Buy a local SIM card to reduce your cell phone roaming bills
Austria has some of the best SIM card deals in Europe and they can seriously reduce your phone bills. You can buy 1GB of data from Austria’s leading telco provider for as little as €3.56 (about CAD$5.32). So, whether you’re planning a short trip or a lengthy tour, check out the best SIM card options available at finder.com.Prices last updated 28 Apr 2017
There are three main cell phone operators in Austria: A1, T-Mobile and 3. Although there are many other SIM card options offered by the likes of tele.ring, Hot, and yesss!, they are operated through A1, T-Mobile and 3, so these are the three operators we will be looking at today.
All three operators go through a strict approval process before being allowed to operate in the country, and each one competes with the others to offer the best deals.
According to OpenSignal’s country report, Austria was voted an above-average cell phone provider that has 66.39% 4G availability, beating the likes of the United Kingdom, Greece, Israel and France – meaning Austria has one of the best cell phone coverages in the world.
Below, we have broken down each telco provider to highlight exactly what they can offer you during your visit to Austria.
Austria’s operators offer great cell phone coverage for a country that has difficult terrain, providing good 2G, 3G and 4G services.
Customers are offered 2G GSM on 900 and 1800 MHz, 3G UMTS on 2100 MHz, and 4G/LTE on 800, 1800 and 2600 MHz.
Roaming rates are among the lowest in the world – one MB can be purchased for as little as 0.10 cents. All three operators sell prepaid credit, which allows users to take advantage of cheap offers and deals.
The Austrians call their SIM cards Wertkarte, and they can be purchased and registered anonymously without any form of identification or passport checks.
Credit can be purchased from official stores, supermarkets and Vienna International Airport. Top-ups can also be made online.
A1 is the largest operator in Austria and offers the best 4G/LTE service.
The network has several prepaid options but the best is its starter pack, the B.free Welcome pack. It’s sold in A1 stores, post offices, supermarkets, Media Markt, and small shops and kiosks. You also have the option of taking a nano or micro SIM which covers most phones.
Credit and top-up vouchers can be purchased in virtually every store, pharmacy, post office and supermarket in Austria. Top-ups of €10, €20 or €40 can be uploaded to your phone by typing *102*<voucher code>#, and the balance can be checked by dialing *101#.
The B.free Welcome pack covers most bases by offering a set monthly prepaid SIM or pay-as-you-go versions. It also offers data and Internet packages which can further reduce costs.
There is no international roaming on A1 prepaid SIMs, so they can only be used in Austria.
B.free SIM deals:
B.free S: €10 – 1,000 mins and SMS, unlimited A1 mins and SMS (data is €0.40 per MB)
B.free L: €15 – 4GB, 1,000 mins and SMS, unlimited A1 mins and SMS*
B.free Premium: €20 – 6GB, 1,000 mins and SMS, unlimited A1 mins and SMS*
B.free Internet data only SIM: €9.90 – 5GB data valid for 30 days. Data rate is €0.02 per MB and speed up to 150 Mbps.
*On the above-mentioned plans, A1 offers several extra deals for longer-term options. For example, price reductions after 3 months’ usage and a month for free with extended usage.
B.free Internet S: €10 – 30 days – 5GB
B.free Internet L: €15 – 30 days – 10GB
B.free Internet S: €20 – 12 months – 5GB
B.free Internet L: €20 – 12 months – 10GB
B.free Net Cube Internet: €30 – 30 days – unlimited
A1 has an English prepaid website to help with information and topping up credit.
T-Mobile is A1’s biggest competitor in Austria, with good coverage on GSM and UMTS, and a great 4G/LTE service. Prepaid SIM deals called Klax are sold online, in most shops, supermarkets, petrol stations and official stores. Nano, micro and standard sized SIM cards are available depending on the package.
Vouchers and credit top-ups can be purchased from almost everywhere for €10, €15, €20 or €40. You can check your balance by dialing *101#, or *114# for data credit.
T-Mobile’s Wie ich will SIM card deals are a relatively new addition to the Austrian market and are already proving a great success. The main reason for this success is that you can mix and match your plans, choose how much you want to spend on minutes, data or SMS packages, and take advantage of deals to reduce costs.
There is no international roaming on T-Mobile prepaid SIMs; they can only be used in Austria.
Starter pack 1: €10 – 4,000 units (mins/MB/SMS), 20 Mbit/s (4G/LTE) – 30 days (auto-renew)
Starter pack 2: €15 – 15,000 units (mins/MB/SMS), 50 Mbit/s (4G/LTE) – 30 days (auto-renew)
You can also add extra credit to boost your deal by paying €1 for 100 units or €10 for 1,000, which run only until the end of your original plan.
T-Mobile also offers the Surfklax package for data-oriented modems and tablets, which also has voice and text allocation. Surfklax SIM cards offer 10GB for 30 days for just €15.
Be careful if you have your credit card details saved on your account because the Surfklax package will automatically renew each month unless you cancel it.
To activate the service text SURFKLAX 10GB to 0676 2222. Once activated, you can take advantage of basic rates of €0.02 per MB by texting KLAXINTERNET or STOP SURFKLAX 10GB to the same number.
Austria’s 3 network (or Drei, the German word for three) was the smallest network until they purchased Orange, making it a healthy competitor to the other networks. 3’s market share now equals T-Mobile and network coverage is up there with A1.
3 is fast becoming extremely popular in Austria with both locals and international travelers because it offers the lowest rates on the market, and some good unlimited plans.
3 offers two starter packs called the Nimm3 prepaid lines on the Wertkarte:
Nimm3 Telefonie: €9.90 – 1,000 mins, 1,000 SMS and 1GB data – 15 days
Nimm3 Internet: €9.90 – 1,000 mins, 1,000 SMS and 1GB data – 15 days
As a starter promotion, a one-off credit of €10 is added for free.
Bizarrely, Drei/3 shops only sell the contract plans; 3’s pay-as-you-go SIM cards can be purchased at Libro, Hartlauer or supermarkets. Standard, micro or nano SIMs are available.
Top-up vouchers and credit can be purchased almost everywhere, from supermarkets and tobacconists to pharmacies and newsagents.
3 also offers the following data packs:
Nimm3 Telefonie SIM: calls, texts and data
There is the Klassik package which can be used by uploading prepaid credit. The data can be quite high on this package at €0.35 per MB, but there are some great 4G/LTE bundles available for 30 days:
|€15||4GB||50 Mbit/s||1,000 mins||1,000 SMS||No EU mins|
|€20||6GB||50 Mbit/s||1,500 mins||1,500 SMS||100 mins EU mins|
|€30||10GB||100 Mbit/s||2,000 mins||2,000 SMS||150 mins EU mins|
Data add-ons called Zusatzpakete can also be purchased:
€5 – 1GB – 30 days
€9 – 5GB – 30 days
Nimm3 Internet packages also offer data-only SIM cards. Although they are data-only SIMs, they allow calls and SMS services but costs are extremely high because this package is focused on data.
Nimm3 Internet Klassik data-only charges €0.02 per MB, but the maximum speed on that is only 4 Mbit/s. Top-ups are extremely cheap, and an extra four months can cost as little as €20.
There are also monthly SIM card deals on 4G/LTE:
3 also offers unlimited plans on 4G/LTE, which are quite good. Packages don’t automatically renew so once you get toward the end of your package check your online account to add credit. Also, make sure you check your data usage because as soon as you use the amount allocated in your bundle it can shoot up in price to €0.35 per MB
Finally, there is a roaming option called 3Europa which gives you an extra 1GB of data roaming on 3 networks in UK, Italy, Ireland, Denmark and Sweden for just €7.50, which can be quite handy if you plan on visiting any of those countries during your travels.
- They speak German in Austria, so if you don’t know any German then download Google Translate onto your phone before you travel. The good thing about Austria is that they are very cosmopolitan and English is taught in all schools, so most people speak English.
- Austrians call a SIM card a “Wertkarte”.
- Ask the SIM seller to set up the SIM for you; they will know how to do it. If not, follow the instructions we have highlighted above or go to the official operator website to seek advice.
- Remember, it’s always better to buy your SIM early in the day, before the shops get too busy – that way you are more likely to receive better assistance and avoid the crowds!
While it’s well known for booking hotels, flights, holidays and its reviews, TripAdvisor has many user comments that can help guide you through the SIM cards that have been tried and tested in Austria.
Here are some top tips from TripAdvisor users:
- “All providers in Austria offer prepaid SIM cards. Purchase them in their shops or in supermarkets, post offices etc.”
- “If you are on Kärtner Strasse or Mariahilfer Strasse you will find many shops of different providers”
- “If you have a (new) phone that can work on UMTS networks (2100 MHz), then DREI would be a serious option. They have a package for 4€/month that significantly lowers the costs for international calls”
- “Austrian mobile phone networks work on the frequencies 900, 1800 and 2100 MHz. So, check beforehand on which frequencies your phone can be operated”
All networks require you to have a SIM-unlocked GSM compatible international cell phone. To double check you have this phone, or if it’s possible for your provider to unlock your device, contact them before you leave.
- Good value for money on 3 unlimited plans
- Austria has good coverage
- No ID needed to purchase or register the SIM card
- Prepaid credit when required
- No in-store contract needed
- Could be compatible with your current cell phone
- Cheap handsets are sold in-store
- No cell phone devices offered with the SIM card packages
- Can only be used on SIM-unblocked GSM phones
- Can only be used in Austria – except for Drei’s 3Europa package unlocked for limited countries
Q: What about other SIM card providers in Austria?
A: There are many smaller carriers providing SIM cards in Austria, including tele.ring, yesss!, Bob, Hot (Aldi supermarket chain), eety, S-Budget Mobile, Spusu, Ge org!, yooopi!, WOWWW, Lycamobile, Vectone Mobile, Delight Mobile, m:tel Austria and FINK. Most of these are run through the three main operators we have highlighted. Although they may offer slightly different packages, the prices are not any lower than the three main operators, and it’s usually better to stick with the main providers.
When traveling around Europe, Austria will most probably be at the top of your visit list. Vienna has been voted the world’s best city by the 18th Mercer Quality of Life study, and it’s famously called the “city of music” thanks to one-time residents Beethoven and Mozart. What’s more, Austria was the birthplace of Sigmund Freud and has some of the finest palaces and tourist attractions on offer.
Lots to see and lots to do means lots to tell friends and family about! Don’t forget, Europe is many miles away, so it’s important to make sure you can contact friends and family on Facebook, Instagram, Skype or can make or receive calls in an emergency.
Using your home phone abroad could eat up your cash fast, so to keep call and roaming costs down why not switch to a local SIM card so you can take advantage of better deals, plans and tariffs.