Pre-paid phone or SIM Card

Old Mar 17th, 2016, 02:04 PM
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Pre-paid phone or SIM Card

I'm picking up a rental car in Zagreb-dropping it in Split and want a phone for emergencies and perhaps to call ahead to hotels. I'm getting conflicting info on whether my phone will take a SIM card and whether I'd be better served by purchasing a low-cost pre-paid phone in Zagreb.
Do any of my Fodor friends have experience and/or advice: what company; how much; locations in central Zagreb. Thanks.
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Old Mar 17th, 2016, 03:02 PM
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What kind of phone exactly? Make/model? Is there a SIM card in it now? If not - it's probably not a GSM-compabile phone so likely won't work in Croatia, where GSM is used.

What phone service do you have now?

You don't need a pre-paid phone for calls, just any GSM-compatible phone that is unlocked *AND* quad band or a "world" phone. I have an ancient Motorola flip phone I had used on T-Mobile that I used to use in Europe, before I got a smart phone. But a newer T-Mobile flip phone was not quad band and would not work in Europe. Most smart phones are "quad band" (at least) and can roam on GSM networks, even if they are Verizon or Sprint phones. T-Mobile and AT&T use GSM in the US so their smart phones should work on GSM in Europe. My Verizon Moto E (a CDMA phone) has ONLY ever been used on GSM - on T-Mobile's networks in the US.

Of course, if you have T-Mobile US now, you already have a good international roaming package - 20 cents/min calls, free unlimited 2G data in Croatia, as long as your phone is quad band or a smart phone.
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Old Mar 17th, 2016, 03:02 PM
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What kind of phone exactly? Make/model? Is there a SIM card in it now? If not - it's probably not a GSM-compabile phone so likely won't work in Croatia, where GSM is used.

What phone service do you have now?

You don't need a pre-paid phone for calls, just any GSM-compatible phone that is unlocked *AND* quad band or a "world" phone. I have an ancient Motorola flip phone I had used on T-Mobile that I used to use in Europe, before I got a smart phone. But a newer T-Mobile flip phone was not quad band and would not work in Europe. Most smart phones are "quad band" (at least) and can roam on GSM networks, even if they are Verizon or Sprint phones. T-Mobile and AT&T use GSM in the US so their smart phones should work on GSM in Europe. My Verizon Moto E (a CDMA phone) has ONLY ever been used on GSM - on T-Mobile's networks in the US.

Of course, if you have T-Mobile US now, you already have a good international roaming package - 20 cents/min calls, free unlimited 2G data in Croatia, as long as your phone is quad band or a smart phone.
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Old Mar 25th, 2016, 02:14 PM
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Thanks, Andrew,

I didn’t get right back at you because I switched from a non-GSM compatible phone with ATT to a Motorola Moto E LTE with Consumer Cellular which is supposed to be GSM/Quad capable. And they gave me an unlock code (another story).

Now with the unlock code in hand, I want to get an International SIM card here in the states so I am assured that the phone recognizes the SIM card when I unlock it even if I can’t connect to a provider here. I’d rather fiddle with it here instead of at a phone kiosk in Zagreb. (As you probably surmised, I’m new to using a phone in Europe, relying instead on Skype at our hotels to make reservations etc.) But with a car, I want to have a phone to the rental company and emergency use. I'll still have a small laptop to use at hotels.

I don’t think I’ll need any (or much) data. We still rely on maps, and we’re not planning any major off-the-main-roads trips. Do you or any of our other Fodor friends have suggestions/experience for what to purchase. I’d like to have one actually in hand, say at Best Buy or another store so I have someone to give me a little guidance if necessary.

Thanks again.
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Old Mar 25th, 2016, 02:30 PM
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PaoloCast, when you get to Zagreb find a VIP store and buy a Croatian sim to use when you are there. It will work in an unlocked phone and they are super cheap. Like three dollars cheap. Then pop the sim in your phone and you are good to go.

http://www.vipnet.hr/en/tourist-offer/en
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Old Mar 25th, 2016, 03:51 PM
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Rialtogrl would know - she goes to Croatia more often than I do! When I was in Zagreb in 2009, there was a T-Mobile Croatia store near the main square, but a T-Mobile Croatia prepaid SIM is probably more expensive than VIP. Wherever you buy it, make sure you get the agent at the store to activate it for you. I always make sure my phone works before I leave a mobile store when buying a SIM in Europe. My older Android phone didn't automatically work on data until the agent last year in Montenegro or Bosnia, but your phone is new enough that it may not have this problem. It's really easy for the store employee to setup your phone at the place where you buy the SIM.

People here have talked about a Lebara SIM that could be purchased ahead of time but it had to be mailed from Europe to the US, and I've heard people say recently that mailing them to the US isn't possible anymore. I'm not aware of any international prepaid SIM you can buy at a retail store in the US.

I have a Moto E myself (actually three of them, LOL! another story.). It's a really nice basic Android phone for the money. I haven't yet used mine in Europe but I will in May. I already know mine is unlocked, but it's good you have an unlock code for yours. When you install the new SIM and power up the phone, you'll have to enter the code once and that's it.

The Moto E takes a "micro SIM" FYI (smaller than the old style SIM used in older phones, but larger than the "nano" SIM used in an iPhone). Often the SIM you buy comes with adapters or just breaks apart to fit the size you need.

If your SIM has data, your Moto E has built-in "hotspot" to let you use data via WiFi for your laptop, if by chance you need to use the laptop in some place where there is no WiFi. Set it up once and turn it on only when you need to use it.
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Old Mar 26th, 2016, 09:45 AM
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Thanks Rialtogrl and Andrew. You give me great confidence that I'll be fine purchasing a SIM Card when I get to Zagreb. Actually I'll be in Ljubljana for a few days first, but not getting the car until I leave Zagreb.Can I assume that if I happen to see a convenient vipnet store in Ljubljana, I can set up my phone there? I checked the vipnet site Rialtogrl listed, and it looks easy. Thanks again.
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Old Mar 26th, 2016, 10:00 AM
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You can buy a SIM in Slovenia, but it will be "domestic" only in Slovenia. If you go to Croatia, you'll be roaming: it should still work, but it will cost more, meaning you'll use up your prepaid credit faster.

The EU is eliminating roaming fees within Europe, though. At the end of April they go down significantly, and in 2017 they will disappear entirely:

http://europa.eu/youreurope/citizens...s/index_en.htm

I know when I drove from Zagreb to Dubrovnik in 2009 I used the SIM I had bought in Italy in Dubrovnik (when I couldn't find the car rental return place!) and I still had enough credit, because I was only using the phone as an "emergency phone" in Croatia, as you say you will be doing. But if you wait til you get to Croatia you'll get a better value. You might find the mobile hotspot useful for your laptop - I know I did on my last trip.

FYI, if you want to make free calls home to the US while in Europe, install Google Hangouts Dialer on your Moto E - you can use it to call the US for free while on WiFi (or you can call using mobile data). It's basically like Skype only free to call US phones.
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Old Mar 26th, 2016, 10:21 AM
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VIP is Croatia only - I don't have a Slovenia sim and don't know their providers, to be honest. I used my US phone last time I was there and it pissed me off royally when I saw my AT & T bill. Came home and switched to T Mobile.
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Old Mar 26th, 2016, 11:56 AM
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There are budget mobile providers in all of the European countries. I think I bought a SIM from Si.mobil in Slovenia in 2011, but I bought it at a convenience store (which meant I was on my own for setting it up). In that case, I didn't care about data, and I didn't even have a smart phone, so setting it up was easy.

The biggest challenge sometimes is trying activate a SIM without English instructions. There's probably a little paper with printed instructions in various languages with the SIM, but how do you check the remaining balance or recharge it? This is where buying it in a mobile phone store (which might cost a tad more) helps, because then the clerk can show you how to check your balance, activate the phone, etc.

And again: make sure you get a micro SIM for the Moto E or at least a SIM that will work as a micro SIM (comes out of an adapter). Last year in Montenegro, the SIM I bought from T-Mobile was a regular SIM not a micro SIM, so as recently as last year not all SIM cards could work as micro SIMs.

In a pinch, ask a local to help you: a hotel front desk person or something. They can probably even recommend (in Slovenia) which brand is cheapest and best - they may use it themselves. If the person helping you is under 30, they can probably do it with their eyes closed.
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Old Mar 26th, 2016, 12:00 PM
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rialtogrl, when you were in Slovenia last spring, T-Mobile didn't yet include Slovenia in their international roaming anyway; your T-Mobile roaming costs would have been almost as high as AT&T's! I didn't even turn my phone on in Slovenia last year but used it all over Croatia. Happily, T-Mobile now includes Slovenia in their international roaming package, so only 20 cents/minute calls, etc.
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Old Mar 26th, 2016, 12:54 PM
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Andrew, thanks for the info about Slovenia. Now that I think about it, many of my calls were from Italy to Slovenia when DRD left me stranded at the Venice airport. But some were in Slovenia too. No matter what AT & T is a rip off for international travel. This will be my first trip with T Mobile.
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Old Mar 26th, 2016, 01:29 PM
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I've used DRD twice successfully, but after your bad experience I don't recommend them anymore! Unless people understand they are not a conventional bus service and you must pre-arrange with them; I was lucky there were Aussies who had done so waiting with me at Marco Polo airport last April. GoOpti sounds more reliable and cheaper, if you don't mind the uncertainty of not knowing til the last minute when GoOpti will pick you up.

I dumped T-Mobile last summer - only paying $30/month in the US with GoSmart Mobile, which runs on the T-Mobile network anyway; unlimited talk+text and 4GB of 3G data. But I may switch back to T-Mobile in May before I go to the Baltics and Russia. It would be nice to have my phone work automatically once I get off the plane or train or bus in every country. I guess I can just buy one SIM in Amsterdam or Lithuania and roam in the others. I don't travel enough or use my phone enough to make T-Mobile year-round worthwhile.

My other problem is that my Moto E, which should work great for voice + text in Europe, will only work on the slow Edge data network there, whether I go with T-Mobile or anyone else. There is an international version of the Moto E that includes the 900MHZ UMTS frequency they use for 3G over there, way faster than Edge. I'm thinking about buying one, just so I can have a decently fast hotspot on all the trains etc. I remember last year struggling with a slow Edge connection while sitting on a bench in Bosnia trying to make a last-minute sobe reservation for Plitvice for that same night, barely able to load a page and make the reservation!
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Old Mar 26th, 2016, 02:51 PM
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-Unless people understand they are not a conventional bus service and you must pre-arrange with them-

I did prearrange!

I'm headed back next month. Its the bus from Trieste to Ljubljana for me this time.

(Sorry to derail your thread Paolo.)
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Old Mar 26th, 2016, 02:55 PM
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I wish you would try GoOpti so you could tell us how they are. ;-) Slovenes on other forums rave about them.
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Old Mar 26th, 2016, 03:20 PM
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I am meeting some people that are using GoOpti next month. I would have done so, but I need to go to Trieste anyway so I may as well just take the bus.

I will let you know how it goes with GoOpti. Anything has got to be better than DRD.
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