Best SIM card for travel in Europe?

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sunny_socal
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Best SIM card for travel in Europe?

Post by sunny_socal » Mon May 20, 2019 3:55 pm

I'm going to Europe with my family in a few weeks. I'm looking for SIM cards for everyone:
- Must be valid for duration of trip (~20d)
- Will push everyone to rely mostly on hotel wifi, don't expect heavy data use when roaming (ie. No youtube, instagram etc)
- Should work in all of Europe
- Hope to purchase in USA prior to departure

Is there anything like that? I already saw an Orange card on Amazon for $49, includes 20G data and is otherwise ok except it's only valid for 14d :(

bob60014
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Re: Best SIM card for travel in Europe?

Post by bob60014 » Mon May 20, 2019 4:01 pm

Who do you have as a carrier? If Tmobile, and depending on plan, it works throughout Europe without have to change the sim, plus no roaming fees or surprise costs.

jeff1949
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Re: Best SIM card for travel in Europe?

Post by jeff1949 » Mon May 20, 2019 5:30 pm

bob60014 wrote:
Mon May 20, 2019 4:01 pm
Who do you have as a carrier? If Tmobile, and depending on plan, it works throughout Europe without have to change the sim, plus no roaming fees or surprise costs.
+1 Just got back from 3 weeks in Europe and T-Mobile was great. Free internet and texting but phone calls were $2.50 per minute so we did very, very little of that.

gtd98765
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Re: Best SIM card for travel in Europe?

Post by gtd98765 » Mon May 20, 2019 6:16 pm

There's a lot of good info on all European countries at this web site: https://prepaid-data-sim-card.fandom.co ... pean_Union

A few years ago I was looking for a way to buy SIM cards in the US too, but they were very expensive. In the end, I resigned myself to buying SIM cards at my destination airport, which turned out to be fine. Then I got Google Fi, and my phone just works when I land with no interventions or problems.

duckcalldan
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Re: Best SIM card for travel in Europe?

Post by duckcalldan » Mon May 20, 2019 6:32 pm

What country/countries are you traveling to? What works for me (and others I’ve helped) is to go to a carrier-owned store like Vodafone when you get to your destination and get a prepaid SIM. I got mine in the Netherlands and paid €10 for 2GB over 30 days. My daughter went to a Vodafone store in London and got a similar offer for £10. By law, any European SIM allow for free data roaming in any EU country. Keep it when you return to the states, refill it online and use it for another European trip.

wardja21
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Re: Best SIM card for travel in Europe?

Post by wardja21 » Mon May 20, 2019 6:37 pm

I am actually on vacation in Europe right now and I bought a sim when I arrived in London at a local corner store. £2.50 for the SIM card itself and then £35 for unlimited calls, text and data for 30 days. I have the option to turn my phone into a mobile hotspot so I keep that on so my girlfriend can use her phone too without having to purchase another SIM (Maybe the mobile hotspot is an option for you?). The network is called Three and I was told (and did some research to verify) that it will work across Europe. I’ll be traveling to Paris tomorrow so I guess I’ll find out.

The Three network also had other plan options such as €10 for 2gb of data and unlimited calls and texts but I figured unlimited for €37.50 (€2.5 card + €35 plan) was fair.

I heard that Vodaphone is a good network over here as well. After I bought mine I saw another shop carrying Vodaphone cards for €24 for 100gb of data and unlimited calls and texts but I am unsure of the time duration.

Hopefully this was helpful. Enjoy your trip.

bluebolt
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Re: Best SIM card for travel in Europe?

Post by bluebolt » Mon May 20, 2019 7:16 pm

My last couple trips to Europe (since roam like at home was instituted), I've just purchased local SIM cards at my country of arrival and used them throughout my trip.

Check the fandom wiki linked in a post above for the country where you will arrive to find a good deal on a plan.

mageedge
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Re: Best SIM card for travel in Europe?

Post by mageedge » Mon May 20, 2019 8:25 pm

Purchasing locally will give you the best deal however it can be a hassle if you are not familiar with the country/language.

We just returned from a European trip for which I purchased SIM cards before leaving, both good for 30 days - 1 EE 2gb card from Amazon for around $17 and 1 from "SIMcorner" website from British company "3" this one was 12gb.
Used in France, Switzerland and Italy.
The EE card was fast and stable in all locations, the 3 card performed similarly in France/Switzerland but was inferior in Italy - slower, somewhat unreliable signal.
Free wifi is very widely available and so we only used about 3gb of data in total over 30 days.

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kramer
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Re: Best SIM card for travel in Europe?

Post by kramer » Mon May 20, 2019 9:12 pm

I was in Spain less than a year ago. Orange shops had vending machines to purchase their sim cards ... the machine even took a picture of your passport. The price was only 10 Euros and that included something like 10 GB of data, valid for 30 days. Valid throughout Europe.

We were traveling in a group of 5 and one thing we found useful was to set up an alias on WhatsApp, so that any of us could send a message to the whole group.

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GerryL
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Re: Best SIM card for travel in Europe?

Post by GerryL » Mon May 20, 2019 9:20 pm

I've been using a LeFrenchMobile sim for several years. You can order it online and it will be mailed to you. It apparently works on the Orange network.
Since it was the first time I would be swapping sims, I was anxious and wanted lots of information ahead of time. That's why I went with LFM. Lots of online help -- in English.
They just lowered their data bundle prices, which is convenient since I will be taking the sim to the UK soon.

Oblivious
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Re: Best SIM card for travel in Europe?

Post by Oblivious » Mon May 20, 2019 9:50 pm


teniralc
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Re: Best SIM card for travel in Europe?

Post by teniralc » Mon May 20, 2019 10:11 pm

sunny_socal wrote:
Mon May 20, 2019 3:55 pm
I'm going to Europe with my family in a few weeks. I'm looking for SIM cards for everyone:
- Must be valid for duration of trip (~20d)
- Will push everyone to rely mostly on hotel wifi, don't expect heavy data use when roaming (ie. No youtube, instagram etc)
- Should work in all of Europe
- Hope to purchase in USA prior to departure

Is there anything like that? I already saw an Orange card on Amazon for $49, includes 20G data and is otherwise ok except it's only valid for 14d :(
This may not be exactly what you're looking for, but this has been quite useful for me. It is a mobile hotspot that you carry with you. The company mails it to your home before you leave for your trip and then you mail it back. It won't allow you to make calls (unless they are internet calls like Skype), but depending on how long your trip it, it could be useful:
https://www.tepwireless.com

I have had issues with having to configure the phone with the new SIM and then issues getting the phone reconfigured to the original SIM upon return from my trip.

dsmclone
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Re: Best SIM card for travel in Europe?

Post by dsmclone » Tue May 21, 2019 6:07 am

Tmobile worked well for me when I used them as a carrier. Google Fi has worked well for me. Orange Holiday card worked well with my wife's iphone, we just bought it at a convenience store inside the train station and made sure it worked before we left. We had taken out her SIM card before we left so that we wouldn't lose the old one.

gtd98765
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Re: Best SIM card for travel in Europe?

Post by gtd98765 » Tue May 21, 2019 7:07 am

dsmclone wrote:
Tue May 21, 2019 6:07 am
We had taken out her SIM card before we left so that we wouldn't lose the old one.
This is key! SIMs are really small, so make sure you know what you are going to do with your main SIM before you take it out of your phone to put in the temporary SIM. I usually tape mine to a 3 x 5 card that I put in a known place.

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Psyayeayeduck
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Re: Best SIM card for travel in Europe?

Post by Psyayeayeduck » Tue May 21, 2019 7:41 am

Oblivious wrote:
Mon May 20, 2019 9:50 pm
Google Fi

https://fi.google.com/about/
+1

I am a former Verizon user and they wanted me to pay $10/day on top of my data usage when I ventured to Europe and Japan for the number of days I was on travel. It was cheaper to buy a new phone via Google and use Google Fi through them than go through Verizon. Easily a great decision all around.

peseta
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Re: Best SIM card for travel in Europe?

Post by peseta » Tue May 21, 2019 11:35 am

Didn't see this in thread (sorry if I missed), but as of 2017, there are no roaming charges in the EU. So, as long as you are staying inside the EU, you can just get the appropriate local SIM plan at your first destination, and use it for the rest of your trip. See:

https://europa.eu/youreurope/citizens/c ... dex_en.htm

It's now much less of a hassle than it used to be to "go local" in Europe, because you had to switch country-to-country. Only caveat is that carriers can impose data caps for use outside the "home" country of purchase, but that should impact you unless you're streaming or something. Even then data above the cap only costs €4.50/GB of data plus VAT.


peseta

z91
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Re: Best SIM card for travel in Europe?

Post by z91 » Tue May 21, 2019 12:34 pm

I have T-Mobile and in London the service was pretty bad IMO. Had 3G which was not very good.

I paid 10 quid and got a nice unlimited SIM for 3 days. Most places in Europe have phone stands to sell you cheap SIMs like this.

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kramer
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Re: Best SIM card for travel in Europe?

Post by kramer » Tue May 21, 2019 12:50 pm

z91 wrote:
Tue May 21, 2019 12:34 pm
I have T-Mobile and in London the service was pretty bad IMO. Had 3G which was not very good.

I paid 10 quid and got a nice unlimited SIM for 3 days. Most places in Europe have phone stands to sell you cheap SIMs like this.
Yes, this is another good point about lesser service using a US carrier abroad. I was in Mexico with my cousin this year, he had a T-mobile and I had a Mexican sim card. During busy times on the network he got bumped down to 3G but I almost never did (he was familiar with their priority system and was pointing it out to me). And sometimes his data just didn't work or was so slow to not be usable, whereas mine always worked (even though we were standing next to each other). He said he had observed this in many countries traveling with his T-mobile sim.

SRenaeP
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Re: Best SIM card for travel in Europe?

Post by SRenaeP » Tue May 21, 2019 2:02 pm

I typically purchase local SIM cards when I travel internationally. However, I recently came across this 'global' SIM and am considering purchasing it vs keeping up with multiple SIMs for multiple regions.

https://surfroam.com/

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GerryL
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Re: Best SIM card for travel in Europe?

Post by GerryL » Tue May 21, 2019 3:44 pm

gtd98765 wrote:
Tue May 21, 2019 7:07 am
dsmclone wrote:
Tue May 21, 2019 6:07 am
We had taken out her SIM card before we left so that we wouldn't lose the old one.
This is key! SIMs are really small, so make sure you know what you are going to do with your main SIM before you take it out of your phone to put in the temporary SIM. I usually tape mine to a 3 x 5 card that I put in a known place.
I have a little plastic "toothpick holder" what I use to store my sim (between a couple of little squares of soft tissue). The little plastic case stays in an envelope with printouts of the instructions for setting up and loading the EU sim -- and then for switching back to Consumer Cellular. When I'm not travelling it is in my file cabinet with assorted travel documents.

I am thinking about getting a new phone -- maybe iPhone7 -- and then just leaving the EU sim in my iPhone 5c for travel.

Chip
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Re: Best SIM card for travel in Europe?

Post by Chip » Wed May 22, 2019 6:54 am

I used a SIM from UK Three, purchased through Amazon on a trip to Europe last fall. It worked well in Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic. 4G in Austria, 3G elsewhere. It is supposed to work all over Europe, plus a bunch of other places. 12 GB, 3000 minutes, 3000 texts, 30 days. Amazon link here. I bought from seller UK Sims on Amazon.

It has some quirks. The main one is that you can't use the minutes or texts to or from US-based numbers. We got around that by using WhatsApp, which worked well. We also obtained a Google Voice number for credit card notifications, as our card wouldn't accept the UK number associated with the UK Three SIM.

There are a large number of 1 star reviews for this SIM on Amazon; enough to make one worry it's a scam. It's not. The vast majority of those reviewers failed to follow the activation instructions that came with the SIM. Plus it required multiple reboots of my phone before it started working. I was able to activate it and test it in the US before starting my trip. If I remember correctly it connects to the T-Mobile network in the US.

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sunny_socal
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Re: Best SIM card for travel in Europe?

Post by sunny_socal » Wed May 22, 2019 7:21 am

Thanks all. Decided to buy a handful of local SIMs as soon as we touch down :beer

bluebolt
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Re: Best SIM card for travel in Europe?

Post by bluebolt » Fri Jun 07, 2019 8:26 pm

Chip wrote:
Wed May 22, 2019 6:54 am
I used a SIM from UK Three, purchased through Amazon on a trip to Europe last fall. It worked well in Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic. 4G in Austria, 3G elsewhere. It is supposed to work all over Europe, plus a bunch of other places. 12 GB, 3000 minutes, 3000 texts, 30 days. Amazon link here. I bought from seller UK Sims on Amazon.

It has some quirks. The main one is that you can't use the minutes or texts to or from US-based numbers. We got around that by using WhatsApp, which worked well. We also obtained a Google Voice number for credit card notifications, as our card wouldn't accept the UK number associated with the UK Three SIM.

There are a large number of 1 star reviews for this SIM on Amazon; enough to make one worry it's a scam. It's not. The vast majority of those reviewers failed to follow the activation instructions that came with the SIM. Plus it required multiple reboots of my phone before it started working. I was able to activate it and test it in the US before starting my trip. If I remember correctly it connects to the T-Mobile network in the US.
Thanks to Chip, I went this route and bought the Three UK SIM for my recent trip to Europe. Worked out great and the fact that I could activate and verify in the US was a big plus. I might have saved a few bucks if I bought in my destination city, but having it activated and available on arrival without spending any time in a mobile shop on my vacation was very valuable.

Chip
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Re: Best SIM card for travel in Europe?

Post by Chip » Sat Jun 15, 2019 12:02 pm

bluebolt wrote:
Fri Jun 07, 2019 8:26 pm
Thanks to Chip, I went this route and bought the Three UK SIM for my recent trip to Europe. Worked out great and the fact that I could activate and verify in the US was a big plus. I might have saved a few bucks if I bought in my destination city, but having it activated and available on arrival without spending any time in a mobile shop on my vacation was very valuable.
Glad it worked out for you. Being able to activate it before leaving was important to me as well, especially given the usual brain fog on arrival after a nearly sleepless trans-Atlantic flight. On some previous trips to Italy and Spain I spent way too much time trying to find a local SIM -- there didn't seem to be a vendor in the airports. I'll use the Three UK SIM again in the future if the advance purchase SIM landscape is the same, though it does seem to be changing all the time.

theplayer11
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Re: Best SIM card for travel in Europe?

Post by theplayer11 » Sat Jun 15, 2019 12:21 pm

For trip last Feb, bought Sim in Malta and was able to use in Italy and Spain. Free roaming to most countries now.

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celia
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Re: Best SIM card for travel in Europe?

Post by celia » Sat Jun 15, 2019 12:33 pm

I use Tracfone when I’m not at home using WiFi. They have a plan I haven’t used yet where you use your current unlocked SIM card and just add international minutes and data into your existing phone.

Startled Cat
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Re: Best SIM card for travel in Europe?

Post by Startled Cat » Sat Jun 15, 2019 12:47 pm

I’ve been happy with KeepGo’s global SIM. I just top it up once a year for around $30.

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Re: Best SIM card for travel in Europe?

Post by abracadabra11 » Sat Jun 15, 2019 12:56 pm

Chip wrote:
Sat Jun 15, 2019 12:02 pm
bluebolt wrote:
Fri Jun 07, 2019 8:26 pm
Thanks to Chip, I went this route and bought the Three UK SIM for my recent trip to Europe. Worked out great and the fact that I could activate and verify in the US was a big plus. I might have saved a few bucks if I bought in my destination city, but having it activated and available on arrival without spending any time in a mobile shop on my vacation was very valuable.
Glad it worked out for you. Being able to activate it before leaving was important to me as well, especially given the usual brain fog on arrival after a nearly sleepless trans-Atlantic flight. On some previous trips to Italy and Spain I spent way too much time trying to find a local SIM -- there didn't seem to be a vendor in the airports. I'll use the Three UK SIM again in the future if the advance purchase SIM landscape is the same, though it does seem to be changing all the time.
I, too, have used a 3co UK sim for a trip to Europe with great results. Trip included Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, and UK.

Chip
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Re: Best SIM card for travel in Europe?

Post by Chip » Sun Jun 16, 2019 10:12 am

celia wrote:
Sat Jun 15, 2019 12:33 pm
I use Tracfone when I’m not at home using WiFi. They have a plan I haven’t used yet where you use your current unlocked SIM card and just add international minutes and data into your existing phone.
I'm pretty sure this doesn't work the way you think. The Tracfone "international plan" means that you can call other countries from within the US. NOT that you can use your phone outside of the US.

Quote from Tracfone website FAQ:

Can I make international calls on my TRACFONE cell phone when I am outside of the United States?

No. TRACFONE cell phones don't work outside of the United States, Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands.

I also use Tracfone, but have always purchased a different SIM to use internationally.

inverter
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Re: Best SIM card for travel in Europe?

Post by inverter » Sun Jun 16, 2019 10:19 am

Bought a SIM when I landed in Madrid a couple of weeks ago for €10 with 7gb of data. We only used half of the data. Great choice, versus paying $10/day with AT&T. With new EU regulations, you can buy a SIM in one country and roam anywhere like you're in the home country you bought it in.

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Leif
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Re: Best SIM card for travel in Europe?

Post by Leif » Sun Jun 16, 2019 10:48 am

Are SIM cards still a thing? I did that 5 years ago in Denmark. A bit of a hassle. Now I have T-Mobile so I get free texting and 2G data overseas. Data is slow, but good enough for my uses (navigation). Otherwise I use WiFi combined with FaceTime for calling. In an emergency I can use cellular calling for around 0.25/min.

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Re: Best SIM card for travel in Europe?

Post by neilpilot » Sun Jun 16, 2019 12:11 pm

Leif wrote:
Sun Jun 16, 2019 10:48 am
Are SIM cards still a thing? I did that 5 years ago in Denmark. A bit of a hassle. Now I have T-Mobile so I get free texting and 2G data overseas. Data is slow, but good enough for my uses (navigation). Otherwise I use WiFi combined with FaceTime for calling. In an emergency I can use cellular calling for around 0.25/min.
It still amazes me that travelers think they need to use mobile data to navigate. We visit Europe annually, and use our HERE WeGo app to navigate while driving and walking. I download maps via wifi before we leave home. Your phone will navigate via GPS just fine with data off, or even with no cellular connection. The only thing missing is traffic info, which I don't miss and never even use when I'm home.

To stay on topic, since we've switched from AT&T to Xfinity mobile our calls in Europe are $0.10/minute, and texting is either free or $0.10/text. That's a tenth of what AT&T was, and we don't pay any daily fee. Since we don't make many calls while in Europe, and can almost always restrict any data use to wifi, we don't bother switching sims for our typical 2-3 stay. Oh, and did we mention we navigate using our phone app without a data connection? :D

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sunny_socal
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Re: Best SIM card for travel in Europe?

Post by sunny_socal » Sun Jun 16, 2019 12:19 pm

OP here.

Bought a couple Comviq SIM cards in Sweden, clerks at the convenience stores said "it's the best and cheapest." $25 each. Turns out they ONLY work in Sweden and can't roam at all. So, avoid that option.

Upon reaching Finland we got the DNA 'unlimited' cards, $20 each with a $5 credit at startup. Unlimited web/talk/text for only $0.89/day (actually it's all in Euros but whatever.) So far they're working great also here in Germany :beer

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Re: Best SIM card for travel in Europe?

Post by rick2427 » Sun Jun 16, 2019 12:49 pm

Just returned from a 3 week trip to London, Paris, Amsterdam and Munich. Purchase a 30 day "Lebara" SIM at the airport for 25 GBP. Worked great thru out.

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Leif
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Re: Best SIM card for travel in Europe?

Post by Leif » Sun Jun 16, 2019 1:06 pm

neilpilot wrote:
Sun Jun 16, 2019 12:11 pm
It still amazes me that travelers think they need to use mobile data to navigate.
I never said that. What I said was I used T-Mobile data for navigation. In fact, before my T-Mobile I used an iPhone App called Pocket Earth. You just need to download the app and the maps in the area you will be visiting. I still have it on my phone "just in case" there is no cell signal.

No expensive SIMs to buy or the hassle of changing it (and being afraid the original SIM will be lost).
Last edited by Leif on Sun Jun 16, 2019 1:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Best SIM card for travel in Europe?

Post by neilpilot » Sun Jun 16, 2019 1:21 pm

Leif wrote:
Sun Jun 16, 2019 1:06 pm
neilpilot wrote:
Sun Jun 16, 2019 12:11 pm
It still amazes me that travelers think they need to use mobile data to navigate.
I never said that. What I said was I used T-Mobile data for navigation. In fact, before my T-Mobile I used an iPhone App called Pocket Earth. You just need to download the app and the maps in the area you will be visiting. I still have it on my phone "just in case".
Good for you. When I read you post that "Data is slow, but good enough for my uses (navigation)", it implied that you used your data for navigation. Many Bogelheads think, incorrectly, that cellular data is REQUIRED to navigate. When I've posted similar info in other foreign SIM discussions, several have commented that they were very happy to learn that it wasn't the case. Cell data can easily be turned off by those who buy data in Europe simply to be able to GPS navigate.

Interesting to hear that tMobile calling in Europe costs about 2.5x the Xfinity rate.

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Leif
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Re: Best SIM card for travel in Europe?

Post by Leif » Sun Jun 16, 2019 1:28 pm

I do use data for navigation, since it is free (or rather part of the plan), with Pocket Earth as a backup. The T-Mobile rate of 0.25/min. is part of my plan (along with free text and 2G data) for $35/mo. But I rarely use the cellular call. As mentioned, I use WiFi if I need to make a call, but usually use text.

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Re: Best SIM card for travel in Europe?

Post by Chip » Sun Jun 16, 2019 1:39 pm

neilpilot wrote:
Sun Jun 16, 2019 12:11 pm
It still amazes me that travelers think they need to use mobile data to navigate.
While I download maps to minimize data usage, mobile data was very useful in getting real time public transportation information in a couple of major cities.

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Re: Best SIM card for travel in Europe?

Post by neilpilot » Sun Jun 16, 2019 3:00 pm

Chip wrote:
Sun Jun 16, 2019 1:39 pm
neilpilot wrote:
Sun Jun 16, 2019 12:11 pm
It still amazes me that travelers think they need to use mobile data to navigate.
While I download maps to minimize data usage, mobile data was very useful in getting real time public transportation information in a couple of major cities.
Sure it is, and it's an individual choice. For our trip last year, we spend 3 weeks in Europe. Excet for 2 nights in London, 1 each going and coming, we were driving or walking in SW France. Didn't visit Paris or another big city. We switched cell data on for about 5 minutes total during that 3 week trip. Our calls+text+date for the 3 weeks totaled about $4 on Xfinity.

This year we're in West Sussex for all but 4 nights during our 3 week visit to the UK. I'm sure we'll use some data during the 3 days in London, but it will be minimal and doesn't warrant a sim changeover.

Some travelers need their data, but we're low maintenance. Even when we're at home in the USA we use, at most, 1GB between us for 2 lines. I rely on wifi for almost all my data.

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