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Figuring out phone options

I'm going to Europe for 2 months in the spring, starting and ending in Iceland (I'm doing the stop over thing). I'll be visiting Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland. I don't expect to be making calls very often but want the ability to make calls in case of an emergency. Also, I'm going on a multi-day tour in Iceland and some day tours along the way so I want to make sure I can call the tour group leader in case I get separated from the group. Mostly I'll be using apps and I'll try to use wifi as much as possible but I may need some data.

I'm trying to figure out what to do for a phone while on the trip and I understand I have a few options. Normally I wouldn't worry about it too much at this point in my trip planning except my current phone contract is about to expire and I have to factor in the Europe trip as part of deciding what to do about my phone.

So from I understand, I have the following options:

  1. Buy a prepaid phone (not sure how easy this is to do anymore) - this worked great on a trip to Australia and New Zealand several years ago
  2. Take my phone with me and get a SIM card (or cards as the case may be) - from what I understand this would give me a European number so I could make calls or text and it would include data
  3. Take my phone with me and get an eSIM card (or cards as the case may be) - from what I understand this would only give me data so for calls / texts I would still be on my home number and would have to use something like WhatsApp
  4. Use my phone with an international plan which costs an arm and a leg - no thanks

There won't be any issues with getting my phone unlocked and I'll either have a Galaxy S20 or S22.

Any advice / suggestions based on your experience?

Thanks in advance.

Posted by
6850 posts

You don't mention who your cell phone carrier is and that's a factor - some have very reasonable fees or none at all, like T-Mobile and others, like Verizon are very pricey.

Since I have Verizon, I bought an Airalo eSIM plan when I spent a month in Germany this year and it worked very well. And I used WhatsApp or FaceTime Audio to call people that I needed to keep in touch with and had no problems there. There are several posts in this specific forum about using eSIM cards that you might want to read.

Posted by
4869 posts

I'll add a 5th option, which is what I did (with thanks to help from the forum):
Switch to Google FI and use your phone for data just as if you were at home, cost of calls varies.

Monthly cost for an individual is $20 (plus taxes and fees) + $10 / GB of data:
https://fi.google.com/about/plans/

Google Fi works in 200 countries, but I haven't checked your destinations. They currently have very good offers on the Galaxy S series:
https://fi.google.com/about/phones/#explore

ETA: I just noticed that you live in Canada. I don't know whether Google Fi plans are the same in Canada as in the US:
https://fi.google.com/about/international-rates?country=CA

ETA: I found this:
Google Fi is only available in the U.S. Your Google Account needs a home address in the U.S.

Sorry about that!

Posted by
2482 posts

If you were American I would suggest you look into T-mobile. I understand the choices in Canada tend to be more expensive.

Posted by
365 posts

Use my phone with an international plan which costs an arm and a leg - no thanks

Depends on your carrier and your definition. $100 for a month of using my phone (as-is, everything just like at home) is nothing vs the other trip costs associated and ease/convenience worth it. But I use social media for work, need to stay connected to a degree for many apps that a European SIM would be a huge hassle.

Sounds like in your case, you may want to look at TMobile or another carrier that has lower fees that suit you.

Posted by
1259 posts

A major factor is whether or not you want to keep your number or are okay giving all your State-side friends a new Euro number.

Talk to your provider, sure. Check other providers for their international options but look caefully for hidden charges. Consider your entire travel budget, though. Everything. Air fare, lodging, transportation, meals, tours, recreational substances. Then consider how much value you will be attaching to your communications availability and data requirements. Even the most obscenely priced phone plan is not likely to cost all that much in comparision to the rest of your expenses. How much is being available 24/7 worth to you? At what price convenience? Spend it and be happy.

It's all relative. IN the olden days, we sent post cards and took photos that we wouldn't see for weeks.

Posted by
1253 posts

Evan

I am also from Vancouver area. Last month, my wife and I travelled to Spain. We used an Orange Travel eSIM which gave us a French number which was good throughout Europe (country list includes Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland). For €19.99, it is good for 14 days, includes 8GB data, unlimited calls and texts in Europe, 30 international minutes and 200 international texts (i.e. call/text back to Canada). I activated and tested it in Germany and used it for two weeks throughout Spain. No problems.

You can also check out simoptions.com which lists other sim options like O2 or 3 which also include the countries you need. They have 30 day plans but I am not sure about how the calls and texts work. Google Fi is not available to Canadians.

You can set up your phone to operate both your home SIM and the European eSIM at the same time. However, if your home number is used (i.e. calls in or out), you will be subject to hefty roaming charges. Also, if you keep your home sim active at the same time as the Euro eSIM, it will eat your phone battery life. Better to deactivate your home sim and have friends back in Canada call you using WhatsApp or similar app, or call your Euro number (long distance charges for them).

Posted by
4554 posts

I had a prepaid phone several years ago it never worked all that well.

I believe you missed an option. Buy an unlocked quad band phone and stick a Sim in it when you get there.

Just realize ALL these options cost money.

Posted by
216 posts

Not necessarily. WiFi calling is free: calls to the country you are in (if on the list your provider gives you), and free to accept calls from home (who are calling your regular, local number). Worth looking into, as well.

WiFi calling is an option you check in your phone, and your provider (Telus/Rogers et al - who is kidding whom? There is only Bell to go) gives you the list of available countries.