Cell Phones in Europe

Old Aug 24th, 2003, 07:13 AM
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Cell Phones in Europe

Will be travelling to Italy and Germany for two weeks and would like to rent/use a cell phone. Any sources, links, or suggestions?
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Old Aug 24th, 2003, 08:10 AM
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You can probably rent a phone right at your arriving airport. It's not very cheap. I think my hubby paid over $100, maybe higher, but used his cell phone a lot in a month's time. We will do the same on the next trip.
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Old Aug 24th, 2003, 04:36 PM
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Rent a cell phone for 2 weeks....for the same money you can buy a GSM dual or tri band phone via the internet or through your GSM supplier and either use pre pay plans in both Italy and Germany or use T-mobile to roam. There is a long thread on this elsewhere explaining some of the particulars but I just don't understand the economics of renting a mobile (the term used in Europe BTW) for more than a few days given the absurd rates these rental agencies charge to make and to receive calls.
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Old Aug 24th, 2003, 06:15 PM
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Some places - especially agencies that rent out apartments - will loan you a mobile to use during your stay. Look for that info when you are booking a place to stay. If that is not possible, buy a tri-band or European band phone (I got one on the internet for $100, and you can even buy a good used phone for around $30 when you get overseas) and get at least one SIM card. You can use one & just do roaming when you are in another country, or buy separate ones/plans depending on how long you'll be in each place. Just calculate the rates for roaming against what it would be to buy another SIM card, and see which is cheaper.
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Old Aug 24th, 2003, 08:43 PM
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If you buy a tri-band phone, you can use one of the bands in the States, thus, having an "international" phone. No matter where or how you get the phone, make sure it is UNLOCKED.

Good sites to research triband phones are:

HowardChui.com
Mobileburn

The three bands are: 800, 1800. 1900. The 800 and 1900 are used in Europe, the 1800 is used here in the US. The US is also starting to use the 850 band, but it would not be advisable to get a phone with this band usage, since it is still not widespread, as far as I can ascertain.

That's the phone itself.

Then there is the service. You can get different SIM cards to insert for each country, or for Europe as a whole. The US takes its own SIM card. You have to pay for each SIM card. You will have to calculate what would be the most cost effective method for you.

T-Mobil and Cingular are two service companies that will do SIM cards. AT&T does not appear to be flexible enough, as it seems they will not unlock the phone for international use.

You may look into getting a triband phone from the service company, e.g., getting both the phone and the service from T-Mobil. But, again, make sure your phone is UNLOCKED, so that you can exchange SIM cards and have a functional phone overseas.

Happy shopping!
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Old Aug 24th, 2003, 10:57 PM
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Error in last post..

Europe 900 and 1800 band
US 1900 band with some 850 coming in now.

T-mobile, if you have been a customer for several months, will generally provide an unlock code for phones you buy through them. Or there are lots of places on the internet that can help you with this.
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Old Aug 24th, 2003, 11:47 PM
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I agree that buying a tri-band makes the most sense, esp if you plan to travel anywhere outside the US in the future, as the phone will work everywhere.

My experience is that AT&T will NOT unlock a tri-band phone which you purchase from them. Others have mentioned that TMobile is pretty willing to do this. If you buy a phone on the internet not from a service provider, they also come unlocked; however I would have some concern about buying a phone from an unknown entity on the interent or from e-bay, as I would wonder about the quality and whether the warranty can be transferred to you as purchaser.

Also, in Europe each county has its own numbers for calling police/emergency, and its own rules about local calls (sometimes you dial a 0 for a local call, someitmes you don't). You have to get to know each country's rules.

Finally, if you are carrying a mobile phone for emegerncies, my experience in living here in Switzerland for the last year is that police and emergency operators do NOT speak English. You often have to be transferred many times to find an Enlgish speaker; which in a true emergency is not helpful. In my epxerience, you are better off flagging down a passing car or pedestrian. The exception might be if you rent a car, your car rental service often will provide a toll-free number which will have English-speaking operators.
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Old Aug 25th, 2003, 01:25 AM
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Emergency numbers.

112 is supposed to work throughout Europe as an emergency number, even though individual countries (most famously the UK with 999) have a more frequently-used local number.112 calls are supposed to be routed to the same destination that the local number hits

All mobile phone service providers are supposed both to honour 112 and to provide the call free.

Whether that actually works at midnight in Albania is another question.
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Old Aug 25th, 2003, 06:02 AM
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I bought my tri-band from a website called Ghandiappliances (think that was the name)out of Chicago. Anyway, I've had it for 2 years, and it's a great phone (Motorolla). You can also check out Telestial - they have a website with phones & SIM cards. Yes, obviously you will need an unlocked phone, but all the ones on those websites are unlocked. Last time I checked with T-Mobile, the idiots working at the store had no idea about international plans. I have T-mobile as my US plan, and they were unable to help me with European SIM cards/plans.
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Old Aug 25th, 2003, 06:32 AM
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Well you wouldn't expect T-mobile to help you with European plans as in a way they are competitors but I will help you.

T-mobile allows international roaming on most of its US plans. If you have been a customer for a little while, just call customer service and they will activate international roaming for free.

Now to call Western Europe from a T-mobile phone, the price is 29 cents/minute timed to the minute. Not too bad; especially if you are calling a mobile in Europe as even the 101 services charge more to call mobile numbers (except 1016868 which is the cheapest!)

But....if you use your T-mobile account to call from Europe back to the US, it's 99 cents a minute to both make and receive calls throughout Western Europe. Price is better than most rental phones charge but sticking point is paying to receive card. In each country, you can get a pre paid SIM card. They are available from some internet merchants in the US but they are more expensive than buying in the individual countries.

Now the easiest countries to deal with for obvious reasons are the UK and Ireland as you can read their web sites. Other web sites are in the language of the country making it hard to decipher the info.

Now, I recommend in the UK Virgin Mobile. Easiest to understand. If you have an unlocked phone, price for the SIM package is £10 and they give you £5 worth of credit. Easy easy plan...calls within the UK 15p a minute timed to the second for the first 5 minutes of use each day...after that 5p a minute. Calls to the US are a very reasonable 20p a minute again timed to the second. Voice mail is free, receiving calls is free. No hassles, no registration. Go into any phone store, buy the SIM pack, put the SIM card in your unlocked phone and done. Nothing could be simpler.

Other countries have plans with their own policies. Can't help you with most other countries. But if you buy a tri band phone with T-mobile, after a couple of months they will give you the unlocking code and you are all set.

See you don't need a T-mobile know nothing.

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Old Aug 26th, 2003, 09:06 AM
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One more thought... I have an Oskar SIM card for the Czech Rep., and one of the best ways I save $ is to just send SMS messages whenever possible, and to get an email address through the carrier, so you can send emails back & forth from your phone. Came in handy last month, as I did't make nearly as many calls as I have in the past, because I could just short text back & forth when I just wanted to say "hi- I'm alive..!". The website also has an English link, so I had no problem navigating. Good luck!
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Old Aug 26th, 2003, 09:20 AM
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I still have several months on my contract for a non-GSM phone. My plan is to swtich to T-Mobile when it's up.

Meanwhile, I'm planning to rent a car from Auto Europe for my trip to France in October, and am considering the option of a rental phone they will provide to me for "free". The customer pays $35 for roundtrip shipping via Fed Ex. You get the phone and number in advance, so that you can give it to friends and family. Minutes are not cheap, but I guess no more than international roaming w/T-Mobile - .99/minute for both incoming and outgoing calls. (They do put a $500 hold on your credit card against minutes used/loss/theft.) For my purposes, this is looking like a reasonable option.
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