How to set up a local SIM card in Ireland
Buy a local SIM card to reduce your roaming rates.
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Ireland, or the Republic of Ireland as it’s officially known, is a popular tourist destination for people travelling around the British Isles. Although it’s joined to Northern Ireland and extremely close to the UK, it’s an independent country rich in history. Using your phone there can be expensive, so to keep costs down, why not switch to a local SIM card so you can take advantage of better plans, deals and tariffs? Ireland has reasonable, prepaid SIM cards available for tourists for as little as EUR9.90 (AUD$14.82) per GB. So, whether you’re planning a quick break or an extended trip, check out the best SIM card offers available.
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Telco providers in Ireland
There are three main operators in Ireland: Vodafone, Hutchison 3 (Three) and Meteor (by eir). All three operators have been tried and tested by both locals and international visitors, and can be trusted. Each provider offers the latest technology, and Ireland has some of the best telecommunications in the world. According to OpenSignal’s country coverage map, Ireland’s network signals are above average in the more urban areas but may suffer in some of the more rural counties.
About Ireland’s telecommunications
Ireland’s operators offer great network coverage, providing good 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE wireless services. Roaming rates are good, and all three operators sell prepaid credit, which allows users to take advantage of lots of offers and deals. SIM cards can be purchased pretty easily without any form of identification or registration. Ireland is not part of the UK, so please be advised that UK prepaid SIM cards will be charged roaming in the country. However, Ireland is part of the European Union (EU) “Roam-Like-At-Home” roaming pact so costs shouldn’t be that expensive if you use a European SIM card there.
Below, we have broken down all the telco providers to highlight exactly what they can offer you during your visit to Ireland.
One simple microchip sticker gives you discounted rates all over the world.
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One simple microchip sticker gives you discounted rates all over the world.
Vodafone is the largest operator in Ireland with the highest number of prepaid customers on “pay-as-you-go” plans. It offers 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE services on a GSM platform. Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased from official stores, approved resellers, most supermarkets and corner stores. You can buy credit from the same retailers or online by using your credit card. You won’t have any trouble purchasing the SIM card because there are no rules or regulations, and you won’t have to show your passport as a form of ID.
Pay-as-you-go SIM cards can be purchased for EUR10 and come in all sizes. SIM cards are only valid for 180 days from the last time credit was added. If you text “Data Extra” to 50222 then you can start using data in packages, which is much cheaper. If you don’t use a data pack then data is charged at a whopping EUR1 per MB. EUR20 will give you EUR10 worth of credit, 5GB of data on 4G/LTE, unlimited local calls and SMS, valid for 28 days.
The following data add-ons can also be purchased, each valid for 28 days:
- 1GB add-on on 4G/LTE – EUR5: Text “5DATA” to 50233
- 5GB add-on on 4G/LTE– EUR15: Text “15DATA” to 50233
Text “bal” to 50233 to check your data balance.
In addition, Vodafone has a selection of prepaid SIM cards available for modems, tablets and laptops:
|Broadband Daily||500MB||midnight to midnight||EUR3|
|Broadband Weekly||2GB||valid for 7 days||EUR10|
|Broadband Monthly||7.5GB||valid for 28 days||EUR20|
Overuse rates are charged at EUR0.19 per MB.
- Albania, Canada, Monaco, Republic of San Marino, Kosovo, Turkey, USA: 200MB per day for EUR2.99
- Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Aruba, Australia, Barbados, Bermuda, Bonaire, Brazil, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Chile, China, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Dominica, Dominican Rep., Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Fiji, Ghana, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Israel, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Lesotho, Macedonia, Mexico, Montserrat, Morocco, Mozambique, Nauru, Netherlands Antilles, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Qatar, Russia, Samoa, Serbia, Singapore, South Africa, St Lucia, St Vincent & the Grenadines, Tanzania, Thailand, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, Vanuatu, US Virgin Islands: 200MB per day for EUR4.99.
Vodafone’s APN: live.vodafone.com, and website: http://www.vodafone.ie
Hutchison 3 (Three)
Hutchison 3 (Three) is the second-largest operator in Ireland. It offers 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE services on a GSM platform. Prepaid SIM cards can be picked up for free from official stores, approved resellers, most supermarkets and corner stores. You can buy credit from the same retailers or by using your credit card online. There are no rules or regulations when purchasing the SIM cards, and you won’t have to show your passport as a form of ID. Three has some of the best coverage in Ireland and is even able to provide a good signal in the countryside and remote areas.
Although SIM cards are free, packages will have to be purchased before use. Data-only and Broadband SIM cards can be purchased for EUR5. SIM cards come in all sizes and there is no extra cost for different variations. Dial 1745 to check your balance.
Please be aware that you can only top up online while you’re in Ireland, so it could be complicated if you want to add credit while you’re roaming around Europe. The best option is to purchase a large credit amount before you set off on your travels if you intend to return at a certain point. If you plan on travelling around Europe, then we advise you to purchase a prepaid SIM card in the countries where you spend the most time.
The standard default data rate is charged at a staggering EUR1.01 per MB, so we strongly advise you to purchase data packs to bring these costs down.
The following data packs can be added:
- 500MB valid for 30 days: EUR4.99
There’s also an all-you-can-use data plan which is sold for EUR20, valid for 30 days. This “unlimited” pack will be capped at 6GB.
There is also a data-only SIM card which offers the following options:
|Broadband Day||EUR3||500MB||1 day|
|Broadband Week||EUR10||2GB||7 days|
|Broadband Month 1GB||EUR15||1GB||30 days|
|Broadband Month 7.5GB||EUR25||7.5GB||30 days|
|Broadband Month 20GB||EUR35||20GB||30 days|
A great data add-on to the above-mentioned plans is a 5GB pack which is charged at EUR7.50. Overuse or out-of-bundle data will be charged at EUR0.0615 per MB in Ireland and the EU. Tethering is not allowed on any prepaid SIM cards.
EU roaming is available in all 28 member states and also the following countries: Andorra, Monaco, Switzerland and San Marino.
Three’s APN: 3ireland.ie, and website: http://www.three.ie/
Meteor (by eir)
Meteor (by eir) is the third provider in Ireland. Although eir is the country’s largest telecommunications company, its mobile and cellular services are the smallest. It offers good 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE services on a GSM platform. Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased from official stores, approved resellers, most supermarkets and stores. You can buy credit from the same retailers or by using your credit card online. There are no rules or regulations when purchasing the SIM cards, and you won’t have to show your passport as a form of ID.
Meteor offers some good rates and deals, and Internet speeds are pretty good thanks to eir’s advanced technology. Meteor is popular with the younger audience, and it’s catching up with Vodafone and Three.
Pay-as-you-go SIM cards come with a minimum of EUR10 top-up. The 4G SIM cards can be purchased along with a EUR20 top-up, which comes with several voice and data plans. SIM cards will be active for 150 days after your last top up. Dial *#100# to check your balance.
The following packages can also be added; each is valid for 28 days:
|EUR 4.99||500MB||no cap||2G, 3G|
|EUR 9.99||1GB||no cap||2G, 3G|
|EUR 20||15GB||4.2GB cap||2G, 3G, 4G|
|EUR 30||15GB||6.3GB cap||2G, 3G, 4G|
Text your preferred pack to 50104 to activate. The following data boosters can also be added:
|EUR19.99||15GB||30 days||30 Days|
|EUR30||50GB||180 days||180 Days|
The above-mentioned packs can be added online or by going into a store and purchasing a deal there. Check stores at time of purchase because they can sometimes alter their promotions.
EU roaming is available in all 28 member states and special roaming deals can be added to bring down the costs even further. Check in the store at time of purchase for the latest offers because they can change from time to time.
Meteor’s APN: data.mymeteor.ie, and website: http://www.meteor.ie
Some top tips from finder.com.au staff:
- Locals call a SIM card a “Chip” or “SIM”.
- Although Gaelic is the traditional language of Ireland, English is now the main language.
- Ask the retailers to help set up the SIM cards for you. They are official sellers and will be very happy to help.
TripAdvisor tips for the best SIM cards and where to buy them
TripAdvisor reviews can help guide you through which SIM cards have been tried and tested in Ireland. Here are some top tips from TripAdvisor users:
“We arrived at Dublin Airport and near the exits were 2 different phone companies. Both were staffed by helpful sales people. Both charged just for the “charge” on the prepaid SIM card. Easy to get and cheap. Refills available at most convenience stores.”
“I found out that the smaller Tescos do not carry the nano type SIM cards that are used in iPhone 5 and newer devices, though they all had the full size and micro.”
“There are plenty of shops and stores around Ireland and they all sell prepaid SIM cards. Make sure your phone is unlocked before you travel otherwise it won’t work in other countries.”
Pros and cons of Ireland’s telco providers
You will need a SIM-unlocked, GSM-compatible international phone. To double check you have this option, or whether it’s possible to unlock your device, contact your provider before you set off on your travels.
- Prepaid credit when required
- No in-store contract needed
- Could be compatible with your current phone
- Ireland is part of the EU roaming pact
- No devices offered with the SIM card packages
- Can only be used on SIM-unlocked GSM phones
- Roaming can be very expensive unless you purchase data packs
- Networks can become overcrowded, which can slow Internet speeds
Had more questions about finding the best SIM card?
Q: What about other providers in Ireland?
A: There are several MVNOs, including Tesco Mobile, Lycamobile, Post Mobile and iD mobile which offer good deals. These are all run through the base providers we have highlighted above. Although you may find slightly different deals and plans, we feel it’s always best to stick with the main providers. However, if you do find a better deal with these operators, they can be trusted.
What do I do if I lose my phone in Ireland?
A: Your phone is your lifeline, especially when travelling around Europe. Make sure you keep it safe and always make a note of where it is. The importance of having a direct link to family and friends via social media or through phone services can never be underestimated! If you do lose your phone, then retrace your steps and ask around. If you still have no luck, then cancel any plans or payment methods associated with the phone, report it missing and make a note of the crime number to make a claim on your insurance.
Finally, find a cheap replacement to keep in touch with the outside world, and don’t let the new one out of your sight.
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