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SIM card for England and Ireland

I will be visiting England and Ireland for close to 4 weeks and plan to purchase a SIM card in England when I arrive. What will I need to purchase for a plan that will work in Ireland as well?

Posted by
154 posts

You will just want to ask if it will work there. Most of the plans I have seen work all over the EU even when purchased in England so you would be good. If you are going to Northern Ireland that is part of the UK so you would just want to make sure the SIM card/plan is a UK plan.

Posted by
440 posts

The network 02 do a pay as you go ten pound for 500 mins thousand texts and 500mb data. This can also be used with no extra cost in the Republic of Ireland.

Posted by
794 posts

How long will you be in England before going to Ireland? I’ve recently gotten a better understanding of the regulations around EU Roaming. It is meant for EU residents not visitors. You can probably get included EU Roaming outside of England if you use your SIM in England for a week or two first. Otherwise, roaming outside England is not likely to be available on the SIM without extra costs. See this thread (also from giffgaff): UK Visitor and EU Roaming

Note this is different from the experience Andrew H has reported using a Vodafone SIM from the Netherlands. So while your mileage may vary, in general you will probably need to buy a UK SIM with a UK pay as you go package, plus some top up credit to pay for roaming outside the UK. That’s what I’m expecting, and if I get lucky and EU Roaming is magically included, I’ll be happy.

Posted by
4696 posts

Nelly, the interesting thing is, Vodafone Netherlands does not know whether I am an EU resident or not - I am fairly anonymous to them (though they can obviously tell where I have used the SIM and when). I thought UK SIMs also did not require users to register with identifying info like a passport (unlike many other EU countries that do require a passport). In other words, can GiffGaff know you are an EU resident or not?

Of course, the mobile companies can track how long you've used the SIM in country first and not enable EU roaming until the minimum use in country; most tourists aren't going to stay in the UK a month first before going elsewhere. That would prevent people from doing what I did with my Dutch Vodafone SIM. I wonder if this is really a REQUIREMENT or just an allowed option mobile companies can use to try to reduce tourist use of EU roaming policy.

In any event, Sarah can simply buy another SIM in Ireland if need be, if it turns out to be cheaper to do that instead of trying to use the UK SIM there without the benefit of free roaming. She'll find out when she gets there! Won't cost that much more.

Posted by
794 posts

Of course, the mobile companies can track how long you've used the SIM in country first and not enable EU roaming until the minimum use in country

yes, absolutely true. That's what giffgaff does. The EU roaming is turned off when you first activate it. It takes a week or two of calls within the UK before it is enabled. Or so they say publicly. I've read some non-giffgaff material and that is how the regulations are intended to work - for residents only. So it's interesting that Vodafone doesn't, or didn't, do this in your case.

Giffgaff has recently started sending free SIMs overseas. I ordered one so I can activate it before I go just as you did. But it doesn't look like I'll get included EU Roaming because I'm not starting my trip in the UK. So in the OP's case, I just wanted her to be aware that while the UK phone will work fine in Ireland, it may or may not cost extra for roaming. If she spends a few weeks in England first, and follows the steps to turn on EU roaming, it will probably be included in her UK pay as you go plan. For me, it's been worth digging into the specifics of what to expect so I can make decisions about a second SIM vs top-up credit vs roam like home. It's more complicated than I thought at first glance!

Posted by
4696 posts

I have switched to Sprint for my US phone service, so I get a decent international roaming plan (free 2G data and texting). I'm planning to go to Portugal in May - I still have the Vodafone SIM and may try to use it again anyway (full speed data not 2G). I still haven't used it in the Netherlands since I bought it - will be interesting to see if it still works in the EU! I suppose they could have tightened up their rules since last year.

Posted by
16 posts

Thank you all very much for sharing you knowledge and experience! We will be spending two weeks in England before going up to Ireland so will be sure to get some information and instruction when we purchase the SIM card. Thanks again!