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JohnHarden Mar 21st, 2004 04:58 PM

Prepaid Mobile Phone
Is it possible and if so, logical, to purchase a prepaid mobile phone for use while traveling in Ireland? If so, which is the best mobile company with the best coverage? Where in Dublin would a visitor find the best price? What are the average costs for the phone? For the time? We are traveling with six adults who are in their late fifties and early sixties and would like to have the security of a mobile phone. Several of the B&Bs require that we call a couple of days prior to our arrival at their location to confirm that we are on schedule.

Thanks for any information.

rex Mar 21st, 2004 05:07 PM

It certainly is logical, even though I cannot answer your questions about Ireland specifically. I have bought in Italy, and "sold it forward" here on this forum.

Rick Steves has joined the bandwagon for purchasing also - - - - I think this is actually from Feb two thousand _three_ - - not this year.

Best wishes,


cod Mar 22nd, 2004 01:14 PM

Bring your own mobile phone, and buy a Sim Card when you get here. The 087 network has the best coverage countrywide, and you will get a card for 10-20 euro.

amp322 Mar 22nd, 2004 01:21 PM

There's a website, I think it's, which sells pre-paid cards here. You can order one, and know your number ahead of time.

marcy_ Mar 22nd, 2004 01:34 PM

Although you can buy a SIM card here if you really need to know your number ahead of time, it is much cheaper to wait and buy it at the airport when you arrive.
I just did that in November, and I think it was around 20 Euros for basically the same thing you get for $49 on the Telestial website.

SiobhanP Mar 23rd, 2004 01:14 AM

Vodafone or o2 are the 2 major networks and boh are fine. I would estimate approx €100 for a ready to go phone possible less if there is a deal. Do your U.S. phones work the same here if you place the card in?? I was not sure if most phones are GSM. Buy the cards here is can be bought in denominations of €5 euros. ALso all imcoming calls are free. You are only charged for the outgoing ones.

artnuvo Mar 23rd, 2004 05:07 AM

For a short stay, like 1-2 weeks, and those who don't own an international cellphone of ind the cost of rental together with a Sim card is too great for the time involfved, and if you are renting a car, it may be cheaper to get a free phone deal, pay the $35 shipping cost and the minute rate which can range from .99 (italy) up when you rent from kewel or its related companies, aurtoeurope and europcar.

Ziana Mar 23rd, 2004 05:11 AM

T-Mobile couldn't unlock mu SIM card and they suggested I go to the store I purchased from.
I went and lady told me why bother - you can buy prepaid calling card for $20.00 with 1800 number and fly free.

I also read this advise here when someone bought ATT card from SAMS club and were so happy about.

I would like more info myself.

rex Mar 23rd, 2004 05:55 AM

Prepaid calling cards provide no help for those who want call anywhere anytime access to others back home. Freedom from pay phones is the essence of mobile phone technology. Like in your hotel room, in bed, at night - - the perfect time to call home from Europe.

Ziana Mar 23rd, 2004 06:06 AM

so, rex, what is that you were trying to say ?
I read here on Fodors from one person who actually came BACK from Paris and used SAMS bought calling card succesfuly. Are you saying impossible ?

wojazz3 Mar 23rd, 2004 06:42 AM

Here is a disertatation that I wrote about a year ago on this topic. Some of the deals may have changed, but they should be close:

If you will be traveling in Ireland for two weeks or more, cell phone rental is very expensive and you are better off purchasing a phone and getting a prepaid SIM. You can buy them from sites in the US for between $60-100. If you rent a phone, you will likely pay that much for rental, plus a much higher per minute rate. Rental phone rates run .99-1.99 per minute and pre-paid rates run .19-45 depending on the plan. If you travel to Britain, pre paid rates are very low.

If you have T-Mobile Service, you can get a tri-band phone from them and have internation roaming turned on. I believe a few other companies are doing that now. Again, the roaming is pretty expensive.

Here are some links to companies that sell GSM phones:

I purchased the Motorola Time Port because of the much longer battery life since I was going to be on a boat. It paid off!

Here is the skinny on what to do when purchasing. Double check that the phone that you are buying is unlocked. That means that you can replace the SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) card in different countries. When you get to Ireland, you have to purchase a SIM there. You can do that in the US but it is much more expensive. The Shannon Airport no longer has a phone store, but Dublin may. I drove into Limerick to get mine. For E20, I got a SIM, E10 worth of calls and for filling out a two minute registration card, another E10. In other words, the SIM was free. You will pay $50-60 in the States to but it. The two phone companies in Ireland are Vodafone and O2. Vodafone prices are better for pre-pay. Below is a link to their site which lists store locations.

If you travel to NI, you will either pay roaming or have to buy a UK SIM. You simply snap the SIM in under the battery. The store will probably do it for you. If you run out of time you can "top up" your phone at news agents all over the country which simply entails purchasing a code that you punch into your phone.

I'm sure I'm forgetting something, but I'm on the way out the door. Feel free to ask more questions.

So that's the info from a year ago. I hope this helps.


SiobhanP Mar 23rd, 2004 06:47 AM

You will pay roamning charges in Northern Ireland or on the border counties. This is a bit higher than the local Republic of Rate.

rex Mar 23rd, 2004 07:13 AM

<<I read here on Fodors from one person who actually came BACK from Paris and used SAMS bought calling card succesfuly. Are you saying impossible ?>>

I suppose I should have said freedom from "land phones" - - you can't use a phone card where you don't have a phone line (like you can a mobile).

And some hotels will charge you a fortune to make ANY outside call, especially if it invloves a "dial-around" service that circumvents the lurative deal they have with a high-priced (overseas) long distance "provider".

See a post of mine under "Giada" - - $10 to make a call to anywhere was what moved me to buy a phone.

tomdick Mar 25th, 2004 09:49 AM


Bill and the others have given you a lot of very good information, however things do keep changing. I have done a bit of recent research in this somtimes very confusing area.

Vodafone SIM cards.
Vodafone have recently increased the price of their sim cards in Ireland to 30 euro, and only give you 5euro credit with the card. You can apply for an extra 10 euro by registering throught their web page or posting in a form. You also get access to the free vodafone voicemail service. The sim card becomes invalid 12months from the last time you add credit to it, so unless you travel to Ireland very frequently, you will not be able to use it year after year. Vodafone will not sell their sim cards directly to address outside Ireland.

Buying a cell phone.
Bill is correct about making sure that any phone you buy must be unlocked. Also make sure it is at least a dual band phone operating in the frequencies 900Mhz and 1800Mhz if it is to work in europe.

Renting a cell Phone.
If you only need a cell phone for up to 3 weeks or so then rental can be cheaper than buyingplus, you get your number in advance and a phone number to call if you have problems.

The bottom line with renting is call cost. Most rental companies charge crazy rates for incoming and outgoing calls. The cheapest option is to rent a prepaid cell phone. That way you pay the low rates that Bill mentioned above, and you can recieve calls for free.

Renting Prepaid Phones.

You have two options,
1/Rent a phone and buy a SIM card
2/ Rent a phone and a SIM card

You will find many companies who can rent you a phone and sell you a sim card by just doing a quick search. Make sure you know which SIM card you are getting as there are others along with Vodafone.

The cheapest option though is to rent both the phone and sim card. Patrica Preston the Travel writer ( recommends an irish company.

Thats my halfpennies worth. Hope it is of use.


wojazz3 Mar 25th, 2004 01:13 PM


Thanks for the update to my year old information. That's a steep increase in price. We got the additional E10 discount by simply filling out a short form where we purchased the card.

As far as the SIM card becoming invalid, unless it has changed since November, the card is still good, it's just the time that expires after twelve months. So if you buy E20 worth of credit and don't use it all, your card will still be good but you'll have to top it up again.

I just went to the vodafone site and it appears there rates per minute have jumped dramatically. This year, it appears that O2 has much better rates.

On the website that Pat Preston suggests, the price for a 2 week rental is E90. You can buy a dual band phone and a SIM for about the same price and pay lower per minute charges. I found a dual band motorola for about $65 (which is E53.00) plus E30 for the SIM. Their deal give you the same local rates as you would get yourself. So you end up with a phone that you can use on futire trips. I think buying is still the better deal.


HappyCheesehead Mar 25th, 2004 07:32 PM

We definately plan on purchasing a phone. I know the SIM cards are best purchased in Ireland, but would it perhaps be better to buy the phone there too? Perhaps they do not sell phones everywhere ther like they do here?

Vera Mar 25th, 2004 08:00 PM

I use Verizon for my home cell use and their site advertises Rent-A-Phone, International Traveler (1-800-711-8300). Costs $2.99 a day with a $300 deposit and $1.49 per minute air time. If you're a Verizon customer, you can have calls forwarded from your home phone and they don't charge the caller any long distance charge.
I will be using land phones and the discount card I bought at Costco. While charges are higher than the four cents a minute domestic long distance, they are still very low from other countries.

tomdick Mar 26th, 2004 07:51 AM


Acording to Vodafone, your call credit and number remain active as long as you top up every six months. If you do not add credit for 365 days they disconnect your number.

Yes the Vodafone prepaid call charges are a little higher, but as far as I know they provide better overall coverage than O2. O2 charge for voicemail calls Vodafone do not.

Eitherway the prepaid option is by far the cheapest for travelers to Ireland.
If you want your number in advance then renting prepaid is an option.
If you can wait then buying a Sim card
in Ireland is an option.

Please let us know where we can get the Motorola Dual Band phone for $65.


wojazz3 Mar 26th, 2004 01:22 PM

My mistake, it was 69.99. Go to this site:
and then click on the motorola link. It's the first one.

I didn't know that about the card expiring after 365 days, I guess I haven't let mine go for that long. I will this year though. When I topped up in November, it told me I had a year to use the time. I didn't remember that my SIM was linked to a credit card number, but I was pretty hazy at the time. No sleep and all. What I have also done is loaned the phone to friends and have them top it up when they are there so it gets plenty of use that way. Not sure if I know anyone going this year though. I have to get a UK card this year.


HappyCheesehead Mar 28th, 2004 07:55 AM

Sorry to say, the $69.99 phone at World Gift is no longer being sold.....We called them yesterday.

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