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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

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
892 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
460 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
892 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
490 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
892 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
892 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
892 posts

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

Posted by
4876 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
892 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
4678 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
892 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
892 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
4518 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
4876 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!