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Phone Confusion for first time traveler

Hi everyone,

This question may very well have been asked here before - I searched through the threads and couldn't find quite and exact answer though, so I'm sorry if I asking something that's been answered before!

I'm traveling to 4 countries over the course of 5 weeks - England, Ireland, Italy, and France. I'm planning on bringing my Verizon HTC One, and using it only when I can connect with Wifi, to use WhatsApp to communicate back home.

Then, I wanted to get a phone to use to be able to make calls within Europe - in case of emergency, or I get separated from my traveling companion, or need to call my hostels, etc. I've done some googling, and have been met with what feels like way too much information. So, does anyone have any recommendadtions? Is it better to wait until I am over there to purchase a phone, and do a pay as you go situation? If I do that, will I need to get a new SIM/pay as you go plan for each country?

Or does anyone have experience with any of the international, prepaid phone rental things, like Cellular Abroad, OneSimCard, or Telestial?

Any and all thoughts, comparisons, experiences, advice, are extremely appreciated! Thanks!

Posted by
24 posts

Hey Ashley! I think it's smart to use your HTC to communicate by wifi, but even smarter to have an actual, working phone for last-minute changes and of course, emergencies. I had the same quandary. I bought an inexpensive ("cheap") unlocked dual band $20-$30 phone from Amazon, and then bought a new SIM card as I moved between countries. On the continent there are any number of carriers (pick one) but you'll generally need a new SIM card for each country since most carriers charge high tolls for international as opposed to local calls. Cards cost as little as 10€ and it goes toward per-minute charges. Refill the card account online with a cc if you need more calling time. The phone is yours to keep and use again whenever you travel! I'm sure there are other options/plans out there but in my experience this kept things simple, inexpensive, and flexible. Have fun and don't stress!

Posted by
5697 posts

We got a pair of Eurobuzz phones (online, delivered before we left home) for about $50 for two with SIM cards installed. Post-paid calls at $0.79 per minute and $0.79 per text -- but ONE phone number per phone which we could leave with family (US number, so free for them) rather than changing numbers in each country. Planning to take the phones along on the next trip. Used only as needed, probably under $10 for the month.

As a side note, since we weren't going to be making calls with our Samsung phones, just use them for photos and wifi, we had AT&T put them on vacation hold and saved $$ on the regular usage charges.

Posted by
31510 posts


If you only want an inexpensive and basic phone (ie: voice & text), buying a phone from one of the travel phone firms will certainly work. Have a look at the websites for Roam Simple, Cellular Abroad, Telestial, Mobal, EuroBuzz, One SIM or Max Roam (there are others). The prices can be quite reasonable. For example, Roam Simple has Euro SIM cards for $5 and a basic phone for $29. Check their website for details.

One of the advantages of using a travel phone, is that they will operate in all of the countries you'll be visiting, and rates will be consistent from one country to the next. Also, these often use a post-paid billing system (calls charged to a credit card), so you won't have to be concerned with topping up (something which can be problematic once you've left the country where the SIM was purchased).

Posted by
41 posts

I am only a few days ahead of you on checking out the same question, but let me tell you a huge factor that a lot of folks don't talk directly about. (By the way, anyone please correct me if I have managed to get this wrong!) In the U.S. there are two types of phones: GSM (used by T-Mobile and AT&T) and CDMA (used by Verizon and Sprint). Trouble is, most of Europe is GSM so if your phone is not a GSM phone, it doesn't matter if you have bought a global package, it is not going to get service very often! Also, CDMA phones either don't (or rarely) have SIM cards, so you might buy a SIM card and have no where to put it in the phone

I had a lot of helpful folks on RS Forum tell me to take my T-Mobile phone versus my Verizon (thank you all again), but I don't think anyone explained that this GSM/CDMA thing was why. Once I stumbled across it, it made a lot more sense!

Because my husband and I both want phones on us, I am bringing my T-Mobile with me so older family members just have to dial a U.S. number to reach us, and I bought a SIM card from Telestial so we can make calls to Europe for less . Lucky me, friends just returned with a phone the bought there, so I will be using my SIM in it.

Telestial offers a SIM that can be used in all the countries you listed, but their rates may be running a bit higher for that convenience. When you register your card you will be assigned a number and, since you are only using one SIM for all those countries, your number will not change. (When I started all this I didn't understand that changing my SIM changed my phone number.)

Hope this is helpful in some way. Have a great trip!

Posted by
4954 posts

Yes, there are two types of phones (generally): CDMA and GSM. But, most new smartphones that are primarily CDMA (Verizon or Split) can also roam on GSM now and use SIM cards. For example, I'm using a fairly new Verizon CDMA Android phone on GSM in the US (with a T-Mobile subbrand called Gosmart Mobile as my mobile company) and have never used it with CDMA or Verizon. I'm "always roaming." It will work in Europe that way, too.

Verizon and Split "flip phones" may not have SIM cards at all and will therefore be CDMA- only and cannot work on GSM in Europe.

If you get a GSM flip phone that works with T-Mobile or AT&T, it may also not work in Europe unless it has the same GSM frequencies used in Europe, which are not all the same as the frequencies used in North America. Smart phones generally will work (at least at 2G or faster speeds) but many older flip phones will not even if they are GSM and unlocked. I have two old T-Mobile GSM flip phones. One did not work in Europe until I hacked it to allow it to use the 900MHZ GSM frequency; the other phone does not work over there at all.

Posted by
4954 posts

I've purchased local SIM cards for my unlocked phones numerous times when traveling to Europe. I don't really see why most people feel the need to buy or rent phones anymore, especially if they already own a smart phone that can be unlocked If you buy a SIM card in one Europe country, you can use it (roaming) in the others with the same phone number. Because roaming costs are now capped in the EU, unless you are making a lot of phone calls you may be able to use the original SIM for quite a while. If you are gone for five weeks, though, you may want to buy another SIM card in the other countries as needed. They often don't cost much - that varies by the country. I bought a SIM card in Bosnia in May for only $3 USD for calling + data, but that's probably on the cheap end (as everything is pretty cheap in Bosnia).

If you want one constant phone number that never changes for your entire trip, get a Google Voice phone number before you leave, and use the Google Hangouts app to make/receive free calls on it on WiFi or mobile data. Your friends in the US can call you on it without making an international call.

Posted by
544 posts

Hi Ashley,

Just bring your HTC phone with you and take it to a mobile phone store in the first country you go to.

They will be able to sell you a prepaid SIM card that will work in your Verizon HTC One with no trouble. All Verizon phones are unlocked that work on LTE. Then you can call, text and even internet with no trouble. If there's a problem for some reason getting your phone to work on their network then you can either buy a phone at that point or . . .

If you just use your Verizon phone "pay-as-go roaming", it will cost $1.79/min to talk, so if you're just making a few quick calls it might be the easiest and possibly even the cheapest. Also text messages are 50¢ outgoing and 5¢ incoming when you're in those countries with Verizon, so that's also not too bad. You don't have to pay an extra monthly fee unless you want data or cheaper calling and text.

Just make sure you call Vz and have them allow pay-as-you-go roaming and make sure Settings > Mobile Data > Data Roaming is set to off.

If you have more questions, just ask!

Posted by
4954 posts

Nordheim: "All Verizon phones are unlocked that work on LTE. "

That is the theory but not always the practice. Verizon is required by the FCC not to lock their LTE phones, but that doesn't mean they have to be easy to use with a non-Verizon SIM card. I recently bought a Verizon Moto E Android phone to use with GSM service in the US. It will not work with a non-Verizon SIM card unless you know how to hack it a little. I followed a developer thread showing me how to connect an Android data cable to enter debugging commands just to enable a non-Verizon SIM! Pretty easy for me but not easy for the average person.

Posted by
31510 posts


Are you still planning to use your Verizon phone just for Wi-Fi, and purchase another phone just for calls? If so, the method I suggested earlier is the easiest (and probably cheapest) method.

Most of the newer phones use a "blended technology" that contains CDMA, GSM and the newer LTE system (which is mainly required for data). If your phone is unlocked, it should be able to use a SIM purchased in Europe, but I'm not sure that will be any cheaper than the solution I mentioned earlier.