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Question about wi fi v. data, T Mobile

I've read the most recent (past 2 years) forum threads about phone plans, focusing on the one highlighting T Mobile, plus the pages with general tech information. I have the impression that for travelers making shorter trips, using only public transportation and staying only in major cities with abundant wi fi spots & free wi fi at the hotels, it may be possible to do without an international plan that includes data. According to the T Mobile site, accounts on Essentials can buy phone and text services in Europe, but data seems to require a Magenta account. Has anyone here traveled with only phone/txt, WhatsApp and wi fi availability? How did it work out?

Posted by
4961 posts

Hi Geri, we have T-Mobile and I was in Italy twice this summer. Texting and data is free. I use FaceTime when I am in my hotel room to talk (and see) my husband. Very easy!

I stayed in several small cities, along with the major ones. I had a couple of more remote places where I could text but not get a decent FaceTime connection.

Posted by
732 posts

Geri, you essentially have the following options:

  1. You can try and use free wifi where ever you can find it, hotel, cafes, etc. Sometimes the wifi strength is good, sometimes not. You may need a password; sometimes they provide it to you, sometimes not. To call home, you will need some sort of app like WhatsApp, Skype, FaceTime etc. set up on your phone.

  2. You can purchase a sim or e-sim in the country that you are visiting. You can buy it in various combinations of talk, text and data. You'll be given a new European cell phone number. Because of how the EU works, if you buy a sim from one country, it will generally work for all of them, subject to terms and conditions. Personally, I find this very convenient and reliable. I will still try to use free Wi-Fi wherever I can in order to preserve the amount of data I use on the sim.

  3. You can pay for an international plan from your home provider, e.g. T-Mobile. You can buy any combination of talk, text or data. You keep using your same home cell phone number just like at home. This is usually the most expensive option. Sometimes the plans don't work very well. My wife purchased a text plan from her home provider for Italy. It only worked half the time. YMMV.

Posted by
277 posts

If at all possible, avoid public wifi, unless you have VPN (for example, through Norton Mobile Security). Wifi, even at hotels or Airbnbs, isn't very secure.

I have traveled through multiple countries in Europe over the past few years and have never had an issue using my Sprint, (now T-Mobile) international data plan. I don't get a local SIM card since I'm only there for 2 weeks. I use everything I would at home with no issues, including Google maps.

Posted by
1383 posts

International data is not free with T Mobile essentials plan, you have to call and purchase data. Those with magenta plans already have international data included. I learnt this the hard way yesterday. We found that we needed data on at least one of our phones for Google maps and train apps.

Posted by
5 posts

Roubrat - Thank you - that's what I gathered from the T Mobile site but was hearing otherwise from other sources. I think they were referring to Magenta plans.

Posted by
2284 posts

And to clarify funpig’s #2, if your phone is unlocked, you can also inexpensively purchase an eSim for just data (no telephone number). And yes, I traveled for years on just WiFi. But it sure is nice to have data available. I will never go back.

Posted by
277 posts

The last time I was in Europe, I paid $25 per week on the Sprint plan for 3G data. Technically, my billing is still with Sprint even though I have a T-Mobile SIM card.

Posted by
732 posts

Jill, how much 3G data do you get for USD$25 per week?

We are going to Spain in November. We will probably purchase an Orange Holiday sim or e-sim for €20, which will give us 15 GB of 4G data, unlimited talk and text in Europe for 14 days. It also includes about 30 minutes of international talk and 100 international texts. I always buy the sim from a dealer close to the hotel so that I have a live person to deal with any activation issues that may arise.

Posted by
815 posts

Has anyone here traveled with only phone/txt, WhatsApp and wi fi availability? How did it work out?

In years gone by we did many trips while Cricket customers. Cricket does not offer international roaming. It went fine.

That all said, before travelling this summer we switched to Google Fi. With Covid it felt important to us to have a working cellphone in Europe. YMMV

Posted by
5 posts

All good information - I'll have to look up the e-simcard option. Thank you everyone.

Posted by
1 posts

Has anyone gone to Vietnam, Cambodia & Thailand with T-Mobile One Plan Unlimited 55? Thanks

Posted by
257 posts

Prior to my trip to Italy last month, I was planning to get an eSIM when I arrived.

However, instead my wife and I switched from AT&T to T-Mobile, specifically their "55 Magenta MAX" plan. Not only are we saving about $50/month going forward for the two lines, but I had 5 Gb data in Italy free (T-Mobile "On Us"), plus free texting. I was also able to call home from the hotel using WiFi calling, so I really didn't need an additional voice/text/data plan. The WiFi calling worked fine. I did incur some additional charges, but they came to about $20 net.

I had downloaded the Google maps for most places I would be to my phone, so most navigation I did (e.g., on foot in cities) used cached maps and did not use the data plan.

Posted by
153 posts

We were in Spain recently. Spain requires a passport to buy eSim or Sim. Bought a Vodaphone Sim in airport for my GSM tablet. Not interested in using the phone or texting but wanted the 15 gbyte data. Received lots of messages from Vodaphone. Surprise, they were in Spanish. Dealer said way it is within Spain. Tedious to translate, especially as all related to phone calling. My wife's phone has T-Mobile Magenta Essentials. Texts in & out were free. Data was free to 1 gbyte maybe. Phones calls within Spain were 0.25/min. T-Mobile apparently uses Movistar in Spain. Always got message threatening high charges when using phone or texts, ignored. T-Mobile worked well. Now, if they would only fix coverage in Bend area.

Posted by
14210 posts

Looks like with TMobile Essentials International pass is: 1 day is $5, 10 days is $35 and 30 days is $50. So a two week trip will cost you $50.

I have been using TMobile for at least a decade; from Moscow to Istanbul to Sofia to Sarajevo to Budapest to Paris and London; even South Africa now that I think about it. Never had any issues at all.

Posted by
3549 posts

I have never bought an international data plan and only travel with Wi-Fi. I was both in a major city and a small town in Germany these past couple of weeks and there was plenty of Wi-Fi. I was in contact with my husband in NYC using FaceTime and my extended family and friends in Berlin and that small town using WhatsApp.

Besides hotels, supermarkets, train/subway stations, stores, museums, libraries, & cafés had Wi-Fi. Restaurants were hit and miss.