Sunday, August 18, 2013

Buying a SIM Card in Ireland (from the Dublin airport)

I recently got back from a one week vacation in Ireland. It was amazing. We mostly went to the west and northwest of Ireland (Galway, Sligo, Donegal, Derry). And we had a car, so it was easy to get around and see whatever we wanted whenever we wanted to. I highly recommend it!

I also highly recommend buying a SIM card at the airport. It was really easy and we took full advantage of it.

Buying a SIM card allows you to:

  • Call hotels & restaurants in Ireland
  • Check your email, etc. at the many places where WiFi is spotty or non-existent
  • And my favorite, allows you to use your phone's GPS to navigate while driving. This was a huge help for us, as driving is a great way to get around Ireland, and it's much less expensive than renting a GPS unit from the rental place. 

First, as always, you need to make sure your phone is unlocked. If you've been with your carrier for a while, they'll usually do this for you with no problems when you call them up and tell them you are visiting another country. Or you can be like me and buy an unlocked phone like the Nexus 4.

In the Dublin airport, there are at least two places to buy a SIM card.

  • Terminal 2: This is the International terminal, where you probably arrived from. Once you exit the baggage claim there is a convenience store (Spar, I believe) where they sell many things including SIM cards from several different vendors. While the prices were good (€20-30) I couldn't figure out whether and how much data my money would get me, and I cared much more about data than calls/texts. The employee I asked, though friendly, was not helpful. 
  • Terminal 1: This is the budget terminal. If you took Ryanair you probably arrived here, otherwise you may have to walk. On the ground floor is a small store that sells nothing but SIM cards. This is, I believe, the place to go. The employee was quite knowledgable. There we purchased a Vodaphone SIM for €20. For that price, we got 250MB of data, which was good enough for our one week entire trip, checking email, Facebook, and daily use for navigational purposes. 
Good luck!


  1. Also, some cell carriers can't actually unlock your phone for you. SprintPCS phones. I don't think the Sprint network is GSM which causes problems. Welcome to my life.

    I just lived in Japan for 12 weeks without a cell phone (I had a WiMax router, so I had data...just no other services). It's possible. I just got lost a lot.

  2. Yes... that's right. I think if you're on any kind of CDMA network in the USA (Verizon & Sprint, I believe) you are more or less out of luck when traveling. Sad, especially since they supposedly have much better coverage/voice quality.

  3. I agree with you Nels . If a phone is free from carrier lock, we can able to swap to other networks . Otherwise, we can't .Before traveling to another country, we need to unlock our hand-set from the corresponding carrier or from any of the online vendors or need to buy an unlocked phone from online stores to use with other country networks .

    Source :

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  4. When you buy a sim card in dublin, does that mean you now have a dublin phone number or do you end up keeping your old number?

    1. You're correct, you get a new number, a Dublin phone number.

      This was fine with me since I was primarily interested in data, but if you want to keep your current phone number you'll have to arrange with your US provider to travel overseas (typically more expensive unless you're on T-Mobile).

  5. Thanks for the info. Do I also have to carry ID proof photocopy and photograph or it is available without that?

  6. Does anybody know if they carry sim cards for the new Samsung Galaxy s^?

    1. Hi Erica,
      I can't say from experience. The Galaxy s6 needs a nano-SIM, and my phone has a micro-SIM (a little bigger). But I've never been to a SIM card shop where they weren't able to sell me a SIM for my phone. I'm pretty sure you will be fine.