Please sign in to post.

Dumb question

I’m going to France, end of august. I didn’t even know buying a SIM card was a thing until about 5 minutes ago.

Us cellular, my provider is $10 a day for 20 text, 20 min of voice, and 250mg of data. I think that’s steep and not a lot.

If I get a SIM card , will the pictures I take with my iPhone 13 still be backed up the the cloud when I take the euro SIM card out? ie will I loose my pictures from vaca?

Also which SIM card should I get? I’ll be in France for 8 days. My biggest thing is I would like to have data, be able to message my parents back home, call them via WhatsApp and listen to audio tours and look at a map. My friend with me is from Germany and will have her phone also but I’d feel better having my own.

Thank you so much!!

Posted by
6015 posts

This is not my area of expertise, but I have seen several threads lately discussing e sims which you might be interested at looking at. If you go to the main travel forum page there is a search box at the top of the page. If you put in “SIM cards” or “e-sim” you should find several threads with some good information.

Also this link to another page on this site might be helpful.
https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/phones-tech

Posted by
2284 posts

Amanda, not dumb at all!

You have to start with 2 questions: 1) is your phone unlocked so that you actually CAN get some form of sim? 2) I am not familiar with US Cellular but I seem to remember a recent post about their process/contract specifically.

From what you describe, it sounds like if your phone is unlocked AND US Cellular allows a second sim, then getting an eSim with data is the cheapest and easiest. Airalo has worked easily for several of us. It does not provide a phone number but gives you lots of data choice options. This in no way affects apps associated with your account. All that continues like normal. It just draws the necessary data from a different place than your US Cellular plan. But all that is predicated on your particular contract.

There are some good threads here with more info on how to actually do this, once you know it’s possible for you.

Posted by
27 posts

Texas, yes phone is unlocked. I’m just worried about doing this on the plane and dropping the sun card 😂 I’d rather have it ready to go when I hit the tarmac. Thank you for reassuring me I won’t loose stuff! I think this will be a better option than going through my carrier. I’ve been reading a lot on this. Thank you all so much!

Posted by
784 posts

Contact hippocketwifi.com….based in Lyon, will ship the necessary equipment to your first hotel or place you stay, charged us about $100 for 16 days…..you have your own wireless network 24-7 that you carry with you no matter where you go……turn on your Airplane Mode but leave your cellular data on…….it was a dream to use…….no SIM cards, no phone locking/unlocking, no wondering if the free wifi in your hotel will get through to those you need contact with……it was a game changer on our trip……easy people to work with as well……..

Posted by
1803 posts

Amanda, as TexasTravelom said, you might want to look at getting an eSIM data plan. It's similar to a SIM card but electronic so there is no physical card. Since you don't need a phone to call anyone (you're using WhatsApp), it sounds like it would work for you.

I did this recently when I went to Germany. If you have an iPhone 13 then it is eSIM capable. Look through this post - https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/tech-tips/buying-an-international-esim-data-plan-for-your-regular-phone-with-esim-no-more-burner-phones - and see what you think.

Airola is a company I used for my month in Germany, and I can see that they have a France plan, which is 1Gb of data for 7 days for $5. You can "top it off" to add additional days. It's a very easy process and they help you go through it. Read the post I linked above and there are also other posts in the Technology forum that are helpful.

Posted by
113 posts

My opinion - for an 8-day period:
- Wi-Fi is almost everywhere in France. Once on Wi-Fi no issues using WhatsApp for calls, texting for messages, accessing Facebook, Instagram, etc.
- Maps can be downloaded and used on-line from apps like "CityMaps2Go", "Google Maps", etc. And there is always the "old school" paper maps.
- Audio tours such as the ones from RS are downloaded - don't need cell service to use.
Thus, no need for data and expensive plans.

Posted by
247 posts

It is not a dumb question. But it is a question that can be answered by simply looking at RS tips on phones and technology.
Hmmm….

Posted by
28827 posts

If you are travelling with your German friend, who presumably has a typical data plan heavy on data, and her phone can make a hot spot, can you piggy back off her data when you're not on wifi? Probably no marginal cost to her and no cost to you. Everything pretty much you mention can be done on wifi and friend's hotspot....

Posted by
27 posts

Treemoss I’ve been reading through posts but I’m very glad I posted this. I’ve gotten some great tips on eSims that I didn’t find through searching. I do appreciate you taking the time out of I’m sure a very busy day to comment.

Posted by
27 posts

Nigel, we just thought of the hotspot! That will work great, but I’m an early riser she is not. I’ll most likely be up a few hours before her wandering. I’d feel safer being able to have my own phone with access to date and calls. But thank you!!

Posted by
28827 posts

( it isn't a dumb question - not at all )

If she is still in bed when you go out for the dawn photoshoot, will she let you pop her phone in you purse as long as you are back for a joint breakfast? Then give the phone back and have a day together.... where there's a will there's a way, as I was told many a year ago....

Posted by
2284 posts

With an unlocked phone, I second Mardee. Like you, I HATE changing sims on the plane and also hate wasting time finding somewhere at the airport (still meaning you have to change sims back on the plane coming home). With eSim data so cheap and easy, you can have it all set up ahead and change over to the new plan with 2 touches of the screen on the plane each way and be ready.

Posted by
8613 posts

The SIM card gives you a European phone number. It is great for making dinner reservations, calling hotels etc. You won’t use it to call US, at least I don’t. It has never affected my photos.

Posted by
276 posts

Your photos will not be affected if they are automatically saved to your phone.

They should remain both on your phone and also the cloud if you have it set up. At a minimum if you access WiFi your photos should load to the cloud. After you insert and began using the SIM card check the toggles to ensure that it has access to the apps or other areas that you desire.

There are a variety of sims that individuals have used and discussed. I currently use OneSim for talk, text and data.

If you only want data then Airalo eSim works great. You may find better or even cheaper options. WhatsApp will work with each of them or simply with WiFi.

Posted by
815 posts

If I get a SIM card , will the pictures I take with my iPhone 13 still be backed up the the cloud when I take the euro SIM card out? ie will I loose my pictures from vaca?

A SIM card just provides the connection to the internet for the pictures. Once uploaded they are on the cloud server and safe (a copy is also stored on your phone (see https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT205703)

An eSIM can be a way to go, some people buy a SIM card instead. There is info here on the RS website and also online such as https://www.traveltomtom.net/destinations/europe/france/best-prepaid-sim-card-in-france

Posted by
1467 posts

Just a FYI regarding texting while overseas. iMessage works well for messaging other Apple devices by way of WiFi or cellular. If you need to send texts to non iPhone users (android). This will become more problematic. These are the texts show up as green bubbles in iMessage.

Similarly FaceTime can work well overseas for voice and video calls.

Posted by
60 posts

Answer to Question 2: Orange and SFR are biggies in France, and reliable. Orange are at the airport usually (CDG anyways) and the nice lady can set you up. SFR have offices all over the place, but also apparently unmanned kiosks. I wouldn't do the DIY from a machine myself; better to have somebody who knows what they are doing set it up for me. That way I know it works.

Your provider MAY allow you to do WiFi calling, using your own SIM from France to the US, or TO anywhere in France, for free. But for calling any other country you get charged. You will have to check with your US provider. It will not give you any data to use while in France (you want your phone in Airplane Mode prior to departing the US to avoid any accidental charges). For Data, you need a French SIM (or any European SIM, as they allow calls all over Europe anyways). Maybe your German friend can set you up with a German SIM. Might be cheaper.

As already suggested, Google Maps allows downloads, where you will not need data to see a map. They do not always give you directions and voice instructions though, doing it this way. Other apps are a bit quirky for me, and Google Maps is dead easy. Of course, they work when you have data too. Your phone's GPS does NOT need an internet connection to work, so Google will give you appropriate maps for your area, if you have already downloaded them. Just activate LOCATION on your phone.

Posted by
27 posts

Thank you all for the suggestions and brainstorming!! I’m going to go with airalo. Cheap and esim. $15 for 5 gigs should cover me. I feel so so so much knowing I can have data. Thank you ALL!!

Posted by
93 posts

Amanda, If you want, let me know and I or someone else here that's used AIralo can give you a referral link. You'll get $3 off.

Airalo worked really well for us in France. It was so easy. Check your sim, but the one we got we could install before we left, and it only activated once it connected to the service in France. Just follow the installation instructions before you go, and you'll be all set to connect once you land.

Just FYI it was a TIM branded SIM (italy) which was surprising, but not a problem. We got connected once we landed at CDG and other than one day of slightly spotty reception, everything worked great. We each used about 3 GB over 11 days of maps, Whatsapp and iMessaging, and checking transportation schedules, and reading websites, etc. while we were out and about.

Beth

Posted by
27 posts

Yes Beth! I’ll take the referral link! I’m going to sign up the day before I leave. Thank you all!