Hallstatt, Austria

Buying a SIM Card in Austria

By Hanna Watkin Get Connected11 Comments


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Austria is best-known for the classical music of Mozart, the psychotherapies of Freud, and the voice of Arnie Schwarzenegger.

It’s often overlooked by travellers in favour of more affordable Central and Eastern European countries, or the glamour of France, Italy or Spain, but it shouldn’t be.

With wonderful Baroque-era architecture, breathtaking Alpine countryside, and some of the most underrated wine in Europe, the country is well worth a visit.

If you’re looking to stay connected while visiting Austria, it’s not difficult. Coverage is very good throughout the country with all major providers, and despite the recent introduction of registration requirements, the purchase process is still fairly straightforward.

Here’s what you need to know.


Note: Austria is part of the European Union, which introduced new roaming regulations in June 2017. These “roam like at home” rules effectively ended roaming charges across much of Europe, meaning you’ll usually pay no more for calls, texts, and data in other EU countries than you would in the country of purchase.

Austrian carriers don’t appear to be fully complying with these rules, however, as detailed below. Check the details closely at time of purchase if you’re planning to use your SIM elsewhere in the region.


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Companies


  • We recommend A1 for most travelers staying within Austria
  • Consider 3 if you’re traveling elsewhere in the EU

There are three cell networks in Austria: A1, T-Mobile, and 3. Choosing one of these companies is the easiest way to buy a SIM card, with their shops easy to find no matter where you are in Austria.

Several companies also resell service from one of the above operators. Prices are often somewhat lower, but the purchase and registration process may be more difficult. Some outlets charge anything up to €10 to register the SIM to you, or simply won’t accept a foreign ID.

You’ll typically be left on your own to set up your SIM as well, which isn’t all that difficult, but can be a little frustrating if you don’t speak German.

A1 is the biggest operator in Austria, with the best 4G/LTE service. Its starter pack is called B.free, and you can either buy a call, SMS, and data package, or opt for Internet-only. I chose to go with A1 due to its superior coverage, fast data speeds, and ease of setup.

In 2019 the company stopped offering prepaid packages that included EU roaming. If you’re planning to use your Austrian SIM card elsewhere in the EU, consider buying from a carrier like 3 instead. 

How


A1 Shop

You can buy a prepaid card from most supermarkets and post offices, or an official shop. I visited a store to buy my SIM card, since my German isn’t perfect by any means. Luckily, the vast majority of people in Austria speak English.

As a result, setting my new SIM card up took just a few minutes, and meant I didn’t have to read any German instructions. Checking the website before visiting meant I knew exactly what I wanted and made the process easier, as I could avoid being talked into a more expensive package.

As of the start of 2019, prepaid SIM cards are required to be registered. You’ll need to show your passport or identity card as part of this process.

If you need an Austrian SIM card as soon as you land in Vienna, you’ll have more limited options. The Hallo Hallo stand at the airport sells 1GB of data for €15 (~$18.)

Prices are cheaper elsewhere, however, and since it takes 20 minutes or less to get to the city by bus or train, it’s worth waiting if you can.

Prefer to spend your vacation sightseeing instead of buying SIM cards? Grab one in advance to stay connected in Austria and across Europe.

This Orange SIM includes 20GB of data, 1000 international texts, and two hours of international calls. The price includes US delivery, and it's valid for two weeks in 30 European countries. Use the code EUCPO10 at checkout to get 10% off!

Other options are available if you're traveling for longer, need a portable hotspot, or want a different mix of calls, texts, and data. Either way, you'll be connected with a minimum of fuss before you've left the airport.

Costs


Unfortunately, even though EU international roaming rules changed in 2017 to allow most EU residents to “roam like at home,” Austrian companies somehow manage to get around this with many of their plans.

Until last year, A1 sold “EU” packages for its prepaid SIMs, which enabled EU roaming for a somewhat higher price. Those packs no longer exist, and EU roaming now isn’t included with any of the company’s prepaid packages. If you’re planning to head elsewhere in the region, it may be worth considering a different operator.

Assuming you’re staying within Austria, however, the B.free “Small” Package costs €12, valid for four weeks. It includes 4GB of LTE data, 1000 minutes, and 1000 SMS. 

For €16 you get the “Medium” package, with the same number of calls and texts, but 10GB of data. There’s also a “Large” package, with 2000 minutes, 2000 texts, and 20GB of data for €22.

Topping Up


Topping up is painless, with top-up vouchers available everywhere in the country. You can choose to visit an A1 shop, or buy a coupon code from its “retail partners” like convenience stores, post offices, tobacco shops, and supermarkets.

This is a great option while on the go. Once you’ve bought the voucher, just dial 102, plus the voucher code and number. It should be as simple as that. If your German is good or you’re handy with a translation app, you can also top up by visiting the website and finding the credit card section.

To check your remaining balance, dial *101#. Don’t worry, you won’t have to speak to anyone — you’ll just get a message with the details a few seconds later.

It’s a good idea to be mindful of how much data you’re using, as overuse and roaming fees are very high, at €0.40 per MB.

Coverage and Data Speeds


I never struggled with coverage in Austria, even while out beside gorgeous lakes in the middle of nowhere. Internet connections occasionally became a little patchy while taking a bus across the country, but it wouldn’t last long.

Overall, cell service with A1 is excellent. There’s a coverage map here if you need to check a specific location.

A1 LTE speeds in Austria

Check out our guides to buying SIM cards in many other countries here.

Main image via Julius_Silver

About the Author
Hanna Watkin

Hanna Watkin

Twitter

Hanna is a freelance journalist and digital nomad who writes about the intersection between technology and travel, from 3D printed trees in Dubai to co-working spaces in Berlin. She spends the rest of her time in cafes with a soya latte and her MacBook, working on her side hustle, Au Pair, Oh Paris.

Comments

  1. Avatar

    I used your info to decide on a mobile carrier while we are in Austria, as we will be spending some time here before heading through Switzerland and Italy. However, as of 2019, A1 do not offer a viable Prepaid roaming option. Perhaps post paid customers are better catered for should they roam out of Austria, but Prepaid customers definitely no longer have this option.

    1. Dave Dean

      Thanks for the update. You’re quite right — it looks like A1 has discontinued its “EU” options for both data-only and call/text/data packages, and restricted bundled EU roaming to its contract customers only.

      I’ve updated the article to reflect that change, and suggested a couple of alternative providers for people who plan to use their Austrian SIM elsewhere in the EU.

  2. Avatar

    Hi there, my husband and I will be visiting Vienna in June and will be there for one week. We will require a local sim for a few local calls, but mainly for google maps and internet surfing while sight seeing.

    What kind do you you suggest we get and with which provider?

    1. Dave Dean

      Provider recommendations are in the article, along with details of several of the available packages, and a link to the company website to view other packages. The “Small” package would probably meet your needs as long as you don’t get carried away with your web browsing, but other than that, there’s nothing else I can really add that’s not already covered.

  3. Avatar

    A very helpful article. I will be visiting Austria (Salzburg followed by Vienna) from Canada from April 24 to April 30 then traveling to France for 2 weeks. I understand from your article that Drei is the only provider that offers service outside Austria. I assume that would include France. Also, Drei says they have a shop near the railway station in Salzburg. Is this your understanding and if so, would it likely have a full range of SIM cards available? Thank you for your assistance.

    1. Dave Dean

      Yep, any package that includes EU roaming will cover all of the countries in the EU, including France.

      I can’t speak from personal experience as to the existence of the Drei (3) shop you mention, I’m afraid, or which prepaid packages are available there. That said, I’d be surprised if any outlet outside the airport didn’t offer all of the available options.

      If you’re referring to the physical size of the SIM card when you say “full range of SIM cards”, these days you’ll typically find most companies sell the cards as a 3-in-1 option with cutouts for the different sizes.

  4. Avatar

    There’s another option that you haven’t mentioned.
    It’s Hofer Telekom or HoT (Hofer is the Austrian name for the ALDI supermarkets).
    You can easily buy the sim card at any Hofer supermarket for 12 euros, of which 2 is for the sim card and the rest is credit you can use on a package or just spend on calls and texts. To activate it follow the instructions on the package and/or the website.
    ( https://www.hot.at/hot-info-english.html )
    I visit Austria at least twice a year and have used a HoT sim since 2017.
    The packages are only getting better. The cheapest one offers 8GB (of which 3.7GB can be used in EU roaming) and 1000 minutes and texts (also usable in EU) for 30 days for 9.9 euros.
    My sister has been living in Austria since 2013 and was using T-Mobile before, but has since last year switched to HoT.

    1. Avatar

      Thank you! I just bought this. Great solution for travel around Austira and Europe since the allowance for EU data is higher than my experience with other SIM cards I’ve bought from Spain and Poland. There is also an app where you can easily add more funds for the SIM Card too. There is even an unlimited data option for 19.90 Euros but for Austria only. But still, amazing offer if you stay in Austria.

  5. Avatar

    Are you able to send and receive calls between USA and Austria with these sim cards?

  6. Avatar

    Best and easiest SIM card option if you’re a moderate user: Before you go to Austria, download and install the HOT app on your phone. When in Austria, go to any Hofer grocery store (they’re all over the place) and near the checkout stand, pick up a HOT SIM card package, it costs 2 EUR. Stick the SIM card in your phone (it’s a combo mini-micro-nano unit). Start the HOT app and follow the English instructions for registering and topping up. The basic package is a pay-as-you-go deal that will run you around 10 EUR a month for moderate use and includes minutes, text and data. Their support person said it’s good to use in EU, just turn data roaming on. If you’ll be making long distance calls outside Austria, download the separate Amiga app which lets you dial overseas and charges your credit card only for calls made (very cheap to use). I live in Vienna and use the HOT/Amiga combo, no need for anything else.

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