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SIM cards and roaming across EU

As I understand it, relatively recent EU legislation has mandated that cellular carriers can no longer impose "roaming charges" across the EU - and that, in effect, a SIM from a cellular provider in one EU country should work across all EU countries. At least that's what I think it means. Is that correct?

That's my general question. I have a more specific one...

Next summer I'll be traveling to Ireland, then stopping very briefly in Edinburgh, on the way to the Faroe Islands. We will also have a few days in Edinburgh on the way back before flying home. I expect that I'll want to purchase a SIM (for my unlocked iPhone) on arrival in Ireland. I'll plan on using that SIM around Ireland, of course. But since I'll be going on to the Faroes (and Scotland, briefly) later in the trip, ideally I'd like to get a single SIM that would work in all three countries. Is that a realistic expectation?

To complicate things, the Faroe Islands are part of Denmark...well, sort of. Technically the Faroes are a "self-governing nation within the kingdom of Denmark." Denmark is part of the EU. But the Faroes are explicitly not part of the EU (they're specifically not part of it, per the EU originating documents) - my guess one reason for that is disputes over fishing rights and related issues (fish being a major thing in the Faroes).

Bottom line: Does anyone here know if a SIM purchased in Ireland should work in the Faroes (and in Scotland, which I assume is more likely and probably a more common question).

Thanks.

Posted by
8889 posts

Yes, you are basically correct.
"no longer impose "roaming charges" across the EU - and that, in effect, a SIM from a cellular provider in one EU country should work across all EU countries." - not just work across all EU countries, but the charges will be the same no matter which country you are in.

I don't know about the Faroes, but I would also flag up a problem about Scotland. The UK is leaving the EU in March 2019. As of today, absolutely nothing is decided. It could be, by next Summer, the EU ban on roaming charges does not apply in the UK.

Posted by
5568 posts

The UK is leaving the EU in March 2019. As of today, absolutely nothing is decided. It could be, by next Summer, the EU ban on roaming charges does not apply in the UK.

Good point!

We will only be in Edinburgh for a few days so it's probably a fairly minor issue, but you're right - I will be watching and hoping some sanity materializes. (Note to self: be sure to pick up some of the cool new Brexit stamps for use on postcards as I'm passing through.)

Posted by
11286 posts

I assume the Faroe Islands are similar to Switzerland. Meaning, when you buy your SIM, you have to make sure it's activated to work in the non-EU parts of Europe, and since the rates are not regulated, you have to check what it will cost. It could be the same as the EU, or a bit more, or much more.

I know that some plans have special deals you could buy to reduce your roaming rates (for instance, text a code to certain number, and it cost you £5 but gave you £10 of credit for calls to the US). T-Mobile UK, when it existed, called these "boosters"; they are now part of EE and I know nothing of their current deals. Again, you have to check the specific deals for your SIM; luckily, you will be buying the SIM in an English-speaking country, so you should be able to get the needed info from both the sales people and the company's website.

In addition to replies here, you can look at the Prepaid GSM forum. Note that discussions there get very technical very quickly, so you may need to ask for clarification: http://www.prepaidgsm.net/forum/forumdisplay.php?s=45e7b180eb325907f060205f47e7a356&f=22

Posted by
4929 posts

It's not a guarantee that any SIM you buy in the EU will work exactly the same way everywhere else in the EU. There are plenty of exceptions and exemptions - it really seems to vary depending on the company and the country.

I'd start here and read up on Irish SIM cards and various options and make sure the one you buy will work as you hope:

http://prepaid-data-sim-card.wikia.com/wiki/Ireland