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Using our iPhones in France? Verizon Plans?

We haven't been to France in about four years and we previously would use an older phone and get a sim card, etc., upon arrival.
With all of the information out there on the internet, I'm hoping that someone can help me make sense out of all of the options. We're with Verizon, so anyone have any experience with one of their plans for about a month in France? I'd love to use my own phone/number and not have a new phone/sim card, etc. My iPhone is not unlocked.
Thanks in advance!

Posted by
467 posts

I am an American with a Verizon phone and have traveled to France several times over the past couple of years. First, are you sure that your phone is not unlocked? Verizon's current policy is that phones are unlocked 60 days after activation and Verizon in general hasn't been locking phones for the last several years.

Putting that aside, the short answer is that for a stay of 1 month in France, there are two main Verizon options (see here for more detail):

  • TravelPass, which is the $10-per-24 hours plan allowing you to use your domestic data and plan allowances. If you're on an unlimited Verizon plan domestically, after about 500 MB/day they start "throttling" your data speeds. This is the plan Doug is mentioning above.
  • A monthly international travel plan, which is either $70 for 0.5 GB, 100 min and 100 texts (sent) or $130 for 2 GB, 250 min and 1000 texts (sent).

I'm not even mentioning pay-as-you-go because the data rate is ridiculous ($2.05/MB, or $2,050/GB) -- it's basically suitable only for one-off emergencies abroad.

Personally, I find these plans to be poor value for money for stays of longer than a couple of days -- when it's just a couple of days, I just pay for TravelPass because the $30 or so for 3 days of usage is worth it for the convenience. But if I'm going to be in France for two weeks I get a local SIM card because the rates (even the €40 Orange Holiday, which is on the pricier side of prepaid SIMs) are much more competitive.

I agree that WiFi is found in a lot of places, but to be honest I find it pretty tedious to always be trying to connect to WiFi while on vacation; plus, I'm a solo traveler who averages pretty heavy use of data (4GB/month while at home) and for ease of travel, safety, navigation and research on-the-fly, I strongly prefer having a local SIM card. I can say that I traveled abroad both before and after local SIM cards became easily available and given the chance, I'd never go back to not having a working phone all the time.

Posted by
3 posts

Andrew,
Thanks for all of your information/ideas, which is appreciated. What about calls from the States when they don't have your (temporary) French number? Can you forward to the number on the SIM card, or anything like that? And will my apps still be on the phone? Sorry to sound ignorant but like I said, I always kept my American phone separate from my France phone until now.
Regardless, I don't want to pay Verizon's rates so now I'm checking into whether my phone is really locked or not and will get an Orange one in France.
Thanks again.

Posted by
2251 posts

A note on the side-I know someone who pays monthly for their phone, so they don't own it yet. They removed the SIM and replaced when they arrived in Italy for 6 weeks. A week later Verizon sent a bill for payment for balance owed on phone in full. They were able to straighten it out, and benefited from a far cheaper SIM, but it was un-fun.

Posted by
467 posts

What about calls from the States when they don't have your (temporary)
French number? Can you forward to the number on the SIM card, or
anything like that?

Not as far as I know -- it might be possible but I don't know of any way to do it. If someone direct dials your US phone number it's basically as if your US phone is not on. However, with the availability of messaging apps these days, if I were you I'd encourage your friends and family to use one of the alternatives to get in touch -- hopefully between Skype, Whatsapp or FaceTime (among other options) you can find an option that works for you.

And will my apps still be on the phone?

Yes! This is the prime advantage of using your "current" phone and putting a SIM card in it, instead of using an older phone. All your pictures, photos, everything will still be there. (The best analogy I have is that if you move states and you have to get a new license plate for your car, your car inside and out is still exactly the same -- it's just identified by a different number.)

Posted by
4 posts

The Verizon and AT & T plans are too expensive to use which will cause you to ration your usage. As a result, you may miss out on Google Maps amazing directional abilities, recently improve with Augmented Reality (point your camera at a building and it points the way!).

The best option in my opinion is to get a SIM card with as much memory as you can. First, you have to make sure you have an unlocked phone BEFORE you attempt to get a SIM card. Next, check out data plans from the best carrier in the country you are going to visit. We visited Ireland for eighteen days this past month and then finished the trip with ten days in Paris. We got a Vodafone data plan for 20 Euro for 20 gigs of data usage which came with an Irish phone number. We visited a Vodafone store and the salesperson got us up and running in about ten or fifteen minutes time. Since the plans were so inexpensive, both my wife and I got SIM cards.

They worked great in Ireland where Vodafone has the best coverage and so-so to pretty good in Paris.

I don't want to get phone calls when I am in Europe. If someone needs to reach me, they can email me and, if necessary, I can call them back using Skype, Google voice, What's App, or FaceTime.

EU regulations have ended country roaming so if you buy a SIM card in one part of the EU, it will work in another EU country. Thus, my Irish Vodafone SIM card worked seamlessly in France.

Having both my wife and I armed with phones came in handy when we wanted to find one another in the Louvre or when dinner reservations were required. If you are on a Verizon or AT & T plan at $10 a day for each day you use the service, you might foolishly economize and not take advantage of technology. With a plentiful supply of data, you can freely take advantage of Google Maps, check out its new Augmented Reality feature, and be a whole lot happier easily finding your way around the City. (sure, you can load Google Maps offline for free but you miss out on the extras like restaurant locations, reviews, etc.). When it comes time to fly home, you can download your boarding pass and get flight notifications.

Also, using your own cellular plan is more secure than using a shared WiFI from a site that meekly identifies itself as "hotel WiFi" or "Free Local WiFi" that may expose you to security issues and hacks.

In summary, get your phone unlocked, and sign up for a short term SIM card data plan. Make a few practice calls from the US with Skype or one of the other services to call back to the US when you are in Europe. For Europe to Europe calls, the European telephone number to which you are assigned will enable you to make those calls directly. Give it a whirl--it's not that hard.

Good luck and happy travels!

Posted by
671 posts

@2danielanderson: One point about the Verizon TravelPass: Your data plan in Europe is whatever data plan you have in the US. So, there is no need to economize on the technology (using Google Maps, apps, etc.). Plus, you keep your US phone number. I agree with a previous poster that, for a few days, the plan is fine. I have used TravelPass on 6 different European trips (all 10 days or less) and find it very convenient (iPhone 7). For multi-week or monthly stays, a SIM card would of course be more economical.

Posted by
3 posts

My recommendation is to get a local SIM, just make sure your phone is unlocked

Verizon phones should all be SIM unlocked under FCC spectrum licensing agreements especially if you have a iPhone from Verizon. You could check by putting in a friends SIM card (from a different provider) and trying to make a call.

I suggest the Orange Holiday SIM, you get 20GB for $50 and its highly unlikely you would use all that, but you can also tether that on your phone to share with family or friends.

Posted by
185 posts

I am in France for about 10 days and I got the Travelpass since I have Verizon. I just budgeted $100-120 into our trip budget and it’s no different than using my phone in the states. I don’t have unlimited data, just 2 gigs a month but I’ve been using my Verizon Up credits to claim the bonus gig of data so I had three saved up for when I need them. Our WiFi at a B & B in Provence for 3 days was really bad so I did have to use more data than usual there but now that we will be at a hotel with good WiFi for our last four days in Paris, I will be in good shape. It’s pricey but worth it to me for ease of use. We have enough learning curves with negotiating everything else ourselves while in a foreign country. And we are in our mid 60’s so need all the help we can get!

Posted by
671 posts

@dpalmier: When one spends several thousand dollars for a European vacation (air fare, lodging, meals, ground transportation, museum entry fees, etc.), spending $100 for 10 days of Verizon TravelPass is, in reality, a minor expense. The fact that you retain your phone number and your data plan as if you were in the US is hard to beat for convenience. One less thing to worry about for sure.

Posted by
7996 posts

My husband always gets the Verizon one month international plan not the $10 a day plan. I get a SIM card so we are covered!

Posted by
26 posts

I have rented a travel mifi in the past for when we travel. We can both use it for $10/day and make wireless calls and have it for when driving for google maps. We used it in rural Ireland and England, and ordered it for our trip in October. For us it is perfect.

Posted by
3336 posts

Personally I find that wifi is so plentiful that I rarely need to use my phone when not connected to it. For those times I use Verizon's $10 per day plan. I usually need it no more than 4-5 days over 6-8 weeks in Europe. We were in France for about 6 weeks last summer and that's what I did. For calls, texts, and video chatting back home I used WhatsApp which is free. Maps can be uploaded and used offline.

Posted by
4957 posts

Anita, I guess we all travel differently. I use public transit extensively when I travel in Europe, and I need mobile data to get on-the-fly public transit and walking directions. Being able to use my phone to navigate like this without paper maps and schedules - or having to read online maps and schedules - and just following directions from wherever I am at the moment has saved me hours of time and frustration from how I used to do it. And, mobile data is incredibly cheap nowadays. For my ten day trip to Italy last May, I had to spend all of 9 euros to get 2GB of data on my Dutch Vodafone SIM, good enough for my entire trip. I'm pretty frugal, but it was well worth 10 euros to me to have random access to walking and public transit directions, without the need to seek out free WiFi.

Posted by
282 posts

@AndrewH, yes we do travel differently & that is what I like about this forum. We have Verizon. Samsung 7 droid for me & an older iPhone 5s (no longer tethered to Verizon) for her. Picked up 2 Orange Holiday sims. Worked great from the get go on the iPhone. Not so much for my Samsung7. Making calls was fine but I wasn’t able to use my data.Turns out to be a known problem for this phone with the Orange card & has not been remedied. Had to go to an Orange retail store so they could adjust some settings. Worked fine afterwards. However, I continue to get notices on my phone that “not a Verizon sim” is installed. This after contacting Verizon to unlock my paid for phone before we left. The Holiday card feature is only good for 14 days. You must “top off” after that time. You must also register the card if you wish to use it longer than 30 days. I prefer to have a European ph# when here. I use a Google Voice number to speak to people back home if I need to.

Posted by
4957 posts

John, sometimes you need to set the APN (Access Point Name) with a different SIM to get data to work when using a different SIM. I have never needed to do this on my Moto Android phones (they've been able to set the APN automatically), but you aren't the first Samsung user to report this issue. Setting the APN is easy once you know how to do it, but it isn't that intuitive to figure out how for your exact model phone.

Verizon phones always give you that "SIM is Not from Verizon Wireless" message when you use a different SIM. It's a meaningless info notification that has no effect on the function of the SIM or the phone. Just swipe it away after power up. Even fully unlocked phones show this. I have a couple of Verizon-branded phones that do the same thing. Soon you learn to swipe and forget.

Posted by
282 posts

Thank you for that Andrew. I have continued to ignore that message. So far, so good.

Posted by
155 posts

Picked up 2 Orange Holiday sims. Worked great from the get go on the iPhone. Not so much for my Samsung7.

@John -- Can I ask how much those Orange Holiday SIM card set your back? Did you get them in the city or at the airport?

Posted by
180 posts

We have two old phones (note 4) from verizon that are locked. Here's our plan for our two week vacation coming up

  1. rent a travel wifi unit for $100 for two weeks, we can both connect to the same device with phones, tablets, whatever.
    2, turn off mobile data on our phones, but don't put them in airplane mode
  2. If someone needs to call us, our phones will still ring, and texts will come in. Incoming texts are cheap, outgoing are more expensive. Will probably ignore most calls coming in, but I still want to know if someone is trying to reach us. If we need to call them back, I can either email them, use facebook messenger, or call them using google voice.

Pay as you go is the default plan, so we don't even have to let verizon know our plans.

https://www.verizonwireless.com/solutions-and-services/international-travel/

Posted by
155 posts

The challenge with the wifi hotspot...is everyone is tethered to it and limits mobility for folks that need connection; meaning that my wife and I can't be separated if we need data/voice connection.

We've always gotten SIM cards for the whole family when doing our trips overseas.
This made it easier for the family to do their own thing and not worry about being able to contact them.

Posted by
180 posts

yeah, not an option for us with our old locked phones. we could get new phones, but we really like having swappable batteries, and that's something that newer phones just don't have.

Posted by
4957 posts

It's less an issue that you can't unlock your iPhone 4 phones - it seems that they simply don't even have the capability to work on any other network besides Verizon's - they don't support GSM roaming so you wouldn't even be able to use them in Europe (other than on WiFi).

Posted by
11973 posts

My last trips to France I used an Orange Holiday card. It works pretty well. I'd guess roughly fifty euros for unlimited everything while you're there. It's only good for 14 days but can be renewed at an Orange store after that if your vacation is longer.

I have used SFR mobile but, as far as I know, they no longer sell SIMs at their boutique stores. You have to get them at a Tabac. I prefer asking them to install the SIM and ensure it's working before I pay for it.

I used 3 mobile my last trip to British Isles. Best deal ever but I don't think they operate on the Continent yet.

Posted by
155 posts

No need to guess on the price of the Orange Holiday card -- it is €39.99 if purchased directly from Orange.

Thanks for that info! I can't access the link at work...but will check it out later when I get home.

Posted by
173 posts

We usually do the Travel Pass and it's worked pretty well. Is it the most cost effective? Probably not. But even for our two+ week trips, its seemed to be ok. I'm an extensive planner and generally map out google map routes before hand on the computer and then send it to my phone and keep the links in notes. Then I'll download the offline maps for the places we will be. You can click the link to your map with data on and google will pick it up and follow that route [with voice directions and the blue line and everything] even after you turn the data back off. So often, I'll just turn data on for that to get us started or if we run into a roadblock ect and then it goes right back off. Can ever work on the fly but I like to have the long drives already mapped.

Otherwise, I just wait for wi-fi if I need to dink around or get on email so the throttled data thing has never been an issues.

Posted by
28128 posts

note that all these new discussions since the thread which had been asleep for 4 months all trigger emails into the OP's inbox.

If you ask your own questions in a new thread you can get all the email notifications yourself.

Posted by
155 posts

note that all these new discussions since the thread which had been asleep for 4 months all trigger emails into the OP's inbox.
If you ask your own questions in a new thread you can get all the email notifications yourself.

Copy. Thanks for that info.

Posted by
4957 posts

The OP can always turn off email notifications. If that is even an option, I don't have it set on - I've never received an email notifying me of a response to a thread I have started.