Cell Phone Tips
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.
Almost $500 in phone roaming charges within 24 hours
I just got to Europe with my new Galaxy 3 phone. Within 24 hours I had data roaming charges of $459. TMobile was sympathetic but couldn't/wouldn't remove charges. They disabled my roaming but I am afraid to turn it on. Ruined this long anticipated vacation.
Missouri City, TX USA 05/11/2013
Recharging Local Country SIMs from the US/Other Country
For those who have local country SIMs which must be kept alive by recharging every 6/9/etc. months, and won't be in the country: you can use http://www.Babblebug.net . It's instant and works really well.
NYC Metro Area, NY USA 05/03/2013
I used to deal with onesimcard before, and I was pretty happy with their service but since I found the cello mobile.com recommendation on this board I tried them out and like them better.
Here is what I found so far;
1. Like Chuck mentions below, you need to add 25 dollars every year in the account to keep it alive vs. cello.
2. I also found that reaching me was almost impossible on the European number they give you it was some Russian European number, so incoming is not really free because I had to use another method, but cellomobile.com has a United Kingdom number.
3. The cellomobile customer service is by far the best customer service team I have ever dealt with. I can't remember my reps. name, but I had an excellent experience with her.
Potsdam, NY USA 04/30/2013
Be sure and read the fine print in the OneSimCard contract. You have to add at least $25 every 10 months or lose all of the funds in your account.
Cell Phone Tips
Cellomobile.com was my life saver, I followed the recommendations of this board and I must say I am impressed.
Idaho Falls, ID USA 04/25/2013
Instead of a cell phone
Unless you are going for an extended period of time, don't count on calling. With Facebook, email, Skype so easy it's much easier to count on that. With our last trip I'd put my iPod touch (or any smart phone using wifi) and upload pics and make comments where I was. Free WiFi at cafe's all over. In Slovakia we Skype (which works on phones with cameras, kindle fires,etc) and showed our family back home the Novy Most from our hotel. If you are traveling with others, plan on keeping tabs via email or Google chat even works, just need WiFi and most importantly, it's free! My sister had a fall and needed to get ahold of me, she text-ed me on her iPhone and it went to my free texting app I had.
Bainbridge Island, WA USA 04/18/2013
Cell phones for Europe
There is a New York based company that offers great phone deals for Americans travelling to Europe. Their shop can be found under www.travel-n-call.com.
Hastings, NE USA 04/12/2013
european cell service
I had T-Mobile unlock my gsm phone two years ago, and bought a sim chip from WIND in Italy. I visit frequently, and also have friends who visit. We take turns recharging each other's phones to keep the numbers active. I have used my phone all over Europe with no problem until now, because I am in Greece and cannot recharge outside of Italy. I'll eke by with the euros I have left by supplementing with Skype until I can find someone in Italy to recharge for me.
Really, it's not complicated. The first time I bought a European sim, the guy in the store even set all the menus to English for me so I could understand the recharge menu - just ask - they are happy to help, in my experience :-) .
Also, regarding US law and unlocking phones- that law only applies to phones purchased with contract plans. Go no-contact and buy your phone up front, and you can legally unlock it any time you want to.
Seattle, WA USA 03/25/2013
i p/u an unlocked quad band cell phone in London on my last trip. 10 pounds in calling/text/web and a memory card for 60 USD. there are probably better deals, but im happy with what i have.
only issue is to recharge the UK sim i need a UK CC card. So i got an Amsterdam Sim where i can recharge on the web.
portland, or USA 03/15/2013
Ekit sim cards
I had my Cingular now AT&T cell unlocked several years ago. Traveling often, I needed a Sim for international use. Ekit's Passport sims have worked perfectly throughout Europe, on my cruise ship down the coast of western Africa, the Balkans and throughout the US. Rates are reasonable and depend upon where you are traveling. This is my only SIM card as I don't use a lot of calling time in the US. My first sim was Italy specific but now I use a dual sim that includes both a US and Internaltion number.
Ekit/Telestial has been very reliable and a good alternative to getting individual sims every country I visit. There are hoops to jump thru when buying in some countries and the convenience of Ekit is worth the cost. Check out their web site for prices, etc.
They now have a sim for all the iPhones so will be going that route soon. Only problem is finding a reasonable data plan.
Cambria, Ca USA 03/05/2013
Unlocked Cellphones The Way To Go
With the new laws about US Cellphone carries deciding whether to unlock your cellphone or not I went on Amazon.com and searched for "GSM Quadband Unlocked Phones". I found the Blu Jenny Phone for $25 per phone unlocked and not tied to a carrier. It has a Dual SIM Card capability so you can [INVALID] two SIM Cards and switch between the lines.
Its a basic phone with a camera, FM Radio, Bluetooth and other features that would be helpful.
Don't go out and buy a phone for $100 only to find out that the carrier did not properly unlock it. A cellphone such as the Blu is not a carrier specific phone.
If you buy a phone in Europe chances are there won't be an adapter to the US plugs so its better to purchase a phone made for the USA and buy a $5 adapter or use the USB Cable and charge it from your laptop.
Saratoga, CA USA 02/25/2013
Thanks Tina for the recommendation I also tried Cello and they do what they say and deliver on their promises.
I wanted first to get a sims card in all the european countries thta I visit but it just doesnt make sense to be busy with that.
Keep Rockin Cello and au revoir.
Mont Tremblant, QC Canada 02/07/2013
Cell Rates in Europe - Lebara SIM Card
We used SIM Card from Lebara in France, Germany, Holland, UK and Prague. It costs 10E and works great. Calling within the country was 15 cents and to the US was one cent per minute. All the incoming texts and calls were free. We had an unlocked phone, and purchased the SIM card from the airports and magazine shops. It worked great. You can go to their website for each country and click on English for more info. It was the cheapest, had no issues, and was plug and play (had to activate it from our hotel internet).
Atlanta, GA USA 01/04/2013
just got my phone from http://travelcell.com/ and loved it. my kids were able to reach me on a USA phone number which was the best part of it all. they have everything from iphones to androids and mifis for your laptop and iPad, it made travel a pleasure
Free Call to USA
I always take my mini laptop and my Magic jack plug in. Free to call any number in USA and talk as long as you want. I use Skype on my cell phone. Both methods use WiFi. I make sure I have a hotel with free wifi.
Auburndale, Florid USA 12/07/2012
I just wanted to thank all my good friends here that I got my bill from Cello Mobile International and all charges were exactly as advertised. I will definitely use this company again.
Salt Lake City, UT USA 11/26/2012
This was so confusing to me until I followed the recommendations here on this site to use Cello Mobile.
I really liked the service, I am still waiting for my bill to come (hope it will not be a shocker).
Salt Lake City, UT USA 11/04/2012
I checked out cellhire.com and found it to be pricey. Then I talked to my wireless provider, Verizon, and for the price of Fedex shipping, they loaned me an international phone! That and $1.29 a minute (different for different countries) and I had coverage for Spain, France and Italy.
Phoenix, AZ USA 10/21/2012
Smartphone apps for communications
1. Voxer app (Walkie-Talkie style) 2. Skype app
Both require wifi access.
Los Angeles, Ca USA 10/08/2012
I've been talking via video call to my son and his bride on their honeymoon in Italy on the free app "Tango". Free international calls. The only trick is they need to have WiFi.
GA USA 09/25/2012
Bad Network Connections in Italy
Negative review for Cellular Abroad Italy phones. 1) The phone clock was always 2 hours and 17 minutes ahead of local Italy time. 2) Worse: while at high places in the Dolomite Alps, such as rifugios, sometimes in view of telecom towers, could not get a network connection. Phone registered "Emergency only". At these times I could always see local people using their cell phones.
Palo Alto, CA USA 09/02/2012
Mobile Internet in Europe
Hello guys, I tested a SIM-Card on a recent trip in Europe with the Samsung S3. I travelled though Spain, France, Switzerland and Italy. I used a SIM-Card provided by Europasim.com where I got 2 € per day with 100 MB included in all of those countries (in Italy it was 500 MB, but I had to modify the APN manually). Since I called home via Skype, it was the most convenient solution I could find.
Syracuse, USA 08/29/2012
Eurobuzz is not fraud, SMS worked fine for me, but I went with the Cello Mobile like others have suggested and it works fr my purpose, much lower rates.
I would still recommend getting a specific SIM card if you go to a single coutnry, otherwise get an international one SIM card solution like Cello Mobile.
St. Paul, MN USA 08/16/2012
Eurobuzz Text Failure
Eurobuzz phones are a fraud for texting. They work great for phone calls - but do not work for texts from USA based mobile phones. Only UK based numbers. The company basically admits this in the instructions, leaves it out in the sales pitch.
New York, NY USA 08/10/2012
panEuropean cell phones
I have a RangeRoamer phone. $0.79/minute throughout most of western Europe. They sell SIM cards or unlocked GSM phones. Cheaper than Mobal but not as cheap as getting a local SIM card if you are going to make a lot of calls or stay in one country for a while. They use a call-back system.
Green Bay, USA 07/29/2012
I have a Mobal sim card which works perfectly, but the rates are very high, I will consider the other options brought up here.
Melville, NY USA 07/12/2012
I've used Mobal in the U.s., England, France, Turkey, and never had a whit of trouble. Consistent, clear, no gaps. It's worth the price for the convenience and security. I use it for necessity not just fun so it's not excessive for me.
Cambridge, MA USA 07/05/2012
SIM Card Lebara
Get yourself an unlocked phone (Walmart sells them). We had our old iPhone officially unlocked by ATT, which was already out of contract.
France: Lebara SIM cards - Buy a €10 (with €7.50 talk credit) prepaid at the CDG. Realy stores on CDG carry them. Terminal C downstairs is one of them. If one runs out, ask them where are the other stores in the building. You can also buy vouchers to top off. Plug in your SIM card in your phone, usually a text message arrives for activation, call the number and press "2" for English and activate it. Incoming calls and texts are free, Calling to the US is 1 cent per minute plus 15 cents connection fee. Calling within Europe is also reasonable but not cheap. You can roam with it, which will make it slightly expensive but still not too bad. Calls between Lebara users are free.
Germany: Lebara SIMs are sold from vending machines in Munich subway stations at the mezzanine level. Cash or debit, cost is 15€ with a calling credit of 10€. Are also available at internet stores, and gas stations, and most major Railway stations. Right now they are offering Euro 9.99/month for a unlimited data.
Go on libara France and Germany web site and select English and you can check the rates by selecting different countries call rates.
Number of people had good experience with it.
Happy travels :-)
Atlanta, Ga USA 06/30/2012
I would love to know that you're right but it unfortunately didn't turn out for me as good as it did for you, I tried going into many stores when I traveled in June of this year across Europe, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Croatia, Slovenia and UK, and most of them didn't speak a word English.
I will know next time to do a little better research and get a SIM card like the ones recommended on this board before I leave abroad.
Chicago, IL USA 06/29/2012
I've used Eurobuzz for my summer vacation in Europe for the past two years. It has worked flawlessly both times. I have recommended it to friends, so it must be good!
San Diego, CA USA 06/22/2012
Un-locked iPhone in Europe
Traveling to Europe the past several years, I've taken along a very basic 2007-era unlocked Nokia GSM cell phone. It was always very easy to find small mobile phone stores. I would just walk in and buy a SIM card for that country for about €10 or so. It usually came with some calling time credit (easy to buy more credit at phone stores and some local shops), and the young guys staffing the stores were always helpful with setup assistance. Buying an in-country SIM card allowed cheap calls and texts within that country, and more expensive calls out of the country. Keeping in touch with friends and family back home can also be done very cheaply, if calls are made from the US to the European network mobile phone by Google phone from a computer. These calls from the US to a European mobile phone will cost about 10-15 cents per minute (calls from a computer in Europe using Google phone to a US land line cost less than 10 cents per minute).
Back to the iPhone. Currently in the US, I don't have an iPhone, but I gained some experience with a friend's iPhone 3Gs on a trip to Britain early this Spring and decided I really needed an iPhone for a trip to Rome in June. Luckily, a neighbor was upgrading from a 2 year old ATT iPhone 3Gs to a new iPhone 4s, and also luckily ATT had just announced that on request by the original owner it would unlock these off contract phones.... So, I legally acquired (not stolen, hacked or jail broken) an unlocked iPhone.
Setup of this clean iPhone with factory settings was easier than expected. I didn't have a SIM card in the US, but the setup was very simple using my home wifi network and following on-screen prompts. During the wifi setup I easily register the phone under my name using my Apple ID number, and synced my Gmail contact data (since I had previously added phone numbers to my Gmail contacts, I now had both email and phone contact data on the iPhone). I then hooked the phone up to my MacBook (OSX 10.5.8) and synced with iTunes. I enabled iCloud for contacts, email and Photo Stream and then bought a few apps. Very easy and intuitive.
In Rome, a few days later near my apartment, I found a small neighborhood mobile store for a major Italian carrier (TIM). As usual the techy guy working there spoke English. The process was simple - I showed him the iPhone (though he was a little surprised that I had an un-locked US iPhone), and asked to buy a SIM card (€20 with €15 voice and SMS credit plus free unlimited data for 1 month). He then had to register it with my passport info and do a little setup. The whole process took about 30 minutes, and with a little lag in activation time I was up and running with iPhone voice and data service in Rome within one hour.
Note: iPhone 3Gs uses a regular sized SIM card, iPhone 4 and 4s use micro SIMs, which may be harder to find in Europe (though it is possible to "cutdown" a regular SIM to micro size). Also you can buy a new basic unlocked GSM phone in Europe for about €30.
During my 2 week stay in Rome, the iPhone was very helpful - calling local friends, restaurant reservations, email, camera, using GPS and maps for locating sites and restaurants, and finding walking routes between sites... Especially helpful purchased apps included: Italian dictionary and verbs, Rome2Go, Rome Travel Guide - Lonely Planet (linked to GPS maps this was incredible useful), Contact Sync for Google Gmail, TripColor and Kayak Pro.
Moral of this story: When traveling in Europe, an un-locked iPhone is a fantastic asset. Next best would be any unlocked GSM smart phone or basic phone.
St. Paul, MN USA 06/21/2012
Cell phone in Europe
Bought a sim card from cello mobile. T-mobile sent me easy instructions on how to unlock my phone. My phone worked great in France, Germany, Poland, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, & Serbia. Much easier than buying separate SIM cards and very easy to text. Great advice from this forum.
Lexington, KY USA 06/17/2012
My daughter is now a study abroad student in Spain and is enjoying the Cello Mobile SIM card, thanks for all the great advice I got here.
Ann Arbor, MI USA 06/14/2012
I buy local SIM cards whenever I travel to a specific country and I know that I could get a good rate on calls, otherwise I use my cello mobile SIM card which has very good rates in many countries (also incoming calls are free in many countries).
Hoboken, NJ USA 06/06/2012
Cell Phone Sim Card Change
We used our unlocked Motorola phone in Germany. Although we bought a SIM card in England with no problem last September, it was very difficult to buy one in Berlin. Each place recommended wanted a local address!, etc. Finally got one at ReiseBank, but it was treated as a cash advance to our credit card and thus a fee was charged! More research needed before next trip to Germany!
Mountain View, CA USA 06/05/2012
Thanks to Cello Mobile I had excellent reception wherever I traveled.
I also paid a very decent rate for calls.
Mississauga, ONT Canada 05/29/2012
I bought a EuroBuzz phone online for use in England and am very happy with the quick delivery and service.
Voorhees, NJ USA 05/18/2012
I bought a cheap ($35) unlocked quad band Blu cell phone before going to France, then bought a French SIM card from LeFrench Mobile (www.lefrenchmobile.com) thru Amazon. It worked very well.
Portland, ME USA 04/29/2012
cell phone abyss in Europe
Bravo, Jim, for summarizing exactly how I feel! Why does it have to be so complicated. I've ordered the e-kit phone through Rail Europe for $39 which includes $20 call credit. However, you can't really test it until you get overseas, and it is the smallest phone imaginable! It came in the mail today. I gather minutes are something $1 or $1.50 for a minutes, so you're right about the expense. I don't know if this will be a good solution or not, but I was tired of agonizing over it. Especially when you are going to be in multiple countries, something like that may be the best way to go. The situation does seem ridiculously complicated and confusing.
Vancouver, WA USA 04/25/2012
Jim, here is your answer http://www.cellomobile.com/international-sim-card.aspx and I can tell you from personal experience, they rock!
I found cello mobile on this board and don't regret it.
Edison, NJ USA 04/19/2012
Cell phones as ciphers
I've just worked through all of these posts.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but here's my overall impression:
1) phone calls are actually ridiculously expensive in Europe;
2) many of the companies mentioned have people who have had problems and people who have had great experiences, so there is no real standout;
3) you have to be some type of techno-kid to be able to change "SIM cards" (if you have an "unlocked" phone, which sounds illegal) in each country, which: [INVALID] are a hassle to find, give you a different number with each card, and [INVALID] are liable to cause roaming charges if you cross a border and do not change the SIM card.
Very frustrating. I'm going with my family to Ireland and Italy and wanted at least two phones so we could split in pairs and hook up again later.
This seems like a nearly ridiculous idea at this point.
South Central, PA USA 04/17/2012
Same here, I used cello and was amazingly surprised on the ease of use and price. Overall a great company to deal with.
Langley, BC Canada 04/14/2012
Ok, I followed your advise and deeply regret it (lol)
I spent over $120 by taking a cell phone with me overseas from cello mobile but it was worth every penny.
I thought we can live without a cell phone but it seems like we can't.
Schenectady, NY USA 04/02/2012
We traveled to France, Hungary and UK in February and used Wireless Traveler as a rental service. It was great because they had a local UK number to use in London and a US number for our kids to call us on from the States. They were very friendly and helpful and low rates! Our total calls were less than $50 for the whole time.
Garden City, NY USA 03/08/2012
I used Fonerent from NJ, really good experience and had a $80.00 vs $275 with T-Mbile last time I travelled. Phone was like new and really great coverage in UK/France.
Parsippanny, NJ USA 03/07/2012
Fonerent and Cell HIre
Interested to see the post by Jonny in NJ. I am in Tx and used the Fonerent guys after bad experience with Cell Hire who is local to me. I lost my charger and they hit my card for $39.00 - I can get one for $10 in Walmart! What a rip off. Fonerent were way more professional and way cheaper - like Jonny I recommend them fonerent.com.
Dalls Tx, TX USA 03/07/2012
Use your cell plus wifi to make call
I found that my cell phone has the ability to make phone calls while hooked up to WiFi. I am overseas as well and have a host nation cell and my US cell. If you have an Android phone, look in your call settings. This uses 0 of my plan minutes and allows me to talk as long as I wish to.
Raeford, Nc USA 03/01/2012
Mobal and Eurobuzz I found to be very reliable they are twin sisters (same company), however their rates are very high.
I rather use cellular mobile (cellomobile.com) and have better rates.
Madison, WI USA 02/29/2012
Cell phones in Europe
I had a Mobal when we were in Italy in 2007 - we sold it to friends when we got back - last year we went back to Italy and the Mediterranean - so we got another Mobal we had great difficulty with the phone - so we tossed it when we got back - now we are going back again to the Mediterrean - what does anyone know about the EuroBuzz
Prescott, Az USA 02/23/2012
Magic Jack Plus
For a local cell phones in Europe, I'll use my GSM phone unlocked and a local SIM card purchased in Europe for that country. I'll also have texting stopped before leaving home. For calling home to the U.S., I'll be using my U.S. Magic Jack Plus, an old style corded phone and my laptop running WiFi. It's free and won't even require punching in a "1" before the phone #. It's all internet, just like at home.
Florence, AL USA 02/08/2012
Thanks for all the excellent tips here.
We decided to try cellomobile.com for our trip,a nd we will also use skype where possible.
Plattsburgh, NY USA 02/06/2012
While traveling abroad, I used several services, including Prepaid Calling Card, one of which is Nexogy.com. They have many access code around the world and you can use your cell phone or home number when at home to call international for pennies on the dollar. I also use Skype with my smart phones and FaceTime when you and recipient both have Iphones via WiFi
Fort Lauderdale, FL, FL USA 01/28/2012
Keep your old number while abroad
If you are traveling for a while like studying abroad and currently not in contract with any cellular providers and would like to keep your old number when you get back, try porting your number to google voice. It cost around $20 and it keep your number for 9 months. You can then port your number out of google voice when you get back. This way, you save money by not paying mandatory plan like data.
Towson, MD USA 01/20/2012
Cell phones in Spain
If you want NO hassle and a phone that works while in Spain, use http://www.onspanishtime.com/ We rented a smart phone last year with unlimited data and calling at $1/minute. They delivered the phone to our hotel and we left it at the front desk the day we left. Fantastic! I think that it cost about 60 Euros--expensive, but we didn't waste any time in a phone store.
Knoxville, Tn USA 01/19/2012
When in Western Europe I use a international cell sim from Mobal Communications. They have great customer service and help desk. The per minuet cost was very competitive and NO roaming charges.
Los Angeles, Calif USA 01/17/2012
sim card from cellomobile was a real money saver.
See you all next year in Rome!
Milton, NJ USA 01/12/2012