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WiFi, Texting and Email use in Europe

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Feb 20th, 2016, 02:09 PM
  #1
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WiFi, Texting and Email use in Europe

We are traveling to Italy, Austria and Germany in April with our 2 teenage children who will want to have access to their phones while traveling and I will want to be able to check my work emails while traveling. I have heard we should consider using What's App to connect with friends and collegues back home in the US. I have also heard we should consider getting a mobile wifi rental for $10 per day so our 4 phones so we will not be roaming during our trip. Does any one have any experience or recommendations on this?
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Feb 20th, 2016, 02:24 PM
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If you are from the US and have TMobile texting and slow data (2G or 3G) is free in Europe.If you don't have this kind of plan you are right, you need to be very careful about roaming which can be very expensive. Basically you'll want to use wifi based apps like What's App. Some more recent phones have wifi calling built in.
Presumably the hotels you are staying in will have wifi and you'll find free wifi at certain cafes too.
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Feb 20th, 2016, 03:19 PM
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WiFi is everywhere in Europe; almost certainly your hotels and lodgings will have it. On my last visit to Europe where there were Starbucks (Germany) you could get free WiFi at any Starbucks. McDonalds may offer it for free only if they can text a password to your European mobile number, which didn't work for me (I had my T-Mobile phone and only a US phone number).

You can use the Google Hangouts Dialer app to make free phone calls back to the US from your smart phone, when you are on WiFi. (You can even call landlines; the person you are calling doesn't need Hangouts Dialer). If you get a Google Voice phone number (free) before you leave, you can receive calls and get voicemail on that phone number in Europe (calls come in through Hangouts Dialer, so the phone must be on the internet e.g. through WiFi to receive calls). If you don't want to (or can't) use your US phones in Europe directly using your existing carrier, you can forward whatever cell number you have now to your Google Voice phone number, so calls will just forward through via Google and you can answer them when you are on WiFi or listen to your voicemail later.

If you do have T-Mobile, make sure you are on their Simple Choice plan, not some old, grandfathered plan to be able to use the international roaming. Then you get free texting and free unlimited 2G data all over Europe. Phone calls are 20 cents/minute unless your phone has the WiFi Calling feature (not all phones have it) and you are connected to WiFi - then US calls are free. You can also use your T-Mobile phone's hotspot as well, though you are sharing only that slow 2G data (so sharing it with other phones would be really slow, though it should work).

If you have one unlocked phone (at least), you can buy a local SIM card for it in Europe to get data and share that with your phone's hotspot. If the phone connects at at least 3G speeds or faster, that might be reasonably fast enough for a few other phones to share the data. Most smart phones can roam on the GSM networks used in Europe (even if they are Sprint or Verizon phones that use CDMA in the US), though the phone might need to be unlocked, depending on the carrier and type of phone it is. Using a different SIM in your phone changes its phone number, though (it would be a European number).
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Feb 20th, 2016, 03:58 PM
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fyi, Andrew, I have an old grandfathered plan from T-Mobile, not listed as Simple Choice, but I do have free texting, data and 0.20/minute calls - worked fine in Japan, Korea and France so far....
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Feb 20th, 2016, 05:10 PM
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My landlord in Venice replaced his router last year, and I was unable to connect to wifi there with a Kindle Fire. It worked fine everywhere else. When I got back to the U.S. and was able to connect with the Mayday people, they said there must've been something from the router blocking the signal to the Kindle. They had no suggestions as to how it could've been unblocked. Anyone got any ideas on that?
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Feb 20th, 2016, 05:24 PM
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Holly, I'd guess his router was misconfigured rather than "blocking" you. FYI, Europe uses slightly different WiFi frequencies than those uses in the US, at least for 2.4GHZ WiFi. In the US, per FCC regulations, we use only 11 frequencies (all close to 2.4GHZ); the WiFi router determines which frequency of those eleven to use, perhaps by detecting which one has the least interference on it from other devices.

In Europe, they use 13 frequencies including the same 11 used in the US. As long as the European router uses one of those 11 then an American device should connect to it just fine. But if the router was set to "auto" and picked one of the two frequencies not used by American devices, that could have been the problem.

There are all kinds of other things in his router configuration that could cause an issue - but without seeing it/being there I can only guess.
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Feb 20th, 2016, 05:46 PM
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Thanks for the response, Andrew. Is there anything I can suggest to him to do about it when I get back there in a couple of weeks? Maybe reset the router, or something?
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Feb 20th, 2016, 06:15 PM
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It's possible that just power cycling the router will cause it to choose a different WiFi channel and you might be able to pick it up this time.

But it's really hard to say. Doing a factory reset of the router probably won't help. It would be nice to have someone who knows how to setup a router take a look at it.
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Feb 20th, 2016, 06:18 PM
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I'm guessing the landlord set it up himself. Hahaha. Thanks for the explanation. I'll suggest a reset, and see if that does it.
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Feb 21st, 2016, 04:15 AM
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This is a hijack, folks, if there ever was one. It is really impolite to attach an entirely new question to an existing query.

Why is it impolite? Because there are only two responses to the original question, though Andew's was of course very, very good.

Someone else who might have useful information might well be reluctant to answer because of the extra six posts.

Have I just hijacked your thread? From texting to router setup to good manners? And so it goes.
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Feb 21st, 2016, 04:22 AM
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You will find that many German hotels charge for wifi access while in other countries it is free. Italian private users seem to have not discovered wifi security (I often find open networks as I walk down the street), generally TI office will be centres of a free wifi signal.

Buying in a free sim is a good idea, but i would probably get a pay as you go type, this stops people (family) slipping off into hyper space when they should be on holiday together. I find having set times (like when in the hotel) for access is good for family-togetherness.
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Feb 21st, 2016, 05:33 AM
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>>You will find that many German hotels charge for wifi access while in other countries it is free.<<

In my limited experience, it always surprised me that the business-oriented hotel in Munich made me buy a 5euro card for 24 hour access (which only worked reliably in the foyer) whereas the family hotel in an Austrian mountain village offered free wifi with reasonable coverage throughout the hotel (apart from one spot in the bar where there was a massive internal wall), and one of the cheapest and plainest hotels in Paris also had free wifi throughout the building.
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Feb 21st, 2016, 05:42 AM
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It is something to do with German law on privacy, they need to know who is using the wifi and so take the opportunity to charge for it. I now choose German hotels based on free only
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Feb 21st, 2016, 06:25 AM
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Ack, you've been around here long enough to know that threads often do go off point from the original query. Shame on YOU for being so rude. At least my exchange with Andrew provided some information that may be helpful to anyone else reading this thread who might have experienced the same problem. Unlike your comments, which were posted for the sole purpose of berating other posters.
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Feb 21st, 2016, 09:35 AM
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Free public WiFi is not as common in Vienna as we have found in other cities around Europe. Our visiting friends and family have often groused about the relative lack of WiFi. Hotels will certainly offer service, many museums will offer WiFi to access their apps, and there are (slow) WiFi hotspots, but I would not count on consistent access as you tour the city.
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Feb 21st, 2016, 12:39 PM
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Who is your mobile service provider? If it's T-Mobile (as we do), it's all free, with just a nominal minute charge to call; texting and data free throughout Europe. If not, ask what programs are available. Just about all hotels have free wi-fi and we have used our smartphones exclusively on recent trips to Switzerland and France for all our needs.
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Feb 21st, 2016, 02:09 PM
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Public wifi is not as common in Italy as in some other countries. In some hotels, wifi is not free, but it's becoming the norm that hotel wifi is free. Sometimes it doesn't reach to the rooms though, and in some hotels, I've needed to get a new password every day.

As someone else suggested you might want to get a local SIM card for at least one of your phones. It can be used to create a hotspot for the other phones, certainly a lot cheaper than €10 a day. In Italy, there are plans specifically for tourists, which allow you to use the minutes to make and receive calls to/from anywhere in Europe and the US (and sometimes many other countries. This would allow you to call (and receive calls from) the other members of your party at no extra cost. You might check to see if the first country you will visit has anything similar.

You can also check if the provider has any specific plan for data roaming in the other European countries. Within Europe, roaming for phone calls has been practically eliminated already. Data roaming charges are scheduled to go away by 2017.
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Aug 12th, 2016, 02:21 AM
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My friend used to go to France and Germany. She said the signal of iVideo pocket wifi is good. You can check the website over here: http://goo.gl/QyUi0u Last year , I went to Japan and rent their pocket wifi in Japan. The price is very budget and signal is good.
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