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short term cell phones in Europe?

We will be traveling in France & Spain for 4 weeks starting in May. We expect to do most of our communications on iPad wifi-based apps, but think it might be wise to have cell phone capability for local calls and communications when wifi is not available.
I've read lots of recommendations about buying a SIM card after we arrive in Europe, but I think that presumes you already have a smart phone that will accept the new SIM card.

Are there relatively inexpensive options if we don't already have a cell phones?

Posted by
6543 posts

We go on vacation to get away from cellphones.
People can email us, however.

Posted by
607 posts

The phone needs to be able to accept a gsm sim card and be unlocked. You can buy a used phone or a cheap lower end new phone. A new dumb phone is very cheap. Look on craigslist or just go to your local phone store or a Best Buy.

Posted by
68 posts

Kept our phones on airplane mode, which allowed internet but not calls or texts. Used WiFi whenever possible. Which allowed us to use email and Facebook etc. For very rare times when we need to call or text, we activated our AT T for $10 per 24 hour period. Only did so twice.

Posted by
31032 posts


There are two options you could look at.....

  • buy an inexpensive PAYG phone when you arrive in France. Ask the staff at your hotel where the nearest mobile phone shop is. Be sure to take your Passport as that might be required to register. Also, be sure you're clear on the method of topping up once you've left the country where the phone was purchased.
  • buy an inexpensive travel phone from a firm such as Cellular Abroad, iRoam or others. The advantages of this approach are that you'll have a working phone as soon as you step off the plane, it will work in various countries across Europe and you'll be able to use it for future holidays. In this case, a credit card will probably be used for topping up, so you won't have to worry about running out of minutes.