US-based Cell Phone in Europe

May 1st, 2010, 08:57 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2004
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US-based Cell Phone in Europe

My wife and I are going to both take our US-based cell phones to Europe. I understand all the cost issues. That's not my question. What I don't understand is what numbers get dialed. My understanding is that if someone in the US wants to call me, they simply dial as if I were sitting back in Des Moines. Correct? How about if someone in another country wants to call me, say Germany?

Then there are the questions about what I dial to make calls. How about if I want to call the US? How about if I want to call my wife while we are both in France? How about if I am in France and want to call my friends in Germany? How about if I am in France and want to call a local French number?

I know there is someone out there who has figured all this out, and I thank you in advance for your help.
cwj is offline  
May 1st, 2010, 09:02 PM
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I have been doing quite a bit of research on cell phone use in Europe and it seems the best advice is to talk directly with YOUR cell phone company. There is no one answer for every phone or every carrier -- it's quite confusing. I think to avoid problems while you're there, bite the bullet and call the customer service folks for your cell phone carrier. I know, I know -- that's gonna be 2 hours of your life you never get back, but it could save you a lot of grief if you're really counting on using your phones in Europe.
JanisV is offline  
May 1st, 2010, 09:17 PM
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Anyone (except your wife, see below) wanting to call you will dial as if you were in Des Moines. This includes you friends in Germany.

To call a local number you just dial the number. Your phone will be registered on a local network.

To call back to the States dial +1, area code, phone number. To get the + symbol press and briefly hold the zero key until the + appears on the screen. You will use this routine to call your wife, and she to call you, when you are both in France.

To call Germany or any other country outside the one you are in you dial +(country code), area or city code and phone number, just as you would if you were dialing from the States.

What kind of phone do you have and who is your US carrier?
Seamus is offline  
May 2nd, 2010, 12:01 AM
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The above is almost perfect...the only thing is the location of the + key...on many Nokia models to get + you have to hit the * key twice.....

The + functions as an indication of a gsm phone that it is an international call instead of +, you can prefix a call with 00 so to call NYC from wherever in Europe you could dial 001 212 555 call Germany you could prefix with 0039,,,
xyz123 is offline  
May 2nd, 2010, 10:12 AM
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Seamus, our phones are Motokrzrs from Motorola, and the carrier is T-Mobile.

This has been very helpful. One additional question: Do I include the area code in dialing to call my wife since our phones have the same area code and I would not dial the area code when making that call back in the States.

Thanks for the help.
cwj is offline  
May 2nd, 2010, 10:56 AM
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Yes, you must include the +1 and area code when calling your wife. You are calling her as if she were still in the States. To save time, you can edit her info in your phone's contacts list to add the +1 and area code (and likewise she for you.)

Also, in looking at the T-mobile site it appears the info I gave you about local calls is inaccurate; I apologize. For all calls that you make you will have to dial + (or 001) plus country code plus area/city code if required plus the phone number. This is a bit simpler, actually, as you will dial all calls the same way.

Thanks for the correction, xyz. Haven't used a Nokia in so long I forgot they were different. Have found that when using my BB or Motorola dialing 00 + country code usually automatically shows up onscreen as + country code - e.g., dial 001 and +1 shows onscreen.
Seamus is offline  
May 2nd, 2010, 10:59 AM
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>to call Germany you could prefix with 0039
And you would end up somewhere in Italy. If you dialed 0049 you could reach Germany ;-)
logos999 is offline  
May 2nd, 2010, 12:10 PM
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Yup...mea culpa!
xyz123 is offline  
May 2nd, 2010, 12:13 PM
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I'd also suggest using the SMS texting instead of voice calls--much cheaper communications and if you're providing directions they'll be written down already. Don't know why you're not getting a local cell phone (I got a French phone for under 30 euro, and topped it up with additonal minutes as needed. Cell to cell calls are the most expensive, cell to land phone (even in US) very much less.
You can buy a French cell phone on ebay, ready to go, complete with number so maybe you can get a German sim card for it--easy just to pop the new chip in and go. Don't have experience with German phone systems but I'm sure it's well organized.
The budget traveller in me rebels against the idea of the cost of using a US carrier when there are other options...
just saying...
sfgirl42 is offline  
May 2nd, 2010, 12:15 PM
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logos999 is offline  
May 2nd, 2010, 12:19 PM
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If you're in France, looking for a SIM card, a German would be a cheap option, if you indended to call abroad. They ship to France. But you phone has to be unlocked.
logos999 is offline  
May 2nd, 2010, 12:35 PM
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It's good to make sure your numbers are saved with + when you are "roaming". The international access codes vary, most Europeans use 00, I think US & Canada use 001. When you use the + instead, it solves any confusion. As USA/Canada is so large many Canadians & Americans never leave it, but we Europeans are more used to roaming. If you decide to buy local sim cards you should make sure your phone is "unlocked" first or you won't be able to recognise it. You phone company may do this for you (maybe for free) or there are websites & shops that will help you (for a fee)
Also, US uses different frequency to Europe. Make sure your phone has the correct frequency or you won't get any signal at all. I think we in Europe use 900/1800, but across the Atlantic you use 850/1900.

If you plan to visit many countries in Europe, you could get a specialised sim card such as from Lebara.
Your phone details are on
Ricardo_215 is offline  
May 2nd, 2010, 01:04 PM
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I guess it depends on how many calls you think you might make whether it is actually worth buying a European SIM, and possibly an unlocked phone.

Texting is the cheapest way to talk to your wife - if you have split up you can send a quick text to establish a meeting point.
If people in the US phone you on a US phone you will pay the cost of the call from the US to Europe, so you should discourage people from calling you if you can. Ask them to text. Switch off your voice mail too - listening to that will cost a fortune.

When we go to the States we use our Dutch mobiles. They are switched off during the day and checked for texts at the end of every day. Obviously if we need to make a call in the US we use one or other, but mostly we don't call. We always have a computer with us and use internet and e-mail to find and book hotels ahead of time whilst travelling. Same with places to eat.
hetismij is offline  
May 2nd, 2010, 02:55 PM
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I enter all the numbers I thought I might call into my cell phone before leaving home (including appropriate country code, etc). I include all emergency numbers for the country(s) I planned to visit as well.
ambage is offline  
May 2nd, 2010, 03:46 PM
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Check your phone.

I have a setting on my phone that "knows" what to do. Best way I can describe it. When I call from France to the US, I just hit the normal speed dial number and it adds the country prefix etc. for me.
CarolA is offline  
May 2nd, 2010, 04:16 PM
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sfgirl142, barring emergencies if I don't expect more than one or two calls, I like my approach better.

Thanks, everyone.
cwj is offline  

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