Cell Phone Service Overseas

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Cell Phone Rec - Overseas Travelling

Feb 2011

I have a very simple cell phone with unlimited texting & a number of minutes per month that I have no problem keeping under (most of my calls are to my husband, who's on the same plan, so there's no charge for that service -- whatever it's called).

I am going to be travelling overseas in a couple of months and would like to buy a cell phone where I could make and receive calls as well as texts for a minimal amount. I also would only like to have that capability for the duration of my trip (approx 2 weeks).

Can anyone recommend a carrier to do that -- that is get a temporary phone with overseas capability? Also, I'm just going to France, so I'm wondering if anyone knows if there's a way I can set up a cheap or even free calls / texts on that plan?

I currently have Verizon wireless and have heard something about getting a 'card' or something to add to your phone for international use. But I don't know if that's the best deal.

I feel like if I call the companies, it's hard to get a straight answer and really figure out which is the best deal, so I'm looking for recommendations first. Cell Phone Inept

When my daughter went to France a summer ago, we purchased a very basic phone from Call In Europe (http://www.callineurope.com/cgi-bin/cie.cgi?b=goosearch=new=%28null%29=%28null%29=/leisure_travel.shtml). They charged by the call and the text and I thought overall it was quite reasonable. When my dad went to Germany a year later, he was able to use the same phone and I contacted Call in Europe for a different card and that all worked very well too. Claire

We wanted a smartphone abroad to enable us to do things like message, use maps live for finding places, and other internet stuff. The easiest and cheapest thing to do was to 'unlock' one of our iPhones here. You need to be software savvy to do this, or pay for someone to do it. Bought a SIM Card from T-Mobile to test the unlock. Abroad, we bought a local sim card (the choices abound!) and prepaid minutes/data in a mobile store, which line pretty much line all European city blocks.

We handled the unlock ourselves with online unlock software. So the only money we spent was for a test SIM card and the SIM card and prepaid minutes/data when we were abroad.

We were really happy with how it worked out, and it was all the more sweeter in that we did not help AT fill its moneybags. Unlock the phone

I made my first trip to Europe a few years ago and everyone advised me to take along an unlocked phone that uses SIMM cards (Verizon phones don't use them) and then buy service in the country I was visiting. I was a little nervous about leaving the arrangements until I was there, but it turned out to be very simple and easy. Since I normally use Verizon, I bought a basic Motorola SIMM card phone for my trip. I still have the phone, and would consider selling it to you for your trip- contact me if that interests you. cf

When our daughter went to Europe for a semester between HS and college we bought her a post-paid unlocked phone with multi-country SIMM card through a Canadian company, Roam Simple. The phone is a simple one--no smart phone apps--but we liked the fact of it being post-paid for actual usage, knowing that our daughter would not get stuck in a situation where pre-paid minutes had run out. We also wanted her to have a working phone on arrival, for our own peace of mind. anon

Cell Phones in Europe

July 2007

We will be traveling in France and Spain for a month and want to know what others have done about cell phones. We have two phones on Cingular and their ''World Traveler'' plan would cost 5.99 for the month, then $.99/min. The other option is to go to some little place near Ranch 99 (or so the guy at the Cingular store told me), get them to ''unlock'' the phones for $20/ea., and buy a chip in Europe and pay as we go. Has anyone done this? Is it easy? Is it cheap? Can we unlock the phones ourselves with codes found on the internet or are those bogus? We'll just be calling ahead for reservations, calling each other to meet up after a day of separate sight-seeing, that kind of thing. Not long luxurious calls back to the States or anything. Chatty Cathy

We rented international phones a few years ago for a trip to the Middle East and Europe and thought it was a great solution. The prices were comparable and we didn't find the bill shocking or anything at the end. We were shipping a quad band phone and instructions about how to activate it, and were able to transfer our current number onto it very easily. Basically, we transferred the phones while we were waiting to board our overseas flight and were set. We found it especially nice for the folks back home, who could just continue to use our same number to reach us wherever we were. That saved our parents the stress of figuring out international direct dialing. been there

Before I went to Europe, I bought a phone that accepts SIMM chips (my usual carrier's phones (Verizon) don't use the chips so I had to buy one from another carrier and have it unlocked). I kept it ''topped up'' while I traveled and it worked out fine. The thing to be aware of is that you either need to buy a new chip when you go to each new country or pay long distance charges on every call, but I was only in two countries so I didn't change chips and it wasn't a big deal. Cece

This may be obvious, but first make sure that your cell phone works in Europe (dual-band, I think)-- a friend of mine was told by the store representative it did, only to find out it didn't. Our phone was unlocked for free by the store we got it from in Oakland... there are several places here in Spain were they can unlock it, too (for a fee). We are spending the summer in Spain and we changed the Cingular to a Movistar card. You need to go to a Movistar (or any other of the suppliers: Vodafone, Adena, etc... Movistar is everywhere!) store and buy a card. It used to be that they gave you the card for free, but now they charge you $5, and give you $15 credit. They have different rate plans (e.g., chose 5 phones, calling cheaper during non-business hours), I think I pay about .25 cents per minute. If you send messages, it's a lot cheaper (I think 7 cents per message, under a word limit). You can check the specifics at the movistar webpage. You can add money to your phone card in an ATM (using your visa card), in the Tobacco Store (Estanco)--using a ''scratch'' card, in the movistar stores, and in the ''Chinos/Todo a 100'' (dollar stores). When we traveled to France, the Orange provider came in automaticly. Movistar has a deal with Orange so it was a little bit cheaper to call, but still kind of expensive (can't remember the specific price per minute) We dedided to use the movistar card instead of the cingular plan because we are spending the whole summer here and use the phone to communicate with family and friends. But if you only call sporadicly, it may make sense to use your cingular card (I'd suggest to ask also about messaging prices). Have a good summer in Europe! EP

Visit mobal.com and see what they have. I bought a cell phone from them a few years ago and have used it in England, Italy and Greece. The phone was reasonably priced and the bill for the calls was not outrageous, though I can't quite remember what it was. They provided excellent service and answered all questions. Worth checking it out. satisfied customer

Buy an unlocked quad band GSM phone and then when you arrive in Italy buy a sim card for the phone, sold at magazine stands (I think) and you'll be good to go. You should also be able to buy a recharge card as well if you will need it. This phone and system will work in most other countries. You might want to check into a discount access code, a number you will dial before the phone number. Good Luck traveller

You can get a bunch of info about using cell phones in Europe on Fodors.com at their talk site. The best way to use that forum is to go to the Europe section of Fodors Talk and search for past discussions on cell phones or mobile phones. If you still have questions after reading the archives, then ask a question. It is a great site for other travel questions, too; just make sure you always check their archives first.

You can also try the Rick Steves site. Anon.

Cell phone for student traveling to South America

Sept 2006

Hi. What do people recommend for cell phones / internet phone service to keep in touch with college students travelling abroad? My daughter will be going to South America. Thanks, mom of traveller

You need an unlocked phone and a SIM card for the country or countries she'll be travelling in. Here's a couple of sites I found with a Google search for ''sim cards south america'' -- both appear to offer an international card that works in many countries as well as county-specific cards.


I've dealt with the first people to get a card for the UK and found them very reliable and helpful. I think they're located near San Diego. You might just want to call them and get an idea as to what's feasible.

I'm sure this isn't the cheapest way to go, but it has worked well for us in Europe. We bought a phone from Mobal (www.mobal.com; ph. 888-888 -9162) for about $50. When we use it, we are charged $1.25/minute. When we're home, we put the phone away and there are no charges. The phone connections have been excellent, and Mobal's service has been very good. But first find out about your current cell phone. If the GSM is right for international service, you might be able to use it. Nancy

Re: Your student traveling to South America. Cell phone coverage depends on your provider. Verizion has what used to be called the North America Plan, which allowed very liberal access for about $70 a month. I was in Mexico this summer and could call home etc. I had a net of 1000 minutes per month, for me to call. Calls from the US to me were free. A colleague with another provider had a less generous, but still not very expensive plan with night and evening hours. Worked well for her because of time zone differences. A third friend was in Ecuador, with no cell access. However, ''todo el mundo'' uses calling cards to the US. Easily available, inexpensive, but don't buy until you get there. Check the various web sites. Carolyn

My daughter spent last semester in Australia, and many of her friends were also abroad (Chile, Scotland, Mexico, Spain). They all used either Skype or iChat. You need a computer with internet access and a mic; for Mac users, the mics are built-in; some of the PC users needed to buy a mic. Skype is free and can be downloaded directly to your computer. The calls are free. She also had a mobile phone (provided by her study abroad program) but used it for intra-Australia calls, as international calls were both expensive to make and the reception was much worse than the computer-connected calls. Ellen

Cell phones for Europe Trip

July 2003

My family and I will be on vacation in and around London and Paris for two weeks in August but I am concerned about being out of touch with my elderly father who is having health problems. I assume my cell phone won't work there. Does anybody know how I might get cell phone usage there so, if needed, folks, (i.e. Kaiser Hospital) could get in touch with me easily? I hear it is possible to rent cell phone in some places. kb

I'm not sure if it will work in Paris, but we've been in London frequently in the last couple of years and have found it cheaper and easier to simply buy a cheap cell phone with the ''pay as you go'' minutes (so there's no service plan). I think we got ours at a Virgin Mobile store for about $50. We found this actually cheaper than renting, and saved us the hassle of returning it. Next time we go over, we'll just bring it along and buy more minutes. Good luck! Jennifer

I was recently in Paris and Provence for two weeks and got a phone through www.acetelecom.com. They fedex'd the phone to me. It was easy to use- it gives you a US number so it easy for folks to call you. I rarely did not have service. It was fairly inexpensive (in comparison to other thigns I found on the Web). Your phone may be capable of going overseas but you'll need to call your phone service provider to find out. I have Nextel and their cheapest phone which wouldn't work. They say you can rent a phone from them but it required that I go to a special store either in Dublin or in the Mission and neither was easy for me to do at the last minute. My family was told by their carrier T mobile that their ohones would work- which they did-somewhat- they could call out to me and to the US, the US could call out to them but I couldn't call them from my phone nor could they dial an international number so I'd be nervous to rely on that. You can also rent a phone from the Paris airport. The only caveat with the rental phone is that it did not work in the states- so my three hour layover in NYC required that I use a payphone-egads so old school! Anyway have a great time. Juliette

Check out http://www.rentaphone.co.uk for rental phones. They have a US base in Philadelphia and can send you a phone before you leave ($25 delivery fee, but it saves the VAT and fees) or you can pick it up at the airport when you arrive. Cost is $6 a day plus $1.99 a minute for calls (incoming is free) -- but those are the UK fees, and there may be more $$ for international.

Also, this is information I saved from a Chronicle article a couple of years ago. Not sure how much of it is still accurate (rates have undoubtedly gone up), but I'd be willing to bet Nextel still does the rental.

''Nextel rents its worldwide phones to travelers for $10 a day, plus the considerable cost of each call. For details, phone (800) 639-8359 or check the Web at www.nextel.com and click on ''Nextel Worldwide.'' AT (800-888-7600) rents overseas phones for rates ranging from $39 a week to $60 for three months. (You might cut the cost significantly if you're planning to rent a car in another country. Ask if the agency - like many American car rental outfits - can provide you with a cell phone, as well.)

''Foreign cell phones do not come with numbers programmed into them. Customers activate their phones by popping in so-called SIM cards - little devices ranging in size from a postage stamp to a credit card. To ''charge'' your SIM card, you buy prepaid time at tobacco shops, pharmacies, gas stations and kiosks almost everywhere abroad. So you need an inexpensive GSM phone and a SIM card for the country you're visiting. You can purchase the phone for as little as $99.99 at a Bay Area company called Planet Omni (1480 Wharton Way, Concord, CA 94521; phone: 925-246- 7103; Web: www.planetomni.com; e-mail: info [at] buyundercost.com). SIM cards are available through a company called Telestial (along with inexpensive GSM phones). Prices can run as low as 15 cents a minute from England. Elsewhere in Europe, per-minute costs to the United States range from 63 cents to $1.74. (Contact: Telestial, 4689 Mission Blvd., San Diego, CA 92109; phone: 858-274-2686; fax: 858-274-2757; Web: www.telestial.com; e-mail: moreinfo [at] telestial.com.)

''Before heading overseas with your cell phone and your SIM card, sign up for a ''callback'' program. These enable you to bypass the carrier in the country you are visiting; you pay only for point- to-point calls within the United States. Want to phone your sister from a wine bar on the Rhine? Start by dialing a U.S. phone number provided by your callback service. After one or two rings, you hang up. Because you didn't connect, you are not charged. About a minute later, your cell phone jangles. Upon answering, you hear a U.S. dial tone. Punch in your sister's area code and phone number, just like you do at home. Here's the best part: Because this is an incoming call to your cell phone, it counts as a freebie. You will be billed by the callback company at a lower domestic rate. I checked out a callback firm called CogniDial (on the Web at www.cognidial.com) and found that a 15-minute call from France would cost $1.95 at 13 cents a minute.'' Norm

You can easily rent a Nokia cell phone that will work throughtout Europe via AutoEurope. I have done this several times and it's been excellent. It costs about $80. a week plus airtime charges. (You can also rent a satellite phone but they are much more expensive.) Go to www.autoeurope.com or (call 1- 888-223-5555) and then click on the cell phone menu. They fedex the phone to you in advance of your trip, you charge it up and then you turn it on when you get where you are going. You can also hook up the phone to your laptop and use it for emailing/faxing. Debby