i probably would have used my T-Mobile SIM with the free international roaming during my recent Spain trip if it weren’t for two things:
- i was going to be there for over a week, meaning lots of data usage, plus if the price was right, being able to get 3G speeds would be worth it. (many people report getting 3G speeds on their T-Mobile SIMs, but i seem to always be stuck with the 2G speeds you’re supposed to be limited to.)
- Euroroaming for my upcoming trip to Malta, where T-Mobile’s free international roaming doesn’t work. OH WAIT. i just checked now and Malta was magically added within the last couple weeks. but still, read on for the benefits of Euroroaming — i’m going to stick with it instead of T-Mo, and not because i already paid for it.
scroll down for Euroroaming if you’re not interested in the SIM i got. i won’t be offended.
orange’s ballena 12 plan
but first, about the SIM and the domestic prepaid plan.
the best plan, IMHO, is the €15 Ballena 12 plan, which gives you 1 GB of data and 1000 SMS for 30 days. you also get 1 cent per minute + 15 cents per call outbound calls (or 1.21 cents per minute + 18.15 cents per call once you include tax). i bought my SIM card at an Orange store in San Antonio, Ibiza, where the SIM card was basically free; i just paid the €15 for the plan. you just need to give them your passport and sign a form. note that despite the website saying English was spoken there, it pretty much wasn’t, but it all worked out.
the employee set everything up and i was ready to go. that this plan does not give you 4G speeds — you’re limited to 3G. still definitely decent, with good reception on Ibiza and in Barcelona, Valencia, and Madrid.
checking your account online
you can check your balance online, as well as your data usage. just go to orange.es on your phone. you will need to set up your account first by either receiving an SMS with your password, or set one up by sending a free SMS to 222 with the text “CLAVE xxxxxxx” where xxxxxxx is a 6-8 digit number which will be your password. more information here (in Spanish).
i found that i am even able to recharge my phone online through the orange.es website if i use my debit card (Schwab Bank). my Chase Visa did not work. this is great, since it means i have a higher chance of continuing to use their Go Europe plan for more trips in the future, as long as the card doesn’t deactivate due to non-use or over-roaming!
warning if you have an iPhone
there was a problem, though, with my iPhone — it kept trying to send text messages somewhere and i kept getting text messages back saying my account didn’t have enough funds to send them (remember the entire €15 i paid was loaded onto the card, of which most of it was used for the plan). i turned off iMessage and Facetime since i know they try to send activation messages, but that didn’t seem to help. i don’t know why they didn’t want to work despite having 1000 free SMS. maybe it activates with a US SMS since i have a US number? alas, this is not really a problem except you keep getting new (failure) messages, which is definitely annoying and eats up your battery because it wakes the screen up every now and then.
so yeah, you have 48 cents left over in your account (€15 – €14.52) and i added €10 (via a machine at the store) in anticipation of needed funds for Go Europe (see below). i turned on iMessage and Facetime and the activation messages finally went through. i ended up with a balance of €9.03. sheesh! €1.45 to do whatever activation it needed to do!
euroroaming and go europe
thanks to changes initiated by the European Commission, roaming in Europe is continually getting cheaper for people with European SIM cards. Orange, apparently, has the cheapest roaming fees for Spanish SIMs, although other cards from countries may be even cheaper when going around Europe; you’ll have to do some research to see.
the Go Europe deal gives you 100 MB of data per day for €1, and €1 for 60 minutes of calls in Europe. pretty decent, no?
i usually allocate 100 MB per day that i’m workationing, so i think this will work out well for me. lighter users will definitely have enough with this allotment.
i was told by the representative in the store that i bought the card that i couldn’t activate Go Europe, but i was able to anyways by following one of the activation methods described on the website: “Sending a text message to 22095 with the text “ALTA DIA”.” you’ll get a confirmation message so you know it was successfully activated.
i tested this out on the way back from Spain when i had to overnight in London — i was able to get 3G speeds on a variety of networks (you’re not tied to Orange), and according to the text message that i got, if you qualify for 4G speeds in Spain you will get 4G speeds when you travel (i suppose depending on the network you’re roaming on).
so let’s say i’m spending a week abroad, that’s €7 — definitely worth it for me for not having to waste time at a phone store to buy a SIM, swap it out, etc., and pay whatever fee that is, and i think €7 is not a bad price for faster data as well, since i’d be getting full 3G speeds, versus buying a 3G speed pass add-on for my T-Mobile card which would cost $15 for 100 MB ($50 for 500 MB is the cheapest).
the moral of the story
as i discovered last year with a local SIM in Qatar, a local SIM might just give you benefits that go beyond the borders of the country you get it in. it pays to do your research and plan ahead, especially if you’re going to be going to countries where it’s a bit more difficult to get a local SIM, like France (which i hope is better now, but even a couple years ago, took days to activate plans), or if you just plain can’t be bothered — roaming might just be easier!
Now have 1 GB of roaming in Dubai w/ Qatar SIM, $27. Going to keep & try w/ other countries in this passport scheme. pic.twitter.com/CRrY28Ma
— Jonathan Khoo (@jonk) February 20, 2013