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Google hangouts, vodafone, and a big shout out to Andrew H!

I just wanted to touch base after my month-long trip to Europe, and to give a big Thank You to Andrew H for all his advice (and patience in answering all my questions!) about ways to stay in touch with the US while in Europe. I was concerned because I have an elderly parent with dementia, and wanted to be able to connect with caregivers in the event of an emergency -- which could have meant a lot of calls. At the same time, I was trying to give myself a vacation from caregiving, so didn't want to keep my US phone number/Verizon SIM, because I didn't want to be inundated with the small stuff, especially all hours of day and night.

Andrew walked me through getting Google Hangouts and Google Voice on my phone, and how to use them via wi fi. It worked like a charm! Not only was I able to make occasional calls to my mom (who didn't know we were far away), I was also able to contact my bank after a weird ATM incident. I am still using Hangouts to call Canada -- it's fantastic.

I also bought the prepaid Vodafone SIM and signed up for a 30 day plan. That worked well, too. I had a few challenges, and couldn't translate their texts, but I was able to contact them via live chat on my ipad and they were extremely helpful, with excellent English skills. Fortunately I didn't face a crisis situation where I would have needed to use Google Hangouts in combination with the Vodafone card, but I'm really glad I had them. It was also great to be able to use data for walking directions in various locales.

This forum is fantastic! The additional advice I got, about Verizon's $10/day plan, was an excellent backup strategy, that fortunately I didn't need to use. Thanks again!

Posted by
1029 posts

Thanks for reporting back with your experience. It’s always good to hear when things work out well.
I too have learned a lot from his helpful posts.

Hope the rest of your trip worked out this well if not better.

Posted by
4688 posts

That's great to hear, Ruth! I was kind of wondering how it worked out for you - seems it may have been mixed, if you didn't actually get the Vodafone SIM to work properly to make calls? That's too bad. I think people are having trouble with something called the Access Point Name (APN) on their phones when using a foreign SIM (not just the Vodafone SIM). Some phones seem to require setting the APN (typing in a few things in settings somewhere) to make the SIM work for data. For whatever reason, my cheap Moto phones of the last two years just haven't required any manual settings like that, but it seems some still do - even newer phones.

I have heard that the Vodafone tech support via chat is helpful. Were you able to use the SIM in your phone at all? Or just not able to make calls?

Google Hangouts and Google Voice are pretty awesome - hard to believe they are (mostly) free, isn't it?

Posted by
450 posts

Hi Andrew— actually the Vodafone SIM worked fine — but I made the mistake of texting one of my travel companions while out and about, forgetting that my Vodafone plan didn’t include texts to a Canadian number. Then I got a text from Vodafone in Dutch and I was afraid I had exceeded what I had paid and would have to add money to the card...and this was only day 3 of our trip. I couldn’t translate the text, so I had to live chat with them when I got back to my hotel and iPad. Everything worked out fine. I didn’t have to use the card a lot for calling because there weren’t any crises with my mom while we were away....but if I needed to use it in combination with google hangouts, I definitely could have done so.

Posted by
4688 posts

Oh, that's great, Ruth! FYI, assuming you installed the Google Voice app on your phone too, you can just text with that app (for free) and not even bother with the phone's regular texting app.

When I can't read text in a foreign language, I just copy and paste it into a Google Translate box:

https://translate.google.com/

Posted by
5308 posts

For anyone else using the Vodsfone NL SIM card -- if you're travelling with a companion, you can pull up the Dutch texts on your phone and hold the other phone over your screen in Google Translate mode to read the text ( if copy-and-paste doesn't work for you.)

Posted by
4688 posts

I just looked at a Vodafone text I got (and ignored) while in Portugal in May. How to translate it on my Android phone? Easy! Open the Google Translate app, tap the menu bars in the upper left corner, and choose "SMS translation" from the menu. I was asked one time to give Google Translate permission to access my SMS messages. Then I could see the titles of all of my text messages within Google Translate. I tapped on the Vodafone message which it detected as Dutch and chose translation to English. The message said: "Do you want to top of your credit every month and keep control over your costs? Then choose Automatic top-up. "(etc.) I guessed it was something to that effect...