Turned out that cell phones operate on a different frequency in Europe so my phone had to be “unlocked” if I wanted to use a SIM card. That seemed to risky for me to do so I just got an international voice/data/text plan with AT&T.
At the end of the day I probably took the more expensive route but I didn’t know anything at the time, and when I actually got to Europe, I learned a lot.
Here are some ways to deal with cell phones in Europe:
1. Get an international plan. You can get an international (reduced) plan activated before you travel to Europe. Even if you don’t plan to call someone and just want to have it for emergencies, the add-on is around $1.99 for the month and it gives you reduced per-minute charges.
When I was in Messina, Italy I had to call back to Jacksonville, Florida and was on the phone for three minutes, the cost was right around $3.
2. Buy a phone in Europe. When I was in Barcelona I saw some cell phones for sale at mobile shops for as low as 20 euro each. They were comparable to a cheap pre-paid phone in the states. Buy one and you’ll have your own international phone number.
3. Purchase a SIM card online. Numerous companies sell SIM cards for international use. A lot of cruisers I talk to use Telestial to purchase their SIM cards. Though I haven’t used the company, many international travelers are pleased with them and good reviews from folks who have purchased them.
After taking a look at their website I see where they also offer SIM card packages that include a cheap cell phone. Most pre-paid SIM cards have an operating life of a year or longer if left unused.
While I am sure there are dozens of options out there when it comes to buying a cell phone in Europe – these are the ones I can confirm from first hand experiences.
As always, research the local providers and cell phone companies before you make the jump.
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