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Buying European SIM cards the best option?

San Francisco...
Level Contributor
86 posts
Buying European SIM cards the best option?

I'm bringing my Iphone 5 to Europe, mainly to use it as a camera. My phone carrier is Verizon.

First off, I'm guessing I can "unlock" my Iphone 5, is that right? Also, from what I've read it looks like buying a SIM card in Europe might be the best option.

How are people's experience with that? Can you buy just one SIM card and use it for all EU countries? Or do you have to buy one in each EU country?

I've never done it myself, but I think I can remove my Iphone SIM card with a paper clip, and then install a European one.

I don't see myself using a lot of talking minutes, just some text messaging, and I would really like to have some internet data, especially if I get it stolen so I can use "find my iphone."

I wouldn't mind other options either, like renting a phone.

114 replies to this topic
San Francisco...
Level Contributor
86 posts
1. Re: Buying European SIM cards the best option?

Oh and I'll be in Europe for six weeks, going to France, Germany, Spain, and the UK

Calgary, Canada
Destination Expert
for Canadian Rockies
Level Contributor
8,410 posts
4 reviews
2. Re: Buying European SIM cards the best option?

Welcome

Yes, your best option is to buy a SIM Card or SIM Cards in Europe. Calling plans are MUCH cheaper there, with lots of true pay as you go options. Also, having a local SIM means you have a local phone number, which makes it much easier & cheaper for people there to call you.

Any SIM will work in all those countries, but you - or anyone that calls you - would be paying long distance outside the country in which you bought the card. You might be able to find a regional plan that offers cheaper long distance - you'd have to look at plans and decide whether it makes more sense to buy a card in each country, some countries or one card & use long distance.

The only thing to note is that sometimes there can be delays in texts and/or sending/receiving voicemails between countries -- i.e. if the phone calling/receiving has a SIM, and thus phone number, from a different country than the one receiving. I would have texts delayed a day or two sometimes when I was using my UK SIM outside of the UK.

I only know about the UK, but there are tons of plans and they tend to be quite cheap. Last year, for 10 UKP, I got a card that had something like 100 minutes talk, 100 texts and 100MB of internet. They also threw in a very cheap rate for calls to the US. You can find plans for all needs and top up with scratch off cards as you need. I've always used Vodafone in the UK, but other companies are good as well. it's probably more about who has the plan that makes most sense for you.

I would avoid Orange, as the shoddy security in their website makes them a not infrequent source of fraudulent credit card charges. (Essentially they require little to no personal info when buying minutes online, so fraudsters who get a hold of a credit card number will try to buy small amounts of minutes online until they match the number with the correct expiration date. The scam has been going on for years, yet Orange doesn't seem to be willing to up their security).

I would check to make sure your phone is unlocked - generally if you bought it as part of a phone plan, it will be unlocked. If you bought it from Apple, it should be unlocked. If it's locked, I would pay to have it unlocked rather than risk damaging it or voiding a warranty by having someone 'hack' it to unlock it. The SIM comes out fairly easily - often the folks at the mobile kiosk will help you with the switch if need be.

r c
Portland, Oregon
Level Contributor
9,990 posts
1 review
3. Re: Buying European SIM cards the best option?

Luis O,

Heres my experince.

e toys: Samsung slider (purchased in UK) & Samsung Note 3 (purchased here no contract)

Samsung slider bought with T mobile UK PAYG SIM. No problem using in the USA.

> gotcha - can not top up in USA w/o voucher. Must buy voucher in UK before leaving UK.

Bought another T SIMM from Amsterdam.

Works great here and over in europe as does the UK SIM.

> I can top up NL SIM via www and paypal.

The only issues you may have are:

1. May not be able to top up SIM when out of the country of origin. YOu SHOULD verify this before you leave the country if you care to.

2. when roaming outside of the country of SIM origin the charges WILL be more.

Opinons.

1. you can buy a SIM from each country so calls/texts and less, but imo, unless your phone is glued to your face 24/7/365, its not going to cost that much. From what i understand fees are capped in the EU.

If you look at carphonewarehouse.com Its a UK company and look for the rates of the various providers. You will find that its pennies for calls. Its not to say that you will pay those prices outside of the EU either, but you can get an idea on rates.

2. YOu can TRY and get your phone unlocked. But if youre on a contract as im sure you are, you may have to pay a fee for doing so. its one of the reasons i bought my Note 3 outright. Im not tied to any provider but i paid for it up front.

Comment:

what i like about the NON USA SIMs is that i can buy data ANYTIME i want. Its offered in 1 day, 3 day and 1 week block of MB. I can NOT do that here. I have to buy a contract (monthy/yearly) like i have now.

Edited: 3:50 pm, April 21, 2014
r c
Portland, Oregon
Level Contributor
9,990 posts
1 review
4. Re: Buying European SIM cards the best option?

Luis O,

i forgot to add some things.

you may want to check with your provider and see what types of international plans they offer or if they can "loan" you a phone to use over there.

also fyi, T is offering to buy your contract if you move over to them, but im sure there is something in it for them or some restrictions on something.

one other thing, T is offering a 50 USD/month international plan. that includes 1GB of 3/4G data and then drops you to 2 G after you burn thru the 1GB. This is the plan i have for my Note 3 at this time. At one time they did have a 30 USD/month international plan, but i dont see it offered anymore.

also, i have not tried any of my NL/UK SIM in my NOte 3. This is due to that the Note 3 takes the "micro" sim and even tho my UK and NL SIM can be broken out of the regular SIM shell, it wont be easy to put it back together to use in the samsung Slider.

Berkshire, New York
Level Contributor
4 posts
27 reviews
5. Re: Buying European SIM cards the best option?

Luis: I don't believe Verizon uses the GSM European format, which means your Verizon iPhone won't work in Europe regardless of which sim you buy. I'd suggest you check with Verizon before spending money on any sim for Europe. Good luck.

Calgary, Canada
Destination Expert
for Canadian Rockies
Level Contributor
8,410 posts
4 reviews
6. Re: Buying European SIM cards the best option?

I'm pretty sure all iPhones use SIMs

San Francisco...
Level Contributor
86 posts
7. Re: Buying European SIM cards the best option?

I've read online that my Iphone 5 4G is unlocked, so I actually can use European SIM cards. Also, although I can use European SIM cards, it will be on a slower network than the 4G network. Here's the article I read:

cnet.com/news/…

Anyway, thank you all for the above information! I think I'll definitely buy a SIM card, I just want to ask a few things.

-I might've missed it above, so ONE SIM card from any EU country will allow me to use it in France, Germany, Spain, and UK?

-My first destination is Paris, anybody recommend places to buy SIM cards?

My connecting flight to Paris is at Heathrow airport, I could possibly try to find a mobile stand at Heathrow to get a new SIM.

Edited: 2:16 am, April 22, 2014
8. Re: Buying European SIM cards the best option?

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r c
Portland, Oregon
Level Contributor
9,990 posts
1 review
9. Re: Buying European SIM cards the best option?

Lois o,

My Tmobile sim form the UK & Neatherlands & USA worked in:

Belgium

Sweden

Denmark

Norway

Germany

UK

Neatherlands

USA

I havent been to spain, yet

r c
Portland, Oregon
Level Contributor
9,990 posts
1 review
10. Re: Buying European SIM cards the best option?

Luis O. (sorry for the spel error, i was on my Note 3)

i forgot to add.

I used the UK SIM in France. I didnt have the NL SIM with me at the time when i was in France.

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