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Old 02-27-2015, 08:44 PM   #21
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Things have changed since the last message was posted here over a year ago.
I plan on some European travel and will probably visit 3-5 countries in the EU over a period of several weeks. (I am going with a travel newbie who wants to see a lot, otherwise I would pick one or two cities to stay in and concentrate on just those areas.)

I want a sim card that I will be useful with frequent border crossing in the EU countries.

One thing is the Three Feel at Home sim that is based in the UK. It looks like a descent deal. But, finding out how to buy the sim and get it activated is problematic. The assumption from what I read, is that one either lives in the UK or makes the UK one of the first stops. Alas, I won't be visiting the UK on this trip.

Any suggestions on where to get a sim card for my unlocked smart phone (GSM) would be welcome.
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Old 02-27-2015, 09:38 PM   #22
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I studied and studied and studied this, and came to the conclusion that the cross country sims you could buy before leaving the US weren't worth the hassle. I think some of these plans use a weird UK number (Isle of Mann?) or Estonia number that are expensive for the European callers to use.

What we did do was the T-mobile simple choice plan prepay, and get the SIM for DHs iPhone 5 which being a Verizon phone was unlocked already. This worked extremely well, and the local phone calls, 20c per minute, end up cheaper than the local pre-pay sims, plus calls back to the U.S. at 20c are way cheaper. Then free texting and data, and you know your (US) number before you leave. This worked seamlessly across national boundaries in Europe and the free, but sometimes slow data worked fine for when we were out and about, for map updates and a few searches, emails, etc.. For heavy use the hotel's wifi was used. It's $50 a month, but they prorated it when we turned it off. We ordered the sim and it was free.

When I got there, I bought a local SIM for a couple of the countries. Usually 10 or maybe a bit more. Enough on the SIM to cover a few calls and texting. The main reason we got it was to have a Europe number for family in Amsterdam and to give out a Europe number if local business needed to contact us. They don't like to call US numbers. It also let us contact each other if we were separated.
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Old 02-28-2015, 10:37 AM   #23
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I would add that running around to find a local SIM - finding the store, making sure it works etc. can be quite a hassle and an unpleasant interruption to your holiday activities and your valuable tourist time. I did a lot of pre-planning and new where to go - it was still a hassle! If a store puts it in and makes sure everything works, great. But some places, like a post office, they won't do that for you and you have to deal with foreign messages, etc.

If you only visit one country, it's no big deal. But multiple countries and it's way too much trouble.
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Old 02-28-2015, 11:38 AM   #24
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It's true -- it is a pain to get a sim card in each country for a trip like that. And you have to study the system and details of how it all works ahead of time, before arriving.

Maybe another big change is the importance of data. Now, so many people use Viber or Facebook messenger for messaging instead of text messages, this makes having a local phone number for texting somewhat less important.

My girlfriend and I recently returned from a 2 week trip to Thailand. They have a tourist sim and they install it right there at the airport -- about $19 and good for 15 days, it's working as you walk away from the sales counter.

I had LTE (4g) downloading speeds most places (up to 15 Mbits/sec). Used GPS plus Google applications a lot to help with getting around, whether walking or on motorbike. I think I even used the maps to help a taxi driver or two.

While both of our hotels had WiFi, in neither case did it reach our room with a decent signal. No problem, I just turned my phone into a WiFi hotspot for my tablet and surf the web -- never even got throttled after multiple Gigabytes downloaded.
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Old 02-28-2015, 11:44 AM   #25
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I would add that running around to find a local SIM - finding the store, making sure it works etc. can be quite a hassle and an unpleasant interruption to your holiday activities and your valuable tourist time.
Exactly. Doing this one for a visit of a 4 days or more is one thing. Doing it four times for short visits of less than 3 days is a waste of very limited vacation time.

It looks like a quick trip to t-mobile before I leave is the best solution.
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Old 02-28-2015, 02:30 PM   #26
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I would add that running around to find a local SIM - finding the store, making sure it works etc. can be quite a hassle
Maybe it just depends on the location.
Last year we spent some time in Belgium and I found a phone store right across the street from the train station (not sure now if it was Belgacom or Proximus). Walked in, bought a prepaid SIM card within a minute for 10 Euro and walked out with it. On the sidewalk, I popped in the SIM, connected to the system, and had it completely set up within five minutes. Reloaded it as needed in another 2-3 minutes. So there was no hassle.
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Old 02-28-2015, 03:12 PM   #27
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Maybe it just depends on the location.
Last year we spent some time in Belgium and I found a phone store right across the street from the train station (not sure now if it was Belgacom or Proximus). Walked in, bought a prepaid SIM card within a minute for 10 Euro and walked out with it. On the sidewalk, I popped in the SIM, connected to the system, and had it completely set up within five minutes. Reloaded it as needed in another 2-3 minutes. So there was no hassle.
That was lucky. It's often not that clean.

I found one place on-line that was a few blocks from my brothers house, they had exactly what I wanted from their list online. Went there - oops, don't have it at the moment. At least they directed me to another store a few blocks down. They did have what I was looking for and got my phone set up right away. By then we had quite a walk back.

And that was the "easier" one. The one in Salzburg took a bit more effort and cost hours of a gorgeous afternoon when I would rather have been out sightseeing. The post office shop didn't know where they were right away, didn't know how to set up the phone, etc. but from what I understood that's where the "bob" service was sold. I had to set up the phone myself, and it was quite tricky and confusing. I thought I had bought the wrong thing for a while as it kept asking me to register. Finally I somehow managed to get it to work in "pre-paid" mode. I think I translated quite a few confusing messages in the process.
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Old 03-02-2015, 01:35 PM   #28
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We changed to T Mobile's $50 monthly unlimited talk, data, etc. service--month to month. International calling is $.20 per minute. It's seamless--just like calling at home.

Our 2 1/2 year old granddaughter kept calling us in Budapest on her mother's speed dialing from home. It was 3:30 a.m., but we didn't mind.
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Old 03-02-2015, 02:05 PM   #29
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Our home cells are CDMA - but I switched mine to a nexus 5 so it's usable in Europe and with my home CDMA carrier, and we have a "feature phone" that's an unlocked GSM phone. This way we'll have 2 phones, one with data.

Like you, we'll be crossing countries a lot (7 countries, 11 cities, in 9 weeks.) Our first country is Italy - so we'll pick up a vodafone SIM at FCO during our layover. (Vodafone store is on the secure side, 3rd floor, above the B gates in terminal one from what I can ascertain.) Vodafone seems to be compatible with most of western Europe.

If need be, we'll swap sims to the next country when the sim runs out. I understand it can be challenging to recharge using an USAian credit card.... but I might pick up some ricarica cards before leaving Italy so we can use the same phone number the whole trip.

My understanding is there is now a fixed/regulated EU wide roaming charge... so the hit isn't so bad when you change countries as it used to be.
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Old 03-04-2015, 09:47 AM   #30
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If you don't need high speed, I would sign up with T-mobile in US for a month.
I was just in Europe, and download speeds I tested (France, Netherlands, Germany, Monte Carlo and Poland) were little over 100kbps - fast enough for Google maps, email, ER-org and casual web browsing, not fast enough for streaming.
If you need/want high speed you can pay extra for it.
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Old 03-04-2015, 10:00 AM   #31
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I think we're going to switch to T-mobile with a new iPhone 6 before we leave for Europe. They have Internet calling, and this may take care of our phone reception at home. At least we'll try it. If it turns out we can't get it to work well enough at our house we'll just get a SIM from another provider.
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Old 03-04-2015, 10:03 AM   #32
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If you don't need high speed, I would sign up with T-mobile in US for a month.
I was just in Europe, and download speeds I tested (France, Netherlands, Germany, Monte Carlo and Poland) were little over 100kbps - fast enough for Google maps, email, ER-org and casual web browsing, not fast enough for streaming.
If you need/want high speed you can pay extra for it.
The data worked fine for us too (Munich, Salzburg, Vienna, out in the Austrian boonies). I don't think anyone needs to sign up and pay extra for the high speed data plans either because your hotel will likely provide free wifi internet that is high speed enough.
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Old 03-04-2015, 02:24 PM   #33
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We used a local SIM card (with 3G data) on our last trip abroad. With a little research on travel forums, I found a SIM card vendor in the airport itself.

Just before leaving, I forwarded my cell phone (my only phone) to my google voice number so I wouldn't have to mess with my cell phone voicemail. Notifications came to me via email & the hangout app. Texts to my cell phone could be seen on my provider (VZW) site, but no proactive notification. I don't know if there is any delay before they show up.

T-mobile gives your free data and 20c/min calls, so if that's your provider, look into it.
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Old 03-13-2015, 11:37 PM   #34
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We used a local SIM card (with 3G data) on our last trip abroad. With a little research on travel forums, I found a SIM card vendor in the airport itself.

Just before leaving, I forwarded my cell phone (my only phone) to my google voice number so I wouldn't have to mess with my cell phone voicemail. Notifications came to me via email & the hangout app. Texts to my cell phone could be seen on my provider (VZW) site, but no proactive notification. I don't know if there is any delay before they show up.

T-mobile gives your free data and 20c/min calls, so if that's your provider, look into it.
I didn't know seeing your texts online was an option on Verizon - is that VZW?

This would be important for me.
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Old 04-01-2015, 06:39 PM   #35
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DH got a new iPhone and we're starting off with T-Mobile to see if we can get it to work as well at home as it does in Europe. It looks like WiFi calling is going to fix our problem with reception at our house. So far so good - it seems to work quite well! We didn't add any hardware for this either.

All the cellphone carriers are weak here - the more houses that go up, the worse all signal reception gets. (We've already given up on broadcast TV). We're in a bad spot AND we are also close to the border. Most of the neighbors are complaining bitterly about cell reception and having to go outside to make and hear phone calls.

Anyway - it's nice to have a US number that we can give someone and they can reach us in Europe - especially the places/tours that we have reservations with over there.
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