Prepaid phone for student trip

Old Jan 3rd, 2015, 06:13 AM
  #1  
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Prepaid phone for student trip

Our middle-schooler is headed to Europe to stay with a host family on a class trip. We want her to have a prepaid phone that will work right off the plane. The adults on the trip won't be able to buy her a phone there or set up a phone for her, and neither will her hosts. She wouldn't need a smart phone, just voice service. We looked up Tracfones but these don't work outside North America and can't accept other SIM cards. What do you suggest?
carston1998 is offline  
Old Jan 3rd, 2015, 06:28 AM
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Take a look at the T-Mobile month-to-month plans. You can buy a phone from ebay or amazon if you don't like their phone prices (just make sure it is quad-band and unlocked and is on T-Mobile's list).
thursdaysd is offline  
Old Jan 3rd, 2015, 06:55 AM
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I now travel with the T-mobile U.S. month-to-month plan mentioned above. The phone works and can data roam at no additional cost even while the plane is taxing to the gate on arrival.

Before that, I carried a a phone capable of 900/1900 MHz GSM, stopped by TIM Telecom Italia store in the secure area just before the luggage claim if I was arriving at the FCO main terminal, bought their SIM card, and pop into my phone which took about 5 minutes including having my passport copied, and before the luggage came out of the belt, my phone was connected and surfing internet using an Italian number. However, once I changed to the T-mobile plan no cost data roaming plan, I no longer buy Italian SIMs.

I have also used T-mobile's pay as you go plan on another phone. However, I was finding less roaming partners on pay-as-you-go plan vs. month-to-month plan.
greg is offline  
Old Jan 3rd, 2015, 07:51 AM
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I have a couple of phones never used and can obtain an Italian sim card. If interested contact me at bladnoch at gmail.com
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Old Jan 3rd, 2015, 09:21 AM
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The name of the T-Mobile plan that allows free international roaming (in many countries including Italy) is the Simple Choice plan. (Not all T-Mobile plans have international roaming.) There is no contract - T-Mobile doesn't have them anymore. Regular calls from Italy back to the US would be only 20 cents/minute, and the phone would work in Italy within about 5 minutes, once the phone has roamed onto the local network. I used my phone in Germany last April and it worked perfectly.

Simple Choice also includes free data roaming, though it may be only 2G (slow) data. A teenager would find it frustrating perhaps - so slightly usable, but she wouldn't spend all of her time on the phone.

One bonus of a smart phone: my Android phone has a built-in feature called WiFi calling. (I don't think the Apple iPhone has WiFi calling yet.) If your daughter will have access to WiFi where she is staying, she would be able to use this calling feature. It allows FREE calls (call out or receive) back to/from the US while using WiFi, using the same phone number.

Smart phones are not automatically expensive. My Android was only $30 on sale for a brand new phone (it is a very slow phone, a T-Mobile Prism II, but it works - just over a year old now).

Whatever phone you get, make sure it is a GSM "world" phone or quad band. Europe uses different frequencies than US GSM phones. Some cheap US GSM phones will not work in Europe because they don't have these frequencies (900MHZ/1800MHZ), no matter what SIM you can install in them. The phone itself is what has the frequency control, not the SIM card. My old T-Mobile "flip" phone bought in 2009 did not work in Europe, but my older one (after a hack) did work. Any new Android phone should be quad band automatically.
Andrew is online now  
Old Jan 3rd, 2015, 07:20 PM
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If you search on Amazon or Ebay for "unlocked GSM quadband phone", you'll find plenty of phones that will work in Europe. I think the TMobile plan is ideal for your purposes. There's no way you can get an Italian SIM card before leaving, and you can't buy them at the airport. The various international SIM cards will end up costing you much more than the TMobile plan, and are also often a bit finicky. It sounds as though your son would not be able to get help if he had trouble with the phone. Some of the international SIM cards, especially those sold at the airport, are real rip-offs.
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Old Jan 13th, 2015, 08:02 PM
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Thanks for all the suggestions. Both T-Mobile and Verizon rent prepaid international phones only to current customers. In researching SIM cards for Italy, the carriers seem to assume that the buyer will be making mostly local calls. But we want the phone only for calling back to the US, without the high costs normally associated with international calls.
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Old Jan 13th, 2015, 08:19 PM
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So, as suggested above, buy a cheap phone on ebay or amazon.
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Old Jan 13th, 2015, 08:25 PM
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I suppose it's possible, because T-Mobile does not have contracts, that you could get T-Mobile service for just a month (not prepaid) and cancel it, but the cost may not be worth it, and I'm not sure if there are activation fees etc. It's $50 (plus taxes) per month for the Simple Choice plan, plus the cost of the phone (but any unlocked GSM phone should work on T-Mobile) and at that point you would pay 20 cents/minute (or free WiFi calls if the phone has WiFi)

You can still use a prepaid SIM bought in Europe to call the US, but it will probably not be cheap. Cheaper than paying for a month of T-Mobile? Perhaps - depends on how many calls she will make. The best thing about the T-Mobile option is that it would work automatically when she got off the plane (after about five minutes once it activates on the local network there). The phone in Europe works just like it does in the US.
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Old Jan 13th, 2015, 08:57 PM
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Look at the communication usage model to see if you are chasing a more difficult solution than necessary.

You are in North America somewhere and she is in Italy.

When in Italy time would she be calling you, and when in your home time zone you will be receiving the call? If the time can only be matched when she is at host family's home, can't she use a free VOIP app of all kinds Skype, Viper, Facetime, etc.? I don't know about this host family program. We host students from Europe every year and the agency requires all hosts to have a high-speed Wifi connection available for the student. You or your relatives or your friends don't have any no longer used Android/iPhone just sitting in their drawers waiting to be taken to recycling that she can use it for VOIP calls?

Forget about rentals of all sort. If she has to have a fully capable cellphone setup in North America and if that is U.S.A., then do what Andrew is describing. If you don't have a compatible phone, t-mobile has a cheap pre-used phone like this http://www.t-mobile.com/cell-phones/...pre-owned.html. Get a simple choice plan for one month and cancel. One bonus with t-mobile branded phone like this one is it can do Wifi calling. This is much more than VOIP. If this phone has an access to Wifi, it uses that and behaves as if the phone is in the U.S. You can make unlimited calls to U.S. at no additional charge, but you also get to receive and make calls using the same U.S. telephone number in Italy to call real U.S. phones (Skype charges for this.)
greg is offline  
Old Jan 14th, 2015, 05:02 AM
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If you get a TIM SIM card, you can activate for free the TIM International New option, which allows you to call the USA (and many other countries) for 20 euro cents a minute, with a 16-cent connection charge. For some countries, the cost is as little as 1 cent a minute, but always with the 16-cent connection charge.

http://www.tim.it/estero/dall-italia...-nuovi-clienti

Don't click on the link for seeing the offer in English, because it's a link for something altogether different. If you need a translation, paste the URL into translate.google.com .

If you want to get this plan, I suggest you print out the page and have your son take it with him to the TIM store.

In order to activate the offer without charge, you have to activate it when you buy the SIM card. The SIM card costs €10, which includes €5 initial credit, enough for about 4 5-minute calls. You can add more credit when you buy the SIM card, or you can add credit easily at a tobacco shop or bar. You usually need to know the phone number, so write it down, or put it in the phone's address book.

However, given the circumstances, I still think something using the T-Mobile plan would be best in your son's case, because it doesn't sound as though he'll have the opportunity to visit a TIM store.
bvlenci is offline  
Old Jan 14th, 2015, 05:05 AM
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Also, as I suggested above, you don't need to rent a phone. In fact, renting would be more expensive than buying a cheap phone on Amazon or EBay. See my post above to make sure you get a phone that works in Europe. This would work both for the TMobile pre-paid plans or for a TIM plan.
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