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Verizon International Service Plan

What do I need to know to keep my costs low when using my iPhone in the UK?

Posted by
1947 posts

I do not use my Verizon International plan when I travel. Their costs are too high for my tastes, and I travel often enough that it made it worth it to find an alternate solution. I purchased a Vodafone UK SIM to use in my older model Android phone.

Here are the details of the SIM card I have used on multiple trips and the costs:
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/tech-tips/vodafone-uk-sim-card-for-use-in-europe

(Note that the details in my post are for an Android phone. I have not used the Vodafone UK SIM in an iPhone.)

Posted by
123 posts

If your iPhone is recent vintage, it may support an eSim, in which case you may be able to just get a local plan. I'm not familiar with Verizon's iPhone offerings and whether they support GSM (Verizon in the US uses CDMA).

Posted by
18911 posts

I have T-Mobile service, which is much, much cheaper to use in Europe than Verizon, so I can't give you Verizon-specific recommendations. However, I think these general suggestions would be applicable:

  • Make maximum use of the Wi-Fi that will almost certainly be available to you at your hotel. Make sure you have an electronic map of your current city (from Google Maps or from a smartphone app) downloaded before heading out. Turn off data and turn on the Location feature; your phone will use cell towers and random Wi-Fi hotspots to keep up with where you are, so you can follow your progress around the city via the blue You Are Here dot. Google Maps and some others allow you to create maps at home (with places of interest to you) and save them for access while you're in Europe. Doing that work ahead of time helps me a lot to become familiar with the layout of a city.

  • Many museums have free Wi-Fi (often providing useful visitor information similar to that obtained from an audio guide), so you may be able to do some web surfing or check your email while you take a break. Tourist offices also frequently offer Wi-Fi, as do public libraries. In some cities there are scattered hotspots open to all (probably not the place to do online banking, of course). I've found Wi-Fi availability in restaurants to be a bit spotty. It seems more prevalent in less expensive places, and sometimes you have to register and have a code sent to your phone. You wouldn't want such a security code sent to your Verizon number, because you'd have to turn on your cell service and pay the daily fee to receive it. This annoying practice is especially prevalent in the UK, I find.

  • Unless you have to be instantly available for business or family reasons, keep your phone service turned off except when you want to use make a call. You don't need spam calls triggering the daily Verizon fee!

  • If you're not traveling alone, explore using something like WhatsApp for text messaging back and forth when you have Wi-Fi access. Apple may have its own equivalent. My travel mate and I used WhatsApp in 2019; we couldn't always connect instantly, but if one of us was in a museum and the other was in the hotel, we could make contact. Although I had T-Mobile service, my friend did not; she needed to limit herself to what could be accomplished via Wi-Fi.

For the first few trips I made post-2010, I didn't have a US SIM in my phone. One year I bought an Italian SIM, but I couldn't figure out how to make calls reliably (probably user error on my part). There were a few occasions when I needed to make a phone call but could not (usually to contact my next hotel); a few local folks were kind enough to help me out. Therefore, I know it is usually possible to survive without phone service in Europe as long as you don't have business/family matters to attend to during the trip. Since switching to T-Mobile with its low-cost calling and data services in Europe, I confess I have loved having the ability to surf the internet during long bus and train rides, when Wi-Fi service is sometimes only sporadically available. But my trips are very long, and solo. Most travelers don't have that many hours when they are not immediately engaged in sightseeing or conversing with a travel companion.

There's a lot more to be said about this subject, and I'm not knowledgeable enough to say it. You'll find earlier threads on this topic in the Technology Tips section of the forum. If you read through a few of the most recent threads about phone service, I'm sure you'll pick up some good ideas.

Posted by
1947 posts

Even with my Vodafone UK SIM, I make sure to set as many apps as possible to not use background data or only download their content when on WIFI so as to avoid chewing up whatever data plan I have.

Posted by
1175 posts

If your phone is unlocked then a local SIM card and plan is the cheapest option. I can confirm that Apple phones as far back as the iPhone 6 will work on Vodafone. Please do note that unless you have a dual SIM phone this will mean you lose access to your US phone number for the interim period. Here’s a link to the current prepaid plans that vodafone currently offers.

https://www.vodafone.co.uk/mobile/best-sim-only-deals/pay-as-you-go-sim?icmp=uk~1consumer~topnav~1shop~2simonly~2payasyougo_sim&linkpos=topnav~1~1~2~2

For as little as $14 USD you get 5GB of data. I don’t watch videos or perform other data intensive activities on my phone so that’s plenty of data for me.

The last time I checked none of the major UK telecom providers offered an ESIM option on their prepaid plans. And as a side note I believe that the GSM vs CDMA issue is becoming less relevant as cellular service is generally 4G/LTE.

Posted by
3478 posts

Verizon has (or had a year ago) a dedicated international customer service department. We dealt with them a number of time and they were very knowledgable and helpful about plans, how to call back to the states from different countries, and etc. The number we used to talk to them was 1-800-711-8300. Hope they can help you.

Posted by
3222 posts

We don’t have an international service plan and have Sprint. We mostly text since they are free and make few calls. We try use use the phone mostly while connected to WiFi. If I need to use it as a gps, I download a map of the area for offline use since it won’t use any data.

Posted by
23 posts

Agree with posters above to use wifi as much as possible, and talk w/ verizon rep about best plan for your trip.

Altho it irks me to pay $10/day to use my own verizon plan (data I've already paid for once), I have used their "travel pass" (really need to look into att...and I'm not tech savvy enough to deal w/sim card)

so, 1. make sure iphone settings -> general -> background app refresh -> wifi or off

2. settings -> cellular -> data/roaming off (turn on only when needed. Theoretically, airplane mode should turn off data and leave wifi on, but I've found that it also turns my wifi off)

3. use wifi as much as possible (any non-urgent contact w/ folks at home by email, fb, etc. In theory, "texts" with other iphone users is over wifi, but most of my family have androids so...)

4. if you must check calls/texts, try to batch fetch them every other day (with time difference, this may still be reasonable time frame for replies)

Last time I talked with verizon (2019 trip), they said they were phasing out add-on plans by country and just offering travel pass. but looking at website today, looks like they are still offering add-on monthly plans which are a better deal if you will be using data 10 or more days while traveling (or pay-as-you-go if you don't plan on using your phone much at all.) Both travel pass or monthly plans must be "enabled", otherwise you'll be charged PAYG rate. Travel pass is basically paying extra to use your own data plan minutes overseas. Monthly plan and PAYG are purchasing additional minutes for use during travel (but you can't access your home plan minutes during travel? and I don't think you can bank any unused travel minutes for use when you get home?) https://www.verizon.com/solutions-and-services/international-travel/?AID=11365093&SID=tuid%3A040BE0E4843E61720141F0D9854160F7&vendorid=CJM&PUBID=9069228&cjevent=0082b98fb92511eb816317e90a1c0e10&CMP=afc_m_p_cj_na_ot_21_99_affiliate-9069228_11365093&cjdata=MXxOfDB8WXww

If you purchase monthly plan, then cancel sometime after you return from trip, before your "month"/billing cycle is up (confirm dates w/ rep when you purchase. I suppose you can do most of this yourself online, but I'm old school and prefer talking w/ a human being :-)