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

We just returned from a few days in Paris and London. At one point when I was booking Eurail travel I purchased a data SIM from their vendor. It took forever to arrive and didn’t seem to work quite right. Then I did a bunch more SIM research–there are a lot of options out there. But in the end we decided to pony up $10/day for the Verizon deal that let’s you use your normal voice and data plan internationally. And I can say that we found the convenience and consistency of using our normal phone plans was worth the price!

Also, there’s the issue of needing to receive calls and texts on our normal numbers–particularly since I had used my cell number as the contact for travel arrangements. The downside, of course, was getting spam calls as usual. Had to shut the phone at night due to the time difference.

FWIW, 4G coverage in Paris (Orange) was excellent, even in the Metro. In London service was variable and sometimes strangely slow even with 4G and solid reception. No service at all in the London Underground.

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Hmmm. I may still have the box it came in. I’ll have to look for it.

When I upgrade (probably to an XR), I expect to keep the 5S and transfer the phone number to the new one, but I don’t want to pay a lot per month for Verizon coverage on the 5S. I’ll have to find out if Verizon will let me add a phone number for one month, if I have a guest. Without paying for cellular, the 5S still will have wi-fi so can be used like an iPod—email, web surfing, movies, camera.


Or you can get a prepaid SIM card that you top up for guest use. I don’t know about Verizon, but it’s certainly available with Tmo.

Here are my notes related to various issues discussed here:

  1. Note that you can use the Bedtime option under the Do Not Disturb preference to silence your phone while you are sleeping. This is especially convenient when you are traveling as it uses the time zone you are in rather than your home zone to determine the silent hours.

  2. If you have an Apple iPhone with an eSim (XS, XS Max, XR), moving your normal number to the eSIM makes adding a physical SIM for travel convenient, especially because there is no need to physically remove the travel SIM on the plane while you are returning (Mine is still in the phone). You simply make a change in your cellular settings. I believe AT&T charged me $10 to move my normal service from the physical SIM to the eSIM.

  3. I travelled to France earlier this year. When I landed , I used the $10/day service until I obtained the Orange Holliday SIM from an Orange store in Paris. Note that the day is 24 hours from when you first use the service; so, if you activate it on arrival in the afternoon, you can stay on it while shopping the next morning. Once I obtained the Orange SIM, I turned off service through the eSIM. I later confirmed with AT&T that even if I had turned it on while being connected via WiFI to check messages via Visual Voicemail, I would have been charged for another day.

  4. My successor to a landline at home is the Ooma VOIP service, which also has an iPhone app that you can use to make calls that appear to originate from your home phone. I was able to use this to retrieve any cell phone messages the old-fashioned way (calling in and supplying a PIN) while in Paris. Note that if you haven’t used this techniques in a while, do a few trial runs before your trip to refresh your memory.

Is it necessary or desirable to turn the phone (or other device) off before doing the SIM swap? I always have, but I watched an AT&T tech swap the SIM in an iPad without turning it off.

You know, I’ve never done that, and Apple doesn’t mention it in their article on SIM swapping. I found this Ars Technica thread where one person was specifically told not to turn off their phone, so the tech could see what the phone was saying.

That being said, it couldn’t hurt. There’s a possibility that there could be some static discharge which would result in a static spark. If the phone was on, it could damage the phone.

Maybe the best advice is to turn off the phone, and if you forget, don’t worry about it. It’ll probably be okay, and the worst thing that could happen is you’d now have an excuse to buy yourself a brand new iPhone.

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.

The 5S probably did come with a SIM tool, and like everyone else in this entire world, you tossed it or missed placed it. It’s one of those pesky tiny things that you don’t need and you lose track of it.

Have no fear! iFixIt has both extremely detailed directions for replacing the SIM (two steps), and the very tool you need for only $2.99!

That $2.99 covers the 10¢ cost of the tool, and the $2.89 handling of searching through the couch cushions and looking under all the chairs to find where that SIM tool went.

We chose the Verizon option about three years ago when we went to Australia, and we couldn’t agree more. We chose it because we both are caregivers for seriously ill relatives, as well as for business calls, and needed to be available on our usual numbers 24/7. Other than the phone call to set it up, which didn’t take long at all, it was a no brainer. The convenience and consistency made the trip a lot easier and more enjoyable for us too.

That Tomme cheese sounds great - will have to try next time I’m there. Thanks!

One thing the article didn’t mention is that the Orange SIM card is only good for 14 days, which nicely lined up with Adam’s “2-week vacation”. It looks like there is some ability to recharge the SIM card (“top up” in their terminology), but the options are confusing. Can anyone explain the options? Specifically, can I just pay a similar amount, and get an additional similar benefit (data/talk/SMS) for an additional 14 days?

I do understand that the benefits are not “stackable”, i.e. once you do a topup, you get the new benefit from that point of time, regardless of when the original terms expire. So, you should wait till the end of the original 14 day period before doing a top-up.

My understanding was that it would be good for 30 days if you register, but then you’d have to top up. I never had to do that, so I don’t know what might be involved, but there is a Web site for it.

I’m taking a 22 day trip around Spain and Portugal (with an overnight in Tangier) in September, and rather than topping off after 14 days, I ordered a second Orange SIM card from Amazon ($21.90).

According to the topping off options shown here, it should be less expensive this way. My primary need for the SIM card is for the data.

You mentioned you went with Deutsche Telekom for your SIM. Where specifically did you get it? I keep reading how hard it is to get a SIM in Germany with their new laws.

EDIT: I ended up with the Orange Holiday SIM card and purchased it from Amazon. I registered it right before leaving for Germany. I was able to get online without issue. However, I could never get it to give/provide me with a phone number so I couldn’t ever make any call or send text messages.

obryankl: I went to a Telekom shop in Frankfurt. No problem at all to get a SIM, just handed them my passport. This was in 2018 - don’t know about any new laws.

Not mentioned anywhere in this thread, but worth mentioning…

T-Mobile high end plans (the Simple, One, and Magenta plans) all have international travel benefits. In many countries, you’re charged only 25¢ per minute for calls, have unlimited texting, and 128kps unlimited data.

That slow data is fast enough for email, Twitter, WhatsApp, and GPS. Facebook is slow, and forget about video streaming. However, it’s free, and in most places, you can find a cafe with free WiFi. Customers with a Magenta Plus plan get 256kps (be still my beating heart!)

You can by faster data access: 5Gb/10 days for $35 and 50Gb/30 days for $50, but that’s pretty much compatible with most SIMs. The big advantage is that you don’t have to swap SIM cards.

The real disadvantage is that you have an American number which means someone calling you in that country pays international rates even if you’re really just down the street. We have a home VoIP provider. We can get our landline calls on our iPhone. For $5/month, they’ll rent me an International number. That solved that problem for us.

I don’t know if Verizon or AT&T have similar benefits.