Please sign in to post.

Sim Card Advice

I am planning a trip to England and France. I will be in England for 1 week and France for 2 weeks. I’m trying to decide whether to go with the Verizon Global Plan for my iPhone 6 or to get an international sim card when I get there. I know it would be cheaper to go the local sim card route. Can anyone recommend a reliable company that offers a sim card that would work in these 2 countries? And how difficult would it to be to set it up? I have read some say that nano sims are not always easy to find there. Is this true? Also, I am a little concerned about the language barrier if I were to need customer service for a local plan when in France.

Posted by
350 posts

We took a trip of similar duration last fall and ended up going with a global plan for my iPhone (I'm with AT&T). There was so much wifi available, and I was mostly texting and using data that I didn't come anywhere close to using up the few minutes, texts and data I paid for. In my research, the best savings are obtained by having a UK Sim card in the UK and a French Sim Card in France. These would each have their own phone number. Just too much hassle for minimal savings. Plus, in case of a work emergency where someone would need to call me, it was better for me to just have my own US phone number working. Once you replace that sim card, you don't have that.

Years ago, I used to buy a worldwide sim card from Telestial for my European phone that I just saved for travel, but I don't do that any more.

My daughter was in London for a semester and had no issues with getting the right sim card for her iPhone. If you go to a shop, they are super helpful. She would buy a month at a time. But, she mainly used the minutes for calling her new friends and classmates. We did all of our overseas calling using Viber and wifi.

Posted by
2520 posts

Last November I went to France and after landing at CDG I went to 6 different phone stores before I was able to get a nano sim for my iPhone 5. And that was actually a mini sim that the store owner customized with a die cutter. Also data plans in Europe are not cheap.

The year before, I visited Spain and Portugal but subscribed to T-Mobile for one month of service. Got their least expensive plan and after using phone as a gps for two+ weeks only went thru half the data plan. I was also able to set up a hot spot for my iPad, cruise the web and make some local calls. You can start to use the card in the U.S. AS SOON AS YOU GET IT AND WHEN YOU GET OFF THE PLANE IN EUROPE (@&&** caps lock!) just turn your phone on and it'll locate a local network and you're on the air. If someone at home wants to reach you, they just dial your cell number and you get the call. I found the service to be seamless, even when crossing the border from Spain to Portugal.

It might cost you a few extra bucks to go the T-Mobile route but it's worth not having the hassles of finding a nano card, dealing with a clerk who might or might not be able to answer your questions or dealing with foreign data plans and card reloads if you need them. But remember your phone MUST be unlocked to be able to use a card not supplied by your carrier.

Posted by
1406 posts

2 points - make sure your phone is unlocked (you can call or visit Verizon or google up the procedure).

Also keep in mind, while there may be plenty of wifi service around the world, it's not usually just free for the taking. You need the login info and password, and you usually need to be a customer/client of that operation. That's what concerns me with that new Google phone that will switch back and forth between cell service and wifi, I find most networks are locked so good luck with that.

Posted by
3 posts

Hi, I would recommend an international sim to use while traveling England and France. Since if you would opt for local sims you could have issues with the French language of course. I just came back from traveling in South East Asia and used a tellink traveller sim card in Indonesia, Thailand and Cambodja. This was useful and not expensive and they have even specific deals for traveling in Europe which makes it more interesting to use around European countries. I don't know if it is easy to unlock your phone though...

Regards

Posted by
2580 posts

Having just returned from France and the UK, I would not recommend the local SIM card strategy. I found to my great dismay that it was much more complicated than my cell phone provider had led me to believe when I contacted them weeks before my trip.

In Paris my hotel recommended the cell phone store called Boutique Orange, which is apparently a major chain. The first location I visited said they were out of SIM cards and I would have to go to another location. Then when I did, I found out I had to get a new phone number for France -- contrary to what my US cell phone provider had told me. The sales staff at Boutique Orange spoke pretty good English, BTW.

When I left France and arrived in the UK, once again I had to get a new SIM card with a new phone number, this time from Car Phone Warehouse, which is also a major chain.

Then the phone wouldn't work when I flew home, so I didn't have a way to call our car service to pick us up at the airport. I had not only to replace the US SIM card but also spend a few minutes on the phone with my cell phone provider having the phone reset.

Honestly, this was a nightmare, made much worse by the fact that I'd been told the opposite when I'd inquired of my cell phone provider ahead of time. I would gladly pay extra for a cell phone plan that allowed me to keep the same number from one country to the next, and not have to spend valuable travel time hunting for a cell phone store.

Posted by
4695 posts

My recent experience in Bosnia and Montenegro was better than yours. I have T-Mobile so could use my Android phone with my US number in Croatia (and briefly, Venice and Amsterdam) for cheap. But T-Mobile roaming doesn't extend to Montenegro or Bosnia. When I got to Montenegro, I bought a local SIM card (from, ironically, the local T-Mobile store). to use in Montenegro. It took about ten minutes for the English-speaking store clerk to activate my phone and setup the new access point so I could have data. It cost only 5 Euros.

In Bosnia, it cost even less: only about $3 USD for a SIM card + recharge to add 1GB of data. But I had to go to an m:tel store to get the access point setup correctly (so I could use data). Once that was done, I could do voice and (basically unlimited) data for the rest of the time there.

When I put my original US T-Mobile SIM card back in, my phone worked fine. I'm not sure why yours did not. That must have been frustrating.

Posted by
31037 posts

Andrew H,

I visited the Adriatic last fall and was using a travel SIM in my iPhone, which had a U.K. phone number with O2 Telefonica. The phone seemed to work well in Slovenia and Bosnia (and everywhere else in Europe), but I had a lot of trouble with it in Croatia. Much of the time the display read "No Service" and there didn't seem to be any rhyme or reason why it worked at times and didn't work at other times. Rather than letting the phone automatically select the network, I manually selected different networks at times but it didn't seem to make any difference.

I attribute this not to a fault with the travel SIM but rather something quirky with the networks in Croatia. I reported it to the travel phone company when I got home and hopefully the service will be better if I ever return there.

Posted by
4695 posts

Ken, as in North America, there are different mobile networks in Croatia. I'm not sure which one you were using. I was using T-Mobile, roaming on it (part of my US T-Mobile plan). I had excellent cell reception all over Croatia - from Istria to Dubrovnik to Zagreb. In fact, I can't recall ever not having reception. Then again, I made few phone calls, but I used the phone often for data, and I assume if I had data I had voice.

Based on this, I'd recommend buying a T-Mobile SIM in Croatia if you ever return.

In Bosnia, I had m:tel. Again, I had great reception with them all over the country.

Posted by
2 posts

New question- I am travelling to Italy, arriving in Milano at Malpensa airport on a Sunday morning early. I want to buy a local SIM for my iphone4s that morning, with unlimited internet and phone usage, for two weeks. Does anyone know if there is a store open there on Sunday morning where I can buy one? How much does it cost for unlimited internet and phone? Or do you have an updated phone number for Vodafon or other supplier at the Malpensa airport? Thanks so much!

Posted by
2580 posts

In reply to the question about Italy, I would guess it will be tough to find a cellphone store open on a Sunday, especially in the morning. But that is just a guess based on how businesses usually function in Italy.

Back to the original poster's question, I strongly second the comment from Linda: " ... the best savings are obtained by having a UK Sim card in the UK and a French Sim Card in France. These would each have their own phone number. Just too much hassle for minimal savings. Plus, in case of a work emergency where someone would need to call me, it was better for me to just have my own US phone number working. Once you replace that sim card, you don't have that."

I so wish my cellphone provider (Credo Mobile) had told me the truth about this. They assured me that my phone number wouldn't change when I got a European SIM card. They also led me to believe I could get one SIM card for both countries (France and UK). Both turned out to be false.

At least 50% of the reason to have a cellphone is so that people can call you! What are you supposed to do, spend a day calling everyone you know to tell them your new French phone number once you get your French SIM card? And then do it all over again once you get your UK SIM card? Honestly, this is beyond ridiculous.

One thing that happened to us was that our ferry from France to England was canceled because of a labor strike. The ferry booking company called (surprise, surprise) my US cellphone number and left a message to alert us to the cancellation. Of course I didn't get that message until we came home to the US from our trip. (Luckily they also sent an email to the email address I use in my cellphone, so I did receive that alert in time for us to catch another ferry.)

Another major inconvenience was being unable to use the cellphone in case of an airline delay when we returned to the US. At JFK airport in New York, I learned the hard way, there are no pay phones. There is, however, a travel assistance desk where an attendant will dial your car service for you and let you speak to them to notify them that you've arrived.

Now that I know all of this, I have Googled "international SIM card" and found out that there are some plans that cover multiple countries. Next time I travel to Europe I will definitely make every effort to get one of these instead of going the local SIM card route.

Posted by
2 posts

I am the original poster of this thread and want to report on my experience. I decided to suspend my Verizon contract while I am away and signed up for one month of the T-Mobile Plan which covers the countries that I am travelling in, gives you unlimited data and more calling minutes/texts than I will need with no contract. Sounded perfect. Got to England and found I had no phone service and no Internet! Had to contact T-Mobile customer care by the hotel's landline, calling collect since my iPhone was useless. Spent a couple hours of my vacation talking to tech support going over settings, etc. and they finally figure out that the T-mobile store I went to in the US SOLD ME THE WRONG PLAN! They sold me a prepaid one month plan which does not cover international service even though I had explained this is exactly what I wanted my one month plan for and I was assured that I would be covered. Needless to say, I was furious. I ended up having to buy a UK SIM for the 5 days I was there and a French SIM for my time now here in France. The cost of the UK and French SIMs together came out to about the same as the T-Mobile plan, but it was a hassle to have to deal with it in each country not to mention trying to translate my SIM card needs to a salesperson in the French countryside. The connections in both countries has been strong, clear and reliable. But next time, I will pay more and stick with my US provider. Thank you all for your input.

Posted by
2580 posts

2bdesign, that sounds just awful! I can only say, I'm kind of glad to know I'm not the only one who got stuck in this cellphone hell. You have my full sympathy.
I suppose you have no recourse against T-Mobile for selling you the wrong plan?
Similarly, I am burned up about my French phone not working to call numbers in France when I had paid Boutique Orange for unlimited international calling. (I didn't describe this in my previous posts because there were bigger issues to discuss, but I ended up having to upgrade to an unlimited 1-month plan even though I would only be in France for another week -- I'll spare you the long story of why!)
Anyway, on the day our ferry was cancelled I needed to call Avis about our rental car, and I could get through to the international Avis customer service on a US toll-free number, but they told me they couldn't access my contract and I needed to call the specific location in France where we had rented the car. When I would call that French number, or another French number, I would get a recording saying my Orange cellphone account had run out. I was also able to call UK numbers later that day. Why could I call other countries but not France when I was in France using a French phone??? Who knows! I checked the numbers and the sequence I was dialing, so that wasn't the problem. And on previous days I had been able to place (and receive) calls within France to confirm hotel reservations, book tour tickets, etc.
Clearly, the world of cellphones today is a bit crazy, kinda like the way fax machines behaved circa 1990 -- you could never tell if your transmission would go through to a given recipient!

Posted by
1 posts

It's definitely cheaper 'the local sim card' way. That I know from my recent trip in Europe- those international cards are way more expensive than local cards, at least in baltic states. My trip started in Lithuania and I decided to buy international sim card instead of ezys prepaid sim card which was recommended by locals. I ended up not only paying much more than my friends but also getting worse signal strength.

Posted by
300 posts

Even if you correctly get a T-Mobile postpaid plan, if you opt for the No Credit Check option you'll discover that that will keep your service from roaming to Europe.

I roamed with my US T-Mobile service and phone number in Ireland this year and was happy with the service and the cost. I made a few calls but my total roaming cost was under four dollars.

Posted by
27 posts

We travel a lot to Europe (and Asia) and this is what we do. We buy a local (country) SIM card in each country. We are not that concerned about voice capabilities of the SIM, only the data capabilities. Ideally, we want the speed to be 4G data, but 3G works too. We get a data card with the appropriate number of GB on it for our stay (2GB to 10GB). We put the SIM card in our iPad Air which we can use by itself (for maps, email, internet search, or SKYPE phone calls) or we can use the iPad can create a "personal hot spot" to tether to each of our iPhones (in airplane mode, with Wifi "On"), then we can do the same thing - internment, maps, email, or SKYPE phone calls on our phones. In the tether mode, we can each use our phones to browse, check email, etc simultaneously. SKYPE is very cheap. You can call back to the US or call your next hotel in the country you are in. Here are some cautions when you buy a local SIM card. Only buy from a store-front authorized dealer (Vodaphone, EE, etc). Make the store installs your SIM in your device, and make sure it is working before you leave the store. Pay by credit card if possible. Do not leave the store until your device is working properly on their network. Don't buy your SIM out of a machine, and don't buy from a tobacco shop, all purpose shop, etc. Our one bad tale is that we bought a Vodaphone SIM card in Scotland, they put it in and told us it would be working in 24 hours. It never worked. Luckily, we had charged it on our Amex, and Amex reversed the charges, and we bought an EE card after that which worked great from the moment they put it in. I hope this helps. And oh, GOOD NEWS: beginning in 2017, one country's SIM card will work in all of Europe without roaming charges, so all you have do is buy one, and it works in all countries. YEA! http://www.ausbt.com.au/european-mobile-roaming-charges-to-be-scrapped-in-2017

You don't have to use your SIM in a iPad and tether to your phone(s) the way we do. If you only have one device - say a smart phone, you simply put the SIM in your (must be unlocked, however) phone.

Posted by
3 posts

I do not bother with replacing the SIM card in my iPhone. I need my phone to work seamlessly when I get back to the states. I have T Mobile now which includes data in Europe. Before I had T Mobile I added international data to my plan for the time I was going to need it. I then turn the cell service off except for when I need to access data and try to use wifi where I can. It is amazing how well maps works on wifi even when you don't have passwords, etc. Because I was studying in Europe and try to go back every year, I bought a cheap prepaid European phone for less than $50 including a SIM card. I use it for talking to my friends in Europe, making reservations, etc. and I give the number to people in the states that need to be able to get ahold of me. It is very easy and cheap to add minutes to it, though the minutes run out at an accelerated rate when I cross into a country other than where the SIM card originated (this will change in a few years). I often have to carry two devices, but the cheap phone is tiny.

Posted by
2 posts

You can buy a SFR local sim card from France. They have cheap plans. Last time I used SFR in Paris.