Warsaw Old Town

Buying a SIM Card in Poland

By Brian Cretin Get Connected11 Comments


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Poland offers travelers a myriad of options, whether that’s sifting through Teutonic knight lore at Malbork Castle, filling up on pierogi and ice cream while listening to a Chopin concert in Warsaw, or reflecting on the unspeakable horrors that occurred at Auschwitz.

For those looking to stay connected during their explorations, buying a SIM card is quick, painless, and inexpensive. You’ll be back on the tourist trail in no time, with downloads flowing as quickly as the ever-present Vistula river.

Here’s what you need to know.

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Companies


  • We recommend Orange for most travelers

Poland offers several choices when it comes to buying a SIM card, with four main cell networks to choose from: Orange, Play, Plus, and T-Mobile.

There are other options as well, but for the short-term traveler, these four will suffice. Each of the companies has about a quarter of the market, and their ongoing price wars lead to good deals for locals and visitors alike.

T-Mobile and Orange offer the best coverage across the country, with 4G/LTE available and common in the larger cities.

I chose Orange for two simple reasons: it was the network recommended by the attendant at my local kiosk, and had the best coverage throughout the country.

How to Buy a Prepaid SIM Card in Poland


There are many ways to buy SIM cards and packages: in supermarkets, street kiosks, gas (petrol) stations, and official company stores. I purchased a SIM card from a street kiosk next to the Old Town in Warsaw, and the process was fast and simple, taking under 15 minutes.

Warsaw kiosk

Registering with your passport or national ID card is now mandatory when buying a SIM card in Poland, due to an anti-terrorism act that went into effect in 2016.

Because of this, it’s highly recommended to confirm during your purchase that the attendant has not just given you your SIM card package, but has activated the card as well.

This shouldn’t be a problem, and any helpful attendant will be more than willing to set everything up for you during purchase. That includes inserting and registering the SIM card, then confirming it’s all working properly via text messages from the cell company and a quick internet speed test.

Verifying everything before leaving the store or kiosk is much easier than trying to deal with non-activation later. A smile and humble attitude works wonders on reluctant attendants!

Prefer to spend your vacation sightseeing instead of buying SIM cards? Grab one in advance to stay connected in Poland 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. Buy now, travel later, and use the code SIMOFF20 at checkout to get 20% 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.

Prepaid SIM Costs


Orange has a few different starter packs available, so it’s easy to find one that fits your requirements. As an example, 30 zloty (~8 USD) gets unlimited domestic calls and texts and 15GB of data, valid for a month. This includes the SIM card, and a small amount of extra credit.

Unlimited plans are also available for 55 zloty/month, although speeds are limited after the first 15GB.

With Orange, you can check your zloty balance by dialing *124*#, and remaining data allowance by dialing *101*01#.

Topping Up


You can easily buy top-up vouchers in the same places you bought the SIM card, including street kiosks, stores, petrol stations, or online.

To top-up your Orange SIM, dial *125*[top-up code]#

Coverage and Data Speeds


Orange coverage was good throughout Poland. Speeds were extremely good in all tourist cities, slowing down (but still acceptable) in the countryside.

I did have a couple of issues, however. First, while taking the train from Warsaw to Gdansk, coverage dropped multiple times: not ideal for work, or if a constant connection is necessary.

Second, as with any cell company or city, the coverage dropped dramatically whenever I was inside the concrete buildings common in Warsaw or Krakow.

Orange data speeds in Gdansk, Krakow and Warsaw
Orange LTE data speeds in Gdansk, Krakow, and Warsaw

EU Roaming


Poland 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. The main operators, including Orange, include a certain amount of roaming for free, with a surcharge after that. The 15GB package mentioned above, for instance, includes 2.5GB of roaming data. Double-check the exact details at time of purchase.


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

About the Author
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Brian Cretin

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Brian comes from Des Moines. Somebody had to besides Bill Bryson. After 12 years as a web developer, he is taking a break to view the world from his own perspective. Marathon runner, Dave Matthews Band lover, and NFL football fanatic, he's out to make the most of his last name. You can find him chronicling the subsequent adventures (and misadventures) at View From A Cretin.

Comments

  1. Avatar

    Curious, what is the roaming within EU policy for non resident on the Orange offering?
    Also can you top up with foreign credit cards?

    1. Dave Dean

      Whether you’re resident or not, you won’t get much roaming data with any of the Polish providers, including Orange — prices are low, and they’re allowed to restrict the amount of free roaming data they provide in line with that. Orange gives about 5% of its allowance for roaming use — after that, you’ll start paying extra. More on the roaming rules here. Not sure about topping up with foreign cards, sorry, although it’s possible with Orange in at least some other European countries.

  2. Avatar

    Hi Dave, thanks- this is what I assumed. I’ll stick with the more expensive country option (my Irish sim has been fine for a month on the mainland so far)

  3. Avatar

    I will be traveling to Poland next Spring from the USA. Are non residents allowed to purchase and register sim cards? Also do they allow the use of foreign credit cards to top it off? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Dave Dean

      Non-residents are allowed to purchase and activate SIM cards in Poland. Do you mean using a credit card to top up online after purchase, or doing it in person at a store?

  4. Avatar

    What should be a better traveling with, and using a prepaid data sim in Poland/Europe? An open line phone? Or an open line pocket wifi?

    1. Dave Dean

      It’s personal preference for individual use — neither is inherently better or worse unless you want to retain your home SIM in your phone at all times for receiving calls and texts to that number. If you’re sharing the connection between multiple people, use a pocket wifi.

  5. Avatar

    Everybod avoid “Plus”(gsm) as of 2018.
    I’ve purchased their sim with three options of “promotion” to choose from. One I needed and went for is roughly “number stays active a year without a need to top-up”. I had to top up 30PLN as a started/activation of the package/tariff.
    “Promo” works in a simple way, that if you have no funds on your account/number then you can only receive incoming calls, which was exactly what I wanted.
    Since roaming does not make difference in Europe(EU) any more my friends could then reach me easily when I stay abroad, so I thought.
    I have “Plus” as second SIM in my phone.

    It has never worked, my Polish number never worked abroad, my “year active number” turned out to be fiction.

    But! what’s even more appalling is that you cannot contact Plus own help/info line if you have no credit on your phone!! Their web portal in terms of contacting help and/or support is equally abysmal.
    I tried to to use web site but to no avail.

    So if you are in a situation similar to mine just avoid!! Polish Plus GMS.

    cheers

  6. Avatar

    Dave,

    I am going to Palowice for a mission trip. I am only staying 12 days and and going through Germany also. I was wondering should I purchase the (Orange Holiday Europe – Prepaid SIM card – 10GB Internet Data in 4G/LTE (data tethering allowed) + 120 mn + 1000 texts in 30 countries in Europe) from Amazon for $50 before I leave for Poland while in the US or would you suggest to just purchase it when I land in Poland? Thank you for your advice and help. Blessings!

    1. Dave Dean

      Orange Poland’s national rates are very inexpensive, and while it doesn’t include free EU roaming with its prepaid plans, the costs to roam elsewhere in the EU aren’t too bad (the equivalent of around $2/GB for data, for instance).

      If you don’t plan to use a lot of calls/texts/data during your time in Germany, you’ll likely pay noticeably less if you buy the SIM in Poland when you arrive rather than buying off Amazon. Of course, there’s more hassle involved in doing that, so you’ll basically just need to decide how highly you value your time. 🙂

  7. Avatar

    I bought the Orange SIM + 15 GB option and only got about 1 GB of EU roaming. Stupid, haha.

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