who: O2 (i knew this was who i wanted thanks to prepaidwithdata, my favorite resource for this sort of stuff, but i didn’t see any other stores anywhere in the old town or on the way there from the train station; YMMV)
where: there is an O2 store right outside the north edge of the old town pedestrian zone (on your way in if you’re walking from the main station) but it was closed (maybe permanently?) with a sign that indicated i should visit the branch at the Eurovea Galleria. luckily there is free but spotty (and oh-so-slow) wifi coverage at that square and i was able to look up the location on google maps. it’s a bit of a walk along the eastern side of the old town but worth it — google maps says 15 minutes.
once you get to the mall, just continue walking straight along the left and you’ll see it before long. there’s a directory at the entrance as well; i believe it’s number 44 on the map, under Telefónica O2. the staff member who helped me was very efficient and spoke excellent English.
what you need: passport. the end. no paperwork, no further questions, no nothing.
price: she asked me what kind of service i wanted and i told her all i cared about was internet. she put me on the basic plan and told me that up to 400 MB per day is 50 euro cents (!!!) which jived with what i saw on prepaidwithdata. the card, she said, would come with something like €1 or €1,50 of credit, meaning at least two or three days of internet (assuming you don’t make any calls) for the price of the SIM card.
(line items translated [thanks google translate] directly from the invoice):
- SIMCARD.SK.V15: €9,95
- DISCOUNT.SIMCARD.V10: -€8,29(!!! yes, that’s a minus sign)
- VOUCHER55.V1: €1,83
- Total: €3,49, or $4.65
YES, THIS CHEAP. they take credit card but not American Express.
activation: immediate card activation. there is no need to do anything for the data plan since the 50 cent data cap is automatic. she took my phone and set up the APN for me, o2internet (username and password blank). she may have done other things as well, but i don’t think so. of course to be safe, verify 3G is working before you leave the store. (as an aside, she had to use a micro-SIM cutter to cut a regular-sized SIM down to size, but it worked fine.)
watch out: 3G service only larger towns. in the boonies, e.g. on the train ride home, great coverage and reception but only (very slow) EDGE.