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3Xmom Mar 11th, 2015 09:03 AM

How do I use my Canadian cell phone in Europe?
Since my phone is locked to a specific Canadian phone provider, I cannot take out the simcard so I was thinking of buying a used and unlocked phone here, getting a European simcard and 'deal/plan' while in Europe, then putting the Canadian simcard back and selling it when I return. I will have to do this for the 3 members of my family traveling with me, so 4 phones.
Is there a better way to make sure we all have a working phone in France, Spain, Germany and Italy? Should we just buy a cheap phone with a one month plan there? Thanks.

PalenQ Mar 11th, 2015 09:16 AM

We rent phones to be picked up at London airports - if going to London - doesn't cost much and you get a UK phone number and it works all over Europe. Several companies do this - porbably at other airports as well.

Elizabeth_S Mar 11th, 2015 09:31 AM

Who is your carrier? Typically the big 3 (Rogers/Bell/Telus) will unlock your phone for a fee ($50) once you are into your contract.....then you can preserve all your contact info/etc without buying a new phone.

But depending upon what you want to use your phones for (just staying in touch via text? a few phone calls?) it might make more sense to buy an International roaming package for all 4 people instead of 4 phones/4 SIMs/etc.

For example here's a link to Rogers' Europe roaming packages - good for one month

Mathieu Mar 11th, 2015 09:47 AM

Depending where you're going in Europe, you might find it cheaper to just buy a cheap phone and plan there. When I was in London in 2012, I bought a phone and 5 hours of time for under GBP 30.00, and could top up for more hours if I needed (I forget how many, for additional GBP 5.00). I came back with the phone and it's now in my travel back ready for charging and time top up over there the next time I go.

bvlenci Mar 11th, 2015 11:34 AM

Which country will you be in first? Do you want the phone just for calls and texts, or do you want data services?

If it's just calls and texts, you can get really cheap phones before you leave home. Search on Amazon or EBay for "unlocked GSM quadband phone". They usually can be found in the $20 range, so I don't know it it's even worth selling them again.

If you have any old phones around the house that are GSM compatible, and that can use at least three bands, you can probably get those unlocked by the provider. That would save you buying so many phones.

Each country has different types of plan, but the EU has put a limit on roaming charges within Europe for calls. So whichever SIM card you use first can be used in all the other countries without breaking the bank. However, you should make sure that you have enough money on the card to cover your costs for the rest of the trip before leaving the first country. You'll have to estimate this based on the number of minutes you've used in the first country and the cost of intra-Europe roaming charges.

When you buy an unlocked phone, it doesn't come with a SIM card, so there would be none to replace when you get home. If you see a phone that has the name of a provider associated with it, I wouldn't buy that phone, because it might be preset for that provider.

nanabee Mar 11th, 2015 12:03 PM

As I understand there is a new law in the states that says all new phones can't be blocked. Maybe Canada is similar. For example when I traveled to Europe in October I could have data services for free and a minimal fee for out of country phone calls.

Elizabeth_S Mar 11th, 2015 12:08 PM

nanabee - nope, not here!

bvlenci Mar 11th, 2015 12:25 PM

Data services for free? How does that work?

By the way, the EU was supposed to completely do away with inter-EU roaming costs this July. However, they've backed down on the data services part of the requirement. They've placed a cap on data roaming, but it's a very high cap: €0.20 per megabyte. Now they say they'll eliminate data roaming charges in 2018.

Italy has excellent data roaming packages for use in Europe. I pay €3 per day for 250 mb, only on days I use the data services outside of Italy. This is €0.012 per megabyte.

Kathie Mar 11th, 2015 12:40 PM

T-Mobile offers free data in over 200 countries. It has been great for our travels, and we haven't yet been in a country where they don't offer free data.

danon Mar 11th, 2015 01:14 PM

For years ,I have used a cheap unlocked phone with Onesim SIM that works almost everywhere
instead of fiddling with my Canadian locked phone.
But, not sure what you do with 4 phones.

debinthepeg Mar 11th, 2015 03:46 PM

With wifi, we really only found we needed the ability to text while in Europe. We enquired with our provider her in MB (MTS) and found we could add a fairly inexpensive international text plan for one month. If I recall it was about $30. I'm sure other CDN carriers have similar options. We were able to text home and also with the apartment owners we rented fro, etc. in Europe. We also contacted people thru email, FaceTime, etc when we had wifi.

If you really need the ability to make phone calls, maybe consider just getting one phone and add texting to the others.

Percy Mar 11th, 2015 03:53 PM

I'm in Canada.

I was in Europe twice last year.

Paid my server $ 30.00 more, each time, and had no problem making calls like direct calls to Canada and also texting on my cell phone.

When I was in Brussels I just dialed on my phone as if I was at home.. no problem.

I am with Bell.

My sister is in Texas right now and she calls me every second day from her cell .....she just dials like at home.

She paid 30-40 $ for the duration of her trip

So you do not need an extra phone

danon Mar 11th, 2015 05:02 PM

Are you saying you were able to use locked Bell phone to make calls IN Europe ( not to Canada) ?

Percy Mar 11th, 2015 06:27 PM

Yes that is exactly right.
We paid $30-40, not sure exactly and I made calls to Canada AND in Europe.

When I arrive at the Brussels Airport I called my tour guide while I was waiting for my luggage to tell him I will be out soon.
I dialed his LOCAL Brussels number.

Let us say my sister's phone number in Canada is
780 999 8888....

well while walking down the street in Brussels
I dialed 1-780 999 8888 and my sister
answered in Canada.

I think Bell has a way of doing this.

Oh yes and while I was in Antwerp Belgium.....
I get a text from Bell saying:

" Percy hope you are enjoying Belgium".

Go figure.

3Xmom Mar 11th, 2015 07:11 PM

Wow! So many responses so fast. Thanks everyone!

I think I'll start with checking with our providers, Bell and Rogers, and see what they offer.

Next, I'll.....see about renting a phone there and getting a short term plan or put money on the SIM card.

Yes, I have one old phone here -unlocked, but it needs a screen replaced.

I will want data on my phone and one other phone.

Percy-did you have data on that Europe plan with Bell? It sounds like a good plan. I really don't want to get 3 or 4 new cheap phones and re-sell them.

Thanks again everyone!

3Xmom Mar 11th, 2015 07:19 PM

bvlenci-what do GSM and quadband mean in your suggestion to look for an "unlocked GSM quad-band phone? Thank you.

danon Mar 11th, 2015 07:30 PM

Thanks Percy..
I have an unlocked phone wit a European SIM, but not everyone I travel with does.

Percy Mar 11th, 2015 07:45 PM


No I did not take the data plan because I knew ahead of time whereever I was I had
So I just took phone and texting from Bell.

Dara can be expensive if you are using your own data.

Your welcome danon.
I do not know what Bell does , only that once I purchase the items I phone works in Europe and I do not have a European Sim card.

I was skeptical at first and did not think the phone would work as easily as Bell said.

But it did !!!

danon Mar 11th, 2015 08:09 PM

Go, Bell !
I am old enough to remember when one could only rent a ( land) phone from Bell.

bvlenci Mar 12th, 2015 04:06 AM

GSM is the type of network used in most of the world. In North American, most providers offer only CDMA, which won't work at all in Europe. If you were to buy a cheap CDMA phone, it would be useless for your purposes.

There are multiple bands, or ranges of signals, used in the world. A quadband phone operates on four different bands, and should be usable in most of the world. For talk and texts only, a tri-band phone should also work, at least in Europe. I used to use my triband Italian phone in the USA, so I think that the reverse will also work.

Since you can buy a cheap phone for about $30, or even less, renting a phone would almost always cost more, and the SIM cards they give you with these rented phones often have much higher rates than you'd get with a local SIM card.

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