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Tech advice needed on cell phone/tablet computer for Wales trip

I don't own a smart phone and don't want to acquire one for U.S. use, so don't want to purchase one solely for travel (which is infrequent unfortunately) either. I have read RS's wonderful/extensive/helpful Travel Tip on how to stay connected while traveling. He says, "It’s also possible to buy an inexpensive mobile phone in Europe that already comes with a SIM card. While these phones are generally locked to work with just one provider, they may be even cheaper ($20 or less), and can be less hassle than buying an unlocked phone and a SIM card separately." Since I don't have nor want a smart phone I think this is my best option. I am going to be traveling alone and things may go very smoothly, but they might not, and I feel it's foolish not to have a way to contact those in Wales (not in the U.S.) that I may need to contact -- car rental company, hotel, tourist sites, police, etc. What do you think?

Where do I buy one of these and how much "set-up" is involved? Will a clerk at the shop (or wherever) where I buy the phone be able to do this for me? Can I then use it in Great Britain on future trips?

Further, I have no tablet computer either and DO plan to buy one of these before my trip because I need it for U.S. use anyway and will find one that suits for home and travel abroad. However I don't want to rely solely on it to contact people in Wales via email, but will use it for contact with people back at home in the U.S. Does this sound like a reasonable plan -- the phone for within Wales (and hopefully future GB trips) and the tablet for web searches that may be needed in Wales and communicating with those back in the U.S.??? Ann.

Posted by
8889 posts

Yes, walk into many electronic chain stores, supermarkets, phone shops and you will see cheap "pay-as-you-go" phones. These come with a SIM with a bit of credit already loaded. Price varies by country, but in most cases under £20/€20
You can also buy "Pay-as-you-go" SIM cards if you already have a suitable phone. Cost about £15/€15 with nearly as much starter credit pre-loaded.

Make sure you know where you can buy extra credit, and if you can add credit online (useful if you are out of the country). These phones come with a telephone number for the country you buy it in, and a charger with the correct plug for that country.
When you buy the phone, you usually have to register your name and address (bring your passport, and proof of address). Then it usually takes one or more hours before it is registered and on the network and starts working.

Ringing a number in another EU country, or ringing back if you are in another country, should not cost more than 50% over domestic rates. Check the "roaming rates" when you buy the phone. Inter-EU roaming rates are regulated by the EU and are usually reasonable. Rates to non-EU countries (e.g. the USA) are not regulated and can be much higher.

If you do not use the phone for a number of months, it is usually written into the contract that they can cancel your SIM card and re-use the number for somebody else. You loose any credit you had. If this happens bad luck, just buy another SIM card.

Posted by
9110 posts

There's going to be Wifi at about every place you stay, so I'd save the tablet for that. But, I'd sure as heck buy one with cellular capability for later use.

Posted by
115 posts

Thanks, Chris and Ed, so much for this help. Just double-checking: do I have do any set-up on this purchased phone at all, or will the store do it, or isn't there any set-up?

And, are you saying that I can add minutes or money, however you want to think of it, "over the counter" (where? Someplace like I bought the phone but further into my trip?) OR by going to a website on my new tablet computer, using my credit card in both cases?

Just to be on the safe side, even though there are some minutes on the phone when I buy it, can I add more right then, in the shop? That seems wisest, even if I don't use up all the minutes on this trip.
Do you think smaller towns in Wales will have the phones for sale? Ann.

Posted by
9110 posts

The store will set it up for you.

You can buy more over the phone, but I'd put a good glob on at the beginning. You can add minutes at convenience stores and such, also.

You'd have to define smaller. Set up google maps for Wales and type in Phones 4U, Tesco Phone, or maybe even just phone store and you'd get a feel for it.

Posted by
8889 posts


If there is any set up, they will do it at the shop. The delay is in registering your details and getting the phone authorised on the network, usually a few hours only. Of course you also have to charge the phone up!

You can usually add more credit at branches of the shop in which you bought it. That is OK if it is a big chain and you are in the country. If (as I understand) you are planning to take the phone out of the country, you need to be able to add credit on the internet (with a credit card). Make sure you know how you can add credit before you buy the phone.

Of course you can add as much credit as you like when you buy the phone. The credit is expressed in money (£, € ...). The number of minutes you get depends on where you are calling.

Even in small towns in Wales, you should be able to buy phones in the two main UK supermarket chains, Tesco and Sainbury's (click on the names).

Finally, check out these two websites. They are both companies which offer phones and SIM cards in many countries of Europe:

Posted by
9110 posts


As in the last couple weeks or something?

How about Co-op, do they sell phones or just cards? They're in every village it seems.

Posted by
9110 posts

Now that you have it all figured out:

I'd forgotten when I mentioned Tesco that maybe a week ago there was an article about their financial shenanigans, so who knows what might happen there before you show up.

Also, neither of us mentioned Morrisons which is another super store. They're generally in locations where Sainsbury's isn't, so there's another option. In defense of Sainsbury's they're the only place I can find that sells the good Spanish chorizo, so you might want to give them your business.

Posted by
5467 posts

You say you are going on a Wales trip, which can be very remote and will have less mobile phone coverage than most parts of England, so although you can buy cheap pay as you go mobiles, you will need to do some research into which provider will provide the best coverage for the areas you are visiting. They all have maps showing coverage and something like
may help.

With pay as you go accounts, you pre-load the card and they have time limits before they expire, so check before you buy, otherwise you will lose cash.

Check with hotels before you book as to what wifi service they provide - some of the discount chains such as Premier Inn provide a free wifi service but it runs too slow to be of much use so they have a faster service that you have to pay for. Some limit free wifi to 30 minutes a day or just in the reception or lounge areas, but the more you pay for a room, the more likely you are to get wifi.

Not as handy for when you are out and about, but you can use Skype on your tablet when wifi and pre-load credit on this to use as a phone which will be cheaper.