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Purchasing a Phone in Europe

Has anyone purchased a phone once they arrived in Europe? We are going to Budapest, Vienna, Krakow and Prague. We learned that while our Verizon phones are unlocked they won't work on other networks. So even though we bought these phones a few years ago making sure they would work in Europe we have to use Verizon's International Plan and it is still very expensive. So we are looking at just purchasing phones when we get there. These will just be for emergency use in case we get separated so we don't want to spend a ton of money on them.

Posted by
11613 posts

I bought a €30 TIM phone in Italy four years ago. It's the simplest model available (no camera but texting, alarm clock, default can be changed to English, etc.). I still use it, just buy minutes as I go. If you buy a phone in one country, make sure the salesperson explains what you need to do to use it in other countries. Calls to the US are simple and cheap.

Posted by
1420 posts

Like Zoe, I bought a simple no-frills Samsung phone in Italy a few years ago. I just buy local SIM cards as I go.

At the time, I went into a shop that is not affiliated with one particular network, in order to get more impartial phone-buying advice. I've used that phone in Italy and France many times, in Croatia, Austria, Hungary Iceland, Russia, Ireland and the U.K.. Greece is next; and I'll be buying the SIM card at the Athens airport between connections.

I usually go to the TA forum for the country I need a SIM card for, provide an idea of where I plan to go and ask for advice as to which network has currently the best coverage. Multi-country is a bit more complicated: sometimes an out-of-country card may be the cheapest solution (i.e. an Icelandic or German SIM, bought over the Internet, for Eastern Europe coverage). I've also swapped cards, using up left-over credit, wherever I could - some have credit good for a year.

I did buy a throw-away phone in Ireland, because we wanted a second phone for that trip. I did not find it to be nearly as good value as just buying a SIM card for my Samsung.

Surprisingly, if I fully charge my phone just before shutting it off at the end of the trip, I still have a bit of a charge in it even a year later.

Posted by
1178 posts

I purchased an Orange phone in Madrid on my last trip...cheap, free minutes included, and worked fine!

Posted by
2081 posts

welcome larrick1983,

IF you do buy a phone overthere and you will be going back after a time, make sure you can add minutes from your home country before you leave. And i would verify by purchasing some minutes while youre there.

happy trails.

Posted by
1994 posts

One slightly different perspective... if you buy a European phone, make sure you're willing to deal with loading time and dealing with SIM cards in foreign languages. I bought a cheap European phone and only used it on one trip to Italy... dealing with "running out of minutes" messages and installation instructions in a language that I only marginally understand was too much of a headache for me. I never used that phone again.

Thereafter, I used my Verizon multiband flip phone (which included GSM), and most recently my Verizon iPhone 5, it is was much easier. For occassional emergency use, the Verizon international plan of just under a dollar a minute worked file. On my last trip, I also bought their int'l data plan; $25 was enough for a 3.5 week trip, allowing me to look up travel info on sites not covered adequately in the book I brought.

Posted by
833 posts

If you are only using a phone for emergencies, then the Verizon international plan with calls around $1/minute are fine. But if you want to use your phone to call the US or people in the country you're staying, it adds up extremely quickly. Like others, I was able to set the language to English on my simple phone purchased in Italy. Texts from TIM (the service provider) were in Italian but that was fine. On my plan I was able to call the US for 12 cents/minute, which made it easy to call my family if I wasn't around a computer/wifi to Skype with them.

Posted by
3 posts

Does anyone know if we can use the same SIM in England and Ireland? I will continue research, but wondered.
Thanks!

Posted by
2081 posts

@ robns2

"Does anyone know if we can use the same SIM in England and Ireland? I will continue research, but wondered.
Thanks!"

yes it work but it will cost more for roaming.

happy trails.

Posted by
833 posts

As Ray says, it will cost more for roaming - but just wanted to note that those roaming charges will still likely be cheaper than using your American phones.

Posted by
4354 posts

EuroBuzz is the company I chose to go with, after much investigation.

This is a dual-band phone, so it will work only in Europe!!! You charge it before you leave your home with the included N American plug adapter, then you're good to go (don't forget the charger!). It's a post-paid service, meaning you only pay when you actually use the phone. If you don't use it, you don't pay. You can read the website for yourself, but all calls and texts within Europe and TO the USA are $0.79/minute, and all INcoming texts are free. That's it. You never have to worry about needing to 'top off' your SIM card account, you don't have to worry about if you have enough time remaining on your SIM, etc. Customer service is in Britain = English-speakers. Your phone number never changes. The credit card number I gave them 3 years ago expired in Nov 2013; they sent a reminder email to me in Oct to please send them a new card number/expiration. That was very appreciated. For my next trip - whenever that is - all I have to do is charge my phone and go! No phone calls to EuroBuzz, my phone provider, etc. Just pack it and go! If you've already given your phone number to your pet sitter, parents, etc., three years ago, they still have it - no needing to call them with your new European phone SIM number. Easy-peasy. You don't have to do anything as you travel from country to country, either. You will receive texts each time you enter a new roaming area, but remember - all INcoming texts are free.

They worked as advertised, and our calls to the USA (one for 45 minutes to reschedule our cancelled flight) sounded great!

Right now, they are having a special - 2 phones with SIMs for $39; usually, it's $29/phone w/SIM, and $9/SIM only. $10 for FAST shipping. You can always put the SIM card in another phone in the future; pay attention to what size of SIM card it is, though. Different phones require different sized SIM cards. If something happens to your EuroBuzz phone, you can just buy an inexpensive European phone in Europe on your next trip (again, pay attention to the SIM card-size required). You choose which size SIM card to get after you've put it in your online shopping cart. Our EuroBuzz phones had great talk time and stand-by battery time. Worst case - in the future, just buy a new $9 SIM in the size you need for your new phone (or quad-band N American iPhone, etc.).

I very highly recommend them!

Posted by
6542 posts

See if Verizon can rent you a GSM phone that will work. They may have an international program you can sign on to and cancel upon your return.
I've moved to T-Mobile's $50 plan with unlimited text and data worldwide, and $.20 per minute voice when in Europe.

Posted by
9361 posts

Verizon has a loaner program for international phones. You don't rent them.

Posted by
670 posts

The EU are working on elimating call roaming charges between EU Sims by 2016, its currently 24p.Was 45p couple of years back.
Down to 19p on July 1st.

Data roaming currently40p/MB comes down to 20p.
.In 2012. it was 70p!
I know my SIM allows calls to US landlines and mobiles for 5c a min.Which puts verizons 89c call roaming in perspective

Posted by
28 posts

Several years ago we purchased a Mobal phone which works like Eileen's EuroBuzz. You can get them that work only in Europe or one that works here and there. Don't have the current charges right now, but you can go to www.mobal.com for details. Same number, no changing sim cards, etc. Pay only when we use it. Seems like texts were free, but don't quote me on that till you look for yourself. It may have changed. I would at least compare the two products. Another good thing about these phones is that we can loan them out to friends who are traveling and they just repay us the cost of their usage when they get home.

We plan to change the sim cards in our iPhones this trip. I want my apps!

Posted by
55 posts

Eileen, It was reassuring to hear you sing the praises of Eurobuzz as we just placed an order for two of them taking advantage if the 2 for $39 offer you mentioned. This seemed like the best solution for us as we have older model iPhones (iPhone4) on Verizon that will not work in Europe. We only want phones for very limited calling and security. Love the ease and affordability of these and look forward to using them on our June trip.

Posted by
55 posts

Mobal is parent company of Eurobuzz. Phones purchased from Mobal work worldwide. Eurobuzz phones are for Europe only. The way they work is the same, but the rates are not. If your trips will be to Europe only go with Eurobuzz for lower calling rates.

Posted by
3 posts

I knew I would be traveling throughout Europe when I studied abroad, so I did a ton of research on phones and SIM-Cards. There are a lot of companies out there and a lot of decent apps, but I found that http://www.g3wireless.com offers the best deals in regards to roaming charges and extensive coverage. The simple pay-as-you-go plan allows me to use data and minutes as I need them, instead of being stuck with an expensive contract or bundle that I don’t use. The service is cheap- save up to 90% on roaming compared to your home carrier- with your global SIM-Card and really flexible. I definitely recommend to anyone traveling abroad.