Tag Archives: mobile phones

Prepaid SIM Cards

One of the main concerns many of us have immediately upon arriving at post is how to set up mobile phone service. This post gives a great overview of setting up a traditional monthly plan. However, monthly plans don’t always work well for everyone. I don’t like dealing with the hassle of having to cancel a phone contract in the midst of packout chaos and since I already had an unlocked iPhone, a prepaid SIM is the perfect solution for me. They’re also great for visitors who want a means of communication to feel more secure wandering off on their own as well as for those who ultimately want a contract but need a phone as they wait for the documentation necessary to set up a monthly contract plan.

So how do you get a prepaid SIM?

Fortunately it’s very easy. All three of the major carriers, A1, T-Mobile, and Drei (formally Orange), offer prepaid plans. You can choose either a traditional prepaid service where your prepaid balance is deducted for each call/text/MB of data used or you can set up a non-binding monthly service where you get a set amount of calls/texts/data on a monthly basis.

The monthly option is different than a contract plan in that it is on a month-to-month basis. You are not billed nor is your bank account debited each month. It is your responsibility to remember to refill your account balance each month if you want to continue service. Unlike the contract plans, documentation (residency permits, address, etc.) is not required to purchase a prepaid SIM card, making one easy to obtain immediately upon arrival.

Where can I get a prepaid SIM?

All three major carriers have their own stores throughout the city and at many malls if you want to buy directly from the carrier. There are also numerous independent cellular stores selling SIM cards for all the carriers. One is even located in the arrivals area of the airport which I have used successfully for myself and guests (and so far the staff has always spoken English). Post offices and larger supermarket/department store chains often sell SIMs as well.

How do I add money to a prepaid account?

Fortunately, they make this easy too and there are a number of options:

  • You can create an account with your carrier and add credit online using a credit or debit card.
  • You can add credit through an ATM.
  • There is a link within Bank Austria’s online banking portal to add credit.
  • You can purchase credit vouchers at many Tabak stores, grocery stores, post offices, and gas stations.

Do I need an unlocked phone?

You do not need an unlocked phone and can purchase one with your SIM card if necessary.

My father-in-law wanted a phone while he was visiting and got a very basic no-frills phone with a SIM and enough credit for his two week stay for around 20 Euros (in January 2014).

Can I use any unlocked phone?

If you already have an unlocked phone, or plan on purchasing one in the US before arrival, you’ll want to make sure it is GSM compatible, supporting quad-band frequencies, so that it will work on the European network.

What if I travel outside of Austria or want to call outside of Austria?

You’ll need to check with the service carrier to determine the charges as it varies by country/region. If you plan on using your phone a lot while travelling or frequently call a specific country, there are add on packages available for these situations similar to those offered for contract plans.

This is my experience with prepaid SIM cards as of May 2014. If you have any additional information to share or if policies have changed, please let TriVienna know so we can update this post.

Submitted by Kerry

Mobile Phone Service

How do you set up a mobile phone in Vienna?

In Vienna/Austria, there are three main mobile phone providers (A1, T-Mobile, and Orange) who can provide you with a cell phone. Below, we review each  and shed some insight into the phone options and packages.

Please send us an email if you have additional insights not covered here (or in the off chance (:-)) , we got something wrong!). Please note that prices are based on information available as of June 2013 (check provider websites or stores for up-to-date costs).

In order to obtain a cell phone, you must have the following documents:

  • A residency permit allowing you to work/live in Austria (for Diplomats, this is known as the red/legit card)
  • Letter of employment on letterhead (Orange did not require this)
  • Passport
  • Austrian bank account (yes, it must be an Austrian bank account)

T-Mobile

The following is based on my (Milena) experience with the store located at Rotenturmstrasse 22 near Schwedenplatz where staff speak English.  We had brought our unlocked iPhones from the States and only required SIM cards.  My husband wanted a new phone so he got a new one while my son and I got the SIM cards for the iPhones.

T-Mobile offers a variety of packages at varying prices.  They call these packages All inclusive or All inclusive Music XL.  Cost is as follows:

  • All Inclusive 1000 provides 1000 minutes worth of calls, 1000 SMS/Texts, 2MB-1GB of unlimited data per month for 22.99 Euro.
  • All Inclusive Music 2000 provides 2000 minutes worth of calls, 1000 SMS/Texts, 7.2MB-4GB of unlimited data per month for 33.99 Euro.
  • All Inclusive 3000 provides 3000 minutes worth of calls, 200 minutes of calls to Europe, 1000 SMS/Texts, 21MB-6GB of unlimited data per month for 45.99 Euro.
  • All Inclusive 4000 provides 4000 Minutes worth of calls, 200 minutes of calls to Europe, 1000 SMS/Texts, 21MB-6GB of unlimited data per month for 55.99 Euro.

In addition, you can opt for a data roaming plans in case you are traveling outside of Austria.

Data roaming packages include:

  • Data Europe 50 includes 15 MB of data per month to use on other European networks while World Class Data 200 includes 200 MB of data per month to use on other European networks.
  • All Inclusive Germany/Europa/International provide 500-1000 calling minutes, 500-1000 SMS/Texts and up to 1 GB of data ranging in price from 22.99 – 49.00 Euro.  They are probably best utilized if you know you will be traveling a few times per month within Europe.
  • Travel and Surf is not a monthly plan, but an add-on option.  If you cross the border into another country, you will receive a text message giving you the option to obtain a “travel and surf” plan.  You can buy chunks of megabytes up to 100MB  for 20 euro or less depending on the number of MB.  We usually opt for this plan because we usually on travel abroad for a few days.  For our data usage, we go through 100 MB every two days so we spend about 40 Euro on a 4 day trip abroad. This is for one phone, so if you want data for all your phones, it will cost more.

Finally, T-Mobile charges an annual service fee of 20 Euro.

To find your nearest T-mobile location, click here.

Orange

Orange provides great prices for cell phones and data packages. I (Nicole) signed up for a 2-year contract and was able to get a major discount on a smartphone (my first one ever so that was very exciting!). Orange often has great promotions such as free activation fees or the like so be sure to look at their advertisements and check the website. On their website, you can search by stores whose staff speak English.

The website provides a listing of current plans/packages and since Orange targets the younger crowd, there are special deals for customers age 27 and under (such as half-price texting).

Overall, the plans seem more affordable compared to  other providers. I chose Orange as I often talk to family in Europe and they provide a convenient “einer für Europa” plan that includes talk time in EU countries (1000 minutes within Austria, 100 texts, 100 minutes within EU, and unlimited data in Austria for 12 Euros a month!).

When you travel abroad, you can add on packages called “Zusatzpakete” e.g. you can add on data service outside of Austria by volume – 5 Euros per month buys you 50MB, 15 Euros buys you 250MB etc.

Their service and coverage area has been very good and is very recommendable also in terms of their (gasp) customer service! Like T-Mobile, Orange also has a annual service fee of 19,90 Euro.

A1

A1 is also a popular mobile service provider but the Trivienna team was unable to find a user (email us if you have personal insights you’d like to share)! The website explains their plans, currently ranging in price from 29.90 to 59.90 Euros per month.

If your home phone or Internet is also with A1, you can sign up for extra savings. Similar to Orange, there are special perks if you’re a young customer, under 26 years of age.

Note: For anyone who plans on bringing an unlocked phone from the U.S., please be sure that this phone does not operate via CDMA technology.  Austria uses the GSM standard via SIM cards. This means any phone provided to you by Verizon, Sprint and other lesser known providers. If it does not have a SIM card slot, it will not work in Austria.