Cell phones in Europe

Old Apr 12th, 2006, 07:57 PM
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Cell phones in Europe

Hi, we are traveling 17 days in Europe: Spain, France, Greece, Turkey, Itlay (cruise). What is the best option in picking a cell phone? do I actually purchase the phone in Europe or do I bring a phone and purchase sim cards?
thanks!
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Old Apr 12th, 2006, 08:00 PM
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Buy an unlocked GSM phone with 900/1800 mHz bands.

Buy a SIM from united-mobile.com
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Old Apr 12th, 2006, 08:08 PM
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We purchased, in this country, a phone from Mobal, www.mobalrental.com, for $49. It works in 140 countries, but not the U.S. and you are charged only for the time used. It works beautifully and the phone is yours forever.
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Old Apr 12th, 2006, 10:40 PM
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...and if you purchase the mobal phone you pay outrageously high rates both to make and receive calls.

Now if you want the phone just for emergencies that is okay.

If you want a phone because you want to use it, the united mobile option is by far the best...you get free receptionof calls throughout all of Western Europe for the one time outlay...calls made are moderately expensive but there are ways to beat that too.

Do a search on riiing and read all the great but more importantly correct (unlike some of the junk put up here) I have provided regarding this.

BTW your own mobile phone company at home, wherever home is, might do a better job for you than mobal but that is something you can look up.
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Old Apr 13th, 2006, 02:43 AM
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I use my own phone which happens to work in Europe so cannot help you other than to say that the first thing I think you should do is ask yourself if you actually need a cellphone in Europe (since you don't own one which works there as well as here) or do you just want one?

There are no "wrong" answers to this question but if the "saving money" issue is that major for you then the question may be even more relevant.
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Old Apr 13th, 2006, 03:14 AM
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There are no wrong opinions...everybody is entitled to their opinion and as I noted the question about what is right for a particular person is dependent on a number of factors. Most importantly when it comes to mobile phones, to give advice, one has to kinow just what the mobile phone is wanted for. Also one has to know whether one's only carrier allows international roaming, whether that carrier is GSM, whether the person has a GSM phone with the proper frequencies yada yada yada.

However, one reads a great deal of stuff thrown out by people on various topics that is downright wrong and those are wrong answers.

If I say that in my opinion mobal is not such a great deal if you really want to have a usable mobile phone, that is an opinion. I can't answer for what people consider to be "convenience" and place a monetary value on that. I also can't answer, for example, what the future holds. Is this a one trip to Europe and never again or does the person go to Europe annually? That might affect the "best" solution to the problem.

Finally nobody knows what the future holds. Currently there is a great deal of controversy going on in the eu as it is apparent the eu will, in the very near future, pass legislation that will curtail the asininely high roaming rates put on intra European calls throughout the eu...that might mean a company such as united mobile AKA riiing may not be the best buy for a muli country visit to Europe but nobody, as noted, can predict the future.

In my opinion, if you want a functioning mobile phone for a multi country trip to Europe and want to be able to be reached, at reasonable rates, 24/7 the best solution is Robespierre's.
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Old May 14th, 2006, 07:27 PM
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Still a bit confused on the cell phone issue and could use a little help, especially on what a SIM card does.

If I'm reading Robespierre's suggestion correctly, I can: 1) purchase any GMS phone anyplace, 2) make sure it's "unlocked" (how can I tell?), and then 3)purchase a SIM card from united-mobile, which will give me one European phone number AND service at the per minute cost they quote on their web site. Is this correct?

(Note--I have tried to "post" this message several times but keep getting an error message...so I apologize profusely if it actually went through numerous times.)

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Old May 14th, 2006, 07:38 PM
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Old May 14th, 2006, 07:53 PM
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The SIM is what determines which phone rings when someone calls you. I'm leaving out some technical steps here, but the short version is that you can take your SIM out of one phone and put it in another phone and when your friend rings your number, the one your SIM is in will ring.

The remainder of your analysis is correct, provided that the phone will work on 900 and 1800 mHz. The only way I know of to be certain that a phone is unlocked is to install a SIM other than the provider's, and see if you get an error message.
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Old May 14th, 2006, 10:43 PM
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Old May 15th, 2006, 09:57 AM
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Robespierre--Your answers are so helpful! So when you purchase a cell phone, it's just the SIM card in the phone that "connects" you to a particular provider's service (Verizon, T-Mobile, etc.)...that I can buy any phone, remove the SIM card from it, and put in a different provider's SIM card and the phone will "connect" me through that new provider (such as United-Mobile)? I ask because you apparently can't buy a cell phone around here without it being tied to a provider; and if I can just pop out the card and replace it, this is a whole lot easier than it sounds.

Also, what is meant by "unlocked"?

Thanks again!
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Old May 15th, 2006, 10:00 AM
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A "locked" phone will accept only the providing carrier's SIMs. So if you buy a phone from Virgin Mobile, for example, it won't work with a united-mobile.com SIM unless you get it unlocked.

The only carriers in the U.S. who routinely equip customers with GSM phones are Cingular and T-Mobile. The rest will sell you a GSM phone, but at an exorbitant price.

The best way to finesse the entire issue is to buy a GSM phone for 900/1800 gHz that's been unlocked from a vendor on eBay with lots of good feedback.
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Old May 15th, 2006, 01:53 PM
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Robespierre--You are such a help! Before I buy on e-Bay, I have to ask about a posting I read awhile back, stating that even with the plug adaptors you need in Europe for anything, someone said they couldn't charge their cell phone--it wouldn't take the charge. Was that a lot of bull that I can just forget about?
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Old May 15th, 2006, 02:24 PM
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Not sure if you are referring to the recent thread I was asking about all this.

BUT I did buy a cell phone on eBay that is unlocked - no SIM card at all. The only problem I had with the purchase was that the charger that it came with was only good in US (voltage 120) So I bought a dual voltage charger at Target. This is different than the plugs but that is solved the usual way with the adaptor kit we have. I am not sure if some other seller or some other phone would have had the correct kind of charger. Probably but I was going for a very simple, cheap, no frills phone.

My husband now has the phone in Thailand and he has bought a SIM card there for about $5 and it works. That did not include very many minutes but he can add more and incoming calls are free.

When we get to Portugal in a few weeks we will buy a Portuguese SIM card. Then just email or maybe call home to the US with our new number.

This seems to be the best solution for us - thanks to all the good advice on Fodors.
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Old May 15th, 2006, 03:00 PM
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Hi everyone. I am in this same boat with everyone else. I just got off the phone with Cingular. I am considering getting domestic service with them just so that I can use the phone overseas. Verizon only offers rental GSM phones for (get this) $3.99 a day, plus the minutes. What a rip off! With Cingular, I just need to sign up for regular domestic service (w/ a 2 yr contract) and I can add the international service for like $6.00 a month while I'm gone. Best thing is, I can transfer my old Verizon cell # and have it w/me. I thought of going to the Ebay site and getting an unlocked phone. I asked all my friends for their old phones to see if they took Sim cards and could be unlocked (no luck).I'm not completely decided, but Cingular is looking pretty good and I've been losing a lot of faith in Verizon for some time now.
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Old May 15th, 2006, 03:34 PM
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If you're looking for a domestic carrier for use overseas, check out T-Mobile. They don't charge anything extra to use international roaming. Their phones are all GSM, and you can get a 4-band RAZR free from wirefly.com
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Old May 15th, 2006, 09:35 PM
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Hi,
I would purchase a cheap pay as you go phone and then get people to phone you from the US. You will not be charged for receiving calls and people phoning you can add on cheap international calling for about $3 a month from their long distance carrier (or they could use that 10 10 220 thing that's always being advertised). You can always phone people and ask them to phone you back, or text them and ask them to phone you. This is the method I use when in UK and Greece.
Carolena
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Old May 19th, 2006, 08:12 PM
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I hope I can provide information here that will help others make a decision about the best way to go if you want to have a cell phone while in Europe. Heaven knows I have spent enough time figuring this out!

Can making a cell phone decision be any more confusing?!? After reading everyone's advice, keeping myself up at night trying to decide what to do (we got ripped off on our European trip last summer--ended up w/a $500 charge due to hidden fees), and spending more time thinking about this than about sightseeing (crazy!), I decided to get a grip and sit down with pencil, paper, and calculator and make a chart comparing several options to see what would be best, leaving opinion out of it. These cell phone companies price everything very differently so it is extremely difficult to compare them at first glance (one has a low phone rental fee but high per-minute rate, another has low per-minute rates but high phone rental fee, etc.) Beware, consumer!

A little terminology for others who are cell phone impaired: A SIM card is the part of your cell phone that connects you with a service. It's your phone's software; the phone itself is the hardware. To be able to use a cell phone on your trip, you need both.

First, call your cell phone provider. (If you have Verizon, I can save you this step--forget it). Find out from your provider if you have a cell phone that is an unlocked GSM phone with 90/1800 mHz bands (I sound like I know what I'm talking about, don't I?). If the answer is "yes", you can just purchase a SIM card from united-mobile for $59 (includes shipping and 40 min. of talk time from western Europe) and put it in your phone. If, however, you don't have this type of phone (such as all Verizon phones), you have to get yourself a phone AND service. That's what I needed.

For basis of comparison on my chart, I used a scenario of a 3-week western European Baltic trip with 60 min. of talk time (excludes Russia & Poland where none of these rates from any company applies). If you plan to talk less than 60 min., you'll have to do your own comparison because the most cost-effective way for you will be different...remember those variations in the per-minute charges? Anyway, here's how it turned out using my scenario of 3 weeks in the Baltic talking 60 min.:

Option 1: RENT THE CELL PHONE ALONG W/SERVICE. EZ Wireless and Road Post, two providers I looked at, would cost slightly over $200 (includes all fees including shipping). Votaphone, which is what Verizon recommended I use when I called them about this, costs a lot more. (There are, of course, a lot of other services you can check out, should you have no life and lots of time on your hands.)

Option 2: BUY AN UNLOCKED CELL PHONE FROM A REPUTABLE SELLER ON E-BAY AND PURCHASE THE NECESSARY SIM CARD FROM ANOTHER SITE (per others' advice here, I looked at united-mobile). My cost would be about $180 (you were right, Robespierre--it is less expensive than the rental services).

Finally, Option 3: PURCHASE A PHONE AND SERVICE FROM THE SAME PROVIDER. Mobalrental was recommended by Rick Steves and MSN and--for my purposes--turned out to be the best option. This would cost $149 and includes all necessary adapters (worth a few bucks). It costs less than options 1 & 2 and I'll be able to keep the phone and use it on future trips. In fact, I decided to pay $50 more than the $149 cost I mentioned above in order to get a phone that could also be used in Alaska, Canada, and the U.S. (the phones from the other plans I mentioned above don't work anyplace except western Europe). This means I can use it to make calls from the airports here in the U.S. and can leave my regular cell phone home...and it will work on my next trip (to Alaska). This put the cost almost equal with rental option #1 but I get to keep the phone, which--because I plan to travel in the future--will save lots of money on my next trip. Another plus for me was that I will have time before my trip to get comfortable with the phone--it won't arrive the day before I leave because I have to watch how many days I keep it in an effort to keep the cost down. That happened last year--we were paying by the day so we had it delivered the day before we left. We arrived in Rome and I ended up spending our first hour there not sightseeing but talking to a customer service rep who didn't speak English-- I couldn't get the phone to work per the manual!

One additional note--When figuring the costs, I included the fee my daughters' cell phone provider (Verizon) charges to get international roaming so they can call us (in our case, Verizon charges $3.99/mo. and you can cancel at anytime--no minimum # of months (the only piece of good news from Verizon relative to international calling). If you plan to make all your calls outgoing, this won't matter; just be sure to tell people who might call you to check it out first with their provider because they could get socked with high fees.

Whew!!! I hope I haven't confused anyone and maybe helped.
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Old May 19th, 2006, 11:08 PM
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While a SIM card for the country you are visiting typically has the best rates, one drawback that it expires if not used within a set period of time (two to eight months for the ones I had considered). Since we visit Europe annually, those SIM cards did not make sense for us.

This year, I discovered a roaming SIM card. The rates are a bit higher (e.g.: $0.59/minute for calls from France to the US and for calls within France, free incoming calls), but the card does not expire for a year from your last call. That call could even be within the US ($1.15/minute). The phone number that you receive is a UK number.

The card is a Passport Sim Card:
http://www.telestial.com/view_produc...T_ID=MSIM-PP01

I requested unlock codes for our Motorola quad band phones from Cingular and will simply use the Passport SIM cards while we are in France for our upcoming trip.
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Old May 20th, 2006, 12:14 AM
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patth...

Did you consider incoming calls in your calculations?
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