Fodor's Travel Talk Forums

Fodor's Travel Talk Forums (
-   Europe (
-   -   General informations of wireless phone to use in Europe (

kismetchimera Jun 21st, 2009 04:57 PM

General informations of wireless phone to use in Europe
Usually I dont bring the wireless phone with me when I travel in Europe.However on my last trip I needed the phone to call my friend when I arrived to what I thought was our meeting place and could not find her and wished that I had a phone so that I could contact her.
She was there but was waiting at a different exit.

Anyway..Being a non technical person I dont have the vaguest idea of what is an unlocked phone, how to use it or anything about the Sims card.
In September I will travel to both Italy and France..and spent 5 days in a apartment in CT, the apt. dont have a phone..

Can you please explain in easy terms what i must do? My wireless isT-Mobile but the overseas phone's calls are quite expensive.Also I travel with my teenager granddaughter and I hope that her friends will not send any text messages or call her.

I could use any informations,just remember that you are talking with a non technical lady..:)

Nikki Jun 21st, 2009 05:28 PM

Actually, I just use my T-mobile phone in Europe. If you only use it sparingly, in the kind of situation you described, it ends up being a lot easier and even less expensive than buying a phone and sim card for use in the country you are visiting.

DeborahAnn Jun 21st, 2009 05:56 PM

This last trip to France we had one phone using T-Mobile International that we set up before leaving the US. In France the per minute charge was 99 cents a minute, fine if you are going to use it sparingly. There are no additional costs because you don't need a sim card and you just pay for the minutes you use.

For our other phone I bought a sim card through CallinginEurope. It's very reasonable for France but more expensive in Italy. Our calls back to the US were 39 cents per minute and the sim card was $29 plus a $14 shipping charge (which I thought was very expensive) We will use the same card and the same number when we return to France in October. If we use this phone in Belgium or the Netherlands the cost per minute will be 39 to 69 cents per minute, not great but less than our T-mobile international.

Confusing yes but having a phone is convenient ;;) Deborah

kismetchimera Jun 21st, 2009 06:08 PM

Thanks ladies,however is hard to use the phone sparingly when you travel with a teenager..I am afraid that her friends would probably keep sending her many text messages..

I could really use the phone at CT, the last time we were there we called the US using my calling card, it was quite expensive,but we needed to let know our family that we were allright.

Nikki Jun 21st, 2009 06:20 PM

If it is your phone, your granddaughter's friends won't be sending you text messages, will they? And if it is her phone, you can just tell her to put out the word that they can't call her or text her while she is away, and that she can't call or text them. That is what my daughters have done.

luvtogotoo Jun 21st, 2009 06:27 PM

I was planning to call Verizon, my carrier, tomorrow with just this question. I thought I could just use my own phone and be sure it's set for international calls, but will find out. Does anyone have experience in Italy using their Verizon phone?

Travelnut Jun 21st, 2009 07:11 PM

You've gotta have the right frequency bands on the phone..

I just use my same T-Mobile phone too. Texting is cheaper but, of course, still more expensive than when at home.

kismetchimera Jun 21st, 2009 07:19 PM

You are right Nikki..I need to be firm and explains to her that unless I buy a different type of phone,we need to use the t-mobile phone sparingly.

Robespierre Jun 21st, 2009 08:33 PM

If T-Mo hasn't changed it recently, outgoing texts (from Europe) are 35¢, and incoming are 20¢ or free up to however are in your domestic bundle. With our unlimited family text add-on, I can get away with two weeks in Europe with three teens for less than $50.

Be sure to turn on International Roaming at before you leave home. It's free. Voice is 99¢/min in or out.

kismetchimera Jun 23rd, 2009 07:26 AM

Another question..If I bring my T-Mobile wireless and want to make a call to Avignon from Paris..I would dial:
011-33-4-90 and then of course the person phone number?

When I am in Rome and must place a local call then I would dial-011-39-6 and the person number, right?

Nikki Jun 23rd, 2009 07:43 AM

You do not need the 011-33 when dialing from within France. Dial as if you had a French phone.

When dialing US numbers from your cell phone in France, you must dial 001 before the number. 00 is the international code from Europe, and 1 is the US code. But you can substitute the character + for the international code. So to dial the US from France, you would dial +1-area code-phone number.

kismetchimera Jun 23rd, 2009 07:50 AM

Nikki, therefore if I want to place a call to Avignon from Paris I would omit 33(france code)and just dial 4(region) and 90,Avignon code?

daveesl Jun 23rd, 2009 08:07 AM

An "unlocked" phone is one that allows you to use any phone network. A "locked" phone is one that only allows you to use one phone network (like ATT or Verizon). An unlocked phone is normally the best.

A "SIM card" is a small electronic device that fits into a slot in the phone, normally behind the battery. It holds the phone information, such as phone number. It most cases it looks like a piece of cardboard with some gold strips. You can buy these in many places in Europe. The prices vary considerably depending on the phone network, the country and other things.

Cell phones operate on different frequencies (bands). There are 4 primary phone frequencies in the world. In North America, our 2 frequencies are different than most of the rest of the world. Thus, a dual band US phone will not work in Europe. A dual band European phone will not work in the US. Thus you need either a tri or quad band phone to use in both the US and Europe.

You can get good deals on new or refurbished unlocked Tri-band phones on You can get good deals on used Tri or Quad band phones on eBay.

You can buy SIM cards for Europe in the US, but you will often pay more. The advantage is that you will already know your phone number before you leave. SIM cards in Europe will be less expensive and often have more deals, but it can take from a few minutes to a day to activate the SIM and you won't know your phone number in advance.

Some services offer free or cheap texting.

Sher Jun 23rd, 2009 08:32 AM

If you have a T-Mobile quad band phone, there is no need for you to buy another phone.
I have a T-Mobile phone and they have the frequencies that you must have to make and receivea calls in Europe. But I decided to not use their service as I felt it was too expensive.
First of all, I called them to tell them that I wanted to use the phone in Europe. They must give you an unlock code so that you can use the phone with another SIM. I am not techinal at all and it was very easy for even me to do.
Then you can purchase a local SIM card and replace the T-Mobile SIM in your phone and you are ready to go.
The nice thing about this is that you are used to your own phone and no need for the expense of another.
In Portugal, we buy a local SIM.
In France, we bought a SIM from I believe this is the correcct url. Their SIM last year was the most reasonable cost per minute of any SIM but as stated there is that S&H of $14 and the cost of the SIM. But I used my phone every day a lot and my bill was $63.
You can even check Ebay for country specific SIM cards. I recently purchased one for Portugal which actually cost me less than buying one at the Lisbon airport would be. Just arrive at your destination, insert SIM and go.

With Call In Europe, no need to worry about using up prepaid minutes and the SIM is valid from year to year if you make so many calls in a twelve month period. Nice if you plan to return to France.

Good Luck. It seems so complicated but really just takes readiing and help from the Forum. That is how I did it.

kismetchimera Jun 23rd, 2009 09:09 AM

ThanKs Daveesl and Sher for your informations.Now I must decide what I want to do..I have a little over two months to think about it and see which is the best option.

In both countries we will spend some times visiting family and relatives, therefore my DH can call me while I am there by using 10-10-987.

I need the wireless when we travel and stay in different cities or if I need to be in contact with my friends also I must have it in Cinque Terre because the the apartment that we have rented does not have a phone.

Grazie again for your help.

Nikki Jun 23rd, 2009 09:54 AM

AnnaMaria, to dial a French number from within France, as you would be using your T-Mobile phone on international roaming, you dial the entire ten digit number. In Avignon, this number begins with 04. The zero is omitted when you are dialing from outside France and you add the international access (+) and the country code (33).

For example, if the number to dial from within France is 04 12 34 56 78, to reach it from the US you would dial 011 33 4 12 34 56 78 (or +33 4 12 34 56 78).

To call between Italy and France, you would need the international access code of 00 (or+), then the country code and phone number. So to call that same French phone number from Italy, it would be 00 33 4 12 34 56 78 (or +33 4 12 34 56 78).

The confusing thing to remember is that from the US, the international access code is 011, and from Europe it is 00. In either case, the + can be used to replace it.

kismetchimera Jun 23rd, 2009 10:29 AM

Thanks sister and my Cousins live in Provence,my older brother lives in Italy so I am familiar calling them from the US.
I was uncertain about the proper procedure in using a wireless within a country, but now after your explanation I Can do it..((A))

Robespierre Jun 23rd, 2009 11:06 AM

If you use your T-Mobile phone without changing the SIM, you are always dialing from the U.S., and therefore always have to dial the country code of the number you are calling.

If you go to and set up your profile with the phone you have, it will tell you whether it has only US frequencies (950) or others for use overseas.

All you have to do then is set International Roaming on, and you're good to go.
Voice - 99¢/min in or out
Text out - 35¢
Text in - 20¢ or free from your bundle (with teens, this makes Unlimited Texting @ $14.95 a real bargain)

Nikki Jun 23rd, 2009 11:34 AM

Robespierre, I may be hallucinating, but I believe I have just dialed the local number overseas without the country code, just using my T-Mobile card with its usual US sim. If my memory is incorrect, then all my above advice is wrong.

I will be giving it another go in a couple of weeks and we'll see if my memory is losing ground more quickly than I had hoped.

kismetchimera Jun 23rd, 2009 11:37 AM

I will check with T-mobile Robespierre..I dont know what kind of frequency my wireless have.

Yes,.20 cents for texting sound good to me and will make my Granddaughter happy..

hetismij Jun 23rd, 2009 12:27 PM

Whatever you do, if you are using T-mobile whilst abroad make sure that is the network you are connected to or you will be charged extra.
You can see which network you are connected to on the screen, and in the menus you can change the network to the one you want if it isn't already.

Have a look at for a pretty clear explanation of using your cell phone abroad.

Nikki is right you do not need the country code, just the 10 cipher number.

Remember too that the emergency number is 112.

Also a good idea is to have in your phone memory under ICQ the contact number(s) of someone back home in case something happens to you - others can then contact your family in one go, without having to try your entire phone list.

Nikki Jun 23rd, 2009 01:50 PM

Hetismij, it is my experience that it does not matter which network you are connected to. It has almost never been T-Mobile when I have been in Europe, and we are charged the rate of 99 cents per minute for international roaming. I do not believe there is a discount if you are connected through T-Mobile, and I have not found T-Mobile as an option everywhere.

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 05:31 PM.