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chrismch Mar 16th, 2006 12:01 PM

getting a mobile phone?
Just read a ton of posts about getting a cell phone to use while on my 3 wk trip to Ireland and I'm still confused. Should I try to buy in the states or wait until I reach Dublin? What is the best place to buy and what do I expect in costs? What I understand so far is that it has to have a vodaphone sim card, be at least a dual band, be "unlocked." We plan to use it to book B&B's and get directions when we're lost and will get incoming calls from the U.S.(we will not phone home except for the first call to give our number). Our next European trip may be to the Baltics in 2007 or 2008 so we don't at this point have other uses for it.What are your suggestions?

mclaught Mar 17th, 2006 12:11 PM

go to ebay, look for an unlocked tri-band GSM phone. Try a Motorola v220, you can find them for @$45 used or $85 new. Do a search for "Motorola v220 Unlocked World-Band GSM Phone" on ebay. There are probably better phones around, but this phone would work for cheap. You can definitely wait until you get to Dublin to get your sim card. They sell them over there like we sell lottery tickets around here. But if you just can't wait, or you want to know your number ahead of time, go back to ebay and look for an ireland sim card. You don't have to use Vodaphone, you can use O2 as well, they all have different pricing plans.

Robespierre Mar 17th, 2006 12:20 PM

You'll get more than two results if you search eBay for <b>unlocked v220</b>.

mabern2 Mar 17th, 2006 12:25 PM

I too looked into a cell when we were traveling last year through Germany and France. After much research on this site thanks to a lot of informative posts I decided on purchasing a cell from mobalrental for around $45. It was &quot;unlocked&quot; and the next thing to figure out was how to deal with the sim card as it was 2 different countries and mobal rental did not have such a good price for their calls. I wound up trying my everyday sim card from my Cingular phone and it worked. I called my cell phone provider and added world coverage for the time we were gone. I was able to use my own sim in the mobalrental phone the whole time, being able to use my own phone numer. This may not work best for what you need but I thought I would pass it along anyway. Good luck and happy travels!!

grsing Mar 17th, 2006 12:27 PM

mclaught does give an excellent guide if you want to have a phone before you show up. Personally, I'd just wait until I got there and buy it there (look up the different companies before you go and pick whichever seems cheapest to the type of calling you'll do). Phones are relatively cheap (less than 50 euros, with an initial helping of service), just go into the shop and ask for their cheapest phone (assuming you'll just be doing calls and maybe texts, anything they sell will work just fine, doesn't sound like you need mobile internet or any of that).

Robespierre Mar 17th, 2006 12:31 PM

Just walking into a shop without researching beforehand will probably be fine <i>if you only want to use that company's service, in that country</i>.

But you should be aware that most phone carriers aggressively protect their investment in phones, and they don't make it easy for you to plug in another carrier's SIM. This is even more true with the new spate of low-end models like Orange's &pound;9.99 model shown here:

Unlocking phones is a highly-developed business, but nobody will do it very cheaply, and manufacturers are building new anti-unlocking technology into their handsets every week.

xyz123 Mar 17th, 2006 12:34 PM


Just a thought and not necessarily a big disagreement.

It is hard to tell where the best buys are...the only problem with buying a phone when in Ireland, and yes they can be had for as little as 50 euro, is the phone will probably be will have to be unlocked to be able to be used with any other sim card in any other country.

Also, if your US carrier is T Mobile USA, you may already have a tri band gsm phone...all you need to do is call T Mobile US customer service and if you've been a customer for, I believe, 90 days they will give you the unlocking have to make sure the phone has either 900 or 1800 frequency (preferably both); unfortunately for reasons that make some sense, many of the tri bands t mobile is now selling lack 900 and there are areas of rural Ireland where this might be a problem.

Another point about Irish sims, both O2 and Vodafone are in the process of relaxing roaming rates in the UK and a vodafone IE sim card will give you very low roaming rates in the UK (one would suppose that vodafone UK will soon be reciprocating)...some information about this is available on web site..also rules for retaining the number if that's important....

grsing Mar 17th, 2006 12:50 PM

xyz, yes, you're right, it almost certainly will be locked; if the OP is staying in Ireland the whole time, it doesn't matter, and if they're not, it's relatively cheap to unlock them on the street (though of course, compare prices, but it'll probably be within $5 either way, so it's not a big deal for all but the most penny-pinching traveller).

xyz123 Mar 17th, 2006 12:53 PM

Well it depends what you call can walk down Oxford Street and see store front after store front with big signs saying they unlock phones for prices as low (or as high?) as &pound;8...most Nokias can be unlocked for free using an unlocking code calculator that is freely available on the net......for every &quot;safeguard&quot; phone manufacturers put in, there is a hacker who will quickly figure out how to circumvent the sim lock...logos on this board says it is illegal in Germany and I am sure it is so...

But then again it is illegal to download music off the net for free isn't it.

grsing Mar 17th, 2006 01:20 PM

Germany isn't Ireland ;) The whole locking thing is kind of stupid in my opinion; lots of people can figure out how to break lots of more complicated things than that (although there is still one Engima message from WWII yet unbroken, maybe if companies encrypted things to that extreme a level, they'd do alright for a while); if there's a will, there's a way.

Robespierre Mar 17th, 2006 01:40 PM

Unhackable cell phones do exist - the subsidy lock is built into the hardware (burned into the ROM in the manufacturing process). Yes, you <i>could</i> burn a new ROM, but it's hardly worth the effort.

That's why I said it's best to have done your homework before you buy a locked cell phone with the intent of unlocking it for use on another network. You are taking a chance that the model has been penetrated and that the hack is known on the high street.

jlh41a Mar 17th, 2006 01:50 PM

Call your phone company and see if your existing phone works where you are going. We went to Europe (Italy, Germany, France, England) two years ago and my existing phone worked fine there (had service with AT&amp;T)

grsing Mar 17th, 2006 01:55 PM

True enough. Though if the OP is in Ireland the whole time, the issue is moot (and if s/he'll only be in another country a short time, it may not be worth the hassle of buying another SIM with a different number for the marginally increased cost of calling from foreign countries).

dutyfree Mar 17th, 2006 09:12 PM

Why don't you just buy phone cards at the newstands for about 5 pounds a piece and use them for your stay? You get more minutes if you use them from a hotel than a payphone but most of the ones that I have used in Western Europe allow you around 200-300 minutes for about 5-7USD$They are a great deal for traveling and are very very easy to use.

sweetbippity Mar 18th, 2006 04:59 AM

I'm going to Ireland for 3 weeks as well and a phone would be great - I'd just be using it in the Republic and Northern Ireland to make and receive calls to/from those places, and maybe some texts here and there.

I'm not interested in using it on my return to Canada, so all this unlocking stuff doesn't apply, correct?

If I get the cheap Orange phone Robespierre mentioned, do I get the Orange SIM pack and top it up with money, and then I'm good to go?

xyz123 Mar 18th, 2006 05:11 AM

Orange is a UK will pay roaming charges in the Republic (not in Northern Ireland) which means you will be paying both to make and receive calls.

Both O2-IE and Vodafone IE have announced they are discontinuing roaming charges in Northern Ireland and pretty much the whole UK so you're far better off getting the Irish prepaid sim upon arrival in Ireland (do not use any of the rip off companies such as telestial that triple the price of prepaid sims from other countries and don't give you a choice of carrier)....I'm also not sure Orange will ship to Canada from that web site....

If the unlocking business is not important, you might just as well wait till you get to Ireland and buy the phone and sim pack there.

xyz123 Mar 18th, 2006 05:15 AM

Phone cards are the cheapest solution but nothing beats having your own mobile phone to

1. be reachable 24/7...with a phone card if somebody wants to talk to you they have to know the number of every place of lodging you will be using...

2. not have to worry about hotel surcharges for accessing the ld (some hotels charge even for 0800 or 00800 numbers)

3. Not having to look for a public phone booth during the day to check on B&amp;B reservations, arrange for late arrival etc.

Fact is while phone cards are dirt cheap they still don't nearly convey the same convenience as having your very own mobile which is extremely affordable in this modern day and age!

sweetbippity Mar 18th, 2006 05:22 AM

Thanks very much, xyz - I'll pick up a phone upon my arrival.

nibblette Mar 18th, 2006 05:30 AM

Phone cards are not that cheap with all the surcharges now. Many hotels now tack on a &quot;connection fee&quot; to use an 0800 number. Guess they realized they were losing out on the phone revenue from phone cards. Most of the time this is a flat fee but I have seen them also charge PER MINUTE (to use a toll free #)!

When I used my phone card in the hotel, I discovered my little 5 minute call ended up costing $5!

There is also a surcharge to use the phone card from a phone booth. Done this too and found my minutes reduced dramatically. And they are not always easy to find, esp in the country side.

Bought a mobile in the UK on special. This was by far the cheapest and most convenient way for me. Plus easy for friends to reach me since I am constantly on the go.

Robespierre Mar 18th, 2006 05:33 AM

I didn't intend to imply that Orange was the right choice for travel in Ireland (imagine trying to do business in the Republic with <i>that</i> name!) In fact, they have two stores in Belfast, but none in the south.

I mentioned their deal in the context of carriers who offer extremely cheap phones that can't be unlocked.

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