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Cell phone in Ireland

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My Sony Ericsson small cell phone which I use in Ireland needs to be reactivated. If I can do this I can add money on SIM card. I lost over Euros 75 one time and also the phone number when it expired. I only need a cell phone to make contacts and short calls so do not need Smart phone or anything fancy.

Was told many times I should have the phone unlocked to be able to use it in any of the countries in EU. Have tried to do this at Verizon, AT&T and other shops without success. I was in the Vodafone store in Cork city to add cash last time and the representative advised me to add small amount that would be more than enough for 48 hrs. as I was leaving next day. That was not the case, as I only made 1 or 2 very short calls and once again the SIM was expiring.
Asked about renting phone for the short time I will be away at both AT&T and Verizon and told they no longer rent cell phones for travel abroad. They recommended I buy a new phone that would work but it carries a contract costing about $40 a month over 24 months, plus a charge of about $22 for the period I would use it.

Any better choices. If I could get my old phone activated might be the easiest route. Thanks.

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