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Vodafone UK SIM card for use in Europe

I used a Vodafone UK SIM on my recent trip to Germany, Poland and Czech Republic. (It should work in any EU country, due to EU roaming requirements.) I activated the SIM, added credit and purchased a Vodafone UK "BIG VALUE BUNDLE" while I was in the US.

I couldn't have done this without forum assistance - especially Andrew H - so I am posting the info about how I set up the SIM and what I learned.

SELECTION

I chose Vodafone UK based on info that Andrew H had shared about his use of a Dutch Vodafone SIM. I decided I would rather deal with the PayPal payment (see below) than the Dutch website, though Andrew H will attest that can be easily managed.

  • I used the Vodafone UK SIM in an "old" Android phone and kept my US SIM in my "new" Android phone, which was in airplane mode 100% of the time.
  • I liked having 2 phones for battery life since I used the UK SIM for walking directions, which chewed up battery quickly.

PURCHASE

I bought the Vodafone UK SIM on eBay for $4 (incl shipping) with no credit:

https://www.ebay.com/itm/133027633393
Update Dec 8, 2019: this specific vendor is no longer selling the SIM, but there are similar ones offered on both eBay and Amazon, with and without pre-loaded credit.

  • I received the SIM via USPS 4 days later in original packaging inside a plain envelope
  • The (UK) phone number for the SIM was printed on the sticker on the back of the SIM packaging, so I knew it in advance

ACTIVATE SIM WHILE IN THE US

I activated the SIM per these steps:

https://www.vodafone.co.uk/help-and-information/Getting-Started/Mobile

I added the Vodafone Pay As You Go network to my phone:

https://lowdown.carphonewarehouse.com/how-to/how-to-manually-enter-vodafone-apn-settings/39805/

I chose a network for the SIM to use in the US:

https://deviceguides.vodafone.co.uk/

  • I chose Verizon, but it makes little difference. Vodafone sent a FreeText once I connected.

I changed the phone settings to "allow" data roaming (steps vary by model of phone)

Posted by
1375 posts

VODAFONE UK ACCOUNT (Optional)

I set up a Vodafone UK account (https://www.vodafone.co.uk/myvodafone) which is useful for checking your credit balance
- logging in, the site sends a text to the Vodafone UK SIM, so you must have it activated and turned on (you can provide an alternate number, but not a US number)
- you cannot add SIM credit via the Vodafone UK account unless you have a UK credit card

ADD SIM CREDIT

I added credit to the SIM with this no-fee PayPal option, using my credit card on the back end:
https://www.vodafone.co.uk/my-vodafone-account/pay-as-you-go-top-up/top-up-online#paypal

  • I tried using that link's "Card" payment option, but it did not allow a US credit card
  • to avoid PayPal's offer of DCC (Dynamic Currency Conversion) when presented with "currency options" choose "Currency for this purchase" as GBP
  • ignore the threatening message that "your card issuer will determine the currency conversion rate and what fees they may charge …."
  • the payment shows in PayPal from Vesta Payment Solutions UK Limited
  • a Vodafone freetext confirmed the top-up and my then-current credit balance
  • I was able to see my SIM credit balance through my Vodafone UK account

BUY A BIG VALUE BUNDLE

Just before my trip, I logged into my Vodafone UK account and used the credit I had added to the SIM to purchase a "£10 BIG VALUE BUNDLE"
- you can also send a text to add a BIG VALUE BUNDLE, but from the US that would have chewed up SIM credit
- I decided this was better value for my 24 day trip than their Pay As You Go Pricing

£10 BIG VALUE BUNDLE (BVB)

  • (Edit) lasts 30 days (with rollover if you buy another bundle within the 30 days); so purchase the bundle just before your trip!
  • 3 GB Data (a special running at the time - despite "fine print" that limited it to UK residents - gave me 3 GB extra)

  • Unlimited texts

  • 250 calling minutes

TOTAL COST $16.84

  • $4 Vodafone UK SIM from eBay
  • £10 Big Value Bundle

Far cheaper than my $70/$110 or $10/day TravelPass options with Verizon, especially since I used it daily.

USAGE

In 3.5 weeks, I used 300MB data, laughably small, attesting to how often I used WIFI.
- I used the data plan mainly for walking directions and for looking up hours and admission info.
- to conserve data, before leaving home I changed the settings on all phone apps, except Google Maps, to use wifi only.
- I don't know what speeds I was getting

Posted by
570 posts

CW, I remember your post back in August...great to hear that it worked so well. Did you take your other phone as you had originally planned, or just use the Vodaphone SIM?

Thanks for the report back, and the process detail, bookmarking for future reference.

Posted by
1375 posts

Hi Barbara, I brought (and used) both phones, my "old" phone with the Vodafone UK SIM and my "new" phone with its US SIM. Since I travel alone, having 2 phones gave me a backup for my online documents and reservations.

I used the phone with the UK SIM anytime I was "out and about" and needed (non-wifi) service. I also used it to make a few calls within Europe and to connect with friends and family via phone, text or whatsapp. In my hotel room at night, I used my "new" phone with US SIM on wifi, including WhatsApp calls, wifi texts, and wifi calls back to the US.

Posted by
609 posts

Very helpful, CWsocial. I will be in the UK for 6 weeks next summer and have been following the discussions. I am glad to know how it all worked out. Thanks for reporting back!

Posted by
1375 posts

Travelmom,

There is likely to be a Vodafone UK shop on almost any high street in the UK. You could walk in and buy a SIM and plan and have them activate and set everything up for you!

Posted by
1375 posts

Travelmom,

One other thought, since your trip will be 6 weeks long. A Big Value Bundle lasts 30 days. If you purchase another bundle before it expires (with a 7 day grace period) they will rollover (once) your remaining phone/data/text allowances.

Once in the UK, you can either send a text or dial 2345 to buy another bundle, assuming you have credit on the SIM. Or, likely, find another Vodafone UK store and add credit and buy a bundle with their help.

Posted by
1375 posts

Andrew H, my pleasure! Couldn't (and wouldn't) have done it without your help.

Posted by
5235 posts

Good to hear it worked for you. Andrew H walked me through getting a NL Vodafone SIM last year, and I made sure that I sent a text within each 6-month period so my number remains active. Had to rediscover how to put money on the account, but I should be good to go for December's trip. And I have sent a valid European phone number to hotels and apartments ahead of time.

Posted by
1375 posts

Laura B,

I was thinking of doing the same...sending a text within every 6 months to keep the SIM active so that I can use it on future trips. Good to know that seems to be working for you.

Posted by
14 posts

This is a great help. I successfully used a vodafoneUK SIM in my iPhone. There were some hiccups with setup which online support was able to sort out. I ended up overfunding the account with 25 euro with the PayAsYouGo,
but hope to keep the SIM active by sending a text in a few months. I bought mine on ebay for $4. Coverage in Orvieto, Sicily and Rome was good.

Posted by
5308 posts

CWSocial — wow! You have taken the time to lay out the most detailed and helpful step-by-step for acquiring and using the SIM card from Vodaphone. This is a very generous gift of your time and experience to others who look to the Forum for this kind of information! Paying it forward from the help Andrew gave you. I love it!

Glad it worked so well. It’s nice how you worked with the two phones.

Posted by
1375 posts

Kim, that's so kind of you to say, thank you! Credit really goes back to Andrew H who not only helped me, but helps everyone who has SIM questions. He has set the standard of generosity, including his own detailed "how to" post:

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/tech-tips/dutch-vodafone-sim-card-for-use-in-europe

If my post adds to the knowledgebase and helps pay his kindness back to someone else trying this for the first time, I'm very glad of that.

Posted by
1375 posts

Hi Jim,

Yes, you can, but that is at their international rates and very expensive. I'm seeing rates at £1.50 a minute, effective 13 Nov 2019. Texts are 24p each.

To call or text the US, I used wifi calling (or WhatsApp) which I could do with either of my phones, with the US SIM or the UK SIM. If you don't have wifi calling, WhatsApp is easy to use if the person you're calling has installed it on their mobile.

Posted by
4684 posts

Jim, although I haven't actually used this Vodafone SIM (I use the Dutch version), I can tell you that most likely you'll pay roaming fees to call or text the US.

What I do instead is use Google Voice, which lets me make free calls to US numbers from Europe (or anywhere), even to landlines. You can text with Google Voice (free) too. Install it while at home in the US and test it out. Google gives you a second phone number for free, and you'll use that number for calls and texts. It works on WiFi too, even if you don't have a SIM in the phone. But, you must set up Google Voice while you still have existing phone service.

Posted by
5235 posts

As per Andrew H's excellent advice, I am currently using my Vodafone NL on a second trip -- topped up tbe credit amount from home and added data plan. The instructions on the English-language site indicated a call-and-text "bundel" which no longer exists but ln the Dutch site I was able to get a 30-day bundel for calls within the EU (used it this morning for a cross-border call.) Note that there is also an option for a world-wide calling bundel.
Only downside on the NL SIM is that I need to use my husband's phone with Google Translate to read the Dutch instructions on my screen. Aside from that, works great!
UPDATE: Got home and switched out the SIM in under 5 minutes. It's now sitting quietly on my desk, waiting for the next trip.

Posted by
1 posts

My oldest is going to be studying abroad in the UK (with other EU travel) mid January 2020 to early June 2020. My first step is to pay off her i-phone and then follow these steps. Thank you Andrew H and CWsocial for this great info!

Posted by
1375 posts

czperla, first of all, welcome to the forum!

What an exciting time for you and your daughter! I loved my years of living in the UK and the opportunity that gave me for travel within Europe.

I just checked the link for adding the Vodafone network to your phone and the necessary info doesn't seem to be there any longer. The APN settings for the Vodafone UK Pay as You Go network are:

Name= Vodafone Internet
APN= pp.vodafone.co.uk

My phone is Android. You'll need to Google the instructions for adding the APN to an iPhone.

Alternatively, your daughter can walk into any CarPhone Warehouse store or Vodafone UK store in the UK and they will help her choose, activate and set up a local SIM in her phone. This is all assuming that her phone is unlocked!

Posted by
1375 posts

I just checked the Vodafone UK Pay as You Go site for any change to roaming rates relative to Brexit. They still say:

"There's no additional charge to use your data, minutes or texts in any of the 48 destinations in our Pay as you go Europe Zone."

Also, Vodafone UK has a winter promotion (through March 31, 2020) for 3x data for each of their bundles:

£10 BIG VALUE BUNDLE

9GB data (was 3GB)
250 minutes
Unlimited texts

The terms say you must be a UK resident. I am not, but I did receive the extra data from the promotion.

Posted by
4684 posts

CWsocial, are you traveling again in Europe now and using the SIM there? If so, the data bonus will be nice, but if not, it's not really going to help, right? The bundles are good for only a month after you activate them...

On the Dutch Vodafone SIM, they had a similar bonus for extra data which never seemed to go away until they made it permanent. It's not surprising that the data allotment would gradually be increasing for the same price on these SIM cards.

Posted by
1375 posts

Andrew H, you're exactly right … the bundles are only good for 30 days. You can't pre-purchase them. By the time I take my spring trip, maybe they'll be at 4x!

Posted by
2 posts

CW Social, Andrew referred me to your detailed and helpful posts, and like others, I too wish to thank you for posting about your experiences using a Vodafone UK sim card and activating it in the US before you left on your trip. I would like to ask you two questions about this topic please:

  1. Now that you've had the experience of purchasing a Vodafone UK sim card through eBay (or Amazon), activating it in the US by adding credit to it and then purchasing a Big Value Bundle just before your trip, what are the benefits and what are the downsides of doing it this way, as opposed to waiting until you get to the UK (or Europe) and purchasing the sim card there? In my humble and inexperienced opinion, the only benefit I can see is that you will have a working cell phone the minute you land in the UK. However, if you don't absolutely need that convenience, surely it would not be that difficult or problematic to purchase a sim card at the airport or any cellphone provider store in one of the many locations in the UK or Europe at a similar cost? And they would likely be able to help you activate the phone on the spot?

  2. Would you advise other fellow travelers to take the route of buying a sim card on Amazon for $8 delivered in the USA, or wait until they get there to buy one? Is it possible that other cell phone companies besides Vodafone, may have better or different deals, like the phone companies do over here?

Thank you very much in advance for your input about this!

Posted by
1375 posts

Hello abunker111, great questions and welcome to the forum!

what are the benefits

Yes, you are right that by purchasing in advance you have the cellphone working the minute you land.

Other benefits for me were:
- I didn't want to have to "worry" about this while on vacation; I preferred to cross it off my list and think about other things upon arrival in Europe
- I preferred using pre-trip time to get the phone and SIM set up, rather than "vacation time"
- the options at my arrival airport were not favorable for my criteria
- I wanted a SIM that I could use on multiple trips throughout the year
- I wanted a package that would last for the duration of my 3.5 - 4 week trips
- it was convenient to already have the phone number, which I could then give to friends or hotels in Europe
- among companies I researched, Vodafone UK had one of the longer periods during which the SIM would stay active and retain any credit balance - important to me for keeping it for use across multiple trips.

That's not to say that these criteria couldn't be met through a well-researched SIM purchased on arrival, either at the airport or in the first destination city. It wasn't what I wanted to be thinking about upon arrival. And I didn't want to "settle" for anything that didn't meet my needs.

For some people, it would be far preferable to have an expert simply set up their phone and make it work.

To your other questions ….

Would you advise other fellow travelers to take the route of buying a sim card on Amazon for $8 delivered in the USA, or wait until they get there to buy one?
That would very much depend on their priorities and their interest in a DIY SIM solution vs walking into a store and having someone set it up for them. As with travel, everyone's needs are different.

Is it possible that other cell phone companies besides Vodafone, may have better or different deals, like the phone companies do over here?
Certainly. There are many posts about other providers, easily found in various airports and highly accessible in different countries. There are good posts out there about providers with stores in England, France Italy and others, I am sure.

I researched a few providers and chose Vodafone UK for my priorities and cost comparisons, at that time.

Posted by
2 posts

Dear CWsocial, thank you very much for your detailed response to my questions! I do appreciate it! I have decided to follow in your footsteps - it seems easy enough and relatively inexpensive. I have purchased a Vodafone UK sim card from a seller on eBay for the exorbitant (!!) amount of $2 which includes shipping. Once it arrives here in the US, I will revisit your post (and Andrew's) and proceed to activate the card. I will report back so that other travelers may also benefit from my experience! Thank you again!

Posted by
1375 posts

Oh my, abunker111, that IS exorbitant :-)

I will report back so that other travelers may also benefit from my experience!
Wonderful, thank you for continuing to add to the knowledge and expertise that Andrew H has been so instrumental in building!

Posted by
1 posts

I bought a Vodafone SIM on Amazon for $4.97US plus $5.99 shipping. It arrived today. The packaging is promoting Vodafone's Big Value Bundle for 10.00GBP, which gives you 3GB for 30 days. Also, if you purchase before March 31, 2020, they add an additional 6GB, for a total of 9GB.

I will be flying into LHR on May 8, 2020, then to Poland until May 25. This bundle should work out for me. However, I am not sure if I need to use up my 3GB within 30 days, or if I am able to spread it out beyond 30 days.
Or doea spreading out your plan only good on the Pay as Go 1 plan?

Posted by
1375 posts

Hi budski54,

The Vodafone UK bundles are good for 30 days from the date you purchase them, so you wouldn't want to purchase it now for your May travels. There was a promotion when I bought mine last fall for 2x data. Now the promotion is 3x, very likely to stay competitive. We can't know for sure, but it does seem likely there would be a promotion nearer the time of your trip.

I added credit to my SIM a few weeks before my trip (to make sure I could do it) but waited until 2 or 3 days before my departure to use that credit to purchase a bundle, thus ensuring that the 30 days would last through my return.

There is a "rollover" feature that would be valuable if you were traveling for more than 30 days.

Posted by
4684 posts

Yes, the bundles on the Vodafone SIMs are good for 30 days from the time of activation of the BUNDLE. But you can add credit to the SIM immediately, then activate a bundle the day before you leave for the UK.

Incoming text messages are free even in the US. I set up my Vodafone SIM while in the US by roaming to T-Mobile I believe. I created an account on the Vodafone website (you'd use the Vodafone UK website) and most likely, they'll text you a confirmation code to the new UK phone number, so you'll want to have the SIM in place and connected to one of the GSM networks like T-Mobile (or perhaps AT&T). I'd connect your phone to WiFi as well then make sure data is enabled plus data roaming. (Text messages may require data to be enabled.)

Be careful about data roaming - once you have added credit to the SIM, don't use the phone in the US without being on WiFi or you may start using mobile data in roaming mode (expensive!).

So...I'd create the Vodafone UK account, add some funds in the way CWsocial described, and then you are all ready to activate a bundle right before you leave for Europe.

Posted by
5235 posts

One other thing to check -- on the Vodafone NL network the data bundle auto-renews each month unless 1) you explicitly cancel or 2) there are not enough funds in your account to cover the monthly charge. Cancellation was easy -- just text the specific message as directed in their confirmation message to you (in my case it was "STOP 2GB")

Posted by
1375 posts

Thanks, Laura B. Now that you mention it, I believe there may be a similar auto-renewal for the Vodafone UK SIM. Since I had loaded exactly £10 to buy a bundle, there was no credit remaining for an auto-renew. But that might not always be the case, so it's a helpful reminder.

Posted by
32 posts

Dear CWsocial,
First of all, thank you so much for sharing “how to” steps for using the Vodafone SIM. We just purchased, activated, and added credit to the UK Vodafone SIM. I tried to purchase the £15 Bundle promo but it is requiring me to add a delivery address. Why is a delivery address necessary? When I entered our US zip code, it tells me that it is not valid. I’m thinking it is expecting a U.K. postcode. What am I doing wrong?
Please help! We leave for London tomorrow late afternoon.
Thank you!!
Mila

Posted by
1375 posts

pappillon54, I don't recall having to enter an address to buy a BIG VALUE BUNDLE. Are you logged into your MyVodafone account when this happens? Or are you perhaps trying to buy the BVB through a link, such as this one, without being logged into your account:
https://www.vodafone.co.uk/mobile/best-sim-only-deals/pay-as-you-go-sim

That link is to purchase a Vodafone UK SIM, loaded with the chosen Big Value Bundle and have it shipped to your home - requiring the UK address.

I would offer these suggestions:

1) Log into your Vodafone UK account and try to add the Big Value Bundle there

2) if that doesn't work, try using chat (not required to be logged into your account to use their chat feature) and ask the service representative to help you to purchase the BVB from existing SIM credit (another travel couple recently did this successfully, so I know it's possible)

2) if you aren't successful before you leave the US, you might also follow these Vodafone UK instructions once you are in London:

If you're an existing Pay as you go customer, you'll need to make sure you have enough credit in your account before you can opt in to your chosen Big Value Bundle. You can opt in by:

  • Calling 4354 free from your Vodafone phone
  • Texting BIGVALUE10, BIGVALUE15, BIGVALUE20, BIGVALUE30 or BVBULTD to 2345, free from your Vodafone Pay as you go phone. You'll need to send the text from the phone you want to add the Big Value Bundle to.

At the very worst case, since you're headed to London, you can use the Vodafone UK Store Locator to find a physical store and walk in to have their clerks help you.

Posted by
32 posts

Thanks CWsocial. I was logged in to my Vodafone account when I tried to purchase the bundle and it still asked for the delivery address. So, I will just purchase the bundle by texting when we land in LHR.
Thank you again for your assistance!!
Mila

Posted by
1375 posts

Mila, we will certainly appreciate your update to add to the knowledgebase and as an option for others to try.

Posted by
1375 posts

Another means to Add SIM Credit (as recommended by Vodafone UK, but not be me)

When I was chatting online with Vodafone UK about my account, I asked if there was a way to add credit using a US credit card. Previously, I had used the PayPal option and my US credit card behind that. I wanted to know what they would suggest. I am writing about this in case others ask the same question of Vodafone UK, and are inclined to try the suggested method.

Vodafone UK chat suggested using this third-party site to add SIM credit:
www.ding.com

Advantage of this site:
- allows you to use a US (or other) credit card to add SIM credit
- allows you to add as little as £5 of credit (I've noticed that the UK Vodafone site now has a minimum of £10 credit)

Disadvantage of this site: exchange rate
- I recently went through the process as if to add £5
- at that day's exchange rate, £5 was equivalent to $6.44
- the "ding" site would have dinged me with a $1.05 exchange uptick, about 16% of the day's rate, charging $7.49 for the £5 credit

Recommended instead:
While this could have been a handy option if you wanted to add a small amount of credit, for a few dollars more, follow the instructions (above) to use the PayPal flow, charge to your credit card or bank account, and get £10 of credit for a much better exchange rate.

Posted by
1375 posts

TOTAL ROLLOVER (for Big Value Bundles)

This note would pertain to anyone who is traveling for more than 39 days.

At the time that your bundle is set to expire, IF you have sufficient credit on your SIM, the bundle will automatically renew and rollover any remaining minutes, data and text. Please see their very specific conditions for Total Rollover to take advantage of this.

I say "more than 39" days because if you were traveling for, say, 35 days, it would be (slightly) cheaper to buy a bundle for 30 days and use the £1 per day Pay as you Go option for the remaining days, since they cap PAYG costs at £1 per day.