Tips for Using Your Mobile Phone in Ireland

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If you're anything like me, your mobile phone is your main mode of communication, the camera you use most often, and your entertainment center. So when you travel you want to use it just like you do at home.

There's only one problem – the cost.

It's not always cheap to use your mobile phone in Ireland – but with the proper planning you won't be surprised with a nasty sticker shock on your next bill.

How to use your mobile phone in Ireland

Tips for Using Your Mobile Phone in Ireland

Roaming and data charges in Ireland can break your budget if you're not careful. These tips will keep you connected affordably.

  1. Turn your data off when in Ireland! Or keep your phone in airplane mode. Every little ‘ping' counts against your data plan- and will result in a higher-than-expected bill when you return home.
  2. Contact your cellular provider and inquire about using your mobile phone in Ireland. Confirm that your device is compatible with GSM (Global System for Mobile) used in Europe, and then inquire about an International plan which includes both talk minutes and data. Some providers also have a ‘use it like you do at home' option for an additional cost per day. (More on this below.)
  3. Purchase a local SIM card. This only works if you have an ‘unlocked' phone (most US phones aren't). You can pick up a SIM card at the SPAR in Dublin airport, or at any Tesco, Three, eirMobile, or Vodafone retailers.
  4. Buy a cheap prepaid phone when you arrive. It's just handy to have a phone – you may need to make quick calls to B&Bs to for directions or to make reservatios for a tour or dinner you just found out about. If you don't need a smart phone, you can pick up a disposable prepaid phone for under $20 at Tesco locations throughout Ireland. This is often less expensive than renting a cell phone.
  5.  Rent a mobile wifi unit. Most car rental companies now offer the option of adding a mobile wifi unit to your rental. Their rates, however, are high. For mobile wifi in Ireland I recommend Wifi Candy. Their prices are affordable and data is unlimited for the duration of your rental. Tip: WifiCandy also offers power kit rentals so you can keep your wifi device, phones, and other small electronics charged when you're on the go!
  6. Use free wifi and connect with Skype, Facetime, or Google Voice. You'll find free wifi all over Ireland – in your B&B or hotel, many restaurants, and even stores offer connectivity. Keep your wifi turned on and set to notify you when it is available.

Download these tips + an exclusive discount!

I, personally, use the combination of an international plan with my cellular provider,a mobile wifi unit, and free wifi.

Tips for Making the Data Last

Using data on your mobile phone?

  1. Decide what apps you really need- and then turn off or remove all the others.
  2. Turn off instant notifications and app syncing.
  3. Turn off the data or use your phone in airplane mode. Only turn off airplane mode to make calls and turn on data when needed.
  4. Sync email, check Facebook and reply to Twitter over a wi-fi network.
  5. Use a data usage counter like My Data Manager (available from iTunes or the Play Store) to monitor your usage. 
  6. Don't forget: if you go over your data limit, you are charged at the rates in the contract (so watch those numbers!)
Sheeps Head Lighthouse, County Cork. Ireland vacation. Tips for your Ireland family vacation.
Sheep's Head Lighthouse. Snapped with my smart phone & shared when my wifi unit was in range of a signal.

My Thoughts on Mobile Phone ‘Use It Like You Do at Home' Plans

There is no doubt that being able to use your mobile phone in Ireland like you do at home is incredibly handy! But is it the best option for you?

My carrier, Verizon, offers this option for $10 per day. If you are in Ireland for 8 days, that is $80, if you use the phone daily. Charges only accrue when you use your phone.

But, that deal is only for your phone.

If everyone in your group has a phone the $10 per day per person adds up quickly!

For approximately the same cost you can rent a personal wifi unit from Wifi Candy  and connect 10 devices to it- phones, tablets, laptops, even cameras!

Tips to use your mobile phone in Ireland

Do you have a different strategy for using your mobile phone in Ireland? Please share your tips in the comments!

31 COMMENTS

  1. If purchasing a local prepaid SIM card for an unlocked phone, then I would have a new phone number, correct? And zero contacts/history? Can I keep my phone number? When travel is over and I reinstall my old SIM card will my phone be back to normal? Contacts all there? One should do a back up prior to doing any of this? Thanks.

      Hi Jeff. Great question about unlocked phones & SIM card.

      Yes, you would have a new number and zero history or contacts. So you would want to have everything backed up somewhere you could access it if needed.
      And, yes, when you replace your original SIM card everything should be as it was- though I would always err on the side of caution and complete a back up before removing the card. Just in case.
      It’s best to think of each SIM card as what signs you into that mobile account. So everything on one card stays with that account.
      Hope that answers your question!

    Thanks for posting this helpful article. My husband and I visited Ireland for 3 weeks last month, and I used my iPhone with a tesco sim card that cost me $17 (15 euro). I was able to use it to make calls in Ireland, Northern Ireland (my aunt’s) and for data. I found Google maps offline with my phone on airplane mode worked great as well. Hope this is helpful for those of you worried about this like I was! Oh, I didn’t use it to call home to California, we used FaceTime for those calls.

      Thanks Sari. As noted in the article, purchasing a SIM card is only an option if your phone is unlocked; most US phones aren’t.

        I asked my carrier about unlocking a phone and she told me that if you have an iPhone, it is automatically unlocked.

          It is totally dependent on the carrier. For example, most Verizon iPhones are unlocked while AT&T sells locked phones and you have to request an unlock.

    Will a mobile WiFi unit purchased in the US work like the one you are talking about that you rent in Ireland? We have one and don’t want to have to rent one if not necessary.

      Unfortunately, no. A US wifi unit is connected to a US wireless account. So it would be billed the same as you would if you were to use your own mobile phone (and that can get expensive!)

        Thanks Jody. Wow, international travel is getting expensive! This is my first international trip – I hope it gets easier!

          Actually mobile phone use has gotten cheaper in international locations. You’ll find plenty of complimentary wifi in Ireland and you can get by with only that unless you need to be connected for work.

    Visiting Ireland in July with my daughter and parents. Our phone plans do not offer an international plan that includes Ireland!! Planning on buying a cheap one at the airport for use while there. Just verifying my phone from home will still be able to connect with Facebook and the like when I’m in an area that has Wi-Fi since that is my main camera. Thanks.

      Hi Donna. I’ll admit to being surprised that you can’t add an international plan to your phone for a month. But I will say that you probably won’t need your phone as much as you think you might. It may not even be worth the cost of purchasing one.

      That said, yes, you can still use your phone for a camera, wifi, and Facebook. Just turn off your mobile data access prior to landing in Ireland and utilize wifi.

      You might consider utilizing skype or another internet phone provider as an alternate to purchasing a phone when you arrive. I also highly recommend a portable Wifi unit– it is what I use to stay connected across Ireland.

      I hope that answered your question.

        Thank you!!! I will plan on getting a cheap toss away one while there. Just really need it for contacting our 2 different hotels , before and after our tour, and locate a tattoo shop. Instead of souvineers my daughter and I are going to get a tattoo.

          I think tattoos are a wonderful souvenir! (I have a few myself.) Have an amazing trip!

      So, if I bring my U.S. cell phone, get an international plan and then have Travelwifi deliver a WiFi unit to my hotel in Dublin, I should have all the coverage I need to make phone calls to B&B’s in Ireland, check Google maps while driving, and then be able to easily mail the travelwifi back as I will be limited on time to make it to the airport on my last day (western Ireland in morning driving for to Dublin for an afternoon flight and I’d still need to return rental/hire car))

        In a nutshell, yes, Cheryl, that should work.
        I was just in Ireland and used a wifi calling feature on my phone so didn’t need any international phone coverage at all. You might check your phone to see if that is possible.
        There is a mailbox in Dublin airport, but if you are pressed for time upon arrival at the airport I would recommend dropping the wifi device in a postbox before arriving to the airport.
        Please note that I no longer recommend TravelWifi, but WifiCandy (Use code IFV to save 10%).

        Also know that in some remote regions (not too many anymore, but some) it won’t matter what coverage you have, your connectivity will be spotty because the infrastructure isn’t in place or mountains may get in the way.

    It does! Thank you! We are now into the nuts and bolts of our planning!

    We are definitely on board to add international to our AT&T and rent the WiFi unit mentioned here. Can you share if you had any challenges plugging the iPhone charging cord and plug into a electric converter and then of course into the wall plugin? Also, will an american car charging plug in work on the rental vehicle? Thanks for your insights!

      Hi Megan. I’m an Android gal myself, but I’ve not had any issues with plugging my phone/ electronics into an adapter for the UK/ Ireland. My preferred adapter has multiple plugs + a USB port. Travel Smart Adapter

      Most rental vehicles will have USB charging as well as traditional 12 v outlets.

      Hope that helps- safe travels!

    Verizon now has an international plan where you pay one flat rate a day and you use your normal plan with the same data and calls as normal. We just used it in Iceland. Now it did cost us $10 a day per device but we had full access to data, text and calls as we would have back home. You pay the one fee a day connect to the carriers available wherever you are going and use your data plan as normal.

      You’re correct, Stephanie, they do. And I thought about using it the last time I traveled to Ireland. But I didn’t because it would have cost $30 per day for my family to use our devices. One a 3 week trip that is a lot of money!
      For one person for a week that may come out about even to renting a wifi device, but for 2 or more people on a week or 10 day vacation the amount is expensive.

      Thanks for sharing!

    My mom and I are traveling to Ireland this summer. I like the idea of the mobile wifi unit and I think we’ll use that to avoid worrying about going over international phone plan data allowances.

    Do we still need a SIM card to make our phones work for calls/texts or will just an international phone plan (verizon) and travel wifi unit be adequate? I’m imagining we’ll mostly be using wifi for navigation and won’t need more than the international plan allowance of texts/minutes. Thanks!

      Hi Meagan. The TravelWifi is really a lifesaver for data! I, personally, only use my Verizon international phone plan and TravelWifi. If I know I will spend my first day without the wifi unit (due to not beginning my trip in Dublin and having the unit waiting at my first lodging) I will get a bit of data from Verizon to cover that.

      I hope that answered your question! Have a wonderful trip!

    Thanks Lynn. Im traveling with my two teenagers to Ireland next month. Looking for the best options for our cell phones. Will definitely look into this. Did you have your phone on air plane mode the entire time?

      TravelWifi is really a terrific option for family connectivity! You can connect up to 5 devices at once.
      I recommend turning off your data (go into your phone settings and turn off data) as opposed to airplane mode. It’s too easy to turn off airplane mode and accidentally have data ping if you get out of range of wifi.

    I highly recommend the TravelWiFi company in Dublin. They will even bring the unit, with cords to your hotel if you ask them to, for no charge.
    I was in Ireland for 3 weeks this summer and had rented the wifi unit, thankfully. Even though my phone from America worked there, it didn’t always work everywhere. Whether you have rented a vehicle or not, having this unit near you at all times worked perfectly. WiFi only works while you’re inside a building. The minute you walk outside, you lose connection. Having the unit in your pocket guarantees that won’t happen. It’s practically the size of a credit card. If you’re on a tour bus, you’ll be the only one with uninterrupted wifi, I promise! AND up to 5 people can be connected and use at the same time (however, that may diminish the quality of the connection if they’re all on at once). Just look up “TravelWiFi” and enter Ireland as your destination. They make it pretty easy to pick up and drop off. You put it in the supplied envelope and drop it at the nearest postoffice to your departure. The price of the rented unit sometimes is cheaper than adding international calling to your service for a month….plus you’ll still be paying fees for using your phone with your service.
    This is not my opinion, this is my experience. I’ve been to Ireland twice and I would never be without the wifi unit ever again!

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