Best phone plans for travelling in Europe


WhistleOut
06 June 2017

Got plans to galavant around French vineyards? Knock back shots of vodka in Poland? Gorge yourself on pasta in Italy? All in the same trip? You're in luck: roaming in Europe tends to be quite simple, even if you want to hop from country to country. 

Not all providers will give you their best deal everywhere, but you've got plenty of choices for connectivity in Europe, whether you want to take your own SIM card or pick up a local one overseas. 

Vodafone


If you're a Vodafone postpaid customer - regardless of whether you're on a contract or month-to-month - you can take advantage of $5 roaming while in select European countries. For $5 per day, you can talk, text, and surf using your plan's local inclusions. 

You are however only able to make use of Vodafone's roaming for 90 days per calendar year, after which you're billed at pay-as-you-go rates

If you signed up to a plan after April 23 2014, it will already be switched on; the only thing left to do is book your holiday. 

If you signed up to an eligible plan before that date, you'll need to turn it on through Vodafone's online portal. If you can't find this option, you'll need to contact Vodafone and potentially upgrade plan.

The following European countries are eligible for $5 roaming. 

Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, England, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Scotland, Serbia, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and Wales.

Outside of these countries, you'll have to pay-as-you-go. Vodafone's rates are as follows: 

  • $1 per minute to make or receive calls 
  • $1 per MB of data used 
  • 75c per text message 

In most cases, try to avoid using data when paying-as-you-go. You could end up paying $40 or more to just view a single YouTube video.

Optus


Customers on Optus’ high-end $130 and $160 postpaid plans respectively receive 1GB and 1.5GB of roaming data to use each month in all "Zone 1" countries. Almost all European countries are part of Optus' Zone 1: Moldova and Kosovo are the only two exceptions. 

If you're on a different Optus postpaid plan, you can purchase a Travel Pack. $10 will get you a day of unlimited talk and text, and 100MB of data. Essentially, you're looking at $10 per day you're overseas. 

You're also able to stack data by purchasing multiple packs at once, so if you buy seven passes for $70, you’ll get seven days of unlimited talk and text, plus 700MB to use over a week of roaming. 

Virgin Mobile


Virgin Mobile only has roaming deals for eight European countries, and even then, you're only able to prepay for data.Talk and text are billed at pay-as-you-go rates. If you're heading to one of the eligible countries, these are your options: 

  • $25 for 300MB
  • $30 for 500MB
  • $55 for 1GB
  • $100 for 2GB

All of Virgin's Data Packs have a 30 day expiration. You can use the packs in the following European countries: 

Austria, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

Outside of these countries (with the exception of Kosovo and Moldova) - also known as zone 2 - you're stuck paying-as-you-go. You'll be up for $1 per minute of talk, 50c per text, and 50c per MB of data. 

Telstra


If you happen to be on Telstra's $195 Premium Plus plan, you're able to roam in select European countries at no extra cost. You'll get 1.5GB of data per month, and unlimited talk and text. 

If you're on any other Telstra postpaid plan, you'll probably want a Travel Pass, which means you'll pay $10 per day for unlimited talk and text, and 75MB of data. There is one slight catch: you have to buy a 3, 7, 14, or 30 day bundle. These are you options: 

  • $30 for 3 days of unlimited talk and text, and 225MB of data
  • $70 for 7 days of unlimited talk and text, and 525MB of data
  • $140 for 14 days of unlimited talk and text, and 1.03GB of data
  • $300 for 30 days of unlimited talk and text, and 2.20GB of data

You use Telstra's Premium Plus Plan and Travel Passes in these European countries: 

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United Kingdom.

Outside of these countries, you'll need to pay-as-you-go. Rates vary from country to country. Telstra's website is the best source for up to date pricing for each country. 

Pay-As-You-Go & Prepaid


Pay-as-you-go roaming and prepaid roaming rates tend to be reasonably consistent regardless of which countries you plan to visit. Optus and Virgin pricing is mostly uniform around Europe, but Virgin customers don't have the option to roam on prepaid, but Optus customers do. 

On Optus postpaid, you're looking at $1.50 for a minute of talk, 50c a text, and $1.00 per MB of data. On Optus prepaid, its $1 for a minute of talk, 50c a text, and 50 cents per MB of data.

Optus MVNOs that support international roaming tend to also have fairly consistent pricing for Europe. If you are on a smaller telco, make sure you check if it offers roaming before you leave (if you want to roam that is); just because a provider is on the Optus network doesn't mean you'll be able roam in all of the same countries. 

Vodafone's pay-as-you-go roaming rates are also fixed and identical for postpaid and prepaid: $1 per a minute of talk, 75c a text, $1 per MB of data. 

Telstra's pay-as-you-go prices have a lot more fluctuation, where you could be looking at $1.50 a minute for a call in Finland, but as much as $5 for a minute of talk in Ukraine, so you should visit the Telstra website for clear details if you plan on travelling with a prepaid Telstra SIM, though our advice would be to leave these SIM cards at home whenever possible.

Telcos in Europe: Free roaming


Each European nation has its own set of telcos, but you'll two providers, Vodafone and Orange are found in many countries. 

We won't go into a full breakdown of each individual country, but you'll find most of the European telcos offer competitive rates compared with what we're used to in Australia. 

And best of all, one of the key benefits of buying a SIM in Europe is that you'll be able to roam across the entire European Union without needing to buy a SIM in each destination or pay any extra charges. 

Regulation that comes into affect on June 15 2017 has laid the groundwork for telcos across the EU to come to agreement about the fees they charge so that customers don't pay extra to use their phone plans as they move from country to country. 

If you're planning on visiting more than one country on your trip to Europe, this can be a great option, and probably a far cheaper alternative to taking your Australian SIM card with you on your trip.


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