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Pay-as-you-go mobile phone?

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New York City, New...
posts: 106
reviews: 21
Pay-as-you-go mobile phone?

My husband, teenage daughter, and I will be in Paris for five days (following five days in London) from August 16th to the 26th, and while my husband will have his work-issued iPhone with him, my daughter and I do not want to bring our phones because of expensive roaming charges.

My question is, how can we get phones for our trip to use just in case of emergencies? My main concern would be if we got separated for some reason. I have heard that many people get pay-as-you-go phones while traveling abroad. How do I do this? What might it cost? We just need basic call and text, nothing fancy. Please bear in mind that even though I have had cell phones for years, I'm pretty clueless about the cell phone "lingo," so please explain as though talking to a novice!

Also, would we be able to get one in London and still use it in Paris too, since we will be in London first? Any helpful replies will be greatly appreciated, thank you!

Paris, France
Destination Expert
for Paris, Loire Valley
posts: 16,397
reviews: 4
1. Re: Pay-as-you-go mobile phone?

Firstly, who is your US provider and what kind of phones do you now have?

Secondly, based upon your question as written, a simple extension of your existing US service might be the easiest and most efficient solution for someone needing only emergency services for a period of 4 to 5 days.

Thirdly, there are alternative solutions (other than extending your US service) which are very easy to implement and can provide low cost communications but a rudimentary understanding of mobile phones and their general operation is required. I use and recommend Lebara but you will need to have unlocked GSM protocol phones capable of operating on the 900/1800mHz bands. You might already have this requirement depending upon how you answer the first question in this post.

Edited: 10:03 am, July 30, 2013
New York City, New...
posts: 106
reviews: 21
2. Re: Pay-as-you-go mobile phone?

My husband, my daughter and I all have the iPhone 5, and we use Verizon as our provider in the US. I appreciate your help!

Finland
posts: 798
reviews: 131
3. Re: Pay-as-you-go mobile phone?

It might be reasonable to buy very cheap mobile phones + prepaid SIMs and leave the iPhone5 home, even though I am not too worried about theft. But if the use is emergency only, why worry about the expensive phone? You could also buy very cheap unlocked European standard mobile phones while in the US and just buy any prepaid SIMs in Paris.

Example of phone + SIM mobicarte (not sure which of these are available in physical stores).

boutique.orange.fr/ESHOP_mx_orange/…

MA
Destination Expert
for New England
posts: 3,801
reviews: 132
4. Re: Pay-as-you-go mobile phone?

I bring a cheap unlocked cell phone that I bought in Europe a few years ago and I just switch out the SIM card. Bought a Lebara card at a Phone House store in Paris last month and used it just for calls and texts. Cheap and worked fine.

Chicago, Illinois
posts: 15,771
reviews: 47
5. Re: Pay-as-you-go mobile phone?

we have cheap pay as you gos we bought from Orange in Paris -- they were about 30 Euro apiece

Saint Louis...
posts: 9,630
reviews: 13
6. Re: Pay-as-you-go mobile phone?

All you need to do do is activate the Verizon Global calling plan a day or so before you leave and pay $1.29 per minute. Text messages are cheaper at 50 cents to send and 5 cents to receive. You will only pay for what you use. If you keep calling and texting to a minimum this will be the cheapest way to go.

Washington DC...
Destination Expert
for Dordogne
posts: 7,569
reviews: 4
7. Re: Pay-as-you-go mobile phone?

I use a cheap unlocked dual-SIM GMS phone I bought on e-Bay for $26.00. I get Lebara SIMs ahead of time in the mail and just pop them in when I get to France.

New York City, New...
posts: 106
reviews: 21
8. Re: Pay-as-you-go mobile phone?

It does sound as though the Global plan from Verizon might be a good idea...however, my husband is concerned about loss or theft of our phones, more particularly my daughter's phone, as she is only 14 and might be careless and stick it in her back pocket as she does at home...although she will be carrying a purse cross-body and can keep it in an inner pocket there. Should we worry?

I've seen on the London forum that cheap prepaid phones are a good option, although we would have to purchase new ones when we get to Paris. Any idea, in dollars, how much something like that might cost at a minimum?

New Hampshire
Destination Expert
for Paris
posts: 17,095
reviews: 24
9. Re: Pay-as-you-go mobile phone?

You may want to bring your iPhones for the very useful apps. Know which ones do and do not require a data connection.

Are your Verizon iPhones GSM? Unlocked? Though not the most economical, you may want to consider an international plan with Verizon for the ease and convenience. If you cannot use your phones, Verizon has a loaner plan, too. Either way, for one short trip, that may be your best bet. You can economize by sending texts rather than making calls. (You would want to let friends and family know not to call you during your trip, as you'd be charged for calls even if you don't answer them.)

Or, since you're going to London first, check the London forum. Phones and service are far less costly there than Paris. It would be far easier to add enough credit in London to roam in Paris than bother with a France SIM once in Paris. If you do purchase a phone in London, find out if it's unlocked or can be unlocked, or you'll be restricted to that provider for topping up.

MA
Destination Expert
for New England
posts: 3,801
reviews: 132
10. Re: Pay-as-you-go mobile phone?

You don't have to buy new phones in London and again in Paris. Buy one in London and be sure to verify that it is unlocked. That means it is not tied to any particular provider. As long as it is unlocked, take it to Paris and then buy a new SIM card there to put in the phone. Maybe you could still use the same SIM card that you get in London, but there might be higher roaming fees. You should ask when you buy it in London. In the UK, I bought mine at Carphone Warehouse, a popular mobile phone chain. They are everywhere and the staff were great. They set everything up for me and showed me how to top up when I needed to.