£20 phone tip can save you from unexpected EU roaming bills on holiday | Travel News | Travel

Having access to the internet while travelling can make things much easier (Image: Getty Images)

These days, our mobile phones are never far from reach and are far more than a mere device to make phone calls with – they are our cameras, our maps, our translators, a place to store tickets and boarding passes.

A quick Google search can answer almost any question you need solving – and fast. So, it’s no surprise that research from SMARTY Mobile found that 38 and 39 percent of millennials and Gen Z respectively lack confidence in travelling abroad without data roaming.

But when it comes to international travel, the cost of using data while abroad is skyrocketing. For long-haul destinations, many of the UK’s largest mobile networks charge eye-watering prices for data use, and since the arrival of Brexit, several of these big-name providers have also pushed similar fees onto holidaymakers enjoying a European break.

Depending on when you started your phone plan, you could be charged an extra £3 per day to use your phone in Europe if you’re a Virgin Mobile customer, or an extra £2.30 per day if you’re with EE. While it might not sound like much, this can soon add up.

But, there are still some mobile network providers out there who include international roaming in their plans or on a pay-as-you-go basis. SMARTY is one of them.

SMARTY offers an unlimited, 5G, 4G & 3G data plan, as well as unlimited voice calls and texts, for just £20 per month. As long as customers have a SMARTY plan that includes calls and texts, they work just like home when travelling in the European Union.

This means they’re unlimited with no extra fees. And if you want to go further afield, you can do so on a pay-as-you-go add-on basis. You’ll never be charged for what you don’t use.

Of course, if you really want to save money, travelling without a mobile data plan isn’t impossible – but is it really worth the saving?

The SMARTY challenge

As a millennial myself, I’ve rarely travelled without at least some access to the internet, and always with a phone in hand. I headed to Amsterdam with a friend, to put SMARTY’s SIM plan to the test and see just how much easier exploring the city would be with their EU data roaming, compared with no internet access at all.

The plan was simple, we had one day to tick off several of Amsterdam’s famous museums, meet for lunch and then unwind with a relaxing canal boat ride. However, while one of us would be happily wandering from location to location with the help of our trusty mobile phone (including Google, Google Maps and City Mapper), the other was armed with nothing more than a paper map, Dutch language book and Amsterdam city guide.

One of the great things about Amsterdam is that once you get to grips with the layout of the city, it’s actually pretty easy to navigate, so we were feeling pretty confident.

Amsterdam’s famous canals are a great way to help find your bearings, with the city centre wrapped around the horseshoe-shaped waterways. The name of the innermost street running along the canal is Herengracht, the middle one is Keizersgracht and the furthest one out is Prinsengracht – and as long as you know where these are, it comes in very useful when finding your way around.

SMARTY Sim card in Amsterdam

We put SMARTY’S Unlimited Sim card to the test in Amsterdam (Image: Aimee Robinson)

If you’re a new SMARTY customer, it’s best you set up your SIM before jetting off on holiday. But, once set up, you simply pop the SIM card into your phone you’re ready to go.

There was no issue with connectivity and I was pleasantly surprised to find I had access to 5G and extremely fast loading times no matter where in the city I was.

It probably goes without saying, but having the phone to hand makes things a lot easier while travelling. We were able to find the fastest route, and with a timed itinerary, being able to quickly navigate to a Metro or tram was essential if we found ourselves a little behind schedule.

Having a phone to hand also meant being able to keep an eye on opening and closing times, as well as find the best places for a few speedy snack stops along the way (who can resist a warm  Stroopwafel?)

Amsterdam city map and language guide

Armed with a city map and a Dutch language guide, we found it took much longer to get around (Image: Aimee Robinson)

Though it’s best not to have your phone out all of the time while travelling – tourists can be a prime target for sneaky pickpockets – being able to quickly glance down at my phone to make sure I was on course felt far easier, and less obvious than unfolding a giant paper map.

And that was perhaps the worst thing about using the map. Standing on a busy street corner with a large paper map screams “tourist”, and can make you a target.

Amsterdam is a relatively safe city, but pickpocketing still poses a risk. According to the latest available statistics, by the end of August 2022, almost 7,000 victims of pickpockets had filed a report with the Amsterdam police, with high-traffic areas including Dam Square, Damrak and Central Station among some of the most targeted.

Finding yourself too engrossed in a map might just take your attention away from the surrounding area. The great thing about mobile map apps, such as Google Maps, is that you can simply pop in a pair of headphones and listen to the directions if you don’t feel comfortable having your phone out in busy areas. 

There’s also the matter of bikes. Amsterdam is known for its two-wheeled population, and it’s said there are more bikes in the city than people, with an estimated 22.8million bikes or about 1.33 bikes per person.

Holding map in Amsterdam

When using the map, we had to plan all of our routes in advance (Image: Aimee Robinson)

The last thing you want to do is be looking down at a map, rather than paying attention to the cyclists nipping and weaving their way through the winding streets and bridges.

Thanks to Amsterdam’s main waterways, navigating wasn’t a problem, though it took far more planning than simply tapping in the address of the Museum of Canals or Rijksmuseum.

With the clock ticking on our itinerary, and a canal boat booking for 5pm, we figured out the best way to ensure we made it everywhere on time was to plan our routes the evening before setting off. Even then, things didn’t go off without a hitch.

We found it was much slower to get from A to B using the map alone, even with a Duke of Edinburgh Award in our artillery. The tram system, while relatively straightforward, does have some clusters of stops with the same names, so you need to be absolutely certain you’re waiting at the right one.

Embarrassingly, on a couple of occasions, when trying to navigate a portion of our itinerary with only a map, we found ourselves waiting twice as long for a tram only to discover we were at the wrong stop.

In a city like Amsterdam, finding your way around without a phone isn’t impossible – but there’s no doubt having quick, speedy internet access makes the process a lot easier. We felt safer, were able to plan routes faster and more efficiently and even found new spots to explore along the way.

One of the absolute bonuses of SMARTY is that, unlike having to purchase an international SIM or ESIM, I was able to use the same SIM plan that I use in the UK. No number change, no comparing prices and no extra fees.

What do I get with a SMARTY sim package?

SMARTY offers a number of SIM packages depending on your needs. Voice plans range from the unlimited plan that we used in Amsterdam, which includes unlimited data, unlimited calls, fast 5G, 4G and 3G and EU Roaming for £20 a month, right through to a 5GB plan (capped monthly) which includes unlimited calls and texts and 5GB of 5G, 4G and 3G data for just £6 a month.

Alternatively, you can also purchase a data-only plan from SMARTY, which includes EU roaming based on your monthly cap-these range from 2GB of data right through to unlimited.

Where can I use my SMARTY sim abroad?

Any SMARTY plan which includes voice calls and texts can be used in the EU without any unexpected or hidden fees. You can use your phone exactly the same way as you would at home.

Subject to the company’s fair use limit, you can use up to 12GB of data each month out of your monthly allowance. If you need more data, you can buy a data add-on.

You can use your SMARTY SIM in the following countries:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Comoros & Mayotte
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • French Guiana
  • Germany
  • Gibraltar
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Reunion
  • Romania
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden



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