Orange Holiday Europe: Cheap 4G SIM for Your European Vacation

Originally published at: https://tidbits.com/2019/07/22/orange-holiday-europe-cheap-4g-sim-for-your-european-vacation/

Planning a European vacation? If you don’t want to pay through the nose for cellular connectivity, look into the Orange Holiday Europe SIM, which provides 3 GB of data (or 8 GB if you activate soon) for just $22.

When we went to Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and Italy in 2018, Deutsche Telekom (TMobile) SIMs worked great for us. I think they were 12 or 15 euro per person. Worked great in all countries.

We also went to Spain earlier this year, and were going to go with Orange, but the rep in the Orange store in Madrid was rude and dismissive toward us, as soon as we walked in the door. They refused to even show us any plans! Weird experience. We walked a couple more blocks to a Vodafone store and they were the complete opposite - super friendly and helpful.

On both European trips, we relied on our home carrier’s free low-speed international coverage until we could get to a local store.

Hopefully when you were in Switzerland, you tried more chocolate than just Toblerone. The Swiss Torino brand is particularly creamy and delicious. You can also get the same Torino chocolate at Trader Joe’s where it’s sold as “Swiss Chocolate” in big bars with bright orange cardboard packaging.

I have T-Mobile and we found (at least a few years ago), that the standard T-Mobile plan charges 20¢ per minute for phone calls and gives you 1Gb of 4G and then unlimited 2G for free. It was way cheaper than SIMs. 2G is good enough for maps and email. Not quite good enough for web and Facebook (although it’ll work in emergencies) I also found out that we ended up getting more than 1Gb of 4G service anyway too.

The only downside is that people in the country we were visiting had to place an international call to our cellphone to call us. We have Voipo and have their “softphone” on our iPhone, so when I was away, I could pick up our house phone while traveling. I found out Voipo sells international numbers for $5 per month. Next time we travel, I’ll pick up a local number for our friends to use.

Good to know! Maybe next time I’ll trust that I can find a local store, though I always worry that if I can’t find one in the airport, it will cost $10 to AT&T for enough connectivity to find my way around outside.

Oh yes, we tried lots of different chocolate, all of which was good. The Toblerone picture was actually taken for our best friend Oliver (@oh10), who often brings it and hot chocolate when we go cross-country skiing. :slight_smile: It was also part of our standard hiking lunch: a round of bread to rip apart, 200g of Tomme cheese (soft and easy to eat, and especially tasty when warm), a bar of chocolate, and apples to finish it all off.

Thanks, Adam. I found your Giffgaff article to be invaluable last year, and I hope you will plan a European trip early next summer, so I can read an updated report before my next European trip late next summer. In the meantime, I’ll note this article in my trip planning folder.

The only limitation I imposed on my usage was entering Low Power Mode at the start of every day to conserve power, which also reduces background network traffic like iCloud Photos syncing.

It’s so hard to pay attention to settings that aren’t immediately meaningful. I’m sure I had seen this before, but I had forgotten. Thanks for the reminder. (For the benefit of anyone who needs to hunt for that setting, as I did, it’s under Battery—just as you might expect, at least in retrospect.)

As far as you know, would the Orange card work in England as well as on the Continent?

Whilst it will work ok currently, post Brexit pan EU European roaming will likely exclude the UK as the only reason the telcos offer it is that the EU made them…

An Orange/EE sim purchased in the UK will still work obviously :slight_smile:

FWIW I use Google Fi for my cell phone as it gives me sane roaming most places I visit but I do travel a lot. The only place that I have found that it doesn’t work so far is Lebanon :frowning:

How can I visit the location of that beautiful photo of you folding up the paraglider? Would you recommend it for a day hike?

For navigating while travelling the main thing you need is GPS, which is built into your iPhone and iPad and doesn’t need a SIM. I have used an app - CityMaps2Go- for years but I think these days any map app will work without internet connection.
Most hotels or rental apartments these days have free wifi, as do many coffee shops etc.
Travelling to Europe from Australia, I use internode/Optus global roaming which charges per call or text. I rarely need to make calls or send texts while out and about.

Such as Confiserie Sprügli. When I was stationed in Göppingen, Germany in '84 - '88, we read about their 24-hour truffles (no preservatives so they had to be eaten within 24 hours of being made). So one day we hopped the train from the little town of Dürnau where we lived into Göppingen, then caught the train to Stuttgart, where we took a train to Zürich. After arriving at the Zürich Hauptbahnhof, we went to the Confiserie Sprügli inside the station and bought some truffles. We then spent about an hour walking around the local area before reversing our trip back to Dürnau.

Oh, and yes, the truffles were worth the entire day trip!

I’ve also found the Orange card very handy for traveling, both to contact people I’m meeting as well as navigating endless roundabouts, double-checking metro maps, etc. A couple comments:

Check the inside cover of the thinner of the two booklets included in the package; with the cards that my fellow travelers and I purchased this spring, the assigned phone number was printed there on a sticker (labeled MSISDN) so we could share it before our trip started. It’s just a string of 10 digits starting with 06; that’s for in-country dialing. (Start with a +33 and drop the leading 0 to dial from elsewhere).

Also, if you’ll be there for two weeks or fewer and won’t need to add minutes or data, you can get by without registering the SIM. Orange will text you every 48 hours reminding you that you need to do so within the first 30 days, but I’ve successfully ignored those on two separate trips so far.

If you travel often and have an iPhone XR or XS, Flexiroam eSIM might be worth considering: esim.flexiroam.com
It’s an eSIM which can be loaded onto the iPhone and the accompanying app allows the purchase of data for roaming to most countries. It doesn’t provide voice or SMS, so a Google voice number is helpful. The pricing for advance purchase of local data is competitive: 10Gb over 24 days in Switzerland is $US16 if bought well in advance and you can give data to another Flexiroam customer. They also sell a SIM sticker for older phones without eSIM, but that requires waiting for a physical delivery.

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If you have one of T-Mobile’s standard plan, you might not need a SIM.

T-Mobile offers free texting and 20¢ per minute calling in most European and *high tech^ countries. They also offer 1Gb of high speed and unlimited EDGE which is enough for email, Maps, and most texting apps. I found when I was in Israel that T-mobile wasn’t that strict with the 1Gb limit.

The only disadvantage was people in that country calling me was international long distance for them despite the fact I was just down the street. Our VoIP service offers both softphone and for $5 per month, an international number. We’ll get one of those the next time we visit.

Also make sure your phone isn’t locked by the carrier before you go.

Aha! So it is! I saw that number and assumed it was something, but didn’t connect it to the phone number because when Orange texted me the number, it started differently (+33).

I did register online and still got those non-stop texts. :slight_smile: But yes, it’s pretty clear that for two weeks or less, registration probably doesn’t get you anything. I didn’t want to risk it, just in case.

That sound compelling for the future when I’m betting more iPhones will have eSIM.

I’m not arguing if you’ve found it effective, but I have to say that whenever I saw that E in the upper-right corner of the iPhone, I was pretty much dead in the water as far as Internet access went.

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For us novices in travel SIMs, how does one install the new SIM? Can all model iPhones exchange SIMs?

When you bought your iPhone, it came with a SIM tray ejector tool that looks somewhat like a paperclip. You kept that. Right? No worries. A paperclip can work too. You can also get another one.

Depending upon your iPhone model, there’s a little SIM eject hole on the side. Mine is about 1/2 way down the right side. You push in your SIM tray eject tool, and out pops the SIM tray. Put in your new SIM into that tray, and you’re set.

You can usually get the people who sold you the SIM show you how to put it in. Plus, there are hundreds of videos on the Internet showing you how to install a new SIM into your iPhone.

Almost all new iPhones use SIMs. The earlier iPhones had specific models for Verizon which used CMDA, so didn’t have SIM cards. I am not 100% sure if those models took SIMs.

iPhones are actually pretty easy internationally. Different countries use different bands, and Apple usually makes a single model that takes almost all those bands. I had a friend with a Samsung phone which he discovered doesn’t work in Europe. His phone used the 700Mhz and 1700Mhz AT&T band, but those two bands aren’t used in Europe.

An alternative approach for travel to Japan (I guess that makes this a very OT comment, but someone might find it useful): Ninja WiFi.

This is a mobile hotspot that you rent by prearrangement at their website, ninjawifi.com. They will have it waiting for you at a booth in your arrival airport (or at your hotel, your choice), and you drop it off at your departure airport. Gives you WiFi access everywhere in the country (via the device’s good cellular coverage). Hotels and public WiFi are often abysmally slow, if you can connect at all.

When I was there (May 2019), cost was roughly US$10/day, giving access to as many as ten devices at a time, and unlimited data! Included a charger and a backup battery good for a couple of full charges – I used the backup battery to keep my iPhone charged all day.

More details and a FAQ at the site.

Dear David,

Thanks for the clues. I’ll check out my phone tomorrow, in the light. It’s a 5S, so didn’t come with the tray ejector tool. Yes, it still works fine, and is up to date with iOS 12—but won’t take iOS 13 so I’ll be upgrading soon, and I’m sure the new iPhone will be able to exchange SIMs even if my 5S won’t. Thanks for telling me how to do it.

Susan

Hopefully at some point soon all this will be behind us and it won’t matter where you got your phone or sim or who your plan is with.

There must be a solid profit in inconvenience.

I have an “ancient” iPad Air2 with an Apple Sim card and, for several years, have been using Gigsky for data connection on trips to Europe, Asia and North America. I connect it then hotspot our iPhones when not using hotel wifi:


I have found 5Gb is enough for a few weeks away. Last trip I used the iPad for navigation in the UK and had plenty of data at the end of 30 days. In any case I can always top it up if needed.
It has worked well but evidently there are more competitive plans now out there.

I still have a 5S which definitely came with a SIM tool. You probably just didn’t know what it was!

It’s a good little phone that I’m keeping for friends visiting from overseas, whereas I upgraded from SE to XS only a short while ago.

All three phones have done well on Tmo in Europe and Asia with unlimited text and data, although I did ‘splurge’ and paid an extra $15 for faster data during one month when I wanted to know my exact location more quickly in a city/town that was less familiar to me.