Cell Phone Tips: 2006
More and more travelers are using mobile phones in Europe. How does your US phone work in Europe? Have you found any great deals for buying or renting a phone once you arrive?
- Please don't post questions here. Use our Travelers Helpline.
Skype if it's an option!
If you are bringing a laptop, I highly recommend downloading and using skype. It's a great service, and very affordable. Good for long calls home or abroad to friends and family. But it can't be used for all communication as it isn't touch-tone and not compatible with automation phone menus.
USA Wed 12/06/2006
Mobile phones with local SIM card - most flexibility
I have a quad-band unlocked phone with T-Mobile service. For countries where I'm not challenged with the language too much, I stop at a local phone kiosk and buy a prepaid local SIM card. Their rates are relatively cheaper to call the US and often they have deals where they throw in free minutes (got 120 free minutes one time). Where I'm more "language challenged", I go ahead and pay the higher roaming with my US plan. At least T-Mobile does not charge you an extra monthly fee (unlike Cingular) to have world-wide roaming rates. The advantage of either of these over relying on calling cards or Skype is if you are trying to book things as you are traveling. Using a mobile phone, people can call you back (and its a local number if you buy a local SIM card) when you're on the train or wherever. Much easier to book things on the fly.
Denver, CO USA Wed 11/29/2006
Cell Phone Troubles
Had some problems with using my cell on recent trip to Europe, so in hopes of helping others, here are the issues I ran into. 1. Could not get a network. Then I found out I had to manually change the band on my new cell. 2.Phone would not charge no matter what configuration of adapters I used. I bought a european charger for my motorola v66 and then it charged. 3. The calling card I bought my family so they could call my liechtenstein number did not work with their AT&T service, so they were not able to call me. Ended up using Skype to contact my family via wireless laptop - free & convenient!
USA Sun 11/12/2006
Mobal network for Italy
Just got back from Italy. Bought the $49 Mobal phone (Motorola C117), quick service and reliable. Problem is it's a phone number in England and I'm in Italy paying high long distance rates to call locally. Would have been cheaper to have an unlocked triband phone and purchase SIM card for Italy(they have 2 networks)- you can order it on line and it will be sent to you. Mobal is too expensive a way to go and they won't unlock the phone after using it (even if they quote Rick Steves as endorsing it; I would question his endorsement).
San Francisco, CA USA Tue 11/07/2006
SIM Chip for phone in Italy
I ordered a sim chip from Ekit and used it in my unlocked quad band Motorola phone that I use here in the states. It worked everywhere, including in the Dolomites. It also gives you a number that you can receive 60 minutes of free incoming calls. I used this to have my 2 college age children call us twice each week while we were in Italy for three weeks. It all worked out well and was nice the have the phone when we had a problem with one of our hotels.
Petaluma, CA USA Mon 10/23/2006
I also used my regular Cingular Motorola V400 in Italy for two weeks. I did sign up for the $5.99 because it would pay for itself after only 20 minutes usage. BUT, I was distressed to find out that voicemail messages take as long as 2-3 days to get transferred, which was bad because we had 4 couples traveling together and there were several times unfortunately when we needed to make contact, left messages, but did not receive them until way too late to make decisions. And, we had trouble with the phone beginning in Chicago when our flight was delayed and one of the other couples had their flight cancelled entirely. I was trying to call them and they were trying to call me and we did not get each others' messages until after we were already in Italy. I talked to Cingular about this and they just said it was normal. HUH?
st louis, mo USA Sat 10/21/2006
Just back from Switzerland. I used my US Cingular Raz'r phone with no problems. I did not sign up for the $5.99 monthly international fee, so I paid about $1.29 a min.
I did not have to go out and purchases a new phone, sim card - or get a new phone number for this one week trip.
I figured that if I kept my use under about 20 min, I'd pay the same as if I'd paid the $5.99 and got the $.99 a min fee.
So easy to use, and my cell service in Kandersteg - a TINY town in the Alps was amazing.
My daughter text messaged me...so that's even cheaper per use.
So ---my advise, don't spend $$ buying a new phone for a one week or two week vacation.
Check with your service provider for their international service plans, and check to see if you phone will work abroad.
USA Mon 10/16/2006
International SIM card sale
Hey fellow travelers! I was researching cell phone options mentioned here and noticed that Zengo Wireless (www.zengowireless.com) is having a great sale on their international phones and SIM cards.
The international phones are $65 off and the international SIM cards are $30 (original price $49) and $45 (original price $69). The SIM cards are cheaper than even most local cards and you can use them in 120 countries with one number. From what I understand, you don't get a US number, which sucks, but at least you'll get your number before you leave and you won't have to buy a local card in every place you visit.
Los Angeles, CA USA Fri 10/13/2006
To Mary from Bloomington, IL.
You can purchase a cell phone in Ireland to use over there. Go to any cell phone store or kiosk. It must be an UNLOCKED sim card phone. Then you can put in different sim cards depending on which European country you are traveling in. You then purchase additional minutes as you need them. Simple and less expensive for calls within the country. Calls from home are free because you don't pay for incoming calls.
Barrington, IL USA Mon 10/09/2006
purchase a cell phone in Ireland?
I am going to Dublin, Ireland this summer and want to know if you can buy a cell phone once you are in Ireland? Where would one purchase it? I do NOT want to call the USA just need it for on the road car assistance and medical help in Ireland. Thanks for any ideas!
Bloomington, IL USA Tue 10/03/2006
I would be very surprised if your cruise ship didn't have high speed internet available for passenger use. So, I wouldn't bother with a satellite phone which is likely to be VERY VERY expensive.
Scotland Sun 10/01/2006
Does anyone have any experience renting a satellite phone for England and the Atlantic....am goin on cruise out of Southampton for 12 days....want to assure coverage...others have advised me the cell phones will NOT work at sea away from land! HELP!!
editors note: questions must be posted to Traveler's Helpline
Kenvil, nj USA Sun 10/01/2006
cell phone in Turkey
Beginning this summer you can no longer use a sim card from Turkey in a phone not purchased in Turkey, without going through a long, arduous verification process. They are trying to cut down on illegal imports of phones. If you have a sim card already you can pick up a used phone for about $20 at a phone store that is on about every corner in any city. Just make sure is works before leaving the store.
AZ USA Wed 09/27/2006
On my recent trip I had great experience with my Modal service. I got the chip (free at the time) and use it in my unlocked tri-band phone even here in the US. In Europe it worked everywhere, even from trails high in the Dolomites. The cost/minute is relatively high but the convenience of no prepayment or fixed charges and broad international coverage make it worth it to me.
USA Wed 09/27/2006
Orange Mobicarte SIM for France
My husband and I have just returned from 2 weeks in Marseille in Southern France. I purchased two Orange Mobicarte SIMs at Carrefour for 30 Euros each and used the address of my friend's house that we were staying at. We had no problem to text or call back home to the Seattle area. Most of our family are using Verizon and Orange has the ability to text to Verizon. SFR, the other major French cell phone company, does not. We also drove to San Remo, Italy and Barcelona, Spain and were able to use our cell phones with no problems. I even have service with my Orange SIM here in Seattle through T-Mobile. As for the phones, I used an unlocked Motorola V551 and a V400, both purchased on Ebay. I also purchased a European charger on line just by doing a search with the part number(SPN5038A). Everything worked perfectly.
Federal Way, WA USA Sun 09/24/2006
calls to usa
For maybe once daily or less calling back to the u.s., it seems like alot of hassle and money to mess with the cell phones and buying sim chips. Considering the very unreliable service. I use an MCI calling card some of the time (very reliable) and most of the time internet email. I just tell family and friends to email if there are any problems and if they don't, I assume all is well. Has worked fine every time and is cheap, reliable and easy to use as pay phones and internet cafes are virtually everywhere in europe.
Snohomish, WA USA Sun 09/24/2006
I have a quad band phone from the us i used it all over europe but its 1.29 a minute...i used the car charger with no problem. in european rentals..germany, switzerland, england, scotland ect ect. its expensive but worth it...susan
jacksonville, florid USA Sat 09/23/2006
italy rental phones
C.Mickelson posted a question re italian rental cell phones.
it is pretty tough to get a italian prepaid cell phone or rental cell phone. there are new laws that make it difficult unless you have a local address. heck, you even have to register your passport to use an internet cafe for 30 minutes.
i just got back from italy. i purchased an italian gsm sim card with the TIM provider thru a dealer (who provided the local address). it worked great in my unlocked tri-band gsm cell phone. very cheap to use if you are only calling within italy [0.07€ per minute]. easy to add additional money at italian post office atm's and TIM retail stores. cingular charged $1.00 per minute for any call while in europe. i am selling it now b/c i don't have any more use for it. the ad has more info http://seattle.craigslist.org/see/ele/209922633.html
seattle, wa USA Thu 09/21/2006
I bought a card in Amsterdam from Telfort, and droped in my unlocked Nokia 6620, which is a triband phone. Voice calling worked great in Holland, but once I left for Berlin, I could only send and receive text messages. No calls would go out. I kept in touch with my friend in Amsterdam via text the rest of the trip. Text worked in germany, denmark, Sweden , and Norway.. Just some info..
LA, CA USA Mon 09/11/2006
Cell PHone Charger
Cars everywhere use 12 volts. That is what comes out of the auxillory plug/cigerette lighter. It doesn't matter whether you are in Moscow or Atlanta, 12 volts is 12 Volts so the guy that bought a 12 to 24 volt charger simply wasted his money becuase he bought one that would work in a semitruck. They often use 24 volts to start their very heavy engines. The difference is voltage between the USA and Europe play when you plug the charger up in the house. In the USA, the house voltage is 110 volts. In Europe, it is 220 volts. If you plug a 110 volt charger into a 220 volt outlet, you will ruin it.
Oklahoma CIty, Ok USA Tue 09/05/2006
Rented Cell phone / Verizon Int'l
Just rented a cell phone from Verizon for our 8 days in London and southern England. It was $4 @ day with a fixed rate of $1.49 @ minute, drop shipped to our home the day before we left for $20. Only used a few times, but with family at home a small price for peace of mind knowing we COULD be reached anytime, anywhere. No worries, since no news was good news.
Washington, DC USA Tue 09/05/2006
International Text Messaging?
Has anyone used their US GSM service just for text messaging? I'm not much of a phone talker, but I'll be in Germany, Switzerland, and Prague for 3 weeks total and I'd like the option of sending/receiving texts once in awhile. Please email if you have any info.
Costa Mesa, CA USA Tue 08/29/2006
Charging your cell phone in the car
When I purchased my car charger, it accepted 12-24 vdc. I plugged it into the car I rented in France, and it worked fine. The key, then, is to purchase a charger that works on variable voltages.
Ottawa, Ont Canada Tue 08/29/2006
charging cell phone in car in europe
I know I can use my cell phone charger without a converter. However, is the charge system in their cars the same? Is it safe to charge my cell phone using the rental car in europe
Cambria, CA USA Mon 08/28/2006
I used my own phone
I bought this phone from www.freephonefreeshipping.com it was Quad band and the company let me get the code to use a different sim card in Eurpoe! I could even use my existing service if I wanted!
fernandina beach, fl USA Sun 08/27/2006
Mobal World Phone
Just returned from trip to Ireland. In Continental's magazine on flight home, found advert for Mobal World Phone (purchase price $49.00 US) claiming to be "endorsed by Rick Steves," but Rick Steves we site has no reference. I use a mobile Vodaphone purchased in Rome for around $100 US - it stinks - have used it in Italy and Ireland (buying an Irish SIM chip for the reasonable price of 10 Euro). It constantly shows a "no service' message until fiddled with, drops calls in progress and runs out of minutes fast. It has no external antena (what a mistake).
Norristown, PA USA Fri 08/25/2006
Italy rental phones
Has anyone had experience renting a phone in Italy during their trip? I am doing an 18 day van trip and would like to keep in contact with Agriturismos and hotels etc. during the trip. My provider (Verizon) has a rental program but it is quite expensive.
Rapid City, USA Fri 08/25/2006
cell phone tips
i bought a charger in europe for my mortorola phone most cell phones are the same models in europe so you can use their charger...it worked great...no adapter needed...note the same thing for the ipod, got one of the adapter i pod chargers for 39 dollars and took only the plugs I needed for europe and viola...pas de problem cell phone was unlocked by cingular and is a quad band (almost all their phones are GSM tri and quad band) so I can buy a sim card when I arrive at airport and then use it to call friends...also get a card good for the US (they have these at the tabacs and key the access no into my cell and use it to call family (like the husband who is back home) I dont mind changing cell nos for each visit to Paris and the convienece is great.
Fairfax, Ca USA Wed 08/23/2006
cell phones in Germany
In Germany, if you go into any Tchibo coffee shop, they sell SIMM cards for only 5 euro to use with your phone and their pre-paid services http://www.tchibo.de/is-bin/INTERSHOP.enfinity/eCS/Store/de/-/EUR/TdTchBrowseCatalog-Start?CategoryName=mobil ) Their rate is 25 cents/minute and free voice mailbox. Aldi stores also have cheap SIMM cards. You can also purchase a cell phone from Tchibo stores for as little as 25 Euros.
Germany Tue 08/22/2006
re: charging cell phone in italy
Are you sure your phone is tri- or quad-band? If not, it will not work in Europe. All the phones of those types I have ever seen have 110-240 volt (dual voltage) power supplies. If your phone charger is rated at the lower voltage only, you will need a converter.
USA Mon 08/21/2006
charging cell phone in italy
Any information would be greatly appreciated. I'm leaving for Italy next week, and I would like to be able to charge my phone while there. Since I'm on Cingular, I plan to use the $5.99 int'l service to make calls to and from Italy, but I'm having trouble figuring out how to charge the phone. The AC power supply says "Input: 120VAC 60Hz 0.05A"
Do I need a transformer?
Thanks in advance for any assistance!
Portland, OR USA Sun 08/20/2006
low cost international calling
In response to the request for how to do calls from Turkey, Greece. I recommend: a) buying a SIM card for each country. In Greece I bought one at a cigarette store for 12 euros. I've gotten a couple hours of local air time on it for the 12 Euros. This assumes you have an unlocked, GSM cell phone. Hence, you use a prepaid card that's rechargeable. (I bought the the OTE SIM; OYE is Greece's nat'l phone company.). The new SIM card will give you a new phone number for that country however. b) For int'l calls, use a calling card number. For instance, MCI world phone (if it's your long distance carrier) charges just 7 cents/min. for Greece to U.S. calls. To use it, you 1st call a local access number in eaxh country from your cell phone. The mobile service bills it as a local call. Martin
Lesbos, Greece Mon 08/07/2006
whatever happened to good old calling cards?
Reading through this message board, it looks to me like there are thousands of options and none of them are as simple as good old fashion calling cards. Last time I went to Europe, I was on such a tight budget that I decided to use a prepaid onesuite card and nothing else -- one of the smartest things I did for the whole trip. I just thought I'd throw my experience out there in case anyone else, like me, was reading this thread and got more confused than anything else.
San Jose, CA USA Tue 07/25/2006
You do not need a cell phone! Nor Sim!
www.skype.com If you buy a headset with USB cord and mouthpeice (they sell between $20.00 and $45.00) and if you have high speed internet, then you are in for free conversations all over the world. Domestic or International. Go to www.skype.com It takes two minutes to download this free service. Another two minutes to create your sign in. If your family and friends download this program and have high speed, and the headset, you can talk to them. If you want to call their land line or cell from your skype, it is 1.2 CENTS a minute. Basically not even .75 cents an hour! Most internet cafes in Europe provide Skype with headsets. All you pay is the internet time like everyone else. You can surf the net, type to your friends, while TALKING THROUGH SKYPE to your friends or relatives. All in the same sitting.
San Francisco, CA USA Sat 07/22/2006
SKYPE is the way to go!!! Can you say FREE?
While in Italy for 3 weeks, I would walk into internet cafes and ask if they had SKYPE. Most answered yes and they were fully equiped with headsets. No charge. Just the sitting fee of using the internet like everyone else. So I would type to my friends while talking to my boyfriend live. For Free. Headsets can be as low as $20.00 (USB with MouthPiece required) I did bring my own headset with USB just in case and this came in handy in Santa Margharite. The guy downloaded Skype for me. This program allows you to call anyone in the world for free. Most europeans use it. Some guy was talking to his friend in Africa and another guy was talking to his family in the Middle East. It is computer to computer talking. Super clear like they were right next to you. High speed computer required. Just be aware of the time difference. I called him usually at 7:00 pm Euro time, 10:00 am San Francisco time. If I wanted to call his cell phone or land line, it costs 1.2 cents a minute. Translation. That is $1.12 an hour!!
San Francisco, CA USA Fri 07/21/2006
Cell Phone Italy
My daughter is in Italy. Everyone says its cheaper to get pay as you go phone there, but she does not know where to find them. Also, I have Vonage in the US so I can call Italy for free or 4 cents/minute.
Dallas, TX USA Thu 07/20/2006
cell phone tips
Where do you buy the Vodafone? Am flying into Malpensa.
White Bear Lake, MN USA Mon 07/17/2006
Cell Phone- Italy
Traveled in Italy for 25 days - June/July '06 - bought an inexpensive Vodafone cell phone [85 E] & SIM card [25 E], and had to add 20 Euro once for the whole time period - total cost? 130 Euro for 4 weeks - reception was great all over Europe - Milan, Venice, Florence, Rome, Sorrento, Ischia; and on the trains! Useful for making dinner reservations, connecting with friends in Italy, and for receiving calls from family. Also bought a Europa calling card for calls back to USA from hotels - worked great except for one hotel that had pulse dialing, and added a long distance plan to home phone line for inexpensive family member calls to the cell phone. Worked out nicely and since we bought the phone in Italy, the charger worked without an adapator, and since it was a new phone the battery lasted a long time betwen charges.
Mill Valley, CA USA Sun 07/16/2006
Incoming calls on Telestial
My daughter recently purchased a cell phone from Telestial and has been using it for the past six weeks. It worked fine the first month, but when she left Ireland for Israel she lost the ability to receive incoming calls(Telestial advertises free incoming calls)She can only make outgoing calls, which she has to pay for. There service is terrible. You can never get through, they ask you to leave a message. I have been trying for more than a week to correct the problem with no positive results.
Newtown, CT USA Sun 07/16/2006
I am traveling to France in 1 week and have an unlocked gsm tri-band phone 900/1800/1900. I would like to buy a sim chip once I am there but I read on an internet site that you have to have an address in France in order to obtain a chip. This website is questionable because they sell sim chips though cellular abroad at double the price (conflict of interest). My question, has anyone bought a sim card in France and what did you have to provide in order to obtain it? Please email a response. Thanks! Happy Travels!
Reseda, CA USA Mon 07/10/2006
cell phone voicemail and phone cards
This is a tip for those who don't mind a little extra work to save a little money. When we went to London and Paris a few weeks ago, we set our US GSM cell phones so that all calls would go to voicemail. If callers left a message, we'd get a notification on our cell phones at no cost. Then we'd call our voicemail number using a pay phone and telephone calling card, retrieve the message, and, if necessary, call back from the pay phone. This technique allowed us to stay in touch while avoiding the higher fees for using our cell phones. If you do not forward cell calls this way, the call gets bounced to you overseas and you may pay international roaming rates even if you don't pick up when the call comes in.
Tuscaloosa, AL USA Mon 07/03/2006
If you plan on making a lot of local calls, it is better to wait until you are in that country to buy a SIM card. If you would like to get the best international calling rates, however, you are better off buying a card here to use wherever you are going.
For example, I have a UK SIM card ($39 no additional minutes from telestial; $49 100 included minutes from cellular abroad) and ALL of my incoming minutes are free regardless of where they originate. My family & friends (if they have good int'l long distance rates, that is) can call me and I don't have to worry about having enough minutes or getting cut off in the middle of a call. The rates for calling to the US are 5p/min (about 9 cents) while calling a UK number costs me 15p/min (about 28 cents). There are only two hours of peak time (7-9 pm) where I have to pay an additional charge (2.5p/min).
If you plan on traveling to a few (or several) countries, you can still get a SIM card that will offer you great rates. Several of them have the "all incoming calls are free" option and the cost for local calls varies according to country.
The only requirement is an unlocked GSM tri-band phone (they are everywhere, and if you want to go on the cheap you can even get refurb phones for about $40 from several places on the web).
I travel abroad frequently---rates are so low now that phone cards are no longer worth the hassle.
Montevallo, AL USA Mon 07/03/2006
Actually, most European companies will list SIM card prices in Euros, not GBP (pounds).
You really are better off waiting and buying a SIM Card when you are in Europe. My experience was that the web didn't begin to list all the options - pay-per-minute mobile plans are the norm in Europe, so there's an excess of options for SIM Cards/pay-per-minute call options.
The plans from the US mobile companies are only worthwile if you travel on a regular basis and want to commit for at least six months.
I bought a SimCard for my UK mobile in Denmark. The basic package was 100kr - about $18, and it included the Sim Card and a set amount of time at about $.40 per minute within Denmark plus 50kr worth of free texts. Not sure how much international calls would have cost.
Scotland Thu 06/29/2006
Call-back or Call Return Service
I've received a few questions about an earlier post of mine that mentioned call-back or call return services, so here's a little more info.
A call-back service gives you a special number to call, usually a local number in the country where you're staying. When you call that number, you let it ring once, and then hang up. The computer calls you back, and when you answer the phone you have a dial tone that you can use to make cheap calls. The only trick is that you have to give them the number you're going to use ahead of time. So it works best if you have a cell phone with you. The service I'm using is from Telestial (http://www.telestial.com/return_call_service.php ). Cost for calling from Ireland to the states is $.43 a minute, less than half that of the Cingular interational roaming plan.
There's a great web site that has a ton of info about cell phones and all the ways you can use them overseas which I highly recommend: http://www.thetravelinsider.info/roadwarriorcontent/unlockingfaq.htm
Seattle, WA USA Tue 06/27/2006
Cingular's $5.99 Plan
Cingular's offerings vary depending on which area you live in. I looked into the $5.99 plan and would have to sign up for a minimum of 6 months, which means you are already out $36 plus .99 each way. The only ones who will save are the people who call you while you are abroad because most foreign SIM cards feature free incoming calls and many of them have cheaper outgoing rates.
Read the fine print before committing to Cingular.
USA Mon 06/26/2006
I've checked several of the SIM card programs and it seems that the $5.99 cingular plan will work out better for me. The calls are all .99 in/out of Italy .50 for text. The cheapest SIM card I found was $27 US with slightly cheaper rates but I may only make 5 calls. Beware most SIM card plans list prices in pounds which is almost double the dollar. When I did the conversion calls were around .60 a minute. If you found something better let me know. No junk please.
USA Mon 06/26/2006
Cell Phone From Ekit
Hello... been to Italy 3 times, first time I went was without a cell phone, and it was terrible. Second time I went I bought a cell phone from www.ekit.com and the phone was great and a lifesaver... wouldn't go traveling without it. When I have friends traveling to Europe I give them the phone to use and they love it as well.
Spokane, Wa USA Sat 06/24/2006
Using your cell phone in Europe
Just back from UK, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, France and Cingular's International Plan was great. You keep your own cell number and incoming callers are not charged. Excellent reception everywhere including high in the Alps. For $5.99/mo and .99/minute it's worth it. They do charge double if someone leaves a voicemail. If keeping your own cell number is important its the way to go. I did have to upgrade to a quad band cell phone however.
San Antonio, TX USA Sat 06/24/2006
Free incoming minutes
Hi everyone. There seemed to be some confusion about the free incoming calls I got, so I thought I'd clarify a bit. What I bought from Zengo Wireless was a quad band phone and international SIM card. The international SIM card was only $60 and comes with 15 euro credit (the phone was $160, so that's why the total for both was $220).
The international SIM card provides unlimited free incoming calls in 80 countries & unlimited free incoming text messages worldwide, not in just one country. If you get a country specific SIM card (i.e. for France), you will receive free incoming calls in that country (i.e. France), but no where else. The roaming rates, if you went outside of France, for example, would be comparable to roaming with a US carrier abroad--very expensive. Unfortunately, I learned that when I used my France SIM card in Belgium a few years ago. It was over $1/minute for incoming and outgoing calls and, what was really bad, was that I couldn't recharge the SIM card easily. (France SIM cards aren't sold in Belgium shops and the French telecom companies don't allow you to recharge over the web. Hopefully that's changed, but I doubt it.)
So, as far as getting free incoming calls in multiple countries go, international SIM cards are the best. By the way, it's my understanding that all international SIM cards use callback technology for outgoing calls. That's why their call rates are so cheap compared to what you would normally pay if you roamed with T-Mobile or Cingular, for example. Happy travels!
Newark, DE USA Sat 06/24/2006
Cellphone rental rates in the US range between $60-99 for use in Europe with exorbidant per minute rates of .99-2.00. IMHO, this is a waste. I happen to have an old tri-band phone (Nokia) which I unlocked for $5 and used in Italy. A 20 Euro SIM card gave me .10-.29 Euro per minute rates (depending on whether I was calling another cell or a land line.) You too may have an old GSM phone sitting around.
For my daughter I bought a new, unlocked GSM tri-band phone online (www.myworldphone.com) for $89, and another SIM card. Our calls to each other were only .10 euro per minute. And we still have the phones to use on our next trip!
Fort Lauderdale, FL USA Wed 06/14/2006
A few comments
A couple of comments re: some prior posts:
-- Buying SIM cards is easy while on the ground in Europe, you can go into many phone shops (they are **everywhere**) and buy one quite cheaply and in a matter of minutes. (For example, in the UK, you can easily buy a SIM for L10 that includes L5 of call credit at one of many, many phone shops, and complete your purchase in just a few minutes.) Unless you need the phone number prior to your arrival, don't feel compelled to buy one before you've landed in Europe.
-- Re: the Zengo deal referenced below, I can't comment on the company, but receiving free incoming calls is no big deal. Free incoming calls are the norm with every mobile provider in Europe, and you don't need anywhere near $220 to get one. For $220, that had better be an outstanding phone and include great outgoing call rates, otherwise that is probably a poor value.
CA USA Tue 06/13/2006
Unlocked GSM phone and country-specific SIM
I have an unlocked GSM phone and Cingular. I'm travelling to Ireland for 3 weeks and wanted to have an Ireland phone number, so on the advice of David Rowell of "The Travel Insider" I ordered a pay-as-you-go SIM card that has an Ireland number and can be replenished with the "Top Off" cards available in convenience stores and gas stations throughout Ireland. I'll also have my Cingular SIM with me so I can use their International Roaming if need be. However, when calling home I'll probably use one of the "call-back" services where you can get low-cost dialtone to the US -- 41 cents a minute in my case, way cheaper than most cell phone rates. Anyway, this combination of things seems ideal in terms of both price and convenience. I'll post a follow-up message when I get back to report on how it worked in practice.
Seattle, WA USA Sun 06/11/2006
Cheap cell phone & SIM
Hi everyone! I bought a quad band phone and int'l SIM card three weeks ago from Zengo Wireless (www.zengowireless.com) for my trip to Switzerland and Italy. It was quite affordable--$220 for both the phone and SIM. The phone is unlocked and comes with a 1 year warranty, and the SIM gives free incoming calls in 80 countries, including most of Europe, so I got free calls in Switzerland and Italy.
I was quite happy with my experience, and really impressed with them as a whole. I had a few questions before I purchased the products, and the customer service was excellent.
Newark, DE USA Fri 06/09/2006
Cingular provided me with good service Italy/US. Cost very reasonable, check their web. My major problem that was not satisfactorily resolved was my travel partner had an Australian phone, and we could not call each other, even after calls to C to resolve!!!
Augusta, USA Fri 06/02/2006
In 2003 I purchased an unlocked triband phone on e-bay and purchased a SIM card through InTouchUSA. The phone (Motorola)worked great and InTouch had very good customer service. I'm using their SIM card service again. The cost is a little expensive, but the phone is usable in numerous countries.
West Chicago, Il USA Thu 06/01/2006
US phone worked fine
I got a Motorola Razr phone because it has 4 bands and works in US and Italy. Checked with my provider (Cingular) before leaving and had them remove international calling blocks. Turned on the phone in Venice and it found the I WIND network and worked. To call me, people used my US number; when I made calls to the US, I prefixed numbers with 001. I could also send text messages to my son in California, without using the 00 prefix.
Tom Van Vleck
Ocean City, NJ USA Fri 05/26/2006
Cell Phones from Auto Europe
You can rent a cell phone if you're renting a car through Auto Europe (www.autoeurope.com). The first week of rental is free, then $2 per day after that. Incoming calls are free, local calls are .60/minute and calls back to the US are $1.60/minute. They ship it to you before you leave and provide packaging to mail it back. The S&H is $35. A great deal if you just want it to use it to make a few local calls or for emergencies.
USA Wed 05/24/2006
I wouldn't say skype is an alternative to a cell phone, as you wouldn't be able to use it to call your hotel when you're halfway there and running late, or need directions, etc. It's fine for keeping in touch with friends at home, but it doesn't replace a cell phone IMO.
USA Tue 05/23/2006
eKit (www.hiusa.ekit.com) offers SIMS that cover Europe or Worlwide with what look like decent prices. I haven't tried it yet, but I may on our upcoming trip.
USA Mon 05/22/2006
new cell phone service
Has anyone tried the new service from range roamer (gsm phone + sim card, competitive rates as far as I can tell)? It looks great but I'd love to know if anyone has actually used it.
Pitt Meadows, BC Canada Fri 05/19/2006
Call USA from Turkey
Calling the USA from Turkey using a cell phone can be very costly.Generally, I use up about 250 credits on my cell phone in about 10 minutes calling the USA. And a lot of the time the connection sucks. It is easy to find internet cafes. I would keep in touch with people using email--it is very cheap.
Kusadasi, Turkey Thu 05/18/2006
Using Cell Phone (Handy) in Germany
I took my SonyEricsson K700i wuith e to Germany. Bought a "pay as you go" SIM from T-Mobile and had no problem. Renewals of time are a piece of cake, any gas station has a terminal. Also most cities have a T-Mobile store. Text message was a good way to save minutes...and inexpensive. Incoming calls are not charged against you account.
Fernandina Beach, FL 32034, USA Sat 05/06/2006
Alternative to phone
If you have to carry a lap-top with you while you travel, you can look into using skype.com. Although I am sure many of you are already using it (I am always the last to know), for those like me it is an international web-based phone calling system. You need a headset for pc's but ibooks have their own exterior microphones. The web-site explains everything and it is VERY inexpensive.
USA Tue 05/02/2006
GSM cards Turkey and Greece
I am traveling to Turkey and Greece in August. I will have GSM phone (a V60). I want to buy the SIM card at the airport in Istambul. Anybody has any experience with purchsing the card and calls from Turkey and Greece to and from US? What is the minute rate for US calls and for local calls? I appreciate comments.
PA USA Mon 05/01/2006
Buy your SIM card in Europe
This is what I did for my last trip to Europe. I have my phone unlocked by the provider in the US (in my case, it's by T-mobile) and I bought the SIM card once I arrived in Europe. For about 10 Euro, I can SMS anyone in Europe and US for free, and the 10 Euro in the card can be use to call anywhere in Europe, sans roaming. I bought the SIM card from one of the T-mobile branch in Berlin, but I can imagine finding it anywhere else in Europe. Good luck!
One catch: do bring your cell-phone charger with compatible adaptor from the U.S. Not all hotel room allow you to charge the cell phone. For some reason, the plugs in the hotel I stayed in Paris cannot be used to chage my phone (not the adaptor problem, but no matter how long I plug it in, my battery didn't get charged).
Plano, Texas USA Tue 04/25/2006
Cell Phone in Europe
I added roaming service for my trip. My cell provider -Cingular- charged $5.99 roaming for 1 month. You receive text-messages free. And, I bougth a calling card for 5 euros for 100 minutes to call the USA. There are a lot of pre-paid cards to choose from. Calls to my cell from the USA were 99cents per minute.
Austin, Texas USA Thu 04/20/2006
Renting a cell phone
I am going to Tuscany next month and was able to rent a cell phone through Hertz rental car. The service email@example.com costs $54 plus insurance (99 cents a day.) It costs 99 cents a minute for in-country calls and $2.50 to call back to the states. I only want it for emergencies and calling ahead to hotels to reconfirm my reservations, so it works fine for me. By the way, they ship the phone to you before you leave and you return it via FedEx when you return. The mailing costs are included in the $54 fee.
University City, Mo USA Thu 04/20/2006
Easy to use cell phone in Italy
We went to Italy in March. We have T-mobile and I signed up for their international plan. It was free and I just used the basic phone I already owned. The cost of using the phone in Italy was .99 cents per minute. I just needed an adapter for the charger - not a converter. We used the phone twice for emergencies and the bill was $2.97.
Honolulu, HI USA Sun 04/16/2006
I purchased a phone from Mobal (http://www.mobalrental.com) for $99. It worked great for our trip March, 2006. The cost/minute is high ($1.50) but we only used it for emergencies. It has a UK number but it can be used anywhere in the world with cell phone access. I just put it away until our next trip and then I will recharge it and will keep the same number.
Milwaukee, WI USA Thu 04/13/2006
went to Italy on April 2005 fotr 14 days. I brought a singular world phone cost now $69.00/ plan worked great in the country and for people for states to call me. All they had to dial was my 7 digit number if dialing from same area code. For me to call the USA all I needed to do was add the 001 to phone number and dial. I rented a car so charging was no problem. My cost averaged about $1.00/minute when I got home and got my bill. I highly recommend a phone if you are going to drive or are not on a tour.
cleveland, ohio USA Thu 04/06/2006
One word: VONAGE. Voice over internet. Free. easy. No cell phone needed. just an internet cafe.
USA Wed 03/29/2006
For your US phone to work in Europe, it must be a (1) GSM phone that is a (2) triband or quad-band. If you want to be able to use a local European carrier, the phone will also need to be (3) "unlocked".
If you are with carriers such as Verizon and Sprint/ Nextel, your phone will not work. Cingular and T-Mobile customers have GSM, so may be in luck.
A triband or quadband phone (sometimes called an international or world phone) is required, because North American phones operate on different frequencies than are used in Europe and much of the world. You should research your phone to see whether it is a tri- or quad-band; if it is a typical dual-band, it won't work. If your plan is coming up for renewal and you don't have a triband or quadband, you might consider getting one as part of your next contract.
If your phone is not "unlocked", it won't operate with other SIM cards. You can sometimes get unlock codes from either your wireless carrier or the manufacturer of your phone. If that isn't possible, then you will have to either search the internet or else find a phone shop that can unlock your phone by hacking it, but there is some risk of your phone being damaged by doing this.
Roaming with your US carrier is probably expensive, but if this is what you require, check with your carrier to see if you can get a pricing program that can reduce your costs. It's likely that your wireless contract will allow you to upgrade and downgrade services each month as you like, so check into temporarily changing your plan if you intend to travel.
Pay-as-you-go services are very common in Europe, and getting a local number with a SIM card can be quite cheap. On one hand, you will be happy to know that incoming calls and texts are free (although your caller may be paying through the nose to speak to you, because the cost of calling to a European mobile number is generally higher than is phoning a land line.) On the other hand, outgoing calls can be quite costly, and you can pretty much forget about much hope of having free nights or weekends. Europeans have taken to texting like ducks to water in large part because texting is much cheaper than calling. However, you can expect to limit your use of that SIM to the country in which you bought it, as roaming charges apply for "international" usage (and yes, using your UK SIM while in France is international for this purpose), so buying one SIM for your ten-country tour is not likely to do the trick.
Of course, you will need to charge your phone, so bring adaptor plugs as needed by your itinerary. Tri- and quad-band phones tend to be dual voltage, so a voltage converter shouldn't be needed.
On the whole, mobile phones are very useful in Europe, particularly if you can get accustomed to texting. Just be aware that your callers will often pay a substantial premium a European mobile number (often 3-4 times the price of dialing a European land line), so it might help them to shop for and confirm their calling rates before talking your ear off while you're on vacation...
CA USA Tue 03/28/2006
Prepaid Sim Card
I've been using a Riiing SIM card for several months in my travels around the world. Its a prepaid card from United Mobile out of Switzerland. The phone number is in Liechenstein. In most if not all European countries, the cost is .37 Euro a minute plus a .25 Euro set up fee per call. But its FREE incoming! Card works in almost every country. I know they changed their web site because of a name change but you can Google Riiing. Cards are available on EBay and other retailers. I think the card itself is way overpriced, but once you have it you can recharge through United Mobile via the internet. Comes with voicemail that is a little wacky but still usable.
Sequim, WA USA Sat 03/25/2006