card (company) for Spain + UK?

My husband wants me to ask about the "best" SIM card to use with a data plan. We will be in Spain first and then the UK. He has an unlocked iphone7.

I have read the following thread on this topic but there is conflicting information.

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/tech-tips/best-sim-for-uk-europe

Chris F says any SIM card bought within the EU will work throughout the EU, plus Switzerland. Dick in Olympia says the card he bought in Italy did not work in other countries. Plus there was the issue of the prompts not being in English. So i am a bit leery of buying the card in Spain, since (1) it might not work in the UK, where we will need it more, and (b) neither of us speaks more than basic Spanish ( although he speaks good Italian).

I reminded him that when we went to New Zealand he bought a local SIM card and was unhappy with having a different phone number. He says he can live with that, and will tell friends and family to just call my phone instead of his if they need to reach us.

I also asked why he can't just use our ATT account as he has before, with data "off" so we don't get charged. He did have trouble with that when we were in Venice for a month; he learned the hard way that if he turned his phone off ( to save the battery) it would default to data "on" when he turned the phone back on, without any notice ( until the data charge reached $100, at which point ATT sends an alert).

So his main reason for wanting a European SIM card is to get one with a reasonable data plan, so he does not have to worry about inadvertent data use. And so he can use data within a known (and prepaid) limit where we do not have wifi.

Any suggestions? I see Google F1 suggested in the linked thread; would that be a better idea than buying the SIM card in Spain?

Our trip will be three weeks, divided evenly between Spain and England.

Thanks for your help.

Posted by
11153 posts

"Chris F says any SIM card bought within the EU will work throughout the EU, plus Switzerland. Dick in Olympia says the card he bought in Italy did not work in other countries. "

Here's my take on this seeming contradiction:

It is true that any SIM card bought within the EU will not have extra charges for roaming to other countries. However, a SIM can be enabled for domestic use only. Apparently, in Europe it is common for this to be the default; you have to specifically enable some SIMs for foreign use. Remember that the US has some SIMs, like Tracfone, that won't roam in Europe (and it's no longer due to technical restrictions).

So, a SIM bought in Spain should be able to set to work in the UK, particularly if you get it from a larger provider. However, there's always the problem of topping it up outside the country it's purchased in. So, whether the Spain SIM runs out of credit in the UK, or fails to work in the UK at all, you can always buy a second SIM in the UK.

If you want to investigate Spanish SIM providers further, here's a list with links: http://www.prepaidgsm.net/en/spain.php

Posted by
81 posts

I have used the Orange Holiday SIM card on my last 2 trips to Europe and it works very well. It's available on Amazon for $50 so you can get it in advance of your trip. You insert it after you get to your first destination, follow the instructions (I found helpful ones in the FAQ on Amazon), and you are good to go. You get 5 GB of data (or 10GB if they are running their special) plus calling and texting. We found it very useful for navigation purposes, especially when driving. You will have a French phone number while you are using it, and if you need it for longer than 14 days, there is a way to top it off and add more data/calling/texting time to it.

Posted by
11677 posts

I think he is leaning toward the Google FI option, especially if we can use it in Japan as well as Europe. Looks like it is $20 for cell and phone ( per month) plus $10 per 1 GB for data. We can turn it off at the end of our three-week trip, and resume later when we travel to Japan.

Anyone see a problem with this?

Posted by
11677 posts

Good to know, thanks. We didn’t see that. So can we just quit? And figure out something later for Japan? (I suspect he may tire of the extra SIM card and the issues that creates, anyway.).