As you saw in yesterday’s daily VLOG I tried to buy a SIM card in Budapest and failed miserably because I stupidly forgot to to take any ID with me so don’t let this be you if you try to get a prepaid SIM card, forget what you see in spy movies about “burner phones” you need ID to buy them!
If you have never travelled to a country where you don’t speak the language (even if you have some ability) you probably don’t realise how difficult some really simple day to day tasks can be like getting a shopping bag at the supermarket or buying a coffee. So something more complicated like buying a pre paid SIM card can be a nightmare!
As a regular traveller I usually use the 3 Mobile Feel at Home prepaid SIM as not only is affordable it has free international roaming to most countries I frequent including America, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and many EU countries; unfortunately Hungary was not amongst them so when I arrived in Budapest I did a lot of research into what SIM card to get while I am here as even navigating around an unfamiliar city can be a pain in the ass without data.
I checked into all of the local providers and the Vodaphone Max Prepaid SIM came up the winner. Their Max L prepaid package has 1 GB of data for only 4,000 HUF which works out to just £10 or $14 USD for a whole month! On top of this at the moment the have a summer special on where you get 2GB of free data with any of the max plans. I ended up just getting the cheapest plan because of this sale, it normally has no data but with the free 2GB I got all the coverage I need for just £7! Mind you for an extra £3 even if this sale is no longer on it is still the cheapest and I have had no issues with coverage in the Budapest.
Figuring out where to buy the prepaid SIM card in Budapest is the next headache, I recommend always going to large shopping centres for this type of thing as these attract more tourists so you are WAY more likely to find people that speak English. There are a few large shopping centres in Budapest. I went to both Arena Plaza in Pest and Mammut in Buda. The store in Arena Plaza was super easy to find (ground floor opposite Tesco), I got a little lost at Mammut as it is across two buildings and has multiple floors but found it eventually but honestly I’m not sure if I can give simple directions to get here.
Once inside Vodaphone there is a simple touch screen ticket machine near the door it has an option for English so just press the buttons for purchasing the Max Sim card and you will get a ticket then just wait your turn. This makes it all much easier as they know exactly what you want when you sit down. I recommend taking a screen shot of the plan you want in Hungarian so you can point at it if the person that works there can’t understand you.
Make sure you take ID with you, they were pretty flexible even willing to verify via a photo of your passport.
Once you have your SIM card in it won’t need activating it should just start working within and hour so again super easy. The SIM card will be locked so make sure you get your pin off the card that the SIM card comes on, it’s under the scratch panel.
Random hot tip for young players if you load the directions to somewhere on Google Maps on your phone before you leave a WiFi hotspot the interactive directions will still work. It just means you can’t load a new destination until you find WiFi again so for you travel hackers out there this might be a cheaper option. Disclosure I have only tried this on distances that you can walk to within an hour or so.
After all of this I went over to Pest and ventured out with my friend Marco from We Are One Model Management and partied until the sun came up. On a side note in Budapest cocktails are around 1000 HUF each – (£2.50 or $3.60 USD) so you can have an amazing night and keep it affordable then get a cooked breakfast at a restaurant in the morning for around 1200 HUF! Yep… Life in Budapest is good.