Question once again for some of you seasoned European travelers.
My wife and I will be in London, Paris, and Rome in May and I would to ask for some pointers on using my cell phone or maybe renting something before I go.
I have read so many options I'm beginning to get a bit overwhelmed. I really need my Iphone for all of the apps, files, and maps that I have downloaded preparing for the trip. This would require some sort of data plan, but not necessarily phone calls. On the other hand, should I need to make a call, I really would want a good call rate sim card for my phone. There doesn't seem to be a product that does both.
I have also considered just buying a cheap international capable phone for making calls, and then getting a good data card to allow my iphone to use all the apps and for gps.
Any help or clarification would be awesome, thanks everyone.
I have taken my phone to Germany, Italy, Panama, and Bolivia in the last eight months and simply added a global data and voice plan for the time I am traveling. Very simple to do and works great. If I recall correctly the highest call rate was in Bolivia at $2.09 a minute, but the calls were easy and worked great, email and text also. I have an Android RazrMax if that helps and use a large phone company that starts with the letter "V"!!
I'll be going to France & Italy too this year (as well as Germany). I plan on taking my phone with me, which is an iPhone 5 on Verizon. Not too bad, roaming will work in all those countries at a rate of $1.29/minute standard and $0.99/minute Value Plan. Not sure what the difference is, will have to look into it. Data is 100MB/$25 prepaid or $20.40/MB.
My best friend has an iPhone5 with verizon and is a pilot for a major airline, he travels to Lagos, Paris, London, Japan, Holland, and China.....had a few issues getting it all set up and with Verizon you really do need to call the global help team on their website as they are probably the only folks that can make sure you get it all done correctly the very first time as it was with travels recently. I'd get both data and voice if it was me just as a precautionary should you need to call home. I didn't even have to use the 1+ and 10 digit number, just selected the number from my contact list and poof, one ringy dingy!
I can't speak to renting a cell phone or to any of the techie tricks (like jailbreaking, etc.) that some frequent travelers employ, but what I usually do is just add on an international calling and data plan package for the duration of my travel. I am with AT&T and currently have a Driod. I'm not sure what your int'l talk/data needs are.
AT&T has an international plan (for Europe) that's $5.99/mo. What that gets you is calls to/from anywhere in Europe for $.99/minute vs. the standard price of $1.49/minute. You can prorate it. I usually call c/s and have it added about a day or two prior to my trip, and then have it turned off the day after I get home. So if you're in Europe for 3 weeks, for example, the prorated amount would be about $4.19. Divide by $.50 (the amount you'd save per minute of calling) and you'd need to use your phone for a minimum of 8 minutes for the plan to pay for itself.
The same is true for the data plan. Turn it on prior to leaving, off when you return. The monthly fee will be prorated (I think they start at around $25/month). And if you plan on using any data on your phone away from the hotel wifi, you will definitely want a data plan, as international data is expensive without one. I made the mistake of thinking that while my international data plan was turned on, that my domestic data plan would be turned off (thus saving money - I mean you can't be in two places at once, right?), but that's not the case. You pay for both. That's just the deal. Also, when you're not using you phone or expecting any calls during any periods of time while overseas, turn your mobile network connection off. Sometimes, when moving around, like in your case, London, Paris, Rome, you'll move out of one network and into another. You'll have to then 'acquire' the new network to get service. Also, incoming calls that go to voicemail are also considered airtime towards the international plan if I remember correctly. I always try to let friends and family know when I'm abroad and to limit calls to me to just emergencies.
The big thing (for me) is to remember to turn the plan off as soon as you return home. There are other options as mentioned, the renting, purchasing a foreign phone, jalbreaking, etc. but if you're only talking about one trip/year, I think the most convenient option is to just use the prorated international plans that your telecom provider offers.
Anyone who travels in Europe a lot should consider a Mobal cellphone, which has no contract, but you authorize it to add money from a credit card as needed. I have had one with a British cell phone number for years and it's great for local usage as well as calling home, without ridiculous fees.
Thanks all who gave suggestions/comments. I have looked over the Sprint International plans available, and if it were just phone calls I would be making, that would be simple. It's the data cost that can be absolutely astronomical. I might use my phones for calling (with an int'l plan, and just rent a hot spot for pure data, and allow my phone to use all of the stored Apps.
I'm about to the same conclusion also. I might still rent a wifi hot spot with unlimited European data for about $15/day, so when I am not around a free wi-fi signal I will still have access to my map/app/reservation data. And, if the internet stinks in the hotels I have a good backup as well.
Thanks again for all the input everyone.
I was confused about how to handle using our cell phones in Germany. My husband and I both have droids with Tmobile. I got the unlock codes from Tmobile (which can take up to 30 days but our codes came in a few days) thinking that we would switch out sim cards for prepaid ones when we got to Germany. There's a six step instructions and if you go wrong 3 times, the phone becomes permanently locked - then you can only use it for the original Tmobile sim card. Well, I've never even seen my sim card since it was put into my phone and I didn't want to struggle with it and the case protector which peals off the protective film strip every time I take it off. So, I called Tmobile and they put us on a pro-rated Mobile Global plan that reduces the per minute costs from 1.49 to .49. Also, if we were to get a voice mail we would be charged at the same rate, so we also added another pro-rated plan to change Voice to Text. No charge for incoming Texts. I'm still unsure how people with german cells will be charged if we call them. I believe the rep said that tmobile doesn't charge us for incoming international calls to our cell phones (when we are in the US) but she was unsure how german plans handle this. We didn't care so much about the data so we've set the phones to turn off roaming.
This seemed a simpler solution and Tmobile has already set the temporary plans to expire when we get home.