Using a US cell phone in Paris

Dec 5th, 2018, 05:03 AM
  #21  
 
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"What VPN service do you use? Cost?"

AJPeabody, I use NordVPN; cost $70 per year. In doing my research, I concluded TunnelBear would also meet my needs.
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Dec 5th, 2018, 06:01 AM
  #22  
 
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I will look into NordVPN. With the increased prevalence of hacking, I am reluctant to "go bare" any longer.

My cheapo (if $90 5 years ago was cheap) Blu unlocked Android phone takes two SIMs, so could use both a US and a foreign SIM. But I found the best solution for receiving calls from the US was to get a Google Voice number and Google Hangouts. It integrates with Gmail for text messages. Calls to US are free (uses wifi) and to European numbers are 2 or 3 cents (requires a $10 deposit from which calls are deducted). One trip I didn't even bother with a local SIM as wifi was easily available. On a trip I call forward my usual number to Google Voice and calls to me from the US are handled transparently. Just need to turn off the phone at night to prevent time zone awakenings.
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Dec 5th, 2018, 09:46 AM
  #23  
 
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Originally Posted by AJPeabody View Post
I will look into NordVPN. With the increased prevalence of hacking, I am reluctant to "go bare" any longer.
I rarely use my VPN anymore for security, since almost every website has switched to SSL encryption (https). That means that all traffic between your browser and the web site is encrypted, whether you are on "open WiFi" or not. The router you connect to can see which websites you visit but not the content of the traffic.

Still...if I was worried about hacking, how would I know one of these third-party VPNs was itself safe? I'm moving my trust from dodgy hotel WiFi to the unknown (but supposedly trustworthy) VPN service I've subscribed to.

Instead, use my own VPN service at home. So when I travel (or need to access something on my home network), I connect to my home internet network's VPN. There is no third party, no VPN to subscribe to for a monthly/annual fee. I'm as secure as my home network when I connect to my VPN there.

Of course, you do have to set up the VPN one time (plus keep your home internet connection going while you are away). The hardware you need for say OpenVPN doesn't cost much; I see used WiFi routers at Goodwill all the time that would work fine as VPN servers. You just have to get someone to set it up for you once, or set it up yourself. (Hint: use certificates. Password-based VPNs are much less secure even if easier to set up.)
Andrew is online now  
Dec 5th, 2018, 09:51 AM
  #24  
 
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Originally Posted by WillTravel View Post
I'm a T-Mobile customer, but last I heard, I have to pay 20 cents per minute for phone calls in Europe (although Canada and Mexico are free). I do have free data and text messages, though. Do you have free calling in Europe as well?
T-Mobile now charges 25 cents/min for calls. WiFi calling, as noted above, is free if connected to WiFi, for calls home to the US. But your phone has to support the "WiFi Calling" feature - not every phone/carrier does.

Sprint has the almost identical international roaming plan as T-Mobile. Both slow down your data ("throttle" it) to 2G speeds. I have Sprint now. My phone worked fine in Portugal in May, except that the data was too slow. So I popped in my Dutch Vodafone SIM and added 10 euros to it to give me 2GB of data good for my 9 day trip. Data was much faster.

I use my Google Voice number at home as my regular number, so when I travel, I get calls on my same number using Google Hangouts (free). Calls to US numbers are free with Hangouts, too. So, it doesn't matter what SIM I have in my phone - calls still ring in Hangouts on my US number. I don't even know what my Sprint number is - I've never given it to anyone (except Google, to forward my calls to the Sprint number).
Andrew is online now  
Dec 5th, 2018, 10:22 AM
  #25  
 
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Interesting idea, Andrew. I got my introduction to Google Voice, etc. from you. Now, how do I go about setting up my own VPN? My router comes from the cable company, as does my phone and internet. Would I need a different router? An old computer converted to Linux? Connected to my home network (which is run by the cable company's router)? I assume I would have to leave everything running while I am away from home, leaving the question of what to do if something crashes or needs rebooting or power fails longer than my backup UPS can run on its own juice. Starts sounding like using a paid VPN service would de-nerdify the process.
AJPeabody is online now  
Dec 5th, 2018, 01:14 PM
  #26  
 
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Originally Posted by AJPeabody View Post
Interesting idea, Andrew. I got my introduction to Google Voice, etc. from you. Now, how do I go about setting up my own VPN? My router comes from the cable company, as does my phone and internet. Would I need a different router? An old computer converted to Linux? Connected to my home network (which is run by the cable company's router)? I assume I would have to leave everything running while I am away from home, leaving the question of what to do if something crashes or needs rebooting or power fails longer than my backup UPS can run on its own juice. Starts sounding like using a paid VPN service would de-nerdify the process.
There are various ways to setup a VPN at home. You could keep your existing router and just set up a second one only for the VPN. The VPN server runs on the 2nd router. All you have to do is forward a port through your existing router to allow the VPN traffic to flow into the 2nd router. (It's port 1194 for OpenVPN.)

You don't need a fancy router to run OpenVPN - an old one will do - but it must be capable of running OpenVPN. Mostly, these would be routers that support a custom firmware like DD-WRT or Tomato (like putting Linux on your router, basically). I highly recommend a Tomato-capable router. Tomato is very reliable and fairly intuitive for setting up an OpenVPN server. Lots of older Cisco/Linksys routers run Tomato well. One is an old classic, the Linksys WRT54G. This is an ancient router that is generally considered obsolete for WiFi, but some versions of it will run Tomato and OpenVPN just fine. I like the Linksys/Cisco E2000 router that's a little newer and faster. I scoop these up at Goodwill because they have gigabit ethernet switches, support Tomato and OpenVPN well, and seem very reliable.

You could use a spare PC with Linux too, if you happen to have one. The 2nd WiFi router is probably easier, though, and it will consume less power if on 24/7 (about 8 watts give or take).

If your UPS is set not to come back on after the battery dies in a power failure? Then yes, the VPN at home might not serve you well. Otherwise, when the power comes back on, if the UPS turns the power back on, your cable router will just reboot and so will the 2nd VPN router.

For OpenVPN, I recommend using certificates not just a simple password. Generating the certificates one time is probably the most tricky part of the process. There are several with different names, and some are used for the server, some for the client (the "client" is your laptop, phone, or tablet that connects to the VPN).

You also need to make sure you can find an OpenVPN app that works on your devices. I don't use Windows anymore, so I don't remember what the OpenVPN options are. It's much easier with a Linux laptop. I haven't set up OpenVPN on many of my phones/tablets - I just don't see the need for it. Most of the time I use my VPN to get into my home network and wake up a server while I'm not at home, so I can retrieve photos or something. Sometimes I turn on the downstairs PC with a webcam on it so I can Skype my cat.
Andrew is online now  
Dec 5th, 2018, 01:20 PM
  #27  
 
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The other issue with a home VPN is the IP address. If you don't have a static IP, then your home IP address will change occasionally. I had to get a static IP address for my server on my fiber internet service, because I found it would change about once a day. But when I had Comcast cable, I found that even though I wasn't paying for a static IP, it still didn't change after a year or more. (COULD, in theory.)

One way around this issue is something called a Dynamic DNS. Basically, your Tomato router occasionally checks your IP to see if it has changed - and if so, it updates a name saved at some domain service. This is how I manage my mom's home network where the IP changes daily. I already pay for a domain name, so I just added another subdomain to it. There are still some free Dynamic DNS services out there but I am not familiar with them. Here's one I found at random:

https://www.dynu.com/en-US/DynamicDNS

But...if your cable IP doesn't change very often, you might not need to worry about that. Just use your home network's IP to access your home VPN.
Andrew is online now  
Dec 5th, 2018, 02:35 PM
  #28  
 
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So, if I understand you, get a router that supports OpenVPN, install OpenVPN on router and devices (mine would be an Android phone, my desktop computer (if I want to), and my travel mini-computer, an Asus X205T netbook. Then, when on untrusted wifi, I would use OpenVPN on the device to contact my OpenVPN router which would make the actual connection to whatever site I was going to use. I suspect there will be speed and possible connection/timeout issues when working from overseas. Benefits: It's mine, no ongoing costs, setup costs none beyond the router, unless I decide upon a static IP which I think there is a charge for. Benefits of purchased VPN service: Local server, increased speed (?), much less geeky setup work (but as you can tell, I have a geeky nature), but there will be ongoing costs. In either case, I could access my email and use a credit card and check financial accounts over otherwise non-secure wifi. Any errors here?
AJPeabody is online now  
Dec 5th, 2018, 02:48 PM
  #29  
 
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There are many Linksys WRT54G routers cheap on EBay. I also have Netgear WGT624 I bought for almost nothing at a tag sale a few years ago, with no power supply (but I have a bunch of them so may find a compatible one) and no software. I wonder if the Netgear one will do.

Last edited by AJPeabody; Dec 5th, 2018 at 02:51 PM. Reason: typos
AJPeabody is online now  
Dec 5th, 2018, 02:52 PM
  #30  
 
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Originally Posted by AJPeabody View Post
So, if I understand you, get a router that supports OpenVPN, install OpenVPN on router and devices (mine would be an Android phone, my desktop computer (if I want to), and my travel mini-computer, an Asus X205T netbook. Then, when on untrusted wifi, I would use OpenVPN on the device to contact my OpenVPN router which would make the actual connection to whatever site I was going to use. I suspect there will be speed and possible connection/timeout issues when working from overseas. Benefits: It's mine, no ongoing costs, setup costs none beyond the router, unless I decide upon a static IP which I think there is a charge for. Benefits of purchased VPN service: Local server, increased speed (?), much less geeky setup work (but as you can tell, I have a geeky nature), but there will be ongoing costs. In either case, I could access my email and use a credit card and check financial accounts over otherwise non-secure wifi. Any errors here?
I'm not sure what you mean about "Local server, increased speed" of a VPN service. When you "tunnel" into a VPN (your own at home or the VPN service's), you also subject yourself to their own network speeds. If you have slow internet at home, then yes, you'll probably suffer slower connections because all traffic will be routed through your home internet. But if your home internet is pretty fast? Probably not an issue. (You would care about upload speed at home not just download speed - both would need to be fast.)

The VPN service's network is surely much faster than your home network - but they are probably also handling a lot of traffic.

I don't normally recommend people set up their own VPN at home unless they are personally a little tech-inclined. (Which you hinted that you might be.) Instead, I suggest they have a tech-savvy friend or relative do it...or just pay someone. It's a one-time setup. The setup on your phone or laptop would be the same whether you use the VPN at home or a VPN service. Many VPN services you subscribe to also use OpenVPN. It's not so much about saving money in that case - it's about getting rid of that third party VPN service that now must also be trusted instead of the dodgy hotel WiFi's network. Set it up at home and you don't have to trust a third party.

If you have some spare time and want to spend a few hours playing with it? Find a spare old router and give it a try. If someone you know has an old Linksys router laying around gathering dust, they'll probably donate it to you so they won't have to take it for electronics recycling. If the router is Tomato-capable, installing Tomato on it is pretty easy. As I said, the hardest part is generating the certificates. (You do it one time, using your laptop, There are a few "how to" sites that show you how to do that if you google. )

But if this all still sounds too intimidating to you and you would prefer not to mess with it? Sure - just sign up for one of the VPN services and hope they are trustworthy and reliable. Though personally, I think most people don't need a VPN service anymore due to SSL/https encryption used by most websites.
Andrew is online now  
Dec 5th, 2018, 03:16 PM
  #31  
 
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Thanks! I am the techy friend. I'll consult myself and see if that old Linksys can operate.

AJ
AJPeabody is online now  
Dec 5th, 2018, 04:49 PM
  #32  
 
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Sounds good - but we're waaaaay off topic by now. PM me if you need some tips on how to procede further with a home VPN.
Andrew is online now  
Dec 5th, 2018, 09:36 PM
  #33  
 
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@Willtravel - on our travels using T Mobile I never actually placed calls other than over WiFi so not sure. Text messaging and data were for sure gratis, and worked just fine. The slowdown to 2G was not really noticeable, but I don't often use high density apps.
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Dec 7th, 2018, 11:53 AM
  #34  
 
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I am really nervous about whether the T-Mobile call truly goes over wi-fi, as I had a bad experience in Vietnam, although they did remove the $5.99/minute charge. How do you feel confident about that?
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Dec 7th, 2018, 12:26 PM
  #35  
 
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Originally Posted by WillTravel View Post
I am really nervous about whether the T-Mobile call truly goes over wi-fi, as I had a bad experience in Vietnam, although they did remove the $5.99/minute charge. How do you feel confident about that?
Not all phones support the "WiFi Calling" feature. It depends on the specific phone and carrier you are using. Your call doesn't use WiFi simply because your phone is connected to WiFi when you make the call. You must specifically set up "WiFi Calling" - it is not turned on automatically, either, even if your phone does support it.

My first Android phone (with T-Mobile) supported it, and when I used WiFi calling, it was obvious that I was using it. The green "call" icon changed to indicate a WiFi call. My last few phones have not supported WiFi calling at all. But I don't need it anymore, anyway, because I use Google Hangouts instead.

You might be able to test out "WiFi Calling" this way: put your phone in Airplane Mode, then turn on WiFi and connect to WiFi. Then try making a call. I'm not sure if the phone will still let you make the call with data turned off, but it might.
Andrew is online now  
Dec 7th, 2018, 04:30 PM
  #36  
 
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Marking to weed thru above. Hoping to go back to Orleans with my son for Xmas and doing day trips to Paris.

Here's one site with lots of useful info on using phones in France:

https://en.parisinfo.com/practical-p...ices-in-france
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