Cell phone usage in Europe

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tealeaves
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Joined: Sun Apr 29, 2018 1:21 pm

Cell phone usage in Europe

Post by tealeaves »

I have not traveled abroad in many years but need to leave on Friday for Europe (specifically to London, Prague, and Berlin) for a week to attend to some unexpected family issues. I currently have an Iphone 7 with an AT&T family plan. What is the most economical way to continue cell phone usage while abroad for this short stint? It might be too late to get one of those prepaid phones, and I will want to take photos, have texting capability, and make about 10-15 short duration calls to the U.S. while there. Any cheap services that you recommend where I could simply swap my sim with another?
stan1
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Joined: Mon Oct 08, 2007 4:35 pm

Re: Cell phone usage in Europe

Post by stan1 »

Simplest thing is to go into your account and see what it would cost to add international service to your account for this trip.

See what that costs first and then decide if you want to deal with SIM swap.
Jags4186
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Re: Cell phone usage in Europe

Post by Jags4186 »

Not sure if you have Amazon Prime but this:

https://www.amazon.com/PrePaid-destinat ... 342&sr=8-4

Shows 1-Day Prime delivery for tomorrow for me (not sure if you are in an area that supports that). I've used these in the past and they are great.

There are probably ones a little cheaper but this one will get to you tomorrow.
Lalamimi
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Re: Cell phone usage in Europe

Post by Lalamimi »

My daughter uses her AT&T in Europe. Add International to the plan then remove when you come back.
Silk McCue
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Re: Cell phone usage in Europe

Post by Silk McCue »

This is what I have used. $10 per day to use your own minutes and data.

https://www.att.com/offers/internation ... lsrc=aw.ds

Cheers
02nz
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Re: Cell phone usage in Europe

Post by 02nz »

tealeaves wrote: Wed Feb 26, 2020 7:53 pm I have not traveled abroad in many years but need to leave on Friday for Europe (specifically to London, Prague, and Berlin) for a week to attend to some unexpected family issues. I currently have an Iphone 7 with an AT&T family plan. What is the most economical way to continue cell phone usage while abroad for this short stint? It might be too late to get one of those prepaid phones, and I will want to take photos, have texting capability, and make about 10-15 short duration calls to the U.S. while there. Any cheap services that you recommend where I could simply swap my sim with another?
You can only swap the SIM for a local provider's SIM if you have an unlocked phone. Do you know if yours is unlocked?

Unlocked newer iPhones that support eSIM (yours does not) are best for international travel, as you can get a local data plan using the eSIM with a provider like Airalo (there are many others), much cheaper.

For this trip I'd just buy a data pass for when you need it. Not sure what AT&T charges but on Sprint it's something like $5/day. (T-Mobile and Sprint have "free" international data roaming in most of the world, but it's capped at 2G speeds.)
Horsefly
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Re: Cell phone usage in Europe

Post by Horsefly »

AT&T International coverage is way to expensive.

I've used my unlocked phone (AT&T family plan) in many countries. I stop in the airport, buy a pre-paid SIM card, had them install it, and I'm good. I think all of the ones I've gotten have included 10's of GB of data and free calls to the US (to a limit). Then when I get back on the plane to come back home I pop out the purchased SIM and put in my original AT&T SIM.

I did this in Australia, and had a total of 60GB of data over 5 weeks, for something like $30US.
ColoradoRick
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Re: Cell phone usage in Europe

Post by ColoradoRick »

Silk McCue wrote: Wed Feb 26, 2020 8:06 pm This is what I have used. $10 per day to use your own minutes and data.

https://www.att.com/offers/internation ... lsrc=aw.ds

Cheers
+1 & +1 to stan1...

Went to Europe in 2017 & 2019 for 3+ weeks and you can just go online if you have ATT and sign up for international plan. Reason I like it is you can use Apple Maps out in the boonies where there is no wifi and in France particularly the map street names often didn't match the street sign names. In Portugal all the streets had 3 to 4 word chain names and very confusing. Seri said turn right here...turn left here and we got around fine. Its $10 but they don't tell you about the $2/day tax. Still cheaper than a parking ticket and for $84 great peace of mind. A friend went to Italy and said sell me a SIM card to use here so I can use my phone. He bought the one they recommended and he went outside store and tried to use and could not. The Italians said you bought the wrong card; like it was his fault! Who needs that aggravation? I don't. I'll just use my own phone. Put a note in your calendar to turn it off online when you get back to avoid having someone skim it. If you don't use it you don't get charges but there have been fraud instances so I've read so best practice is to cancel upon return.
neilpilot
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Re: Cell phone usage in Europe

Post by neilpilot »

ColoradoRick wrote: Wed Feb 26, 2020 8:18 pm
Went to Europe in 2017 & 2019 for 3+ weeks and you can just go online if you have ATT and sign up for international plan. Reason I like it is you can use Apple Maps out in the boonies where there is no wifi and in France particularly the map street names often didn't match the street sign names. In Portugal all the streets had 3 to 4 word chain names and very confusing.
Many who navigate using their cellphone mistakenly thing they need cell service or wifi. So long as you don't need traffic info you can easily download the country map and navigate in Europe off line

I do it every year
Shallowpockets
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Re: Cell phone usage in Europe

Post by Shallowpockets »

Unlocked phone.
Buy SIM card at airport when you land. They can install it for you.
That is what I do. It’s the easiest way overall.
marcwd
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Re: Cell phone usage in Europe

Post by marcwd »

Buying a local SIM card is all well and good. But then you’re not reachable via phone and text at your Stateside number. Given that my MVNO offers no option for service outside the US, are there any workarounds for me?
Jags4186
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Re: Cell phone usage in Europe

Post by Jags4186 »

marcwd wrote: Fri Feb 28, 2020 7:08 pm Buying a local SIM card is all well and good. But then you’re not reachable via phone and text at your Stateside number. Given that my MVNO offers no option for service outside the US, are there any workarounds for me?
You can have your phone forward to a Google Voice number then you can accept the call via the Google Hangouts app’s VOIP system.
bluebolt
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Re: Cell phone usage in Europe

Post by bluebolt »

tealeaves wrote: Wed Feb 26, 2020 7:53 pm I have not traveled abroad in many years but need to leave on Friday for Europe (specifically to London, Prague, and Berlin) for a week to attend to some unexpected family issues. I currently have an Iphone 7 with an AT&T family plan. What is the most economical way to continue cell phone usage while abroad for this short stint? It might be too late to get one of those prepaid phones, and I will want to take photos, have texting capability, and make about 10-15 short duration calls to the U.S. while there. Any cheap services that you recommend where I could simply swap my sim with another?
Easy - $10/day AT&T int'l day pass. If you stay on wifi, and only use this when you really need it, you might not need it every day.
Cheap - $23 Three UK sim card linked in an earlier post

You choose.
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mmmodem
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Re: Cell phone usage in Europe

Post by mmmodem »

The most economical way is to use wifi which is plentiful in every European country we visited. More plentiful than in the US in my opinion. Literally every restaurant we ate at had free WiFi. That's when DW updated her Facebook with pictures and texts. Outside of wifi, just text as you would normally. Might cost a few cents per text international but if you limit yourself until your next meal, you'll do fine.

Google maps works without a cell plan. Just download the maps on your hotel WiFi before you set out for the day. We used Google voice FaceTime for phone calls. We paid a grand total of zero $'s for cell coverage on our two week holiday in Europe and did not miss it.
marcwd
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Re: Cell phone usage in Europe

Post by marcwd »

Jags4186 wrote: Fri Feb 28, 2020 7:11 pm
marcwd wrote: Fri Feb 28, 2020 7:08 pm Buying a local SIM card is all well and good. But then you’re not reachable via phone and text at your Stateside number. Given that my MVNO offers no option for service outside the US, are there any workarounds for me?
You can have your phone forward to a Google Voice number then you can accept the call via the Google Hangouts app’s VOIP system.
Thanks for this. I’ll look into it. Any options for texts?
JVV
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Re: Cell phone usage in Europe

Post by JVV »

Jags4186 wrote: Fri Feb 28, 2020 7:11 pm
marcwd wrote: Fri Feb 28, 2020 7:08 pm Buying a local SIM card is all well and good. But then you’re not reachable via phone and text at your Stateside number. Given that my MVNO offers no option for service outside the US, are there any workarounds for me?
You can have your phone forward to a Google Voice number then you can accept the call via the Google Hangouts app’s VOIP system.
+1

I just did this exact thing in Portugal and it worked great! I use MVNO as well (red pocket)
artgerst
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Re: Cell phone usage in Europe

Post by artgerst »

After going to Europe many times in the last few years and often have to work, here's what I do after lots of research and real-world use. I fully understand that this may be above and beyond what's needed but after going often and for longer durations I found I needed this solution (possibly difficult for some).

First I have an iphone and verizon and my phone is unlocked (must be unlocked):

1) For data, I bought a SIM card in the UK. It's totally worth it. I keep the same SIM card after my first time going and I top it up online (3store) - note you have to go through a 3rd party to top up online. Able to use this in other countries.

2) For phone -
-- For outgoing - I am able to make local calls which is useful and sometimes useful to have a local UK number. If I'm calling family it's through facetime/WhatsApp. If I have to make a call to a cell phone or landline in the US I use Skype (on my phone) - you can pay something like $5 to load your account and then it's pennies per minute for calls.
-- For incoming - I created a google voice number and forward my verizon US calls to that number and trigger an email so that it contains the voicemail message in the email. For me I'm not interested in someone getting me immediately, but since I often read my email I can see if there's an important call and call them back (again via Skype).

3) For texting -
-- For outgoing - just use regular iphone text messages from the new UK SIM card since it knows it's "you"
-- For incoming - for regular iphone text messages they go to the phone in the UK. For SMS messages, I leave an older iphone in the US connected to an outlet and wifi. Now with iOS you can set it up that a text message (SMS) received via your US phone can be transferred to another phone or computer using the same appleID. I have found this useful for the 2 factor authentication required by many sites nowadays where they send you a text message with a code.
criticalmass
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Re: Cell phone usage in Europe

Post by criticalmass »

tealeaves wrote: Wed Feb 26, 2020 7:53 pm I have not traveled abroad in many years but need to leave on Friday for Europe (specifically to London, Prague, and Berlin) for a week to attend to some unexpected family issues. I currently have an Iphone 7 with an AT&T family plan. What is the most economical way to continue cell phone usage while abroad for this short stint? It might be too late to get one of those prepaid phones, and I will want to take photos, have texting capability, and make about 10-15 short duration calls to the U.S. while there. Any cheap services that you recommend where I could simply swap my sim with another?
Lots of options:
1.) Are you sure you really need phone company service? WiFi works great for phone calls and data, if you use it while at a cafe, restaurant, hotel, etc. Use Google voice and you can talk with a US number, receiving and placing calls just fine. Download offline maps (e.g. with google maps), podcasts, etc in advance.

2.) Your phone is unlocked: Buy a non-US SIM card while still in the US from outfits like Rebelfone. Per minute fees aren't great, but you shouldn't have to pay at all for incoming SMS and voice. You also know your phone number before you leave. NOTE: Rebelfone appears to be out of business now. Too bad, because they would lend you a SIM and send it quickly before a trip. Their competitors may still be around.

3.) Your phone is unlocked: Buy a non-US SIM upon arriving. E.g. at the airport, at a local mobile store, etc. You may need your passport to register the SIM depending on location. Again, you will have Europe rules: You pay only for outgoing calls/SMS. You can probably get a bunch of minutes/SMS to start too. This method is fine for the UK/EU areas you mentioned. It is NOT fine for places like Turkey with extreme policies for putting Turkish SIMs in non Turkish owned phones.

4.) Use T-Mobile post-paid. Free International data! 3G speeds, good enough for Skype, Google Voice.

5.) Use another carrier with international plan. Very expensive fixed daily and/or usage costs. If you pay for calls, you also pay for INCOMING calls too.

More and more, I just use Option #1. Simple, cost effective, and very useful. You can also combine this with a monthly international Skype plan ($10/month? or often free the first month) to call (landlines) anywhere you go.
Last edited by criticalmass on Fri Feb 28, 2020 10:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Jags4186
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Re: Cell phone usage in Europe

Post by Jags4186 »

marcwd wrote: Fri Feb 28, 2020 8:48 pm
Jags4186 wrote: Fri Feb 28, 2020 7:11 pm
marcwd wrote: Fri Feb 28, 2020 7:08 pm Buying a local SIM card is all well and good. But then you’re not reachable via phone and text at your Stateside number. Given that my MVNO offers no option for service outside the US, are there any workarounds for me?
You can have your phone forward to a Google Voice number then you can accept the call via the Google Hangouts app’s VOIP system.
Thanks for this. I’ll look into it. Any options for texts?
If you have an iPhone, iMessages (blue texts) will come through regardless of the SIM you have. SMS/MMS will not. No work around for this I’m aware of unless you port your number entirely to Google Voice.
marcwd
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Re: Cell phone usage in Europe

Post by marcwd »

Jags4186 wrote: Fri Feb 28, 2020 9:52 pm
marcwd wrote: Fri Feb 28, 2020 8:48 pm
Jags4186 wrote: Fri Feb 28, 2020 7:11 pm
marcwd wrote: Fri Feb 28, 2020 7:08 pm Buying a local SIM card is all well and good. But then you’re not reachable via phone and text at your Stateside number. Given that my MVNO offers no option for service outside the US, are there any workarounds for me?
You can have your phone forward to a Google Voice number then you can accept the call via the Google Hangouts app’s VOIP system.
Thanks for this. I’ll look into it. Any options for texts?
If you have an iPhone, iMessages (blue texts) will come through regardless of the SIM you have. SMS/MMS will not. No work around for this I’m aware of unless you port your number entirely to Google Voice.
Good info. I didn’t know that the proper routing of iMessages was possible regardless of SIM card. Again, thank you.
GeoffD
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Re: Cell phone usage in Europe

Post by GeoffD »

This is only a 1 week trip. Why wouldn’t you just use the AT&T $10/day service? I use the Verizon equivalent.

I have a Skype account for outbound calls. Skype presents my cell phone CallerID so nobody knows it’s Skype or my location. I put $10 on it five years ago to make Asia business calls. I still have $5.00 left on it. 800 numbers are free. My usual US/Canada call is less than 10 cents.
theplayer11
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Re: Cell phone usage in Europe

Post by theplayer11 »

paying $10 a day is ridiculous. If your phone is unlocked, get a 4GB data sim card on Amazon for $25. Good for most European countries and lasts 60 days. I just used one on multiple country trip and it worked great. Data only, used Imessage to contact family back home.
https://www.amazon.com/Cellhire-Prepaid ... 511&sr=8-7
tj218
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Re: Cell phone usage in Europe

Post by tj218 »

Any solution on getting texts (SMS) on an Android (Samsung) phone forwarded to either Google or a new European Sim Card #?
Jags4186
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Re: Cell phone usage in Europe

Post by Jags4186 »

tj218 wrote: Sat Feb 29, 2020 7:57 am Any solution on getting texts (SMS) on an Android (Samsung) phone forwarded to either Google or a new European Sim Card #?
This article is a little old but has a good explanation for both. It’s not that simple and involves a second phone.

https://www.seattletimes.com/business/t ... an-iphone/

I’d recommend just telling folks who normally would SMS to email you instead or just use google hangouts/Skype chat.

Or get and iPhone and tell everyone you care about to get an iPhone so all messages go through the iMessage system.
Eno Deb
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Re: Cell phone usage in Europe

Post by Eno Deb »

tj218 wrote: Sat Feb 29, 2020 7:57 am Any solution on getting texts (SMS) on an Android (Samsung) phone forwarded to either Google or a new European Sim Card #?
No, forwarding SMS is generally not possible. Some alternatives:

- Get a Google Voice number (which can receive SMS) and tell your friends to use that. Then use the Google Voice app on your phone (which uses the data plan).
- Tell them to use a messaging app such as Whatsapp or (better) Signal.

Regarding a local SIM, remember that these work in the entire EU, so you don't need to buy a separate one for each country (although I'm not sure if that's still true for Britain during the Brexit transition phase). As someone else wrote, by far the most convenient solution is to use a newer iPhone with eSIM capability, which allows you to simply buy a local data plan via an app. Buying and activating a physical SIM isn't always that easy.
gensuki
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Re: Cell phone usage in Europe

Post by gensuki »

For Europe, I buy a Three UK SIM card on Amazon before my trip. It works all over Europe and other countries. A few days before the trip, I activate the card to make sure it is working. This way when I get off the plane in Europe I am already connected and ready to call up if the taxi that is supposed to pick me up hasn't arrived yet. The SIM card gives me a lot of data and the ability to make calls and texts in Europe to Europeans using my UK number. For Americans, I tell them to use my Google Voice number. With that and either wifi or cell data, we can text and call each other for free. They would call and text me the usual way; I would use the Google Voice app on my phone.
02nz
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Re: Cell phone usage in Europe

Post by 02nz »

criticalmass wrote: Fri Feb 28, 2020 9:44 pm 4.) Use T-Mobile post-paid. Free International data! 3G speeds, good enough for Skype, Google Voice.
I've used T-Mobile and Sprint's "free" international roaming. Both carriers advertise 2G not 3G speeds. And in my experience it's more often 2G speed than 3G. It does vary by location, in a few places I got unthrottled 4G LTE speeds (you always get connected to the LTE network if available, it's just the speed that's throttled).

I find that when throttled to 2G speed VOIP applications work ok-ish but not great.
criticalmass
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Re: Cell phone usage in Europe

Post by criticalmass »

02nz wrote: Sun Mar 01, 2020 11:38 am
criticalmass wrote: Fri Feb 28, 2020 9:44 pm 4.) Use T-Mobile post-paid. Free International data! 3G speeds, good enough for Skype, Google Voice.
I've used T-Mobile and Sprint's "free" international roaming. Both carriers advertise 2G not 3G speeds. And in my experience it's more often 2G speed than 3G. It does vary by location, in a few places I got unthrottled 4G LTE speeds (you always get connected to the LTE network if available, it's just the speed that's throttled).

I find that when throttled to 2G speed VOIP applications work ok-ish but not great.
Agreed, although there is no universal definition over what "2G speed" and "3G speed" is. In practice, I've been able to make phone calls over Google Voice using the T-mobile data, plus the usual email access, map information (beyond offline capabilities), etc.
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