Cell Phone Service Overseas
Berkeley Parents Network >
Services & Businesses >
Cell Phone Service Overseas
I have a very simple cell phone with unlimited texting & a
number of minutes per month that I have no problem keeping
under (most of my calls are to my husband, who's on the same
plan, so there's no charge for that service -- whatever it's
I am going to be travelling overseas in a couple of months
and would like to buy a cell phone where I could make and
receive calls as well as texts for a minimal amount. I also
would only like to have that capability for the duration of
my trip (approx 2 weeks).
Can anyone recommend a carrier to do that -- that is get a
temporary phone with overseas capability? Also, I'm just
going to France, so I'm wondering if anyone knows if there's
a way I can set up a cheap or even free calls / texts on
I currently have Verizon wireless and have heard something
about getting a 'card' or something to add to your phone for
international use. But I don't know if that's the best
I feel like if I call the companies, it's hard to get a
straight answer and really figure out which is the best
deal, so I'm looking for recommendations first. Cell Phone
When my daughter went to France a summer ago, we purchased a
very basic phone from Call In Europe
They charged by the call and the text and I thought overall
it was quite reasonable. When my dad went to Germany a year
later, he was able to use the same phone and I contacted
Call in Europe for a different card and that all worked very
well too. Claire
We wanted a smartphone abroad to enable us to do things like
message, use maps live for finding places, and other
internet stuff. The easiest and cheapest thing to do was to
'unlock' one of our iPhones here. You need to be software
savvy to do this, or pay for someone to do it. Bought a SIM
Card from T-Mobile to test the unlock. Abroad, we bought a
local sim card (the choices abound!) and prepaid
minutes/data in a mobile store, which line pretty much line
all European city blocks.
We handled the unlock ourselves with online unlock software.
So the only money we spent was for a test SIM card and the
SIM card and prepaid minutes/data when we were abroad.
We were really happy with how it worked out, and it was all
the more sweeter in that we did not help AT&T fill its
moneybags. Unlock the phone
I made my first trip to Europe a few years ago and everyone
advised me to take along an unlocked phone that uses SIMM
cards (Verizon phones don't use them) and then buy service
in the country I was visiting. I was a little nervous about
leaving the arrangements until I was there, but it turned
out to be very simple and easy.
Since I normally use Verizon, I bought a basic Motorola SIMM
card phone for my trip. I still have the phone, and would
consider selling it to you for your trip- contact me if that
interests you. cf
When our daughter went to
Europe for a semester between HS and college we bought her a
post-paid unlocked phone with multi-country SIMM card
through a Canadian company, Roam Simple. The phone is a
simple one--no smart phone apps--but we liked the fact of it
being post-paid for actual usage, knowing that our daughter
would not get stuck in a situation where pre-paid minutes
had run out. We also wanted her to have a working phone on
arrival, for our own peace of mind. anon
We will be traveling in France and Spain for a month and want to know what others have done about cell
phones. We have two phones on Cingular and their ''World Traveler'' plan would cost 5.99 for the
month, then $.99/min. The other option is to go to some little place near Ranch 99 (or so the guy at
the Cingular store told me), get them to ''unlock'' the phones for $20/ea., and buy a chip in Europe
and pay as we go. Has anyone done this? Is it easy? Is it cheap? Can we unlock the phones
ourselves with codes found on the internet or are those bogus? We'll just be calling ahead for
reservations, calling each other to meet up after a day of separate sight-seeing, that kind of thing.
Not long luxurious calls back to the States or anything.
We rented international phones a few years ago for a trip to the Middle East and Europe
and thought it was a great solution. The prices were comparable and we didn't find the
bill shocking or anything at the end. We were shipping a quad band phone and instructions
about how to activate it, and were able to transfer our current number onto it very easily.
Basically, we transferred the phones while we were waiting to board our overseas flight and
We found it especially nice for the folks back home, who could just continue to use our
same number to reach us wherever we were. That saved our parents the stress of figuring
out international direct dialing.
Before I went to Europe, I bought a phone that accepts SIMM chips (my usual carrier's
phones (Verizon) don't use the chips so I had to buy one from another carrier and have it
unlocked). I kept it ''topped up'' while I traveled and it worked out fine.
The thing to be aware of is that you either need to buy a new chip when you go to each new
country or pay long distance charges on every call, but I was only in two countries so I
didn't change chips and it wasn't a big deal.
This may be obvious, but first make sure that your cell phone works in Europe (dual-band, I
think)-- a friend of mine was told by the store representative it did, only to find out it
Our phone was unlocked for free by the store we got it from in Oakland... there are several
places here in Spain were they can unlock it, too (for a fee).
We are spending the summer in Spain and we changed the Cingular to a Movistar card. You
need to go to a Movistar (or any other of the suppliers: Vodafone, Adena, etc... Movistar
is everywhere!) store and buy a card. It used to be that they gave you the card for free,
but now they charge you $5, and give you $15 credit. They have different rate plans (e.g.,
chose 5 phones, calling cheaper during non-business hours), I think I pay about .25 cents
per minute. If you send messages, it's a lot cheaper (I think 7 cents per message, under a
word limit). You can check the specifics at the movistar webpage.
You can add money to your phone card in an ATM (using your visa card), in the Tobacco Store
(Estanco)--using a ''scratch'' card, in the movistar stores, and in the ''Chinos/Todo a
100'' (dollar stores).
When we traveled to France, the Orange provider came in automaticly. Movistar has a deal
with Orange so it was a little bit cheaper to call, but still kind of expensive (can't
remember the specific price per minute)
We dedided to use the movistar card instead of the cingular plan because we are spending
the whole summer here and use the phone to communicate with family and friends. But if you
only call sporadicly, it may make sense to use your cingular card (I'd suggest to ask also
about messaging prices).
Have a good summer in Europe!
Visit mobal.com and see what they have. I bought a cell phone from them a few
years ago and have used it in England, Italy and Greece. The phone was
reasonably priced and the bill for the calls was not outrageous, though I can't
quite remember what it was. They provided excellent service and answered all
questions. Worth checking it out.
Buy an unlocked quad band GSM phone and then when you arrive in Italy buy a sim
card for the phone, sold at magazine stands (I think) and you'll be good to go.
You should also be able to buy a recharge card as well if you will need it. This
phone and system will work in most other countries. You might want to check into
a discount access code, a number you will dial before the phone number.
You can get a bunch of info about using cell phones in Europe on Fodors.com at
their talk site. The best way to use that forum is to go to the Europe section
of Fodors Talk and search for past discussions on cell phones or mobile phones.
If you still have questions after reading the archives, then ask a question. It
is a great site for other travel questions, too; just make sure you always check
their archives first.
You can also try the Rick Steves site.
Hi. What do people recommend for cell phones / internet
phone service to keep in touch with college students
travelling abroad? My daughter will be going to South
America. Thanks, mom of traveller
You need an unlocked phone and a SIM card for the country
or countries she'll be travelling in. Here's a couple of
sites I found with a Google search for ''sim cards south
america'' -- both appear to offer an international card that
works in many countries as well as county-specific cards.
I've dealt with the first people to get a card for the UK
and found them very reliable and helpful. I think they're
located near San Diego. You might just want to call them
and get an idea as to what's feasible.
I'm sure this isn't the cheapest way to go, but it has worked well for
Europe. We bought a phone from Mobal (www.mobal.com; ph. 888-888
-9162) for about $50. When we use it, we are charged $1.25/minute.
we're home, we put the phone away and there are no charges. The phone
connections have been excellent, and Mobal's service has been very
But first find out about your current cell phone. If the GSM is right
international service, you might be able to use it.
Re: Your student traveling to South America. Cell phone
coverage depends on your provider. Verizion has what used
to be called the North America Plan, which allowed very
liberal access for about $70 a month. I was in Mexico
this summer and could call home etc. I had a net of 1000
minutes per month, for me to call. Calls from the US to
me were free. A colleague with another provider had a
less generous, but still not very expensive plan with
night and evening hours. Worked well for her because of
time zone differences. A third friend was in Ecuador,
with no cell access. However, ''todo el mundo'' uses
calling cards to the US. Easily available, inexpensive,
but don't buy until you get there. Check the various web
My daughter spent last semester in Australia, and many of her friends
were also abroad (Chile, Scotland, Mexico, Spain). They all used either Skype or
iChat. You need a computer with internet access and a mic; for Mac users, the mics are
built-in; some of the PC users needed to buy a mic. Skype is free and
can be downloaded directly to your computer. The calls are free. She also had
a mobile phone (provided by her study abroad program) but used it for
intra-Australia calls, as international calls were both expensive to make and the reception
was much worse than the computer-connected calls.
My family and I will be on vacation in and around London and
Paris for two weeks in August but I am concerned about being out
of touch with my elderly father who is having health problems.
I assume my cell phone won't work there. Does anybody know how I
might get cell phone usage there so, if needed, folks, (i.e.
Kaiser Hospital) could get in touch with me easily? I hear it is
possible to rent cell phone in some places.
I'm not sure if it will work in Paris, but we've been in London
frequently in the last couple of years and have found it cheaper
and easier to simply buy a cheap cell phone with the ''pay as you
go'' minutes (so there's no service plan). I think we got ours at
a Virgin Mobile store for about $50. We found this actually
cheaper than renting, and saved us the hassle of returning it.
Next time we go over, we'll just bring it along and buy more
minutes. Good luck!
I was recently in Paris and Provence for two weeks and got a
phone through www.acetelecom.com. They fedex'd the phone to me.
It was easy to use- it gives you a US number so it easy for
folks to call you. I rarely did not have service. It was fairly
inexpensive (in comparison to other thigns I found on the Web).
Your phone may be capable of going overseas but you'll need to
call your phone service provider to find out. I have Nextel and
their cheapest phone which wouldn't work. They say you can rent
a phone from them but it required that I go to a special store
either in Dublin or in the Mission and neither was easy for me
to do at the last minute. My family was told by their carrier T
mobile that their ohones would work- which they did-somewhat-
they could call out to me and to the US, the US could call out
to them but I couldn't call them from my phone nor could they
dial an international number so I'd be nervous to rely on that.
You can also rent a phone from the Paris airport. The only
caveat with the rental phone is that it did not work in the
states- so my three hour layover in NYC required that I use a
payphone-egads so old school! Anyway have a great time.
Check out http://www.rentaphone.co.uk for rental phones. They
have a US base in Philadelphia and can send you a phone before
you leave ($25 delivery fee, but it saves the VAT and fees) or
you can pick it up at the airport when you arrive. Cost is $6 a
day plus $1.99 a minute for calls (incoming is free) -- but
those are the UK fees, and there may be more $$ for
Also, this is information I saved from a Chronicle article a
couple of years ago. Not sure how much of it is still accurate
(rates have undoubtedly gone up), but I'd be willing to bet
Nextel still does the rental.
''Nextel rents its worldwide phones to travelers for $10 a day,
plus the considerable cost of each call. For details, phone
(800) 639-8359 or check the Web at www.nextel.com and click
on ''Nextel Worldwide.'' AT&T (800-888-7600) rents overseas phones
for rates ranging from $39 a week to $60 for three months. (You
might cut the cost significantly if you're planning to rent a
car in another country. Ask if the agency - like many American
car rental outfits - can provide you with a cell phone, as well.)
''Foreign cell phones do not come with numbers programmed into
them. Customers activate their phones by popping in so-called
SIM cards - little devices ranging in size from a postage stamp
to a credit card. To ''charge'' your SIM card, you buy prepaid
time at tobacco shops, pharmacies, gas stations and kiosks
almost everywhere abroad. So you need an inexpensive GSM phone
and a SIM card for the country you're visiting. You can purchase
the phone for as little as $99.99 at a Bay Area company called
Planet Omni (1480 Wharton Way, Concord, CA 94521; phone: 925-246-
7103; Web: www.planetomni.com; e-mail: email@example.com).
SIM cards are available through a company called Telestial
(along with inexpensive GSM phones). Prices can run as low as 15
cents a minute from England. Elsewhere in Europe, per-minute
costs to the United States range from 63 cents to $1.74.
(Contact: Telestial, 4689 Mission Blvd., San Diego, CA 92109;
phone: 858-274-2686; fax: 858-274-2757; Web: www.telestial.com;
''Before heading overseas with your cell phone and your SIM card,
sign up for a ''callback'' program. These enable you to bypass the
carrier in the country you are visiting; you pay only for point-
to-point calls within the United States. Want to phone your
sister from a wine bar on the Rhine? Start by dialing a U.S.
phone number provided by your callback service. After one or two
rings, you hang up. Because you didn't connect, you are not
charged. About a minute later, your cell phone jangles. Upon
answering, you hear a U.S. dial tone. Punch in your sister's
area code and phone number, just like you do at home. Here's the
best part: Because this is an incoming call to your cell phone,
it counts as a freebie. You will be billed by the callback
company at a lower domestic rate. I checked out a callback firm
called CogniDial (on the Web at www.cognidial.com) and found
that a 15-minute call from France would cost $1.95 at 13 cents a
You can easily rent a Nokia cell phone that will work
throughtout Europe via AutoEurope. I have done this several
times and it's been excellent. It costs about $80. a week plus
airtime charges. (You can also rent a satellite phone but they
are much more expensive.) Go to www.autoeurope.com or (call 1-
888-223-5555) and then click on the cell phone menu. They fedex
the phone to you in advance of your trip, you charge it up and
then you turn it on when you get where you are going. You can
also hook up the phone to your laptop and use it for
this page was last updated: Jul 22, 2012
BPN is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit and we are transitioning to a new website: BerkeleyParentsNetwork.org
The opinions and statements expressed on this website
are those of parents who subscribe to the
Berkeley Parents Network.
Disclaimer & Usage for
information about using content on this website.
Copyright © 1996-2015 Berkeley Parents Network