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Overseas Mobile Phone Solutions
Old 10-17-2014, 03:21 PM   #1
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Overseas Mobile Phone Solutions

I like having a smartphone (iPhone 5 currently) wherever I travel, for phone calls to hotels etc, but also to use Uber, check email, find maps, use gps, and so on.
What is the best, that is most convenient and economical, solution for someone going abroad maybe two times a year for a few weeks at a time and traveling in one or maybe two countries at a time?
I'm with AT&T in the US. They have a reduced rate international plan, but it is limited.
thanks
Don
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Old 10-17-2014, 03:30 PM   #2
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T-mobile Simple Choice was really great in Europe. We switched to their SIM in our iPhone 5 for overseas, and everything worked quite well crossing countries, no messing with different numbers or SIMs overseas or different rates. Then we canceled the contract when we returned.

If we could get a decent T-mobile signal at home, we would switch to their Simple Choice plan.
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Old 10-17-2014, 03:33 PM   #3
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I've been very happy with AT&T's plans when traveling in Europe. You just buy a month's worth when you need it, and it works splendidly.

Very occasionally, I want a local phone number when I'm over there, so I just use a cheap 3G phone and buy a prepaid SIM for it. Available everywhere.
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Old 10-17-2014, 03:48 PM   #4
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I've been very happy with AT&T's plans when traveling in Europe. You just buy a month's worth when you need it, and it works splendidly.
Me too.

I usually buy some "international data" so I can use maps and the we and such when I'm there.

I almost never make phone calls - but in the rare case where I do, I just use the phone (roaming) and it's not a noticeable cost. Not worth it to me to buy a special voice plan. YMMV

(I use an iPhone on ATT - GSM)
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Old 10-17-2014, 03:57 PM   #5
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I've been very happy with AT&T's plans when traveling in Europe. You just buy a month's worth when you need it, and it works splendidly.
That's what I do too.
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Old 10-17-2014, 04:08 PM   #6
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Depends on what you want to use the phone for, how much you want to use it.

Sign onto AT&T's international plans if your phone is locked to AT&T. If you've had the phone for awhile, you may be eligible to have it unlocked so you could use local carrier SIMs in the countries you visit.

Main advantage of getting an AT&T international package (you can turn it on and off for just a month) is that you keep your regular phone number, in case someone needs to reach you while you're abroad and you don't have to deal with figuring out how to get local SIMs and so forth.

Main disadvantage is that it's costly, for voice, data and text, and you can't use much data because it's way more expensive to roam.


If you have an unlocked phone, you have more options. One would be to use the T-Mobile Simple Choice for a month. Then you can roam and get data in other countries for free but the speed is throttled to about .1 Mbps. Compared to LTE in the US, you could be talking 100 times or slower but it's probably good enough for light surfing and things like Google Maps can work.

If you want a lot of fast data, then you get a local SIM from a carrier in that country. Prices vary by country and carrier and what kind of package you want. It's not bad if you just want enough data to use some apps. occasionally.

If you want a lot of data, like say 2 GB or more, like you get in the US per month, then expect to spend 20-40 Euros.

With a local SIM, you have a local phone number, so your American friends won't know the number to reach you and if they dial it, they're dialing international long distance.

A lot of people just go for maximal data and use things like iMessage to text with their other iPhone-owning friends or use FaceTime or Skype so that they don't have to worry about voice minutes on the foreign mobile network, just how much bucket of data you have.

I've bought as much as 10 GB of mobile data, for a week or two week trip, mainly because a lot of smaller hotels in Europe have unreliable and slow Wifi.
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Old 10-17-2014, 04:34 PM   #7
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T-Mobile was great in Spain and Portugal. I know they have other countries. No additional cost for text or data. Overall, we have been happy with T-Mobile and really appreciated that they added the international plan just before our trip. (They must have known
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Old 10-17-2014, 04:45 PM   #8
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I'll have to look into the t-mobile simple choice thing.
In the past we used a "feature" phone that was GSM and bought a sim card locally for it. Now that I'm hooked on a smart phone, but use TING (cdma) I'm looking at upgrading my phone to Nexus 6 - it supports both cdma and GSM, is unlocked - so I could use a local sim. We're going to be travelling through 5 countries next summer - so the local sim thing might be weird.

I wouldn't be buying a new phone just for this trip - but was already in the market for an upgrade.. Otherwise I'd just use the old gsm feature phone. As it stands, I'll have DH have that so we can call each other if we go separate ways.
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Old 10-17-2014, 04:54 PM   #9
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+1 for T-Mobile. We used our phone in Canada, Mexico and Europe without any problems. And no need to buy anything extra if you're already with T-Mobile. It's worked really well for us.
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Old 10-17-2014, 04:56 PM   #10
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T-Mobile was great in Spain and Portugal. I know they have other countries. No additional cost for text or data. Overall, we have been happy with T-Mobile and really appreciated that they added the international plan just before our trip. (They must have known
Yeah - you just use the hotel free wifi for any high speed data, and the "low-speed" stuff is fine for maps to work and google while you are walking around.
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Old 10-17-2014, 04:58 PM   #11
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I'll have to look into the t-mobile simple choice thing.
In the past we used a "feature" phone that was GSM and bought a sim card locally for it. Now that I'm hooked on a smart phone, but use TING (cdma) I'm looking at upgrading my phone to Nexus 6 - it supports both cdma and GSM, is unlocked - so I could use a local sim. We're going to be travelling through 5 countries next summer - so the local sim thing might be weird.

I wouldn't be buying a new phone just for this trip - but was already in the market for an upgrade.. Otherwise I'd just use the old gsm feature phone. As it stands, I'll have DH have that so we can call each other if we go separate ways.
If you are visiting multiple counties in Europe, a SIM in each country is a pain. Not bad for single destination.
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Old 10-17-2014, 10:38 PM   #12
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We're going to be travelling through 5 countries next summer - so the local sim thing might be weird.
You should be able to find a SIM that works in multiple countries. For example, my family has a prepaid German SIM in a cheap flip phone that we use when we visit family there. The SIM allows voice and text roaming to EU countries for just a few cents more.
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Old 10-18-2014, 12:52 AM   #13
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Has anyone used local carrier SIMs (in Europe) on one of the newer verizon lte phones with unlocked SIM? What was your experience?
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Old 10-18-2014, 10:57 AM   #14
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These are very helpful suggestions. The idea of staying with your carrier (AT&T) sounds convenient. My son in law did that and with good results.
What I have done for phoning back home is to use Skype as a mobile app.
You link your Skype account to a credit card and whenever it runs down, it will automatically add more ... I mean in the middle of a phone conversation automatic. With a smart phone you have to be online, but I'm usually using it at a hotel or other place where I can talk. When the wifi connection is good, the audio quality is superb. When it is not so good, you just hang up and try again when you have better connection. This involved going to the lobby of a hotel in Paris. Not perfect but very inexpensive and convenient.
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Old 10-22-2014, 02:55 PM   #15
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I bought an unlocked Moto X (GSM) phone and started out with a Simple Choice plan on T-Mobile. One reason for making that choice was their free international coverage. I spent a week in London earlier this year and my phone worked like a charm and I didn't have to do a thing. Coverage was excellent and the speeds were more than adequate for looking up information and using maps to find my way around. I would still be with T-Mobile, but their coverage in my home area was really poor. I switched to an AT&T monthly plan and I'm very happy with my coverage and performance now. If you have an unlocked phone and you live where T-Mobile offers good coverage, I recommend checking out their plans.
When I go back to Europe for my next vacation I guess I have a couple of options. One would be to buy some international data from AT&T and the other would be to put the T-Mobile SIM back in my phone and switch my coverage over to them for a month or two. I'll probably try out the AT&T data plan. It seems a bit pricey for what you get, but I think I'll just roll that into the cost of the trip.
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Old 10-22-2014, 03:38 PM   #16
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I was pleasantly surprised in China 3 years ago to find enough free wi-fi that I never used the international roaming at all during the 10 days. That said, I was on a tour and didn't need to do things like find train schedules or make hotel reservations. If I was doing that I'd probably pay for international data just for the convenience.
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