The Best SIM Cards for Norway – How To Get Online When Travelling to the Land of the Midnight Sun
Norway, land of the fjords and the midnight sun, is a holiday destination that’s rapidly growing in popularity. And if you’re one of the more than half a million Brits that’s planning on visiting Norway this year, or even staying a little longer, then keeping in contact with those at home has to be a priority. You’ve got plenty of choices, from using your regular SIM card and phone plan to investing in a Norwegian SIM. Which is the best plan for you? We’ve got everything you need to know about using your phone in Norway!
Table of Contents
- Using Your Phone in Norway: The Basics
- Norway, The EU, and Mobile Roaming Charges
- I’m Just Visiting: Part One (from inside the EU)
- Best UK PAYG SIM for Roaming
- Avoiding Extra Charges for Overuse
- Cost Cutting On Your Regular Plan
- The Data Problem
- Solving the Data Problem with an Add On
- Solving the Data Problem with a Data Only SIM
- I’m Just Visiting: Part Two (not from the EU)
- I’m Moving to Norway!
- Norwegian Contract Options
- Using Your Phone in Norway
Using Your Phone in Norway: The Basics
The good news is that not only is Norway fairly close to home (meaning no long plane trip), but the country has very similar mobile protocols to the UK and other EU countries. This means that unlike in the USA or many parts of Asia your normal phone should work just fine. You won’t need to buy a new or special mobile to get service.
However, just because you can use your regular mobile doesn’t mean that you should just use it as you do at home. Though mobile roaming charges are currently regulated, using your phone abroad always somehow ends up being more expensive than you’d planned.
So if you’re headed to Norway you’d best do a little planning first, to ensure that you don’t get any nasty surprises when that phone bill comes…
Norway, The EU, and Mobile Roaming Charges
As of 2017, the EU has regulated mobile roaming charges between member states. Norway is NOT a member of the EU. However, due to Norway’s membership of the European Economic Area, mobile roaming regulations DO apply in Norway, which is pretty good news.
Before you get too complacent though, there are a few caveats here. Technically you can use a SIM card from any EU country in Norway just as you would at home. This means that the minutes you use will be deducted from your monthly account, for example. But anything extra that you use (so if you go over your monthly data/text/minute limit whilst in Norway) can be charged at higher than usual rates. These rates will depend on your home network, so you’ll need to check.
Another problem is that these regulations are not designed to allow you to use your home network whilst abroad for longer periods of time. If you are away from home for more than four months and your operator feels that you’re using your phone more than you did at home they are within their rights to charge you extra fees or even cut you off. Long story short: if you’re actually moving to Norway, you might want to ditch your home network…
I’m Just Visiting: Part One (from inside the EU)
Let’s start with the easy one first. You’re going to visit Norway on holiday, and you’re coming from within the EU and you have a SIM card from an EU operator. You can simply use your phone. Your regular home charges will apply, and as long as you plan to use your phone as normal (meaning you’re not about to go over your monthly limits for minutes, texts or data) you should be just fine.
The only thing you really need to concern yourself with is ensuring that your SIM has roaming enabled. Not all operators do this by default. If you’re unsure your best bet is to contact your operator’s customer service number and ask them. In some cases, it’s enough to enable mobile roaming in the settings menu of your phone, in others your network will have to set things up from their end.
Do be aware that not all operators allow PAYG customers to use mobile roaming. If this is the case with you, then the simplest solution will be to grab a cheap PAYG SIM from another operator that WILL allow you to roam, or to get a Norwegian PAYG SIM when you arrive (we’ll get to some recommendations for those below).
Our Top Pick
Best UK PAYG SIM for Roaming
If you’re getting yourself a PAYG SIM that does allow roaming then we’d recommend looking at Three. Three’s Free PAYG SIM costs you absolutely nothing as long as you top up with at least £5 of credit when you get it. Plus, Three will allow you to roam, though you’ll need to buy a bundle rather than just relying on direct PAYG.
Three offers six bundles, all give you a different amount of minutes/texts/data and are valid for 30 days, ranging in price from just £10 up to £90. This is by far the cheapest and easiest way to get roaming on a PAYG card.
Avoiding Extra Charges for Overuse
What about if you’re not so sure that you can keep to those monthly limits when you’re abroad? Going on holiday means more free time, which can mean more phone use, and all those pictures need uploading to the cloud, and you need to use your GPS to get directions and… Okay, it’s easy to see why you might be using your phone a little more in Norway than you would at home. So how do we avoid getting any extra charges when we’re away?
Cost Cutting On Your Regular Plan
If you don’t want to get any extras (no new SIM card, no add ons to your plan) there are a few ways that you can ensure that you don’t go over those monthly limits:
- Make sure that you set up your data limits using the settings menu of your phone to warn you when you’re close to using up your data
- Switch to flight mode whenever possible to avoid using extra data
- Use WiFi whenever you can (Norway has an excellent and widespread WiFi hotspot network)
- Avoid answering calls from unknown numbers
- If you’re using apps like Google Maps then download the maps that you need using WiFi
The Data Problem
Since so many of us have unlimited texts and calling the real problem with overuse tends to come from data. And there’s yet another caveat to that EU “you can use your phone just like at home” rule: operators are allowed to have a fair use policy. Essentially this means that you may not be able to use your data just as you do at home, particularly if you have an unlimited or large data plan. Here is a list of the fair use policies for data in the EU for the major UK operators:
- EE allows you to use 15 GB of your data limit. After that, you’ll need to buy data add ons at the cost of £6 per GB
- Vodafone allows you to use your entire data limit
- O2 allows you to use your entire data limit
- Three allows contract, data only, and SIM only users to use 13 GB of their data limit, and PAYG users are limited to 12 GB. After that, you’ll be paying 1p per MB of data
- Tesco Mobile limits data use depending on your contract and your regular usage, you can find details here, and anything over their fair use policy will be charged at 0.56p per MB
- Giffgaff allows you to use up to 9 GB if you have an “Always On” bundle. Anything outside of that will be charged at 0.6p per MB
- Asda Mobile allows you to use your entire data limit
- BT Mobile allows you to use up to 15 GB of your data limit, and anything over this will be charged at 0.6p per MB
- Sky Mobile allows you to use your entire data limit
- Virgin Mobile limits data use depending on your contract and your regular usage, you can find details here. Anything outside of that will be charged at £6.08 per GB
Solving the Data Problem with an Add On
There are two solutions to the data problem. The first is to purchase an add on for your account from your operator. Do be aware that you may need to do this when you’re in Norway. Simply stocking up on extra data before you leave won’t do you any good if you’re with one of those operators that says you can only use 15 GB of your limit. There are a wide range of data add ons available with major operators:
- O2 lets you add anywhere from 100 MB (£3.50) to 12 GB (£30.50) of data to your account for a month
- Vodafone lets you add any amount of extra data to your account through the Vodafone app on your phone
- EE also lets you add extra data through the EE app on your phone
- Three lets you add data either through the Three app on your phone or online
- Giffgaff lets you add data in the exact same way that you load up your Giffgaff account
- Tesco Mobile lets you add anywhere from 500 MB (£2.50) to 50 GB (£35) to your account for the month
- And Virgin Mobile also has a range of data add ons
Solving the Data Problem with a Data Only SIM
That fair usage policy can make adding extra data to your account tricky, so a better solution might be to grab a data-only SIM. These are generally cheap options and you’ll be able to slide the data-only SIM into your phone to get online (or your tablet if you prefer). If this could be the option for you, then here are a few SIMs that we recommend checking out:
- If you want cheap and cheerful then iD Mobile will give you 1 GB of data for just £7.50 valid for 30 days
- With Three you can get 2 GB of data for just £10 valid for 30 days
- With Vodafone, you can get 2 GB of data for £11 valid for 30 days
- If you’re looking for more data, then Vodafone also offers 15 GB of data for £15 valid for 30 days
- EE will give you fast 5G and 4G speeds with 5 GB of data costing £15 valid for 30 days
- And for the biggest users, Vodafone offers 30 GB of data for £20 valid for 30 days
These are all great deals, but there are two things that you need to keep in mind before investing in a data SIM:
- You may be able to get even cheaper prices if you get a data-only SIM from your current network since bundling services in this way sometimes works out cheaper. You’ll need to call your operator to find out if this is the case for you.
- 30-day contracts are usually rolling contracts, meaning that they automatically renew every 30 days. If you only want the data for a month then do make sure that you cancel the contract to avoid being charged again next month!
I’m Just Visiting: Part Two (not from the EU)
If you’re visiting Norway but you’re not from an EU country then you’ve got three real options, and you’ll need to do a little research to find out which is going to be cheapest for you.
Option 1: Your Home Network
Even if you’re not from an EU country you may still be able to use your home network. You’ll need to check with the network in question to find out what kind of roaming deals they have. For example, Verizon customers from the US might profit best from the networks TravelPass programme. Australian visitors have a range of offers, with Optus, in particular, offering some great roaming deals for Europe.
Do not forget that roaming fees add up fast. You’ll be paying not just to make calls, but to receive them as well, and you’ll get some hefty charges for voicemail and data too.
This is unlikely to be your cheapest option, however, it is the most hassle-free way of travelling, since you won’t need to get a new SIM card and a new number…
Option 2: Another EU SIM
If you happen to be travelling around a bit and get the chance to pick up a SIM from another EU country then you can use that SIM when you’re in Norway. Okay, this isn’t going to be the ideal solution for a lot of people. But if you happen to have the chance, it could be worth it. Norway is not a cheap country, and SIM cards from the UK, Czech Republic, Poland or other European countries could end up being cheaper than getting a Norwegian one. Again, you’ll need to have a look around and see what you can find but Three are one of the best options if you’re able to take delivery to your hotel in the UK.
Option 3: A Norwegian PAYG SIM
You’re probably not going to be able to get a Norwegian phone plan, sorry about that. Since you’re just travelling through then your best bet will be to get a local PAYG SIM.
- The simplest and possibly cheapest option is to go with MyCall. MyCall cards are sold in most convenience stores, their website for Norway is in English so you can easily understand what you’re getting. The SIM itself is free, and then you simply put credit on or buy a data add on. Remember to bring your ID when you plan to buy as it is required for activation. The Mycall store in Oslo provides immediate activation but when you buy from a kiosk you may need to wait a few hours as in some cases the store manually forwards the info to Mycall to verify. With the setup process, you are at the mercy of the store worker and it depends on how clued up they are on activating a SIM card for tourists.
- There are two main operators in Norway. Telenor PAYG cards can be picked up pretty much everywhere. They’re known as “Telenor Kontant” and will cost you 199 Krone which includes 40 Krone of credit. Be aware that if you want to top up your card you’ll need to head to a convenience store to do it since online/app top ups usually require a Norwegian credit card.
- The other alternative is Telia. Again, you can pick up cards at convenience stores (recommended since it’s cheaper than going to a Telia store). A card is known as a “Telia Smart Kontant” and will cost you 29 Krone including 30 Krone of credit. Be sure that you’re getting a SMART card, otherwise, you won’t get any data. And you’ll need to stop by a convenience store to top up that credit since you can’t top up online or through the app without a Norwegian credit card.
Remember to take your passport with you when buying a pre-paid SIM card as sim retailers require an ID to activate the SIM.
I’m Moving to Norway!
Finally, if you’re thinking in the long term then you’re going to need to go with a Norwegian operator. If you’ve got an EU SIM card you’re safe to use it for around four months, but after that remember that your home operator can charge you extra if they wish to. Besides, switching to a Norwegian carrier will probably be easier in the long term anyway.
Just for info, the Norwegian for PAYG is “kontantkort” and a contract is “abonnement”.
When You Arrive
Norwegian operators will require that you have a Norwegian bank account and a “personnenummer” before you’re able to sign a contract. This means that until you’re all set up with the authorities then you’re going to need to stick with PAYG. You’ll find our PAYG recommendations for Norway in the section above this one. In addition, some Norwegian operators require that you’ve worked for three years in Norway to build a credit history before they’ll let you sign a contract (though most will let you have a Norwegian friend sign as a guarantor if you’re below that three-year limit).
Once you’ve got all your paperwork, however, you’ll be able to choose a Norwegian contract if you’d like. A contract isn’t going to be everyone’s choice. In general, a contract will be cheaper per month than sticking with PAYG. However, you will be required to keep the contract for the full term (12 to 24 months usually). So if there’s any chance that you’re going to be leaving Norway in the near future, you might want to avoid signing a contract.
Norwegian Contract Options
Mobile prices in Norway are not cheap. However, there are frequent discounts and special offers, so you’ll need to keep an eye out for those. Be aware that large data contracts aren’t common in Norway due to a widespread system of WiFi hotspots across the country. Most Norwegians choose to log onto public WiFi whenever possible. Your operator choices are:
- Telenor: Telenor contracts go from around 249 Krone for unlimited minutes and texts and 1 GB of data, up to 449 Krone for unlimited minutes and texts and 10 GB of data.
- Telia: Telia contracts go from around 249 Krone for unlimited minutes and texts and 2 GB of data, all the way up to 579 Krone for what appears to be unlimited data (with conditions attached!)
- MyCall: MyCall plans tend to be a little cheaper than other options, especially for low use contracts. They start from 100 Krone for 50 minutes, unlimited texts, and 100 MB of data, and go up to 500 Krone for unlimited minutes and texts and 10 GB of data.
- Chilimobil: Again, Chilimobil plans are generally cheaper than those from the two big operators (Telenor and Telia). Plans start from 129 Krone a month for unlimited texts and minutes and 1 GB of data, and go up to 499 Krone a month for unlimited everything (though again, you’ll find restrictions on data use).
Of course, all operators will also allow you to add a phone to your contract if you choose to, with prices varying depending on which phone you choose. If your Norwegian isn’t quite up to scratch, we do advise that you take a Norwegian speaker with you to ensure that you understand everything before you sign!
Using Your Phone in Norway
Depending on how long you’re planning on staying there are tons of options to get great mobile service whilst in Norway. And though Norwegian prices aren’t cheap, widespread WiFi should mean that at least you don’t spend too much on data.
The only thing you really need to remember (other than your passport) is to prepare before you go, to avoid getting unpleasant mobile bills when you return!