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purchasing a smart phone data plan in europe

Hi was told by verizon that when I buy a sim card for my smart phone once I arrive in europe that I can also buy a data plan there (we will be there 38 days). I have read rick's tips on smart phones and he talks about getting a sim card there and about saving data, but I see nothing about buying a data plan in europe. Is this possible? and if so, are they similar to our data plans in the USA as far as price?

Posted by
3522 posts

Were you told that by the Verizon global access people? If not, call them directly. The number is available on the Verizon website. Do not count on anything you are told by anyone except them.

Is your smartphone "global ready"? If it is, you may not be able to use a SIM card with it. Again, talk to the Verizon global access people to verify what will work with your phone.

The people who answer the general number for Verizon do not know much about global access although they will act like they do. This is the voice of bad experience talking.

Posted by
552 posts

Every time I've purchased a SIM card (Italy, France, Germany, Ireland) the best choice in options was always a one-month, 2G data plan for 20Euro.

I would definitely tell the clerk at whichever wireless store you go to (do a bit of research on that as you won't find any in the airport) that you're on vacation and need a special option for an extra week. It's worth a try, but you'll probably end up spending 40Euro. The good thing with that is, you'll have 4G of data use available over the five weeks.

Posted by
43 posts

I am grateful to those who have replied. Yes, I did talk to global verizon.

So, I thought that I would have to buy a new sim card for every country (we will be in 4, Italy for 20 days, France 9 days, Germany 3 days, Amsterdam 6 days). If I do, then will I have the option to by only 1 data plan or does the data come automatically on the sim card. I guess I don't understand what the sim card does. I am more concerned with inexpensive data usage than making a lot of phone calls. Linda

Posted by
215 posts

Your phone will need to be unlocked to accept a SIM from another carrier. My daughter uses an unlocked iPhone 4s for her French phone service and can put her AT&T SIM in when she visits home.

Posted by
552 posts

It is true that I just bought a data plan for each country and didn't try to figure out roaming plans. That will make things a bit pricier.

But keep in mind, the best thing to have a data plan for is the GPS driving directions. For making non-emergency phone calls back to friends and relatives in the states, I recommend finding a spot with a good WiFi signal (near the desk at your accommodations, or at the bar of pub with a good strong router) and using Skype or FaceTime to keep in touch and share stories at the end of your day and around mid-day on the west coast.

Posted by
552 posts

Never mind Linda,

As I read your middle post again, I see that we are thinking along the same lines.

Though it seems all phones made in the past two years are 'unlocked' and the user can switch out SIM ("subscriber identification module") cards to suit they're needs, it may be easier to bring a small Tablet along on the trip. Reserving train seats, emailing your upcoming hosts with check-in updates, or browsing for a good wine store near you, is much easier with a bigger screen.

Posted by
4700 posts

Bill: "Though it seems all phones made in the past two years are 'unlocked' and the user can switch out SIM ("subscriber identification module") cards to suit they're needs, "

Do you mean all newer iPhones are unlocked? My Android certainly wasn't - I had to have T-Mobile unlock it, and they wouldn't do it until I'd used it on my T-Mobile account for a few days at least.

Posted by
552 posts

Well yes, it looks like I must mean iPhones, in particular.

Posted by
31271 posts

Regarding the question of whether phones are unlocked, AFAIK that depends on which network initially sold the phone. Most European cell networks provide unlocked phones, while North American networks tend to supply only phones which are locked to their system. The cell network that I use only has locked phones, which is why I bought my unlocked iPhone direct from Apple.

Posted by
43 posts

thanks again for everyone who has taken their time to respond.

All this phone stuff is confusing. Can someone walk me through what to expect when I go to a phone store. It will help to get info from someone who has had recent experience (past 4-6 months) in Europe as technology and options change so rapidly.

So far I understand from Global Verizon and Rick's posts that I will be buying a new sim card from each country (I will be in 4) and that they are $5-$10 each. I have a verizon smart phone that IS unlocked and has been verified by Verizon to be compatible in Europe (it is 4G LTE). What I need to know is:

Will the sim card come with any data (for $5-$10) already loaded on it?
Will I be able to purchase extra data along with that sim card? If so, can I purchase less than a months worth? what would the cost of unlimited data be (approximately)?
Will the data become invalid if I cross a boader into another country?

thanks again, Linda

Posted by
11261 posts

Will the sim card come with any data (for $5-$10) already loaded on it?

Usually no. The SIM card is the "brain" of the phone; it give you the phone number and carrier. For instance, if you put in a France Orange SIM, you are now on France Orange's network, with a French phone number. If you change it to a German T-Mobile SIM, you are now a German T-Mobile customer, with a German phone number.

When you buy a SIM, you will also buy a plan. Here's where it gets complicated. Just as in the US, the plans in Europe change all the time. As you have been told, some will include data and some will not. And some will roam in other countries (at higher rates) and some will not. The cost of data, again, varies with each plan.

The cost of data roaming (as well as voice and text roaming) is capped within the EU, and is not too high. But outside the EU there are no restrictions, so if you're going to, say, Switzerland or Turkey, be careful - your costs can skyrocket.

To give one example, last year a friend used the TIM Welcome package in Italy. It was €30 for the SIM, 200 minutes of domestic or international calls, 2 GB of data (4G speed where available) and €5 of credit for texts or more calls. I don't remember if that package would roam outside Italy or not; however, if not, the SIM could be loaded with another package.

It's often hard to reload a SIM outside its home country (it's easy within the country). This is true even if the names are the same. An Italian Vodafone SIM can't be reloaded at a UK Vodafone store, any more than a US T-Mobile SIM can be reloaded at a German T-Mobile store.

I know - clear as mud. It's not your imagination - it is confusing, particularly if you haven't done it (once you've done it, it's easier to understand).

A great source for more information about plans is Prepaid GSM. Here is their list of countries; click on each one you're going to, then click next to "Prepaid Offer" to learn more about each carrier: http://www.prepaidgsm.net/en/operators.php

You may find it easier (although not cheaper) to use an International SIM. These will work in all your countries without having to change SIM's - at a higher cost. Here's information about these: http://www.prepaidgsm.net/en/international.php

Or, you may prefer to ask a question in their Forums, where you can get advice from local "techies." Be aware that discussions there can get very technical - don't be afraid to ask for clarification. http://www.prepaidgsm.net/forum/forumdisplay.php?s=3d6dc8f19fb6076c4990a4029e783814&f=22

Posted by
8 posts

I am also going to Italy (May 2015) and researching phone plans. I would say that Harold's post to answer your questions jibs with what I am reading. The only thing new I could add, but only from my reading (not from personal experience), is that
1) after activation of a TIM SIM card, you are likely to be bombared with messages from TIM in Italian, asking you to verify who you are. If you do not speak Italian you might find they have shut down your coverage, or find that you have unknowingly agreed to receive information texts from them. If they shut down your coverage, you have to go back to a TIM store with passport to re-activate.

2) There is a website that shows the coverage of each carrier for 2,3,and4 G for Italy. I found this helpful.
http://www.sensorly.com/map/2G-3G/IT/Italy/TIM/gsm_22201#|coverage

3) I will be staying at airbnb lodgings in small towns. Asking my hosts what service they use and looking at the above website, I was able to determine that where I will be WIND is the best carrier, regardless of the fact that TIM and VODOFON seem to get the most publicity. (For example, Vodofon had no coverage in Spello)

I hope this is helpful.

The one thing I cannot find, and would appreciate if anyone knows, is how to locate WIND stores. Cannot seem to get it from their website.

Deanna

Posted by
11261 posts

"The one thing I cannot find, and would appreciate if anyone knows, is how to locate WIND stores. Cannot seem to get it from their website."

If you do want to find a store beforehand, go to this link: http://www.wind.it/it/privati/. On the right, under "TROVA NEGOZIO," put in an address (indirizzo); you can also just put in a town name or postal code. The ones shown in orange are actual WIND stores; the ones in grey are authorized resellers (I'm not sure if they will have the full range of products of a WIND store).

If you're in any large city, they're easy to find (just as a Verizon or T-Mobile store is in a US city). So, just ask where to find one when you're ready to buy. Another tip: you will see the WIND logo at lots of caffes and tabacs that sell refill cards. These places will not usually sell SIM cards or set up new service, but ask them for the nearest place that does (that's how I found the WIND store in Venice).

Looking at Spello, I see there's no stores in town, so do try to buy your SIM at your first large city, before you get too far. This advice goes double if you need a nano-SIM; the TIM store in the Rome airport didn't have them, and neither did the first TIM store we went to in Palermo (although they knew exactly which one in Palermo did).

Before leaving the store, make sure they've set the prompts and the voice mail to English (you will still get texts from the carrier in Italian), and make sure you know how to check the balance.

Posted by
2728 posts

One thing nobody seems to be mentioning here is that with each local SIM card you will have a different phone number.

My very recent (May 2015) experience agrees with royal1233: "I would have to buy a new sim card for every country (we will be in 4, Italy for 20 days, France 9 days, Germany 3 days, Amsterdam 6 days)." And not only that, but you'd have a different phone number in each country. So forget about any of your loved ones being able to use phone to reach you in an emergency, or any of your travel bookings being able to notify you if there's some disruption (hotel caught on fire, ferry boat canceled--which happened to us--major flight delay, etc.).

My cellphone provider told me in writing that my phone number wouldn't change when I got a local SIM card in Europe, but this turned out to be completely false. Next time, I will look for an international plan. I found that by Googling "international mobile phone plan" or the like I could find out about these. More expensive, but definitely worth it if they enable you to keep your regular phone number!