Ireland is a small country in the northwestern part of Europe. It is an island country famous for its rich history and beautiful natural landscapes. It also has prominent art and culture. If you are an international tourist, you would never want to increase your bills because of high roaming charges. That brings us to the best SIM cards for Ireland.
A local SIM card is the best option for every tourist to stay connected while away from home. Even if you are a local you may be confused about which SIM card to go with as there are 6 service providers. There are three major operators and three MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators) in Ireland which we will examine one by one in this article. Let’s start.
Vodafone Ireland, or only Vodafone, is the largest and the oldest wireless carrier in Ireland. Earlier, it was named Eircell and founded in 1984. In 2001, Vodafone bought it and became the market leader in the country. Being one of the largest countries in the world, Vodafone also operates in Asia, Europe, Africa, Oceania, and the Middle East. Vodafone operates in 2G, 3G, 4G/LTE, and 5G NR frequencies in Ireland. However, its 5G NR services are not yet available to its prepaid customers. Vodafone has the best coverage and the most extensive 4G/LTE network.
Its SIM cards are technically available for free if you purchase them from the Vodafone stores. But that is only a myth as you have to buy a plan or top-up on the spot to get it for free. The SIM card gets deactivated automatically after 20 months of inactivity, but you will start facing restrictions much earlier. The Vodafone top-ups are sold everywhere in Ireland such as in Vodafone stores, grocery stores, and gas stations. You can also recharge it online using international debit and credit cards or via the My Vodafone Ireland mobile app.
Three is sometimes written as only 3, is the second-largest wireless carrier in Ireland. It is popular for providing free international roaming in many countries across the planet before the EU roaming regulations. The company is also active in some other countries such as the UK, Sweden, Denmark, Austria, Hong Kong, Macau, and Indonesia. In Ireland, Three operates on 2G, 3G, 4G/LTE, and 5G NR frequencies. It is the only carrier to offer 5G NR services to its prepaid subscribers but at an additional cost.
Three SIM cards are available for free at the Three stores, but you need to buy a top-up or plan on the spot. Its SIM cards get deactivated automatically after 12 months of inactivity. You can recharge your Three SIM card via top-up vouchers easily available across the country. Moreover, you can recharge online too via an international debit/credit card or the My Three mobile application available to both Android users and iOS users.
3. Eir Ireland
Eir is the smallest major wireless SIM cards provider in Ireland. But do remember that it is a big player in the field of fixed broadband. It operates on 2G, 3G, 4G/LTE, and 5G NR (not for prepaid users) frequencies. It has extensive coverage and its 4G/LTE is available in many parts of the country. Its SIM cards are also free if you purchase top-up or plan on the spot. You can recharge your Eir SIM online as well using international debit and credit cards.
Eir offers combo bundles and add-ons. Its “Simply Top Up” and “Prepay Offers” are combo bundles that provide you with credit, calling minutes, SMS, and data. The term “Prepay Add-Ons” refers to data-only add-ons that can’t be bought as standalone plans. It is the cheapest option among the top three major players in Ireland. Though it is less expensive, you will need to compromise on the quality of the network and coverage.
An Post Mobile is an MVNO of Vodafone Ireland. It is a brand operated by the eponymous national post office of Ireland. Earlier it was known as Postfone. Being an MVNO, it doesn’t have a mobile network infrastructure. It depends on the network and infrastructure of Vodafone Ireland. Its top-up vouchers are available in all An Post post offices in Ireland. Moreover, they are also available in all the stores having Postpoint or Payzone logo i.e., Centra, Londis, and so on.
You can also use your international credit or debit card to recharge it online. An Post prepaid SIM card has only one data-featured plan called Unlimited Prepay Plan costing 15 Euros. This plan offers you 50 GB of data, 3,000 calling minutes, and 3,000 SMSes — all for 28 days. Furthermore, the same plan also offers 250 calling minutes and 250 SMSes when you are roaming within the EU. Despite having only one plan, people prefer it because it is pocket-friendly and lucrative.
Lycamobile is a Three Mobile MVNO in Ireland. Although it is important to note that Lycamobile is not allowed to use Three Mobile’s 5G NR frequency. It is a brand known for offering cheap international calling rates. It is also active in several other European countries. Lycamobile SIM cards have various prices. It also comes for free if you purchase a plan or top up on the spot. Its SIM cards and top-up vouchers are sold in various grocery stores, convenience stores, gas stations, and electronic stores across the country. You can also use its mobile app or international debit/credit card to reload your Lycamobile SIM.
Lycamobile offers four data-featured plans named — National Bundles, International Bundles, Data Bundles, and Long Term Plans. National Bundles is a combo plan which you can use within Ireland as well as in EU/EEA member states without roaming charges. International Bundles is a combo plan of data, minutes, and SMS within as well as outside EU/EEA. Data Bundles as the name implies are data-only plans. Long Term Plans are also combo plans but with long-term validity ranging from 3 to 12 months.
Tesco Mobile is also a Three Mobile MVNO. The grocery chain Tesco owns this SIM card brand. Like Lycamobile, Tesco Mobile subscribers also don’t have access to Three Mobile’s 5G NR network. Its SIM card is available for 10 or 15 Euro in all the Tesco stores in Ireland. The SIM card includes a default plan called the Prepay SIM Only. The plan offers 15 GB of data, 10,000 local calling minutes, and 3,000 on-net SMS. The plan has a validity of 28 days after the SIM activation.
Tesco Mobile top-ups are available in all the Tesco stores along with many other establishments having Postpoint or Payzone logo. Furthermore, you can reload it using your international debit/credit card or the My Tesco mobile application available on both Android and iOS phones. It offers only two data-featured plans, i.e., Prepay SIM Only plan (discussed already), and Add-Ons. These add-ons are not true plans but only add-ons for the existing plan, hence you can’t buy them as a standalone plan.