Data connections for travel in Europe

The Need

If, like me, you are travelling across Europe with your tablet, smart phone or laptop you too probably also want to be able to tap into the extensive and relatively fast mobile network. After all, Europe is a relatively small place, and getting a pre-paid 1 or 2 GB Data SIM, that can be topped up and that works across all or most  (at least EU member) countries SHOULD be possible…

The Reality

The reality is that European telecommunications is fragmented and regionalised (by country)  such that T-Mobile Germany, is a separate entity from T-Mobile Austria, etc. and will charge you roaming fees for data access, which can be ruinously expensive, depending on the arrangements between the companies. To make things more frustrating, some companies require a European (sometimes even a credit card issued by a local – French for example – bank)  credit card or a residential (non hotel) address and a national identity card before you can get a prepaid data SIM. In short – data roaming arrangements across Europe suck big time.

The Future

Having spoke to the crew members on the River Princess, I was informed that my initial research and information is correct, and that yes, most of the data and telephony in Europe is great inn the country where your carrier is based and sucks elsewhere. However, all that is et to change sometime mid 2014 when EU laws are likely to come into effect and, as far as I can tell,  force no-fee roaming for voice and data across all of EU member countries. Only time will tell how quickly the situation improves

In the meantime.

In the meantime there are a few things we can do to make our lives easier and cheaper.

  1. Turn off mobile data and data roaming on all of your phones and tablets. roaming data is charged at cents per kilobyte (yes kilobyte), so that a small amount of data like 1.8 MB (1800K) can cost on the order of  40AUD.
  2. Use SMS to communicatate
  3. Many cafe’s and hotels offer free wifi. Use it.
  4. Prepare your posts/messages in batches and upload/send them when you can.
  5. If you are staying primarily in one country, get yourself a data SIM for that country. Remember to switch it out when you cross borders…

1 comment

  1. How painful for you – it must be a tad frustrating. Sounds like you need a wallet just for SIM cards 🙂

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