Traveling to Europe - Need advice re: cell phones

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by nhcowboy1, Apr 14, 2009.

  1. nhcowboy1 macrumors 6502

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    #1
    I'm heading to Europe for a month and could use some advice on what my best options are for a cell phone while I'm there. I'll be driving through five different countries - Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, France.

    Should I bring my own phone and pick up SIM cards along the way? Or should I just get throwaway phones in each country? I could use some advice from those of you who live in these countries - and know about the cost and availability of both SIM cards and disposable phones.

    I'd also appreciate suggestions as to what model of phone I should be looking for, if I decide to buy a used phone to take with me. I know it has to be GSM, and unlocked, and either dual or tri-band . . . but if someone could translate that for me into what exactly I should be searching for on craigslist or ebay, that would be a huge help! My phone is CDMA, so that will be useless outside the US.

    Thanks!
     
  2. rhsgolfer33 macrumors 6502a

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    #2
    Honestly, if you're only going to be there for a month I'd probably just bring my cell from home. Yeah, it'll cost some money, but if you limit your calling it won't be too bad. Plus, you won't be spending time over there dealing with getting a phone or sim card, etc. There might be a slightly cheaper way to do it, but assuming you don't use your phone that much (if you're in Europe and using your phone all the time you're doing something wrong) using your American phone is probably the simplest method.

    I've travelled with a few phones to Europe with no problem. The latest being a Sony Ericsson W580i, worked perfectly in both Eastern and Western European countries. I've also used a BlackBerry and Razr with no problems.

    Hope this will help slightly, I don't know much about prepaids or "disposable" phones over there, I've always travelled with my own phone for simplicity.
     
  3. noaccess macrumors 6502

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    #3
    Actually, I think you'd need a tri-band, preferably quad-band phone. A quad-band would be guaranteed to work in every US or European GSM network you'll be likely to come across.

    EDIT: My above suggestion was in case you needed a phone to use at home in the US, as well as in Europe. If all you need is a separate phone to use in Europe exclusively, the posts below are helpful.
     
  4. oblomow macrumors 68020

    oblomow

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    #4
    for the countries you mention a dualband (900/1800) will be sufficient. If you don't plan on making much phonecalls I recommend you either bring a phone or get one prepaid/pay-as-go phone in one of these countries. If you plan to use the phone a lot, bring a simlock-free dualband phone and buy a simcard in every country. (mind you, people will not be able to contact you before you send them the new phone number, a new sim card means a new phone number).
     
  5. steveza macrumors 68000

    steveza

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    #5
    You can get SIM cards that are not tied to a particular network but rather offered by a 3rd party and are valid throughout Europe, that way you can keep the same number. This place is an example not sure if they are the cheapest or not: http://www.gosim.com/index.php. A similar supplier in the UK offers free calling between all SIM cards that are on their network so a group of travelers can keep in touch for free.
     
  6. Dagless macrumors Core

    Dagless

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    #6
    Your best bet would be to get a Sim-free (aka. unlocked) mobile phone in either of them countries and then pick up sim cards in each one. I haven't bought one in years but they were only ~£5 back then, much cheaper than a new phone in each country.
     
  7. Berlepsch macrumors 6502

    Berlepsch

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    #7
    I agree, get a phone that works in Europe (dual or tri band, I don't know), and take your US card with you (make sure that it works internationally). That way the people you know can reach you any time. If you want to call home, you can use VoIP from a computer or use one of the many cheap international call services for a payphone.
     
  8. nhcowboy1 thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #8
    This seems the best solution, because I will not only be making frequent calls home (to my office, to my kids, etc., etc.), but I will also be placing a lot of calls to friends in Europe. My question is where I would be able to purchase the sim cards. I've read that they can only be sold to residents (which, of course, I would not be) - but I'm hoping that was advertising hype intended to increase the sales of so-called "international" sim cards. So, how easy should it be for me to purchase a sim card in each country - and would they be available for sale on the weekends anywhere?

    By the way, how common is it for European residents to have wireless internet in their homes?

    THANKS!
     
  9. miles01110 macrumors Core

    miles01110

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    #9
    Some vacation :-\

    Wireless really depends on the location. In the larger cities wifi networks are pretty common. as you move away from the city, I find it's less so. I'm living in a small french town outside of Geneva, switzerland, so I'd imagine there are differences in the countries you're visiting...
     
  10. steveza macrumors 68000

    steveza

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    #10
    You can by SIM cards pretty much anywhere. You will find the major network providers have shops in town centres and shopping malls. Convenience stores and tobacconists may sell a variety of cards including those which are not network linked and can be used throughout Europe.
     
  11. oblomow macrumors 68020

    oblomow

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    #11
    In the NL at least it's very easy to get pre-paid cards. Most supermarkets (e.g. www.ah.nl) sell them. Most cities also have several telecom shops that sell prepaid sims. Available to non-residents too. They try to lure you into registration by selling you a sim with 10 euro's worth of calls, but tell you that they will increase it to 20 euro's if you send in the registration.

    Wireless internet is very common. pm me if you have any more questions.
     
  12. northy124 macrumors 68020

    northy124

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    #12
    Denmark and Sweden I am not sure about as I have never been but Belgium, Germany, France and the Netherlands have them available in any good Supermarket.

    It all depends on the person you are visiting but it is very common.
     
  13. nhcowboy1 thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #13
    I can just imagine what the clerks would say if I walked into a supermarket in the States looking for a "sim card." If I was lucky, they'd send me to the greeting card section . . . otherwise, I don't know what they'd do! :confused:
     
  14. Dagless macrumors Core

    Dagless

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    #14
    Let me add in Spain and Poland. Any shop that sells phones (so any town or city) will have sim cards in stock.

    Why, what do they call Sim Cards in America?
     
  15. northy124 macrumors 68020

    northy124

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    #15
    Really wow
    I only mentioned Belgium, Germany, France and the Netherlands because he said he is going there but I think all Western European countries have Sim Cards in a Supermarket, Eastern Europe IDK but Russia it depends.
    I'd like to know that as well :)
     
  16. Eraserhead macrumors G4

    Eraserhead

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    #16
    If you get a SIM for any European country and get roaming enabled you should be able to use it fairly cheaply in other European countries - this may work out better than having lots of SIM's with a little credit left on them.

    That is unless you are using your phone a LOT.
     
  17. nhcowboy1 thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #17
    To do this, I would just call the service provider? Any idea what the roaming rates might be?

    Oh, we call them "sim cards," but that's not the problem. It's that they're just not available for sale in the States - at least not for use in the States. That's why no one would know what I was talking about. The only places that sell sim cards (at least as far as I know) are selling them online for use in Europe. We don't buy sim cards and put them in our phones - heck, a lot of us don't even have GSM phones! Mine, for example, uses CDMA technology, and not GSM.
     
  18. Eraserhead macrumors G4

    Eraserhead

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    #18
    Here are the roaming tariffs for O2 in the UK to give you an idea, the EU/W. Europe rate is controlled by the EU to be within certain limits as shown on the page.

    To get a SIM you just need to go into a mobile shop and ask to buy a SIM for your unlocked phone and it should cost €10 or less (probably about €5). You can do this in the US too, though the prices are outrageous (AT&T tried to charge me US$75). In the mobile shop - especially if it is network branded, you'll be able to ask for them to setup roaming for you - it may already be setup it is for me in the UK automatically I think, but I've had problems in other countries (though not in the EU) YMMV.

    The staff should speak English in the mobile phone shop well enough to set this up for you. Btw, you'll need an unlocked GSM phone for Europe.
     
  19. nhcowboy1 thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #19
    My concern stems from articles I've read stating that SIM cards will be sold to EU residents only, or to non-EU residents only after a lengthy and demanding identity verification process - due to concerns about terrorism.

    I am not scared to walk into a store in Europe and talk to the clerks (language is not a problem) and I don't give a @#% if I have my German/French/etc. phone number before I leave the States . . . but I also don't want to spend hours in a shop somewhere doing paperwork just to get a SIM card! (The irony, of course, being that I could purchase an assault weapon in some states in the U.S. with less difficulty!)

    So, does anyone happen to know if it's really that difficult for a non-EU resident to buy a local SIM card in Northern Europe?
     
  20. Dagless macrumors Core

    Dagless

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    #20
    I've never had that problem. They dole out sim cards to anyone, no proof of ID required or anything like that at all.

    When I bought my first phone in 1999 or so it was a lengthy process but now you can just buy a sim card from any shop in the UK as if it was a pack of gum.
     
  21. michael.lauden macrumors 68020

    michael.lauden

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  22. oblomow macrumors 68020

    oblomow

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    #22
    In the NL any idiot can buy a sim card, together with his/her daily groceries.
    (mind you, there are probably a lot of politicians who would like to change that in order to fight 'terrorism'.....)
    more info: see this or this
     
  23. nhcowboy1 thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #23
    How much do they cost? Can I get an inexpensive one with only an hour or two of airtime (or less)?

    And what do you do for phone service when you travel to other EU countries - do you just pay roaming charges or do you buy a SIM card for the country you're visiting?

    I now have a quad-band phone to use (purchased used & cheap on craigslist), so the next thing to deal with will be the SIM cards.
     
  24. iPhoneNYC macrumors 6502a

    iPhoneNYC

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    #24
    If you are going to have access to wi-fi, I would strongly urge you to look into Truphone or Skype. They will cost you pennies to call the US rather than dollars. In the past year I've traveled thru Scotland, Israel, and Germany and found wi-fi easy to find. Many cafes, bars, bookstores, hotel lobbies, had it. So I would have a coffee and make a bunch of calls. Also be aware of your international data plan and buy what you think you will need in advance rather than go over your limit!
     
  25. oblomow macrumors 68020

    oblomow

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    #25
    I just take my phone and pay roaming charges. It isn't the cheapest method, but I don't use the phone a lot. And I can be reached on my own phone number. ( I wouldn't want to switch sims the whole time).

    Inexpensive sim cards start at about 10 euro's. Including some airtime. This is however not measured in minutes but in euro's. So airtime will vary depending on your use (local, international calls, texting).

    Quoting a providers website concerning prices within the EU:
    Calling: 55 ct per minute
    Receiving calls: 26 ct per minute
    Sms sending: 55 ct
    Sms receiving Free

    Local calls: 35ct per minute.

    Mind you, if you're going to use one sim card and take it abroad, you must have a way to increase your airtime. (you could do it online, but that requires a dutch bankaccount). So you have to estimate beforehand how much calling time you require and buy that before you leave the country. ( am I still making sense?)
     

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