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Alternatives to roaming in Europe: eSIM for travellers, SIM card and Wi-Fi | April 2024

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Last update: April 1, 2024
Fernando Carrillo
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In a nutshell

There are different ways to get internet in Europe if you are travelling to one of the countries of the Old Continent. One option is to use roaming, but if this service is not included in your local tariff, the best alternative for you may be to buy an eSIM Europe. Other options are wifi or a SIM card.

Spend less on European roaming with Holafly eSIM

Mobile internet in Europe for tourist: all the options

Having internet in Europe is essential to stay connected to the world. If you are travelling for tourism, you are a digital nomad or your job forces you to move around different countries on the European continent, the best thing to do is to solve this issue as soon as possible.

There are different ways to have mobile data while travelling in Europe. In some countries, roaming will be included in your local tariff, but in others it may not. You should also be aware that carriers often apply a policy of fair mobile internet usage abroad (1) . In these cases, it is best to look for an alternative to roam without limits or worries during your stay in Europe.

Keep in mind, since the end of the Brexit transition, there has been no obligation on UK mobile operators to guarantee surcharge-free roaming across the European Economic Area (EEA). Althought the four major UK mobile network operators (EE, 02, Vodafone and Three) stated initially that they had no plans to change their mobile roaming policies, only 02 offer surcharge-free roaming in the EU now.

So, if you want to keep using the internet while you are travelling in Europe, but don't want to spend your salary on it, it is best to look for a cheaper alternative.

In this article we are going to offer you different options so that you can choose the one that suits you best. Before analysing each one in depth, here is a comparison table so you can compare prices and features at a glance.

How much does the internet cost in the Europe?
Service Price by day Data
Europe eSIM
  • From £19/5 days
  • Unlimited
SIM Card Europe
  • From £40/14 days
  • 20GB
Wifi Europe:
  • Portable
  • Public

  • From £6/day
  • Free

  • From 1GB
  • Unlimited
Roaming in Europe
  • EE
  • 02
  • Vodafone

  • From £2/day
  • No extra charges
  • From £2/day

  • Unlimited
  • Unlimited
  • Unlimited

eSIM Europe: the best way to get internet in Europe

One of the best ways to avoid the high costs of roaming during your trip to Europe is to purchase a virtual SIM card. This product, with which you can have an economical and useful international data plan, is booming due to its versatility.

An international eSIM is a digital card that allows you to activate a tariff for use abroad by scanning a QR code. Many manufacturers have already opted to incorporate it into their devices, but before opting for this alternative to have internet in Europe, make sure that your mobile phone is compatible with this technology.

What is an eSim card?

An Holafly eSIM card is the best eSIM card for data roaming in Europe, as it allows you to use high-speed internet in more than 32 countries without worrying about roaming charges at all. So you can use whether you are visiting France, Germany or you just want to avoit roaming charges in Spain.

eSim Europe
Mobile
Prepaid: 5 days expiry
Data Unlimited

Coverage
AT&T
Connection speed 4G
Pay as you go£195 days expiry
taxes included

With Holafly you will receive an European eSIM card with unlimited data which you can use inside of the European Economic Area and, most importantly, all Holafly data plans are price fixed, which means you do not have to worry about extra roaming charges when you run out of data. Something that could happen with your UK contract. These are all the data plans available for Europe on Holafly:

Holafly Europe data plans
Plan Price Data
5 days £19 Unlimited Data
7 days £24 Unlimited Data
10 days £29 Unlimited Data
15 days £44 Unlimited Data
20 days £49 Unlimited Data
30 days £59 Unlimited Data
60 days £77 Unlimited Data
90 days £87 Unlimited Data

If you choose a Holafly eSIM for data in Europe, you will receive your card in your email within minutes of purchase. To activate it, all you need to do is scan a QR code. Best of all, the data is unlimited, so you can surf the web without worrying about your data usage.

Roam in Europe for less with Holafly

On the downside, Holafly's eSIMs are data-only. This means that you will not have minutes included in your Pay-As-You-Go eSIM, but you can always use a VoIP application such as Whatsapp to call your friends and family.

You can check other Holafly destinations, where you can also enjoy the company's fixed price data plans:

Best eSIM card for USA roaming
Virtual SIM for data roaming in Japan
Avoid roaming charges in Mexico
Best digital SIM for roaming in Turkey

And if Holafly's eSIM for Europe doesn't convince you, you can always take a look at the offer of other brands specialised in selling virtual cards such as Flexiroam, Nomad, MobiMatter, Mogo or Conecty.


Best SIM card for data roaming in Europe

If your mobile phone does not support eSIM technology, a good option may be to purchase a prepaid SIM card from Europa. The offer is very wide, you just have to choose the plan that best suits your needs and the characteristics of your trip.

We recommend you to look for a SIM with unlimited data or a large amount of data to use in Europe, so that you can avoid any setbacks. Here you have two of the best alternatives that you will find on the market:

  • Orange: Holiday Europe Prepaid SIM Card: Holiday Europe Prepaid SIM Card offers 30GB of data for only £40. Calls are unlimited across Europe and you'll also get 1,200 minutes to call other countries around the world. Your credit is valid for 14 days.
  • Three: Its 10GB SIM card costs £25, includes unlimited calls in Europe and has a 30-day validity.

Whichever plan you choose, don't forget to check the fine print to find out exactly what conditions apply to your SIM card. For example, there are companies that don't charge you for calls, but they do charge you for the call establishment.


Data roaming in Europe: what does this mean?

Data roaming in Europe allows you to use the data included in your UK tariff whenever you visit a European country, this means that you can still use your social media or messaging apps on your smartphone without the need to change your SIM card each time you visit a different destination.

Besides using your data allowance, you can also send text messages or make phone calls in case you need to urgently contact someone from the UK or the country you are visiting. Also, your phone will automatically connect to the local phone network, so you do not have to worry about anything.

The network used for European Network will not only vary between countries, but also from carrier to carrier. Keep in mind that operators have different roaming partners, so the network available for EE customers in France could not be the same than the one available for Vodafone customers, for example.

Is data roaming free in Europe?

Data roaming is no longer free in Europe if you are from the UK. Since 2021, UK operators no longer have to offer free roaming inside the EU, as a consequence you may have to pay additional charges to use your phone in any European destination. However some phone carriers have decided to keep their free roaming policies for some or all their customers.

For instance, Virgin Media and O2 announced that they will keep offering free roaming inside of Europe for all their customers, whereas other companies have decided to slowly reintroduce these roaming charges during 2022.

Our expert opinion

The Roam like Home initiative, which created the European roaming free zone, was proposed by the European Commission and therefore it only applied to those countries belonging to the European Union. Since UK left the EU, national providers no longer have to follow this guidelines, that is why roaming in Europe, or at least the EU, could no longer be free for you

author's photo
Fernando CarrilloRedactor especialista en telefonía internacional

However, you can still roam in the Republic of Ireland for free. Most companies still offer free roaming in this country so as to prevent their Northern Ireland customers from accidentally connecting to a mobile signal form the Republic of Ireland.

What are the roaming charges in Europe?

The roaming charges in Europe may vary depending on your operator and on your destination. However, most companies will charge you £2 a day to use the data and minutes included in your contract in any country from the European Union.

Moreover, if you do not make a phone call or connect to the regional 5G or 4G networks, you will not even need to pay this extra charge. This means that, if you do not use your phone, you can still visit Europe from the UK without paying any roaming charges.

Also, keep in mind that you will only have to pay extra charges to roam in Europe in this particular cases:

  • You upgraded your contract during 2022 or the end of 2021
  • You joined a new phone company during the end of 2021 or 2022
  • You switched your phone services to a new provider during 2021 or 2022

That is why those customer who did not change their phone tariffs or switched companies, can still roam in Europe without charges. However, this policies can change depending on your tariff or data plan.

For those outside the European Union or European Economic Area, special charges may apply. Call your operator for more information on roaming charges in the country you're particularly interested in if you don't want to encounter an unpleasant surprise when returning from your trip to Europe.


Wi-Fi in Europe: public or portable?

If none of the options that we have shown you throughout this post is interesting to you, here is the last of the alternatives: use a Wi-Fi network to have an internet connection on your trip through Europe.

You can choose between one of two ways to use this type of connection:

  • Rent a Wi-Fi poket: There are companies like mioWiFi, Wifi Travelers, WifiVox or Travel Wifi with which you can rent a portable wifi. The price varies depending on the company, but we already anticipate that the rates are not cheap (around £6 a day) and are not usually unlimited either. Keep in mind, in addition, that shipping costs are charged separately and that, if you lose the device or damage it, it is normal that you have to pay a penalty.
  • Public Wi-Fi network: You can find this type of network in public buildings, hotels and even in some squares and streets. Everyone has at one time or another used wifi to connect to the internet abroad, however, we are sorry to say that this is not the best alternative. The fact that it is free is all very well, but the level of security offered by these hotspots is extremely low.

At Roams, we recommend that you use other means of mobile data while travelling in Europe. And if you have no choice but to connect to a public wifi network, use a VPN, don't do things like shopping or banking, and try not to use your credentials or sensitive information.


Mobile Internet in the Europe: advantages and recommendations

Having internet on your mobile while you travel around Europe or visit one of its countries will not only allow you to keep in touch with your loved ones, but will also provide you with security, help you get the most out of your trip and even serve as a source of entertainment at certain times.

Having a good internet connection will allow you to share your journey and use applications that will enhance your experience, among them:

  • Moovit: If you are going to use public transport on your European adventure, this is the app for you. Install it and check the timetables of the metro, bus, tram and other means of transport.
  • Google Translate: Language will not be a barrier for you if you use this tool. Use it to find out the meaning of a certain word or if you don't know how to say something.
  • Booking, Hostelworld and Airbnb: Find the best prices on accommodation, make your booking or modify it using these world-renowned apps.

And remember that having internet on your mobile phone will also allow you to make any kind of transaction related to your flight, order an Uber, check on Google Maps which are the main tourist attractions in a country or city or buy tickets for that event you don't want to miss.

The use of certain applications implies a high consumption of data. That is why it is so important to get an unlimited data plan in Europe as those offered by Holafly. Thus, running out of internet will never be a problem. Now, in addition, you can enter the code 'Roams' and get a 5% cheaper Holafly Europe card.

Hire your Holafly Europe mobile data eSIM now

Finally, here you have some recommendations regarding mobile data usage abroad:

  • Before travelling to Europe, find out what the coverage is like in each territory. In major cities you will typically enjoy 4G or 5G connection speeds, but in some rural areas the reality may be very different.
  • Use your mobile data to check the weather, especially if your plans in different countries on the European continent will take place abroad.
  • Plan your trip through Europe by scheduling transport departures and arrivals, pre-booking certain events or activities and determining your travel essentials, but be aware that plans may change for many reasons. Be flexible in re-planning your route and take advantage of your internet connection to do so.
  • Use the internet to avoid the most crowded spots and look for information on places that have not yet become popular with tourists to avoid queues or places that aim to cheat visitors with expensive prices and dubious quality products.

We also give you some links to specific content on how to get internet in the most popular European countries among travellers:


Frequently asked questions about how to get mobile internet in Europe

Can I have data roaming on to get mobile internet in Europe?

You can have data roaming on in Europe, however if you are not going to use your phone or you do not want to pay roaming charges, it is best to turn it off to avoid any extra costs.

Which country in Europe has the fastest internet?

Iceland is the country with the highest download speed in 2022, with an average of 216.6 Mbps, when it comes to fibre. However, the vast majority of the territory has a 5G connection when it comes to mobile data. For this reason, all travellers in the European Union enjoy high-speed surfing.

How to have WhatsApp in Europe?

If you travel to any country in Europe, you can use WhatsApp via your mobile data or wifi connection. Unlike in other parts of the world, in Europe you can use all the services of the green app, such as calls or video calls.

Is Turkey in Europe for data roaming?

Turkey is not included in the European roaming free zone, that is why you will have to pay a special roaming charges if you use your phone in this country. However, some phone operator offer roaming bundles with which it is cheaper to roam in Turkey.

Fuentes del artículo
  1. European Union. (s. f.). Roaming: what you pay to use your smartphone in another EU country. Your Europe. Consultado en https://europa.eu/youreurope/citizens/consumers/internet-telecoms/mobile-roaming-costs/index_en.htm#shortcut-1
Our methodology
Roams offers a free information and comparison service, which tries to help anyone find the product that best suits their needs. To ensure that the data presented is correct, extensive market research and product analysis is carried out. Our database of mobile phone and internet rates is updated every day. The content is frequently reviewed by a team of writers with previous experience and/or specific training in telephony.

Personas que han participado en este post:

Fernando CarrilloRoams
Actualizado por Fernando Carrillo

Fernando estudió Administración, Publicidad y Relaciones Públicas. Con más de dos años de experiencia en Roams, Fernando es experto en el asesoramiento sobre telefonía, tarifas de móvil e internet. Además, también es especialista en canales de televisión y las distintas ofertas que tienen los operadores con tv.

Nadia Pérez
Edited and revised por Nadia Pérez