I’m not pulling any tricks – this Lycamobile thing is fo’ real.
I have used one of these SIM cards before, in 2013. I paid €6 in a dodgy Berlin corner shop for a Lycamobile SIM card with some data included and some credit for making calls. To be honest, back then I had no idea how it worked and when you called the number to top-up, it was all in German. The brochure was all in German so I decided it was just easier to hope in hell that the SIM card worked when I needed it to.
This time around, I need a SIM card for sure. I know I’ll eventually get to the main railway station of a city and despite my best efforts to take screenshots of Google Maps route to the hostel, this won’t work and I’ll be ruined without some active data to help bring me new information.
So, second day in London which was around early May 2017, I’m walking down Baker Street and I see a bunch of dodgy Lebanese shops selling dodgy-looking handbags and dodgy-looking, cheap touristy trinkets….but these shops also have Lycamobile posters on their windows. BINGO.
I go in and say to the lady behind the counter that I need a SIM card that will work across all of Europe and not just in the UK. She nods agreeably and pulls out what seems like a thousand packets of Lycamobile SIM cards and I ask how much. Reply, “Oh no, you can have it for free.”
Seriously, just have them for free. There are shops where you might pay say £5 but this amount is added to your credit balance once you activate the SIM card and setup your account online.
And there are no plans, no direct debits, no ID cards required, no commitments.
The downside to all of this is the usage rates for data. I believe it to be 19 pence / 1MB which is extremely steep however if you don’t fall into the trap of turning on your data to browse Facebook and only use it in urgent or necessary scenarios, its a great travel tool for the savvy backpacker.
Just load your credit and you have a working phone all across Europe for calling those Spanish pension managers who would prefer to sleep during their siesta rather than answer the doorbell to let you check-in.
Also, the online account service is very user-friendly. Topping up your credit can be done from anywhere online and the balance is updated instantaneously. Although, don’t expect to fully understand your usage summary. If you have figured that part out, please let me know in the comments!
From the screenshot, you can see that text messages cost £0.19 and I did use data but somehow wasn’t charged for it. On other pages of the usage summary I was charged for data.
Basically the moral there is only use the phone if you need it – if there is a WiFi connection, use that instead. And by the way…welcome to Europe…WiFi is everywhere!
IMPORTANT! To configure your mobile data to work outside the UK, you may or may not need to follow these APN instructions. A very good article specifically for configuring Lycamobile SIM cards from the UK however please note the iPhone instructions are all correct except after all the steps are complete, you do need to restart your phone.
Otherwise, enjoy the freedom of staying in touch from all points of Europe.
If you have any questions or had any other experiences with SIM cards, I’d love to know in the comments below!