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SIM for multi-country Europe trip and options for calling home

Old Aug 17, 2023, 8:44 am
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Last edit by: serpens
Here are instructions for what phone settings to use when a travel SIM has been activated. The initial wiki is for an iPhone (in particular, an iPhone SE 2020 with iOS 16.6), but perhaps others will expand the wiki to clarify the steps for other phones or other operating system versions.

* Before arriving in the travel area, turn off roaming on the home SIM (to avoid any roaming charge).
- At Settings > Cellular, under SIMs, choose the home SIM and turn off Data Roaming.
If there is a Network Selection option (which is apparently not available with Consumer Cellular), choose a network on which the phone cannot roam, for example, 313-100.

* After arriving in the travel area, use the following settings.
- At Settings > Cellular > Cellular Data, choose the travel SIM and turn off Allow Cellular Data Switching.
- At Settings > Cellular > Default Voice Line, choose the home SIM.
- At Settings > Cellular, under SIMs, ensure both home and travel are On.
- At Settings > Cellular > [home SIM], ensure Wi-Fi calling is On and Data Roaming is Off.
- At Settings > Cellular > [travel SIM], ensure Data Roaming is On and (optionally) Low Data Mode is On.

Corrections are welcome, as are elaborations of what these settings mean and do.
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SIM for multi-country Europe trip and options for calling home

Old Jan 26, 2019, 6:46 pm
  #16  
 
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Originally Posted by König
You know, I just checked, and it appears that they need a card with a UK address. Last November, I was able to pay with my US MasterCard (I can still see it under the EE payment history and on my credit card statement), but now it does not seem to be the case. Weird... Maybe, they only accept foreign cards when activating a new account? Or maybe something changed in the last 3 months?
Interesting. My Tesco Mobile Ireland account allowed me to top up with a US credit card when I signed up and it still does--I just topped up last week when I was in Italy. I'd be unhappy if Tesco changed that policy for my account because it makes top ups really simple for me.
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Old Feb 3, 2019, 3:18 pm
  #17  
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Originally Posted by lwildernorva
If your travels are in Europe only, then you should be able to roam all over the continent with a SIM purchased in one country plus make calls back to the US with Google Voice. I've maintained a SIM I purchased from Tesco Mobile Ireland for several years now. I use that when I go to Ireland--generally once per year--but also use it around the rest of the continent. I've used it in Scotland, England, France, Vienna, and Italy with no issues other than roaming charges which can sometimes be steep.

But that's the beauty of Google Voice. Since I have data that I can attach to my plan, I generally use Google Voice for making calls to the US and European countries other than Ireland, even when I'm not connected to a wifi spot, thus avoiding roaming charges. In addition, people can respond to my texts without incurring significant international texting charges. If I top up my Tesco SIM by 15 euro, I get some extra data that I can use for about 30 days. I think I have to have activity on the account every 90 days or six months to keep my SIM active, but I make several trips per year to Europe so that's not been a problem. I generally top up when I get to Europe at the beginning of my trip as I did several days ago when I arrived in Italy. Since my phone and my plan allow tethering, I can use the SIM as a wifi hotspot as well. In fact, I'm using my SIM wifi right now while writing this message--much faster than my hotel's wifi.

It sounds as if you won't need to be concerned about keeping the number alive since you've only got this one trip planned, but it's nice to know that the option could be available.
Originally Posted by LtKernelPanic
Thank you everybody for the replies. A couple things based off the excellent feedback I've received.

I'll be starting (and finishing) my trip in London which is why I was looking at Three. IIRC in the other thread I was reading it said you had to give a UK address when registering the SIM but it seems putting in your hotel's address works fine. Hopefully they don't send a bunch of junk to the address you use. A quick glance at the forum powerlifter mentioned shows a couple services that I can use to top off a SIM. Looks like there are quite a few sellers on eBay selling SIM kits with £20 in credit preloaded for ~$25USD.

Google voice through hangouts with the dialer app sounds like the winner for my trip. It'll be a lot easier to give a local number to people who may need to contact me while I'm away than try to explain how to install a bunch of apps. It worked well when I did something similar for when I was in Mexico. I try setting it up and make sure everything is working right next week when I have a couple days off work.

I didn't realize I could use wifi calling to call back to the US with my Verizon SIM. Swapping SIMs every time I want to do so would be a pain but it's nice to have a backup option if needed.

Thanks again for all the suggestions. This was one thing that kind of had me worried since I couldn't do like I did on my Mexico trip.
Yes the EU Roam Like At Home (RLAH) program, since June 2017, allows you to use data throughout the EU if you purchase the SIM in one of the EU countries.

But I've found some variance, such as SIMs purchased in Spain and Austria roaming only at 3G in neighboring countries while a TIM SIM purchased in Italy had very high 4G speeds when I had a flight connection in Germany while flying back to the US>

However, you should also be aware that UK is scheduled to Brexit at the end of March. So there's uncertainty about whether UK carriers will still have RLAH arrangements with Euro carriers.

As for calls back to the US, I don't make many of those but I usually use FaceTime or other VOIP or chat programs. If you need to actually call phones, use Viber or Skype with a few credits (say $10 worth) to call back at a few cents a minute.
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Old Feb 5, 2019, 1:18 am
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Originally Posted by wco81
As for calls back to the US, I don't make many of those but I usually use FaceTime or other VOIP or chat programs. If you need to actually call phones, use Viber or Skype with a few credits (say $10 worth) to call back at a few cents a minute.
Why not Google Voice then? It's completely free and feels like a real phone number for all purposes. Last time I was in Europe, I used EE PAYG plan for data and local calls + GV for calls to/from the US. No problems what-so-ever.
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Old Feb 5, 2019, 7:51 am
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Originally Posted by wco81
But I've found some variance, such as SIMs purchased in Spain and Austria roaming only at 3G in neighboring countries while a TIM SIM purchased in Italy had very high 4G speeds when I had a flight connection in Germany while flying back to the US>

However, you should also be aware that UK is scheduled to Brexit at the end of March. So there's uncertainty about whether UK carriers will still have RLAH arrangements with Euro carriers.
Yep, the EU roaming rules don't require carriers to give full-speed data, only that it's usable. Some carriers find it cost-effective to have agreements only for HSPA (3G) roaming while others get full 4G. My Belgian SIM often has 4G on one carrier and 3G-only on one or two more, which is great fun when landing in a new country... "am I barred from the 4G on XZYphone, or am I just not patient enough for the handover?"

As for the UK SIMs, I can't speak for the other carriers but Three's "Feel at Home" (now called "Go Roam") predated the EU regs by several years and covers a few dozen non-EU countries as well, so I suspect that it'll continue mostly unchanged post-Brexit. My guess is that absent any agreement the UK will become like Switzerland where many EU carriers cover it because it's good business but some don't.
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Old Feb 5, 2019, 9:54 pm
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Originally Posted by König
Why not Google Voice then? It's completely free and feels like a real phone number for all purposes. Last time I was in Europe, I used EE PAYG plan for data and local calls + GV for calls to/from the US. No problems what-so-ever.

Google Voice calls all US numbers for free?
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Old Feb 5, 2019, 11:28 pm
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Originally Posted by wco81
Google Voice calls all US numbers for free?
Yes, sir. With Google Voice you can call US (incl Puerto Rico) and Canada for free.
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Old Feb 10, 2019, 7:47 am
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used my verizon european plan for 3 months. Sort of more expensive, but same number for people who called me
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Old Feb 10, 2019, 10:54 am
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I’m trying to figure all this out too, esp if Brexit eliminates free roaming for Uk sims in EU. Last summer I used an AIS SIM2FLY in three countries (Japan, Indonesia, Hong Kong). Ordered on eBay. These worked perfectly for data (preloaded). No calls or texts though. They sell a Europe one and I am tempted to get that bc of last summer’s success. They grab Swisscom, Orange, and Vodafone in the countries I’m visiting.

Has anyone else used one of these?

AIS 4G Data Roaming
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Old Feb 10, 2019, 3:34 pm
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Does the AIS sim have daily rates only or do they sell buckets of data that can be used on over a few months ?
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Old Feb 10, 2019, 3:51 pm
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Originally Posted by LAXlocal
Does the AIS sim have daily rates only or do they sell buckets of data that can be used on over a few months ?
The ones we got are only good for 8 days. I think they are marketed to tourists.
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Old Feb 15, 2019, 11:48 pm
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Here is a BBC article on Brexit and Roaming: https://www.bbc.com/news/business-45064268
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Old Feb 17, 2019, 9:48 pm
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Thanks for posting that link. Looks like for the next year or so things will remain the same. I'll report back how things went after my trip.
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Old Feb 18, 2019, 1:35 am
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Originally Posted by username
Here is a BBC article on Brexit and Roaming: https://www.bbc.com/news/business-45064268
Originally Posted by LtKernelPanic
Thanks for posting that link. Looks like for the next year or so things will remain the same. I'll report back how things went after my trip.
N.....no! It will only remain the same if the Common's can agree on a deal so there will be an "implementation period" till the end of 2020 or if another date is agreed in the future. otherwise "If the UK leaves without a deal, Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright has confirmed that mobile operators will be able to implement roaming charges if they want to."

Originally Posted by der_saeufer
As for the UK SIMs, I can't speak for the other carriers but Three's "Feel at Home" (now called "Go Roam") predated the EU regs by several years and covers a few dozen non-EU countries as well, so I suspect that it'll continue mostly unchanged post-Brexit. My guess is that absent any agreement the UK will become like Switzerland where many EU carriers cover it because it's good business but some don't.
Three sim "free" roaming works in all countries where Three has network. but at with 3G speed.
For Europe in general, I've used O2 (UK) in iceland and it worked quite well -of course, when i was out of the city no phone networks really worked well (I am paying 10GBP a month for 2GB data that i can stack onto another month plus a phone number i can deal with my normal chores). I've also used Vodafone (ES) in Portugal and the UK before and it worked rather well, but costs a bit more. In general I can find cheaper sim in town in the UK better than the rest of Europe.

For AIS, I've had experience in Japan. In short, it sucks. cheap yes but i think bandwidth is at the bottom of all priorities.

Last edited by kaka; Feb 18, 2019 at 1:41 am
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Old Apr 6, 2019, 9:16 am
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Gearing up for 15 day summer trip in Switzerland, France, Italy. I have only US cc’s so don’t want to risk not being able to top up. Also would like sim before arriving in Zurich bc won’t have time or energy to go buy a sim and register etc. as dragging whole family onto train directly from long haul flight. Need only 2-3GB of data for two weeks. Is something like this EE what you all are taking about and is $30 reasonable price: https://www.ebay.com/itm/Europe-EU-U...EAAOSwTEZcEFP5
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Old Apr 6, 2019, 11:47 am
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Something like that should do the trick fine I'd think. You may only have 3G speeds while roaming but that's still more than enough for just about everything.
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