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Germany, France & Switzerland - Phone Issue

Germany, France & Switzerland - Phone Issue

May 11th, 2006, 06:54 AM
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Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 932
Germany, France & Switzerland - Phone Issue

I will be gone for over 3 weeks traveling the above 3 countries. I had originally thought my cell phone had GSM capabilities. It does not. I need to know my alternatives so that I can "touch base" with my family while I am abroad.

I've read the other gazillion posts regarding this topic and it's all a bit confusing and 'in depth.'

I of course will leave a list of hotel numbers for my family (although we are switching hotels every 2 nights). I am interested in hearing about phone cards. Is it best to buy a phone card here that will allow me to call the US from abroad or should I buy a phone card while in Europe? I'm assuming I can use this phonecard in our hotels???

I'm trying to keep this simple w/o having to use sim cards and renting a phone over there or things of that nature.

katzen is offline  
May 11th, 2006, 07:07 AM
Join Date: Feb 2006
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Don't know what service you use, but you might want to check to see if it's possible to upgrade your phone. Many companies will give you a phone to re-sign another contract (usually only a year). If so, check to see if you can get a quad-band or that it will work overseas. I was suprised to find out that my phone, through T-Mobile, will work in every country we're visiting - Switzerland, France, UK, & Austria. I thought this would be much easier than taking a chance on purchasing a phone overseas & a lot less than renting one! Good luck.
Lynaenovo is offline  
May 11th, 2006, 07:24 AM
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katzen - This is what I use. I find the rates very reasonable.
If you have more questions, I can try to answer.
ngodeia is offline  
May 11th, 2006, 07:40 AM
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I'm probably the last person who should be answering this for you but for convenience and because we seem to go to Europe a couple of times each year I simply purchased a quad-band phone a couple of years ago (I use Cingular) and my phone works everywhere in Europe and with my regular phone number.

I add and subtract Cingular's world traveler or whatever they call it option on-line (this lowers my rates some).

is this as cheap as using phone cards or having a separate phone or changing SIM cards, etc.? Probably not, but I appreciate the no-hassle convenience and am willing to pay for it.

i am sure there are many other "methods" to deal with this issue which are "cheaper" which you may soon be told about.
Intrepid1 is offline  
May 11th, 2006, 07:58 AM
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The problem for Americans in this regard, as we've noted before...

The largest mobile provider in America is verizon.....verizon does not use GSM; T Mobile US and Cingular do.

So a verizon customer is out of luck when it comes to using his or her phone in Europe unless they buy a very high end phone, $500 or so and have verizon provide a sim card. Customers of Cingular and T Mobile US have it much easier in this regard insofar as all they need is a GSM phone with at leastone of the European frequencies and both companies provide relatively inexpensive or free GSM tri band phones with at least one of the European frequencies. All they need do as noted is sign up for the international calling plans they both have. Incidentally, as a side note, I have read from other posters that Cingular no longer lets you go in and out of their monthly international plan; you have to keep it for 6 months. Again this is based on somethings that have been posted not my personal knowledge.

Using the international roaming capabilities of T mobile or Cingular is fine if you just use it for emergencies or the odd call here and there and I agree it's very convenient.

However for a person who makes lots of trips to Europe or will be there an extended period of time and really wants a mobile phone to use, the international roaming capabilities of T Mobile US and Cingular come at a very expensive price.

Conditions are changing day by day; right now if being reached all through the 3 week period is important you might consider an international sim card such as united mobile along with a cheap unlocked gsm phone readilly available on e bay.

Phone cards are very very good too; the best deals are country specific and usually available at tabacs in France and in the other country and if you are sure of your hotels you can be reached in your hotel pretty easily and at a cheaper rate, for the most part, then via a mobile phone.

Much of it has to do with your precise calling patterns, your itinerary, how often you travel yada yada yada.

The other caveat is that conditions are changing rapidly....the eu is pushing a plan that will end all intra European roaming fees in the near future; don't know whether that will come to fruition but right now, the choice is basically, if your home provider is not gsm, either an international sim card or local ld cards.
xyz123 is offline  
May 11th, 2006, 08:52 AM
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Wow, thank you for the replies. We do know what hotels we will be staying in. The only problem is that we will only be staying in each hotel 2 nights and one time for 3 nights. So we will be hopping around. Regardless, my family will have a list of all the hotels and their numbers.

Purchasing a phone card in each country is probably the best option for us. I don't need to call home daily but probably once a week .. maybe two. And of course if there is an emergency back at home we would need to be notified.

The above phone (original post) I was referring to was a Cingular through my company. Unfortunately, it is a dual and not a quad. I could ask to be upgraded and pay for the difference.

Back to the calling cards: would I need to purchase one in each country or can can I purchase 1 card for all 3 countries? Is there a site or somewhere I could go to read up on these? Also, what is a tabac? Is it hard to find these cards?

Thanks for the help!
katzen is offline  
May 11th, 2006, 08:53 AM
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ngodeia, I just went to the web site you gave me. I am going to look into this. It sounds pretty good. Thank you!
katzen is offline  
May 11th, 2006, 09:11 AM
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ngodeia, of course I'm confused now. I went to the site you gave me. I called customer service and the lady i spoke to was clueless. She sent me to another web site www.idt.net and told me to click on global card. I wasn't able to find global card. OR she told me to go to Walgreens and purchase the International rechargeable card.

I asked her about the website you sent me and she said she was not familiar with that site.

Any ideas on where to start? I would need to be able to call the U.S. from Germany, Switzerland and France.

I'll do more research on this site as well .. but thought you may have some pointers to make it a bit easier.

katzen is offline  
May 11th, 2006, 09:22 AM
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ngodeia, I think I found the page. do I want local rates or toll free rates? There seems to be a choice. Is this the right card from Germany? Do I need to buy another card for France and Switzerland? Thanks!

Local Rate
Great Choices For Calling To: USA From: Germany

Local Rate OR Toll Free Rates
Phone Card Local Rates Connection
Fee Maintenance
Fee Rounding Feature Price Minutes

1. DE-Supercalling e-Phonecard €0.01 €0.01 €0.26 every 14 days 1 minute €20 3332

2. DE-Unity e-Phonecard €0.01 €0.01 €0.15 every 7 days 1 minute €20 3332

3. DE-Afrika e-Phonecard €0.03 €0.06 €0.59 every 7 days 1 minute €20 664

katzen is offline  
May 11th, 2006, 02:17 PM
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I went back to the idteurope site and tried to find a way to buy the card I have and there isn't one.

What I have is called the IDT EuroCall card. I bought it at the Cologne tourist info center when I first moved here. I have been using it since. My card is very simple, it gives a toll-free access number for every country. I've used the same card in Germany and the Netherlands. There aren't any of those connection fees or tolls you mentioned.

Maybe you can try e-mailing them at [email protected] to see if you can buy one before you leave the US. The access number for the US printed on my card is 866-218-7296, maybe you can try this number as well. Whenever I call customer service, I am connected to the UK, which I believe is the European HQ. If all else fails, let me know here and maybe I can make a quick call there to find out where are the places you can purchase a card.

ngodeia is offline  
May 11th, 2006, 02:56 PM
Join Date: Jan 2006
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I've mentioned this before---in Switzerland, all you need to do is use your VISA card in a Swisscom pay phone. It is safe, inexpensive, and the "meter" on the phone shows you what it costs. I just pulled out my VISA bill from last summer, when I was calling home from Switzerland. The bill shows 0.47 for one (0.7 CHF) and 0.55 for the other (0.60. CHF). Those were short calls where I just left messages. On a previous trip, when I was calling my finace every day, the calls ran from 1.80 CHF to 2.40 CHF. Still not much (cheaper than e-mail). And there was no problem of buying a prepaid card and having minutes left over, or having to dial special access codes. The red Swisscom payphones are all over the place.

By the way, using the phone in your hotel room to call out often incurs high charges (from the hotel), even with a phone card. That's another reason I like the Swisscom phones.
enzian is offline  
May 11th, 2006, 02:57 PM
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Thank you so much for your help. I'm going to look into this and post back after I found something out.
Thank you again!
katzen is offline  
May 11th, 2006, 05:43 PM
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Thanks Enzian .. that will help for Switzerland ... I now need to figure out Germany/France. When you say 'Visa' Card does that mean credit card or can it be a bank debit card with the Visa logo?
I'm sure I'm making a bigger deal out of this than needs to be so thanks for the help!

katzen is offline  
May 11th, 2006, 06:51 PM
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I used a Visa credit card. I don't know if a debit card will work because of the PIN requirement.

I was hoping someone else would come on and talk about phone cards in France. I used a payphone in Chamonix that had a place to swipe a credit card, as well as a place to insert a phone card. I only made a local call, so I can't say what the charge would be for a call to the U.S. there. However, my understanding is that in each country it is much cheaper to direct dial with that country's prepaid phone card (or in Switzerland, interchangeably with a credit card) than to use a prepaid card from Sprint, MCI, etc. In Germany you can buy a phone card at the post office as well as at various newstands/kiosks.

Another alternative would be to do as my husband does---he has Acculink, which charges long distance phone cards to his credit card. It's better than a pre-paid card from MCI because you apy as you go---no need to estimate how much you need. On the other hand, you still need to find a phone that will take coins for the initial access call, and then dial lots of numbers (they give him a different access number for each country we've visited). But the charges were reasonable, and it makes a nice backup.
enzian is offline  
May 12th, 2006, 08:19 AM
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Hi K,

For the occasional short call to the US, and in order to let them call you in emergencies, you might want to consider the $49 phone from www.mobal.com.

ira is offline  
May 12th, 2006, 11:19 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Okay, I've been struggling with the phone dilemma, too. Will be in France and Germany in June and need phone for family reasons.
On past trips to Europe, I have just purchased the phone cards in tabacs, etc., and called from the hotel. However, last year in Rome, neither me, nor my mom or aunt could get our phone cards to work from our hotel. We had the manager try to help us, and he couldn't figure it out, either. Drove us crazy. Phone card worked fine in Florence, and the French one worked fine in Paris.
For this same trip, I had contacted my cell phone provider (Cingular) and found that my son's phone was the proper type to work in Europe. However, despite trying to get the temporary service, the phone did not work in France or Italy. I think that when I called to set up the temporary international account, for some reason, the service just wasn't set up. Maybe because that phone was in my son's name. I don't know.
For my upcoming trip, I went to Cingular yesterday, and since my two-year contract was almost up, I upgraded to a "world phone" (the Motorola Razr) and listened as the customer service rep. called and set up my international service for one month. It costs $5.99 and calls are 99 cents each. You can choose to skip the $5.99 fee, in which case calls are $1.29 each. I selected the $5.99 deal. I will call Cingular two days before my trip and re-confirm that the service is set up.
I looked at Mobal and those other websites, but upgrading my own phone was the simplest choice for me. I want the peace of mind of having it. I also will buy local phone cards (don't order them beforehand -- it's so easy to buy them in Europe) for making longer calls from our hotels.
Good luck!
heelfan is offline  
May 12th, 2006, 12:58 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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A bit off topic, but I use email to stay in touch with my family, by stopping in at an internet cafe fairly often.
suze is offline  

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