Local SIMs are a useful way to avoid the global roaming rort from Telstra, Optus and Vodafone -- which can be an eye-watering $15 per MB -- but it's a pain having to swap SIM cards and recharge every time you change European country.
But no more -- thanks to pressure from the EU government, European mobile networks are slashing roaming rates and creating continent-wide "Euroaming" deals, covering most of Europe.
"Most" varies slightly by provider, but usually means:
Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Monaco, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Guernsey, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Isle of Man, Italy, Vatican, San Marino, Jersey, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
So that SIM card you pick up when you arrive in London will work -- for a less eyewatering charge -- in other European countries. It won't be as cheap as getting a local SIM card in each country, but if you're only in each place for a few days then it's well worth it for the convenience.
Expect most European networks to be offering these "Euroaming" deals, though the best without a contract for Australian travellers in Europe tend to be from UK networks.
That's partly because London is still such a European gateway (with machines selling SIM cards on the way down to the trains), and partly because it's easier to sort things out if all the documentation and support helplines are in English.
We've focussed on data rather than voice calling, since most of our readers tell us they're looking to get online with their smartphones and tablets rather than phoning home -- which they can do using Skype or other VOIP apps anyway.
The options are all slightly different, and it'll depend on how much roaming you want to do, and whether you want a daily, weekly or untimed block.
(Note that we haven't converted pounds to Australian dollars, but it's roughly A$1.50 per £ at the moment.)
Five good UK-based SIM options for "Euroaming"
- Virgin Mobile has 7-day Travel Passes available: £6 for 5MB, £12 for 10MB and £24 for 20MB. (No, there's no discount for buying bigger blocks.)
- T-Mobile offers 7-day Euro Internet Boosters: £1 for 3MB, £5 for 20MB and £10 for 50MB.
- O2 pay-as-you-go customers get charged £2 per day for up to 25MB of data outside the UK. Go over the 25MB and you can pay another £2.
- Vodafone will charge £8 for up to 100MB per day.
- Orange offers several data bundles (that's their page for using your phone in Germany) -- 30MB for £3 per day, or three monthly offers: £15 for 30MB over a month, £50 for 150MB over a month or £150 for 500MB over a month.
Keep an eye out for new options springing up now that the main UK networks are offering deals. A price war would be music to business travellers' ears.
Other roadtested options for getting online in Europe
UK network 3: Euro Internet Pass is available if you're one of their pay monthly customers: £5 (A$8) per day for unlimited data use, but no iPhone tethering.
Droam: rent a 3G-wifi router (which you might know as a "mifi"), which will also work in countries across the world.
Maxroam: a true global roaming SIM for voice and data. Roughly 60c per MB in most European countries, but also works in other regions.
Tep: rent a smartphone or a 3G-wifi router for a convenient (though not cheap) daily rate.
For more tips on how to avoid the overseas data roaming rip off, we've got you covered.
What's your favourite option for avoiding the global roaming ripoff in Europe? Share your insider knowledge with your fellow AusBT readers in a comment below!
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