Study Abroad

How to Find the Best Cell Phone Plan for Study Abroad in Europe

Stay connected while you're studying abroad. Learn about the best cell phone plans by the best providers in Europe to keep you online even away from home.

Key Takeaways 🔑

  • While studying in Europe, you can use your cell phone from home.
  • Signing up for a pay-as-you-go phone plan is the best and cheapest option.
  • Taking advantage of free public wifi and using apps like Whatsapp and Skype will help you save data.
  • Most plans include free EU roaming so even if you're traveling outside of your host country, you can still use your plan.
Three women looking at a phone.

Studying abroad in Europe is an exciting experience, but arriving at your new destination without knowing the landscape or local language can leave you feeling bewildered at first. Because of this, it’s important that you maintain connectivity during your study abroad experience.

Read on to find the best cell phone plans for studying abroad in Europe!

Choosing a cell phone plan in Europe

Woman taking a photo of a mountain.

There are many ways you can stay connected to your friends and family members while studying abroad, and picking a plan is the first step. Additionally, you’ll need internet and data to navigate new cities, order taxis, find on-campus facilities, and of course discover the best cafes, restaurants, and bars at your second home!

Consider purchasing one of the following cell phone plan options for your time in Europe:

  • Pay as you go: Pay as you go is the most popular plan among those studying abroad in Europe. Students can pay per month and cancel at any time, making it highly convenient.
  • Contract plan: Contract plans sometimes require a credit check making it an impossible option for foreign students. While they may offer cheaper rates in the long run, you’re usually required to pay for 12 or 24 months to make the most of a contract plan.

Choosing a Sim card when studying abroad in Europe

When preparing to study abroad in Europe, you’ll need to decide how you’ll make calls, texts, and use the internet while you’re in Europe. Firstly, you’ll need to unlock your current phone to ensure that it’s Europe ready.

There are a number of options when it comes to staying connected while studying abroad in Europe:

  • International roaming: You can use your home cell phone plan provider while you’re studying in Europe. Although it’s convenient, this is likely to be the most expensive option. This option will certainly help you get from the airport to your accommodation and navigate the city for the first few days, however, it’s not the best long-term plan if you’re on a budget.
  • Sim card: Buying a local Sim card allows you to choose between long-term contracts or a pay as you go 30-day plan, both which are far cheaper than international roaming. You can grab a sim card at the airport, however, they’re likely to be much more expensive than in-town. Buying a local Sim card typically requires a passport to set up in-store.
  • eSim: If your phone is compatible, getting an eSim is another convenient option. You can browse eSim options from the comfort of your own home, and simply click and buy a package even before you’ve arrived at your new study abroad destination. However, while they’re convenient, they may be a more expensive option if you decide to shop online. Popular eSim apps include Airalo, aloSIM, Nomad, Holafly, and Saily.

Ways to save data while studying abroad

Man looking at cell phone and smiling.

There are many ways that you can save more money by not wasting your data or money (unless you’ve unlimited data). You’ll want to save your data for important times when you’re following directions on your phone, using Google translate, calling a friend, family member, or potentially a course mate to work on a group project.

There are many instances - or even emergencies - where having enough data to call and message is important. Here’s how you can save your data while studying abroad:

  • Take advantage of wifi hotspots: Restaurants, cafes, libraries, and many other facilities will offer wifi for their customers, which means the city is rife with connection opportunities. While you shouldn’t rely entirely on public wifi, you can make use of these public spots if you need a reliable place to get work done or take a brief call.. As a student, you’re also likely to have access to plenty of wifi on your university’s campus.
  • Download maps offline: Using a maps app is essential when abroad, however, it can be draining to both your battery and data. Be sure to download maps ahead of time in order to minimize data usage.
  • Download content instead of streaming: If you need to catch up on the latest episode of your favorite show, make sure to download episodes with wifi rather than streaming on your data.

Best cell phone plans for each country in Europe

Your best bet is to opt for a local pay as you go plan. This is a convenient option, and will be significantly cheaper than plans from your home country provider or online eSim websites. While prices will vary from providers and plans, you can expect to pay around $15 - $35 USD per month for a phone contract which offers enough data and unlimited calls and texts.

Some of the popular mobile providers for each country include:

  • UK: Three, O2, EE
  • Spain: Movistar, Vodafone
  • France: Orange, Bouygues
  • Italy: TIM, Free Mobile
  • Germany: O2, Vodafone

How to stay in touch with friends and families abroad

Texting and using landlines is becoming less and less common, and people are using apps to connect with friends and family members abroad. This is because these apps are free, accessible, and easy to use.

Here are some of the best apps and tools for maintaining connectivity while you study abroad in Europe.

  • WhatsApp & Messenger: WhatsApp and Messenger are some of the most popular forms of communication apps, and are usable throughout Europe. With instant messaging abilities at zero cost, these are the most convenient ways to communicate with friends and family members while you study abroad.
  • Zoom & Skype: While apps such as Whatsapp and Messenger are great for instant messaging, communication apps such as Zoom, Skype, and Facetime are the best options when it comes to video calls. Here, you can not only chat and see your loved ones, but you can play a range of games and use online tools to maximize your long-distance quality time.
  • VPN: When studying abroad in Europe, be sure to consider whether your go-to apps are usable in your specific location. Some countries or regions may block certain apps. A VPN - virtual private network - will allow you to use apps and websites which are otherwise unavailable at your location.

Stay connected while studying abroad in Europe

Woman taking a picture of donuts.

Although you’ll be apart from friends and family members while studying abroad in Europe, there are many ways to stay connected. Whether you opt for your home cell phone’s international roaming plan, buy a local sim card or an eSim, there are many ways for you to still feel connected with friends and family members.

Start your study abroad adventure in Europe today!