Cell phones in Europe

Aug 10th, 2011, 08:24 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jun 2011
Posts: 8
Cell phones in Europe

We are going to Europe for a few weeks this summer and were wondering about whether our cell phones work there, or do we buy a throw-away when we get there. We plan to take computers so we will have internet while there, but it might be nice to have a cell for emergencies etc. Any thoughts out there?
rharnold98 is offline  
Aug 10th, 2011, 09:00 PM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 1,049
Well that depends on what kind of phone(s) you have. If we're talking CDMA only, you're out of luck and should buy a cheap unlocked guad-band now (online maybe) or when you get there. If you have 3G GSM capability with 900/1800 MHz, it's more likely. You will want to get a local SIM card, which means your phone will also need to be unlocked from your provider. Your only other alternative is to go with your home provider's global coverage package, but those are usually not cost efficient by comparison.

No one can really answer your question thoroughly until you tell us what phone and what provider and whether your phone is unlocked. I assume you live in the U.S.

There are scads of questions like this every month. You could search them here now; or wait for the usual suspects to answer with amazing, updated details and opinions within the next couple of days. Fodorite xyz123 has become the resident expert on this, so you might want to do a search specifically for his name while you wait.
sap is offline  
Aug 10th, 2011, 09:01 PM
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 2,919
Not knowing what cell phones you now have would make your question about whether or not they will work in Europe impossible to answer. You will need GSM format phones operating at 900/1800 mHz frequency bands.
Sarastro is offline  
Aug 11th, 2011, 06:20 AM
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 2,522
Assuming you don't know if your phones are GSM or not and what frequency if they are... call your phone company and ask. Or look at the users manual that came with the phones.

If they are indeed GSM and tri or quad band the next step is to see if they are unlocked or not... again, your provider would be able to tell you.

A site with a good overview of available pay as you go SIMs is http://www.prepaidgsm.net

I find having a phone in Europe very handy... you can call for hotel and restaurant reservations etc and I've invariably lent mine to other North Americans for quick calls as they hadn't a clue that their own phones wouldn't work.
ParisAmsterdam is offline  
Aug 11th, 2011, 07:43 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jun 2011
Posts: 8
Thanks all for your advice. My phone is GSM, and I guess I need to call ATT and see about using it in Europe. Thanks again for the good words.
rharnold98 is offline  
Aug 11th, 2011, 10:27 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 5,810
Depending on how you frame you question, you can get an expensive answer from your carrier. I would not rely totally on carrier to tell you all relevant options.


1. What carrier rather want to do: "you phone will work just fine in most Europe as is at $1.39/min. If you plan to call a lot, you can get 'AT&T World Traveler' for $5.99 and your rate will be $0.99." This is profitable to the carrier and CAN make sense if you usage is really really low. < ~10min total.

2. If your usage is higher, you want to get a local SIM as others recommended. The relevant keywords ares: 900/1800mhz, unlocked. You only need to talk to the carrier if your phone needs to be unlocked.

a. to test if your phone is unlocked, see if you can find someone else using T-mobile USA, another GSM carrier.(I presume you are from the U.S. since you mentioned ATT.) If you pop a T-mobile SIM into your phone and if it connects to T-mobile network, your phone is unlocked.

b. to find out if your phone can operates 900/1800mhz, Google your phone model and read the GSM frequency spec.


Don't use the ATT for data unless you really really understand your data usage model. See http://www.wireless.att.com/learn/in...d-packages.jsp. Some folks here are very disciplined and can live with these strict data limit restrictions. If you cannot, you will pay for it.

Learn to turn off the data roaming before you leave.
greg is offline  
Aug 12th, 2011, 05:32 AM
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 2,522
Good advice from Greg... on another forum there were some recent posts from an ATT customer who had called them and received information from someone who was obviously clueless.

Check as above to see if your phone is unlocked. If it is not, look around where you live using Kijiji, Craigslist, Google etc to find someone who'll unlock your phone. It might cost 20-30 dollars. Some phones can be unlocked with just a code... ask ATT and they may just give it to you...

ParisAmsterdam is offline  
Aug 12th, 2011, 07:01 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 8,809
If all you want is an emergency use phone, your AT&T phone will work just fine as is. Rates are usurious ($1.39/minute incoming or outgoing) but if you will use only a few minutes the total will not require a new mortgage. You would need to be sure to activate international roaming on your account. (This is not the same as the World Traveler discount plan, just tells the network that you will be traveling internationally and to allow your phone to work on foreign networks.)
If you want to use the phone for more than just emergency calling, greg gives you good guidance.
Seamus is offline  
Feb 26th, 2014, 02:57 AM
Join Date: Oct 2013
Posts: 6,605
Every day, it seems, a "new user" pops up, resurrects an ancient topic, and recommends an unlocking service.
bvlenci is offline  

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