Having high-speed mobile data while traveling through Ireland is essentially required because travel revolves around mobile data—you’ll need a phone to access mobile train tickets, restaurant menus, museum/event tickets, Google Maps, UBER/taxi, mobile payments, and much more. You’ll especially want fast data for driving directions if you plan on renting a car in Ireland.
In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about buying a SIM Card in Ireland and how to buy the best Irish high-speed mobile data plan for a fair price.
How To Buy A SIM Card Data Plan in Ireland
There are two main options when it comes to buying a SIM Card for Ireland:
- The Easy Way (Buy a SIM Card Before Your Travel): Buying a SIM card before you travel is a little more expensive but it’s much more convenient (and you have mobile data as soon as you arrive in Ireland).
- The Cheaper Way (Buy a SIM Card In Ireland): Buying an Irish SIM Card when you arrive in Ireland can be cheaper but is more of a hassle because you have to track down a SIM Card retailer after arrival.
- In general, it’s easier to pre-buy a prepaid SIM card if you’re visiting Ireland/Europe for less than two weeks. But buying a local SIM card is cheaper for longer trips.
UPDATE: Most modern phones are eSIM compatible—eSIMs are MUCH more convenient than physical SIM cards because it doesn’t require you to install a new physical SIM card. You simply buy the prepaid eSIM data plan and then install it in a few clicks by scanning a QR code that’s emailed to you. The process takes 5 minutes and you can set it up anywhere.
Read The Savvy Backpacker’s Guide To The Best eSIM Data Plans for Europe and our guide to the Best eSIM Data Plans for Ireland.
How To Buy A Prepaid SIM Card For Ireland Before You Travel (i.e. The Easy Way)
The easiest way to get mobile data for your phone in Ireland is to prepurchase a SIM card before you depart. I’ve used SimOptions.com in the past because they carry multiple different brands and they offer worldwide shipping.
And while they’re a bit more expensive than buying a SIM card in Ireland, these tourist SIMs are super convenient —no tracking down a mobile phone shop, no registering your SIM card, no being without data while you figure things out, etc.
You simply install the SIM card into your phone once you’re in Ireland and it automatically connects to a local mobile data network within a few minutes—the European Union banned data roaming charges so any European data plan will work in any EU country.
You’ll probably spend an extra $15-$20 over the course of a two-week trip if you buy ahead vs waiting to buy in Ireland—which, I’m happy to pay so I don’t have to deal with any hassle.
The Best Tourist-Friendly Prepaid SIM Cards For Ireland
Here are my recommended Mobile Data SIM Cards that can be pre-purchase before arriving in Ireland:
eSIM Data Plans are much more convenient than physical SIM cards—you don’t have to pay for shipping, email delivery is instant, and you keep your phone number. Check out my guide to the best eSIM Data Plans for Ireland to learn more.
Orange Holiday Europe Prepaid SIM Card
The Orange Holiday Europe Prepaid SIM Card is probably the best all-around SIM card that can be purchased for your trip to Ireland because it offers a lot of mobile data for a fair price. It gives you a European phone number that can be used to make/receive calls and texts anywhere in Europe.
Additionally, Orange is one of the largest mobile companies in Europe so they’re a legit company that has great coverage throughout most of Europe (which isn’t always the case with smaller European carriers).
Orange Holiday Europe SIM Specs:
- PRICE: $50
- DATA: 20GB
- CALLS: Unlimted in Europe and 1200 minutes worldwide
- TEXT: Unlimted in Europe and 1000 worldwide
- USED AS A MOBILE HOTSPOT?: Yes
- CREDIT VALID FOR: 14 Days
- COVERAGE AREA: All of Europe
The only possible drawback of the Orange Holiday Europe SIM Card is the 14-day validity period—which doesn’t matter if your trip is less than two weeks. That said, you can buy an extra 10GB of credit after the two weeks are up for around $25.
If you want to save a little money, check out the $30 Orange Holiday Zen SIM Card—it gives you 8GB of data for 14 days but otherwise, it’s essentially the same plan as the Orange Holiday Europe SIM.
Three UK Prepaid SIM Card
Three is another large mobile carrier and they have multiple data plans that range from $25-$80 and come with 10GB to 24GB of data—personally, I’d stick with Three Data Pack 10GB or Three Data Pack 12GB plans because those offer the best value.
The Data Pack 10GB and Data Pack 12GB both come with unlimited calling and texts within Europe and both plans are valid for 30 days so they’re good for longer trips.
- PRICE: $25
- DATA: 10GB
- CALLS: Unlimted in Europe
- TEXT: Unlimted in Europe
- USED AS A MOBILE HOTSPOT?: No
- CREDIT VALID FOR: 30 Days
Note: SimOptions.com has other SIM Card plans for sale but these are the best options/deals.
How To Buy a SIM Card Data Plan in Ireland
Buying a prepaid SIM Card in Ireland is a fairly straightforward process so the biggest hassle is finding a shop that sells them and then picking which plan you want. No matter what plan you choose, you’ll need to bring your passport so they can register your SIM with the Irish government.
That said, it’s easiest to just buy the Orange Holiday Europe plan since it works in any EU country.
Where To Buy A SIM Card with a Data Plan in Ireland?
- The Dublin Airport and Train Station: Multiple shops/kiosks/vending machines sell SIM Cards at the Dublin Airport and Train Station but you’ll pay a premium since they’re targeting data-hungry tourists.
- Carrier-Specific Storefronts: The major mobile carriers have storefronts in most city centers that sell their SIM cards. This is your best bet if you need technical support and you’ll typically find good deals at these shops.
- Third-Party Phone Shops: Many mobile phone shops sell a range of phone plans from multiple companies. Employees might be able to offer some help getting set up but service probably won’t be as good as carrier-specific shops.
- Newsstands, Tobacco Shops, Vending Machines, etc: You can find SIM cards in multiple smaller shops and grocery stores that sell super cheap SIM cards but don’t expect any customer service.
The Best SIM Cards and Mobile Data Plans in Ireland
Let’s look at Ireland’s major telecom companies to see what kind of SIM card data plans they offer. As you’ll see, competition helps keep mobile data fairly affordable and most offerings are nearly the same.
Vodafone Ireland SIM Card Data Plans
Vodafone Ireland is the largest mobile network operator in Ireland. It offers a variety of prepaid 28-day data plans, starting around €20-€30/month. Each plan has different data allowances as well as calling/texting. Learn more at vodafone.ie
Eir Mobile Ireland SIM Card Data Plans
Eir Mobile is another large mobile carrier in Ireland that offers four-week prepaid data plans that start at €20. Learn more at eir.ie
Three 3 Ireland SIM Card Data Plans
Three Ireland offers a few data plans. Their cheapest plan only comes with 1GB of data so stick with the €20 or €30/month plans. Learn more at Three.ie
FAQ: Prepaid SIM Cards for Ireland
Here is some helpful background info on mobile data plans so you can better understand how mobile data service works in Ireland.
Bring Your Passport
All mobile data plans require you to provide your passport information and sometimes they’ll ask for a local address (which can be your hotel or rental apartment address).
European Union-Wide Coverage
A law was recently passed in the EU which banned mobile carriers from charging roaming fees within the EU—which means you can use a SIM card you bought in Ireland and use it in Spain, France, etc. without paying any extra fees. This is great for travelers because you can use one plan everywhere.
- Here are the countries/areas where there is no data roaming: Andorra, Azores, Aland islands, Austria, Balearic Islands, Belgium, Canary Islands, Cyprus, Corfu, Crete, the Cyclades, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Faeroe Islands, Finland, France mainland, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Guernsey, Hungary, Ireland, Iceland, Italy, Jersey, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg. Madeira, Malta. Isle of Man, Norway, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Rhodes, Romania, Spain, United Kingdom, San Marino, Sardinia, Sicily, Slovakia, Switzerland, Sweden, Vatican
Technically Switzerland and the UK are not part of the EU, and while many plans still give you service there, many don’t so read the fine print if those countries are part of your trip.
Your Phone Must Be Unlocked
Some mobile carriers (mainly in the US, Australia, and New Zealand) “lock” their phones so they’ll only work on that carrier’s network—this typically applies if you have a plan that includes a free phone with a multi-year contract. You’ll need to contact your carrier and have them “unlock” your phone so it will accept a third-party SIM card.
In the US, carriers are required to unlock phones if the customer requests it but it’s rarely unlocked by default. That said, a few companies still make customers jump through hoops to unlock their phones so don’t put this off until the last minute or you could be out of luck.
A New SIM Card Gives You A New Phone Number
Installing a new SIM card gives you a new phone number so your old number won’t work until you reinstall your original SIM card. So, if people need to reach you, you’ll need to tell people your new Irish/European number.
One of the benefits of using an eSIM is that you can keep your phone’s number while also using your new eSIM. Read my guide to the best eSIM for Ireland to learn more.
Furthermore, many websites/apps use two-factor authentication that’s tied to your phone number so that will no longer be an option with the new SIM installed. And if you use Uber/Lyft, you’ll need to update your new phone number in the app when you install your new SIM.
AVOID YOUR CURRENT PROVIDER’S INTERNATIONAL DATA PLAN
Your current mobile phone provider likely offers an international data plan but it’s typically expensive and the service is often slow, inconsistent, and has limited data allowances.
For example, the AT&T International Day Pass costs $10/day, Verizon TravelPass is also $10/day and many T-Mobile plans offer free international roaming but you’re only guaranteed 2g data speeds… which will struggle to load Google Maps or even email.
How Much Mobile Data Do You Need?
As long as you’re not streaming music/videos or uploading a ton of photos, you probably won’t use more than 4GB-8GB of mobile data a week. For reference, the average American smartphone owner uses around 15-20GB of mobile data each month.
If you’re spending a lot of time on social media (notably Instagram and TikTok) then you might use a bit more but if you’re just doing normal web browsing and using Google Maps then you might only use 1-2GB a week.
Keep Your Old SIM Card Safe
If your current phone uses a SIM card, be sure to keep the SIM in a safe place while using your Irish SIM because you’ll need to reinstall the old card to use your normal service.
Does Ireland Have 5G?
Yes, you’ll find widespread 5G coverage in most cities and 4G is common in more rural parts of Ireland.
GENERAL TIPS FOR USING YOUR PHONE IN IRELAND
I’ve written extensively about using smartphones and data plans in Europe and tips for buying SIM Cards For Visiting Europe. Below are some more helpful tips about using your phone in Ireland and throughout Europe.
BRING A PORTABLE BATTERY CHARGER
Traveling with your phone will quickly drain your batteries so I highly recommend a portable battery. I use Anker PowerCore 10000 because it’s tiny and affordable but there are multiple options.
BE AWARE OF THEFT WHILE USING YOUR PHONE
Pickpockets love stealing smartphones so pay attention while you’re using your phone, stash it away safely while on public transportation/crowds, and don’t set it down while you’re in public. Read my guide to Pickpockets in Europe for more anti-theft advice.
TAKE STEPS TO LOWER YOUR MOBILE DATA USAGE
It’s easy to burn through a lot of data because many apps use data in the background. Facebook, email, Instagram, Snapchat… those all constantly use data throughout the day without you knowing it. That’s it’s important to know how to limit your data usage.
- USE AIRPLANE MODE AND BLOCK DATA TO SPECIFIC APPS: I’ll put my phone in Airplane Mode because that disables all data (but GPS still works in Airplane Mode). You can also go into the settings and disable data access to each individual app. I’ll go in and turn every off except for things like Google Maps or others that I’ll use more frequently — this way when I turn off Airplane Mode only those apps that will use data. Then I’ll turn Airplane Mode back on when I’m done.
- DOWNLOAD OFFLINE MAPS: Google Maps lets you download entire city maps so they can be used offline. As a bonus, GPS doesn’t use data so offline Google Maps works fairly well (but not all functionality works). Here is a good YouTube video that explains everything.
- SAVE HEAVY PHONE USAGE FOR WIFI: Wait until you’re somewhere with a WiFi connection before you do any heavy streaming or download files.
MORE IRELAND TRAVEL ADVICE FROM THE SAVVY BACKPACKER
Here are a few of my favorite travel articles to help you plan your trip to Ireland (and throughout Europe):
No Funny Business
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This article was originally published by Thesavvybackpacker.com. Read the original article here.