The posts are from 2009. What is best and cheapest disposable phone that works in Germany, France and Switzerland and to call to US? We are traveling in 2011.
Elaine, I assume you mean an inexpensive PAYG phone? I don't normally consider Cell phones to be "disposable", regardless of their cost. If you purchase a phone in the first country you visit, it will work in the other countries. However, the "bucket of minutes" will be depleted faster in other countries, as you'll be "roaming". You could also use a phone from one of the "travel phone" firms such as Roam Simple, Call In Europe, Cellular Abroad, Telestial or Mobal (there are others but I can't remember all of them). These often use a SIM based in the U.K., and provide consistent rates regardless of which countries you're travelling in. Most of these use a post paid billing system, with calls charged to a credit card, so there's no worry about running out of minutes in the middle of a call, or having to "top up". You'll have to check the websites of the cell networks in each country you'll be visiting and the websites of the travel phone firms, in order to determine what their rates are for calls back to the U.S. and within Europe. Do you presently have a Cell phone, and if so which network are you with? Good luck and happy travels!
Twenty or thirty euros are probably the best prices you can get today. Although the travel SIM companies have fixed rates, so do the prepaid phones. The EU caps roaming rates for calls and actually just lowered the caps or announced they would be lowered in the past few days.
The market leader in most countries is Vodafone. You'll pay more for a meal than you will to purchase the phone. You purchase minutes in intervals of €25. As others have mentioned, roaming will chew up your minutes quickly, especially calls to the US.
Thank you so much.
Check out Lebara sim cards to go with the phone. Very good per minute rates for the French sim including cheap calls to the States. www.lebara-mobile.fr/?isoCode=en_GB
You do pay more for roaming rates with a local European cell, but it still may be a better deal than what you'd pay from anyone else, other than perhaps a calling card or through Skype. For example, for a three minute call to a U.K. number that was roaming in Germany from a U.K. cell that was also roaming in Germany, it cost £0.81. At today's exchange rates, that works out to about $1.30. My cell company would charge me $3.87 for the same call. And if I was calling my wife on her U.S. cell, she'd pay $1.29 a minute to receive the call. A four minute call from a U.K. cell, roaming in Germany, back to the U.S. cost 1.17, or $1.88. From my U.S. cell back to the U.S.: $5.16. For texts, I was recently charged £0.11 for a text to a U.S. number. At today's exchange rates, that works out to about $0.17. My cell company would charge me $0.35 for the same text. The travel companies do not offer any cheaper rates and, in many cases, their rates are much higher, especially when you factor in the initial costs.