Using a SIM Card in Amsterdam

By @zachfeldman
Written on Nov 1, 2013

I’m lucky to be on a 2 week jaunt across Europe to Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, Karlovy Vary, and Prague. I last travelled 3 years ago while studying abroad in Prague at NYU. The biggest problem we had was how to navigate an entirely new city without going insane understanding the intricate public transportation systems. I also had to carry around a separate digital camera if I wanted to snap any mementos of my trip.

On this trip, I hoped to change that with my shiny iPhone 5, Instagram, Google Maps, and maybe even Uber in whichever ciy we happened to be in. I’d have to purchase a SIM card in each city I went to, so I could have far cheaper data then Verizon would give me internationally. Otherwise this would be an insane proposition!

First Stop: The City of Lights

Damn it feels good to eat a croissant

Armed with my Verizon iPhone 5, I didn’t have much luck in Paris finding a cell phone store. But I did find some croissants! My research told me I could buy a SIM card at the airport but that wasn’t the case. Each day we were there I thought we’d eventually pass a cell phone store. I didn’t want to make a big fuss about it either and go out of our way to find one. On my final day in town, I finally stumbled upon 3 cell phone stores in the same street and cursed having not found them sooner. For future reference, they happend to be a few blocks from the Arch de Triomphe.

Amsterdam - Easy to Find SIM Cards?

Brouwerij 't IJ An awesome brewery under a windmill (Brouwerij ’t IJ)

Imagine my surprise when I found that I could easily purchase a SIM card in Amsterdam! Within seconds of getting off the tram from Central Station, near my AirBNB apartment, I’d spotted a cell phone store. I purchased a SIM card with 1GB of data for a month for 25 Euro. I was convinced it would’ve been far more expensive then that! During our 4 days in Amsterdam I’ve probably used only about 300MB of data, which is a lot but between my girlfriend’s AirBnB communiques, using Google Maps, our postings on Instagram and Foursquare, and sharing the WiFi with my iPad in the airport, I’m not that surprised.

The Magical Part

Speaking of that WiFi, the magical part about this SIM card in Amsterdam was what I mentioned above. I could share my 3G connection as a WiFi network. My girlfriend loved being able to Instagram and look for directions to our next stop and it was great when we got to the airport to have our own personal WiFi network for my iPad and any other devices. I actually wrote this blog post using the iSSH iPad app to SSH into my Linode box in the UK. Yay vim!

Anyway, I’m pretty blown away by what is possible when you’re away from home and have internet connectivity. I think that 25 Euro is a pretty small price to pay for the amazing convenience you get. I’m convinced that we wouldn’t be nearly as efficient with our time if not for just having Google Maps to guide us. Although I’m sure you could argue we wasted plenty of time checking in and Instagramming! To end this post, here’s a screenshot I was super happy to see in Amsterdam:

Uber to the rescue

That’s right, after a night of partaking in the pleasures of Amsterdam, we were able to get a quick ride home from Uber!

This international expansion of technology services is amazing. The only thing that needs to be ubiquitous for it to change travel is cheap roaming. I think T-Mobile is trying to get into this game but it is in the best interest of Uber and their ilk to make this easier.

Thanks for reading, and let me know if you have any good recommendations for Berlin!





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