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SIM cards

Everyone talks about getting a local SIM card but I don’t quite understand. I need my phone number to get my calls and texts and getting a new SIM card would make calls/texts sent to me not show up until I put my old card back. Yes? So how does this work for people? Are there services to forward your info to your “new number”?

Or are people just ok with not getting their texts? I mean you can give the new number to your close family but if you are dealing with a bunch of co workers, tech clueless boss, child’s teachers, apartment hosts who have the number on your account, and services like banks or other can’t realistically change your number then chsnge it back a month later.
Plus many times a bank or other online service like email won’t let me sign in from overseas until it texts me a code to my number to prove I’m me. Without my phone number I can’t get that text.
Also are things like Uber tied to your phone number? If I’m in a country with Uber and have a local SIM can I use my Uber account?

So is there a secret I’m missing here? I’d want the sim for data (I don’t make many if any calls to European phone numbers). My phone was previously locked so I don’t bother with this, just using WiFi and a small data plan. Now it’s unlocked so I’m looking into it. But as I said I don’t quite get it.

Posted by
5859 posts

You are correct, installing a new SIM gives you a new number, and your phone will not receive calls or text from your old number. There are phones out there that are "Dual SIM" meaning you can just add a SIM and switch from one to the other, but US phones are not dual SIM.

Keep in mind that changing SIMs requires an unlocked phone, some companies restrict or lock your phone if you are under contract, so determine this first. This is the case of my phone, so I have an older unlocked phone that I use for travel, basically carrying two phones, using the travel phone mainly for Data (Internet, Maps, Apps, etc.)

As for forwarding, actually there are internet sites that will sell you a SIM plus offer forwarding services, I have not used them, but generally they are pricey compared to getting a SIM there.

Finally, the good news is that now a SIM purchased in one EU country is good all over the EU without roaming charges. Do be aware though that getting a SIM varies from country to country as to ID, address, and registration rules, Easy in the UK, Netherlands, and Spain, but I have heard more difficult in Germany for a tourist.

Posted by
1005 posts

Some people take a second mobile phone that is already unlocked, maybe an older version of an iPhone or Android phone. That way they have a European number with no roaming charges, plus their American phone for staying connect back home.

Posted by
4693 posts


When I buy a SIM card in Europe, I only give the new number to my family and a couple of close friends. I also notify ( via email) my b&b or apartment hosts of my new “local”number.

When I’m an vacation, I don’t generally talk/text with my coworkers or friends.
I don’t do Facebook, but that’s another option to stay connected with them, if you so wish.

My phone is an iPhone (5s), so I can send iMessages (texts), and can also make calls via FaceTime (voice or video) to any other iPhone. I usually do this when I get back to my room when I connect to WiFi, and thereby avoid using up my cellular data.

The main reason I get a local SIM card is for data (mainly for maps & to buy train tickets), for local calls and international calls, to stay connected with family.

I’ve not had any problems signing in to my bank account or email while in Europe so can’t offer any suggestions for such.

I’ve not taken Uber while in Europe, but all your apps will remain on your phone when you switch SIM cards.

Another option, is to download the WhatsApp app (free) which allows you to communicate (call or text) with anyone, around the world, as long as they also have WhatsApp.

I’ve stayed in touch with my friend, Chani, who lives in Israel via WhatsApp, it’s great!

Hope this helps!

Posted by
4933 posts

I use Google Voice when I travel, which means I can make/receive calls with my US number while overseas, for free, with Google Hangouts. (Data isn't free though; Hangouts uses about 2 MB per minute, but free on WiFi.) Texts are done via the Google Voice app; I do Google Voice texting on my laptop, because I hate typing anything on a phone. I'm sure people are amazed at how fast I can "text" sometimes because I'm a touch typist and can type pretty fast on a laptop keyboard...

So I don't care about the European number of my SIM, unless I am giving it to Europeans to reach me. People from the US call my Google Voice phone number and I answer calls with Hangouts, get voicemail with Google, etc.

Google Voice gives you a free US phone number anyone can call (including landlines) or text. You do need existing US phone service to sign up for it, but it is free. It's like a forwarding service, though it's not the kind of forwarding service you are probably looking for. (It can't forward to European SIM phone numbers, only to US numbers.)

I've been using my Google Voice number for years anyway as my primary number, so I don't have to change anything when I travel. I turn off forwarding to my US cell number (which I don't even know at the moment - just set it as the forwarding number for Google when I switched to Sprint in Jan and got a new cell number). I don't miss any calls or texts when I travel.

At very least, you can sign up for Google Voice and get this second phone number to use with Hangouts (and Google Voice for texts) when you travel and buy a SIM.

Posted by
14 posts

I too am looking at SIM cards, but changing cards/numbers in 4-5 countries is a no go. Here's something that may benefit you. While I was searching for a "world sim" I found Mobal.They have a World Sim that works in over 190 countries. It's called Mobal World Phone. You can buy a cheap phone or just buy a Sim card for an existing world phone. You are assigned one phone number, but it's a lifetime number and doesn't change when you move to another country. I believe they also have data plans as well as talk/text. The reviews look good. Check it out.
Has anyone else used Mobal?
Good luck and happy travels.

Posted by
4933 posts

I too am looking at SIM cards, but changing cards/numbers in 4-5 countries is a no go.

Your number doesn't change with a European SIM when you move to another country. My Dutch Vodafone SIM has the same Dutch number in every country I've used it in (though not in the Netherlands yet!). With most EU roaming fees removed, it shouldn't be an issue to use one European SIM in multiple countries.

Posted by
847 posts

Email still works --- we tell everybody to email us if they need to.

Posted by
11288 posts

You're not missing a "secret." Most of us don't need to be receive texts while traveling, except from a few people; for them, we can let them know the new phone number by e-mail or text. But if you really want or need to be receiving texts from "co workers, tech clueless boss, child’s teachers, apartment hosts who have the number on your account, and services like banks or other companies," you'll be much happier just keeping your current SIM in your phone and just paying the fees your current provider charges.

Posted by
2 posts

I am in Italy for 9 days. Purchased SIM card in Rome in TIM store: €22.99 for 20 GB data and unlimited local calls. UBER connected to your e-mail, not phone #, so it works, tried yesterday. For international calls I use Whatsup, with 20 GB any internet activity not problem. Like texts? Use Facebook messenger.
Hope my info helps.

Posted by
1347 posts

Since you paid off you phone and it’s now unlocked, have you thought about switching domestic carriers? Both T-mobile and sprint offer free 3G (?) data overseas. I think phone calls incur a charge.

If either carrier works well for you at home it may be a good option.

A little side note here. The latest Apple iPhones are apparently dual SIM, so hopefully this will start a trend which travelers can take advantage of.