Every year I go skiing for a week in Austria. It’s nice to be able to get online to check mail and more, but wi-fi is still inexplicably not universal in holiday apartments, and roaming data charges are preposterous. However, it turns out that Austria has one of the most competitive mobile markets, and prices for mobile services seem really reasonable (compared to the UK at least).
After a bit of research, I settled on a “3SuperSIM” from Three (“Drei”). The tariffs seemed really good – 10GB for €9 would do just fine for a week, letting me surf and use Spotify etc without having to worry. I have an Android phone, so popping in the SIM and turning on the wi-fi hotspot function meant everyone on the trip could use it just like normal wi-fi internet.
Incidentally – it also turns out that you can use it in a few other countries. At the time of writing: the UK, Denmark, Sweden, Italy and Hong Kong.
So how does it work?
Firstly, you need to get hold of a SIM packet. You can order them online, but I doubt you can get them to ship it to an overseas address. Three have shops dotted about in major cities, but I bought mine in a general telecomms shop in Landeck. I think it cost me about €10. If they ask you (I can’t remember whether they did), opt for “Wertkarte” (pay-as-you-go) rather than “mit Anmeldung” (monthly contract).
You’ll also need some credit (“Guthaben” in German), which comes in multiples of €10. You can buy it online with a credit card, but for the first trip you might want to buy it from the person who sells you the SIM. It’s also available in lots of other places (petrol stations, supermarkets etc). It’s sold in the form of a code on a printed till receipt which you load up online, and is called a “Ladebon”. Have a look at the tariffs and decide what you want, and get enough to cover that. Be aware though that the tariff rolls over automatically every month. (In other words, if you get the €4 tariff and load up €10 credit, it’ll eat €4 for the first month and then another €4 the next month when you’re probably long gone.) You can’t stop it – I phoned and asked them, because I’d initially loaded up €20.
Next, you’ll need to activate it and choose your tariff. When you put it in your phone (or your unlocked computer USB modem thingy if you have one) you’ll be asked for the PIN. This is printed on the plastic card you detached the SIM from. Once it’s in your phone, you’ll be able to at least get to the Three Austria website in your phone’s web browser, where you can do the activation. This is where you have to choose your tariff; you can’t change it later, so choose wisely.
You can also load up your credit on the site. If you’re not already logged in, you can log in with your phone number and your PIN. (If you’re having trouble logging in, try entering the phone number without the leading zero.)
In theory the SIM expires if you don’t use it for 12 months, but I popped it into my phone in the UK a few months beforehand to check, and got a “welcome to the UK” SMS from Three, so maybe that was enough to keep it alive.
That should be just about everything you need to know. The main downside I guess is that you’ll probably need a fair bit of German to be able to navigate the website.