Prague city view

Buying a SIM Card in Czechia

By Ken Weary Get Connected6 Comments

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Whether you call the country Czechia or the Czech Republic, you’re right either way. In 2016 the country’s government decided it would be good to have a one-word name for the country, and officially changed the “short” name of the country to Czechia.

It hasn’t really caught on yet, though, and many locals and tourists still call it the Czech Republic, at least in English.

I spent a month in Prague, the country’s capital and largest city. It’s full of amazing food, incredible architecture, great co-working spaces, and solid, if not particularly cheap, mobile providers.

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Companies


  • We recommend Vodafone for most travelers

Unlike many other European countries, you won’t be bombarded with tons of marketing from carriers when you land, or even as you walk the streets of Prague.

Sure there are stores and kiosks everywhere throughout the city, but it’s refreshing not to be overwhelmed by them all telling you they are the biggest, fastest, best value, etc. as you wander around.

There are three big players in Czechia: Vodafone, T-Mobile, and O2, and I initially wasn’t sure which to go with. All three offer LTE coverage on pre-paid plans, but my research as to the best option gave mixed results.

I started by asking other digital nomads at the co-working space I favored, but learned nothing conclusive. Everyone had a different favorite, mostly based on which company had the best special when they first landed in town.

I also checked their phones, but all had strong signal and good speeds in the city center regardless of network.

Additional online research turned up the same thing, with several people suggesting the providers were all comparable. Finally, I decided to just go into the stores and get more info firsthand.

Staff at both O2 and T-Mobile told me they had the best network, just because “they were the best.” They offered no differentiation or explanation as to why, and seemed to think it was an odd question.

I then visited the Vodafone shop, and was impressed. Not only was there no wait to talk to someone, but the salesperson explained his answer very articulately by showing me a map of all of the countries in Europe where Vodafone operates, and how their roaming packages have better pricing and coverage.

He then ran a speed test on his phone to show me the lightning-fast LTE speeds of the network (more below). Lastly, he showed me the prepaid package options, which were more numerous than either of the other two carriers. I was sold.

Vodafone was the clear winner for me, and after using it for a few weeks, I wasn’t disappointed.

How to Buy a Prepaid SIM Card in Czechia


While Vodafone has a kiosk in Terminal 2 of Prague’s international airport, as mentioned I waited until I was in the city and visited all three carriers. O2 and T-Mobile used a touchscreen ticket system, with a 15-minute wait in both cases. When I finally did get to talk with someone, I felt more like an annoyance than a customer.

O2 and T-Mobile kiosks, Prague

Vodafone had no visible ticket system, with plenty of knowledgeable staff on hand to answer my questions right away. Even with the carrier overview and package selection, the entire process took only 15 minutes.

Vodafone kiosk, Prague

No passport was even required for the transaction. I just had to select my plan, sign a form written in Czech that said I wouldn’t do anything illegal with my SIM, and pay.

The representative installed the card for me and made sure it was working before I left. It was a breeze.

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Prepaid SIM Costs


O2 was running a special at the time, making it slightly cheaper than the other providers, while T-Mobile had a different but comparable offering to Vodafone.

All three companies matched each other well on prices, and I was told they all tweak their plans a little each month to stay competitive. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, none had printed price sheets.

The Vodafone SIM card was free with the purchase of my plan, and I went for a tourist-focused package that included 10GB of data for 800 Czech Koruna (~$31), good for 30 days. This also included unlimited Vodafone-to-Vodafone calls. There was also a 20GB option, for 1299 CZK.

These packages didn’t include EU roaming. I was in Czechia for the full month so roaming wasn’t something I needed, but you’ll need to go for a different package (or provider) if that’s something you’re after.

Topping Up


With 10 gigs to use in a month and a fast Wi-Fi connection at my co-working spot, I never had to top up, but it’s easy enough to do.

Vodafone store, Prague

Options include the Vodafone app (Můj Vodafone), the company website, or any place around town that has a Vodafone sticker in the window (and there are a lot of them).

Coverage and Data Speeds


As soon as I bought my SIM card, I noticed how fast web browsing and internet-based apps seemed to be… and then I tested the speed.

Vodafone LTE speed in Prague
Vodafone LTE speed in Prague

126Mbps down/42Mbps up! Those speeds remained consistent during my entire trip, and I had no issues with the service anywhere I used my phone.

EU Roaming


Czechia is part of the European Union, so EU roaming regulations apply. These “roam like at home” rules ended roaming charges across much of Europe in 2017, letting you use a SIM card from any EU country across all the others at no extra charge.

There are some exceptions and limits, however, especially with large data packages like the tourist plan mentioned above. We’ve also had reports of Vodafone staff at the airport refusing to enable roaming on other plans for foreign visitors (see the comments below.) In short, double-check the exact details carefully at time of purchase if you plan to roam elsewhere in the EU.


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

About the Author
Ken Weary

Ken Weary

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Ken is a vagabond business and technology geek, endurance runner, and digital nomad. He's been on the road with his wife and two kids since 2014. Follow their adventures at www.SunglassesRequired.com.

Comments

  1. Avatar

    I will be studying abroad in Prague in September and this article was very helpful! Did you happen to travel outside the Czech Republic? I’ll be visiting lots of Eastern European countries during my weekends and I was curious how roaming worked for you (if you did travel).

  2. Avatar

    From what I understand buying a sim card in Prague will not require registration. However, the rest of the cities we will be going to (Vienna, Budapest & Bratislava) do require registration upon purchase. Since Prague is our first stop, how do we handle using that same sim card in the other countries. Or will we have to buy a separate card for the rest of the trip. Thanks

    1. Dave Dean

      Those cities are all in EU countries, so you can use the same SIM across all of them at no extra charge. There can be some limits on large data packages, but that’s about it. Check out the link in the EU roaming section at the bottom of the article for more details.

      1. Avatar

        Dave, what you mentioned about no extra cost roaming is correct (since 2017 due to EU regulation), but there is a new scam in town. Negative Google reviews on the Vodafone store in the Prague airport are increasing, and I am sure this isn’t just limited to the airport store. Based on the reviews, there are times when tourists are now being told forcefully that aforementioned roaming benefits don’t apply to foreigners (which is blatantly false). In another twist, tourists were told that they need a local address or local passport to get that roam free deal. In yet another twist, staff told the tourists that only some very expensive plans are available. You can’t do anything if the staff simply refuses to tell you what plans are truly available or simply refuse to process your order. And it seems that Vodafone tacitly approves the scam because their Czech website contain few plans with very little info when it is in English. One plan they touts now is the “Data SIM for Visitors” where it is stated that the 10GB or 20GB data service is not available for roaming. Also, when I am doing my research on this topic, it seems like similar scams are now being run throughout EU. So it’s a hit or miss if one decides to get a local sim card that works the way it should be. Experience varies from store to store, but now with official Vodafone website looking like this, I am not even sure if major telcos have all put up artificial barriers to gouge the tourists. If this is the case, it is a shame and EU should crack down on these telcos. EU law never says foreigners are excluded from the cost free roaming. Any barriers put up are artificial to gouge tourists.

      2. Dave Dean

        Hi John, and thanks for the detailed comment.

        So, this is interesting. Back when the EU roaming regulations came into force in 2017, I wrote up an article outlining the changes, and link to it in SIM card posts for EU countries to provide a bit more detail. At the time there was some talk about who it applied to, which I mentioned in the article and said:

        Theoretically, then, if you’re not an EU resident, mobile companies aren’t obligated to offer you “roam like at home” pricing. That’s potentially bad news for visitors from elsewhere in the world, who plan to buy a SIM card in the first EU country they visit, then use it across the continent.

        Practically, though, many carriers are unlikely to bother trying to restrict their service like this. I spoke to a customer service representative for EE, the largest mobile company in the UK, who confirmed international visitors will be treated the same as any other prepaid customer. As long as they abide by the standard fair use policy, they can roam across the EU like anybody else.

        My advice for international tourists planning to use a SIM in this way, though, is to ask this specific question before purchase. Each operator is different, and especially in cheaper Eurozone countries, some may look to keep their costs down by enforcing this part of the regulations.

        The long and the short of it is that according to the legislation, providers are only obligated to offer free EU roaming to their customers who are “normally resident in or have stable links entailing a frequent and substantial presence” in that country. In other words, they actually aren’t obliged to offer it to foreigners if they don’t want to. Practically, though, virtually every provider does — this is literally the first time I’ve heard of foreigners being singled out for special (ie, worse) treatment.

        As obnoxious as it seems, sadly the staff at the Vodafone store aren’t technically scamming people, they’re just enforcing the regulations as they’re written. 🙁 Hopefully other mobile companies in Czechia (and indeed, the rest of the EU) aren’t following suit en masse!

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