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Using phones in Europe

We will be in Europe for a month in April and May and in several different countries, can anyone give us any help with using our i phones for directions and the ability to contact our hotels. We know we can use them with internet for contacting relatives state side but are curious about WhatsApp or what you might use to communicate with each other or use for help with finding information on where we need to go for various things.

Posted by
1295 posts

One option is to contact your carrier and set up an international plan. Before my trip, I went to the Verizon website, clicked a few buttons and was all set. My phone in Europe worked just as it does in the US. Super easy and well worth the expense for me.

Posted by
439 posts

We just did the same with T-Mobile in Ireland and No Ireland. Didn’t have any issues.

We also used this option in France a few years ago. We didn’t limit email and my husband was watching soccer games off Wi-Fi. We did need to upgrade our plans on this trip.

Posted by
7688 posts

We upgrade my spouse’s phone to Verizon’s international plan to call the US, text there etc. I get a European SIM card for my phone for local calls while traveling there.

Posted by
705 posts

Location services, hotel contacts etc are best done with a local number, which means getting a SIM card on arrival, although some folks (see Technology posting board here) have ordered them for delivery in the US. But that does not mean you have to give up US connections. From Apple support:

"How many eSIMs can iPhone SE have?
You can store more than one eSIM in your iPhone, but you can use only one at a time. To switch eSIMs, tap Settings, tap either Cellular or Mobile Data, and then tap the plan you want to use."

Many more recent iPhones can handle dual SIMS or eSIMS so you can toggle between a US number and a European number when you get a European SIM card on arrival.

Have fun.

Posted by
13532 posts

I use TMobile and their international service is cheap and I can turn it off and on to save money. It has worked from Albania to the UK and every point in-between. Good service too.

But I have also started using WhatsApp a lot. Many of the hotels and AirBnb's and guides and ..... are on WhatsApp now so its just as easy as a phone call, and cheaper.

Posted by
773 posts

I have not tried putting maps on my phone in another country yet. Like others said, the easiest thing to do is to set up an international plan so your phone will work outside the USA. I don't know what this costs because my mom still has 3 lines on her cellular phone service, my dad being the 2nd line, me having the 3rd number.

The first time I traveled to Europe, was actually for a summer class I got college credit for, in Lithuania, in 2007. Before the trip I convinced my mom to buy me a phone that would work there; the phone came in the mail, with a local Lithuanian Sim card already installed, it came with a local Lithuanian phone number, then I bought minutes at convenience stores or news stands, and then had to call the number on the receipt and follow the automated directions... which totally was not worth it and I have no clue whether I still technically own the Lithuanian local number. The phone itself probably only handles 3G and wouldn't physically work now because 3G is being discontinued. I hope I am not still inadvertently hoarding a phone number I obviously will never use again. Don't do what I did, don't get a local number for any other country. Just sign up for an international plan with your current phone service provider.

Posted by
430 posts

Mike, I'd venture a guess cell phone services have come a long way since 2007. Definitely no card scratching and pin disking for extra minutes nowadays. Most phones on most markets (other than the US) are dual SIM, with a good chunk of them also working with the US GSM bandwidth.

Also, which countries?

One issue with using the US phone is that locals won't be able to call you (may come in handy when your Uber driver or your guide is trying to contact you). Another one is that a local number may be needed (in some countries) to even access omnipresent free public wifi. May not work with US numbers.

Whatsapp is a decent solution, but you need either solid wifi connection or a reasonably cheap data connection. Last time I checked with my GoogleFi phone, a gig of data costs a flat $10 both here and abroad. By the US standards, it's tolerable (even though hardly a bargain), but by Ukrainian or Russian standards it's a total ripoff.

Posted by
13532 posts

The TMobile plan has unlimited but terribly slow data free with the plan. But you can check email. High speed is $5 a day or I think $30 a week. I did hit a dead zone in Montenegro earlier this year, but otherwise its been pretty flawless. Uber drivers can message in the Uber App. Most everyone else i encountered during the two months and 7 countries I have visited this year had WhatsApp, even hotels. Texts are free too. I'm not Russian, so its not a bad deal for a 30 day trip.

Posted by
21050 posts

I don't stream videos, send photos or do a lot of data-intensive things while in Europe, but I freely surf the web when I'm traveling from city to city and occasionally end up using cellular data in hotels if the Wi-Fi is temporarily not working. I monitored my data usage on a long trip in 2019 and never used a full gigabyte of data in a month. I subsequently switched from T-Mobile to Google Fi, knowing I'd save considerable money each month by paying less than $10 for the modest amount of data I use. Those who expect to make a lot of telephone calls would have a different calculation to make.

Posted by
203 posts

I hope I am not still inadvertently hoarding a phone number I
obviously will never use again.

Don't worry--sim cards generally only stay active for some number of months if they are not used (usually either 6 or 12), and then the number gets released and used again. "Your" phone number has assuredly gone through many more hands in the last years.

Posted by
27713 posts

WhatsApp is incredibly simple to use, free (if you have wifi or a data plan), worldwide, suitable for messages, photos, WhatsApp to WhatsApp calling either audio only or video call, call conferencing audio or video or mixed, and you can also easily send files.

Can be used on iPhones (but not iPads yet), android phones or tablets, and on windows PCs. May be on Macs but I don't have one so don't know.

It is an excellent product and great for travel. Can't beat the cost - completely free at both ends assuming internet connection.

I use it every day all day for all the groups and committees I am on.

"I ping therefore I am"