Go Back  FlyerTalk Forums > Travel&Dining > Travel Technology
Reload this Page >

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

Old Aug 17, 2023, 8:44 am
FlyerTalk Forums Expert How-Tos and Guides
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.
Print Wikipost

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

Old Apr 6, 2019, 12:41 pm
  #31  
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: PDX
Posts: 908
Originally Posted by Stgermainparis
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
It will work if you don't need a UK number, as this SIM is data only. However, if you need to call places in Europe, which you most likely will, it is better to get a SIM that has voice and data. Calling and texting from a UK EE number in continental Europe is free, so it might come handy. Otherwise, if you go with data only, you would have to use a Google Voice number (via Hangouts) that is free for calls to/from the USA, but requires a balance to call foreign numbers. The good thing about EE roaming is that it is mostly 4G everywhere in EU.
Knig is offline  
Old Apr 6, 2019, 3:30 pm
  #32  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2010
Location: KSUX
Posts: 903
Ah good catch. I completely glossed over that. Personally I'd get one that has a number just in case. In the time I've been in Europe on my trip I've had to make one call while in Paris and it was nice to be able to just dial. GV has been working well for calling back to the US as well. I plan to write a follow up to my original post once I get home in a couple days and get un-jet lagged.
ajGoes likes this.
LtKernelPanic is offline  
Old Apr 7, 2019, 9:42 am
  #33  
 
Join Date: Feb 2013
Programs: Hyatt Globalist, MLife Gold, Marriott Gold, HHonors Gold, Caesars Diamond, Amex Plat
Posts: 5,813
Originally Posted by LtKernelPanic
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.
Originally Posted by Knig
It will work if you don't need a UK number, as this SIM is data only. However, if you need to call places in Europe, which you most likely will, it is better to get a SIM that has voice and data. Calling and texting from a UK EE number in continental Europe is free, so it might come handy. Otherwise, if you go with data only, you would have to use a Google Voice number (via Hangouts) that is free for calls to/from the USA, but requires a balance to call foreign numbers. The good thing about EE roaming is that it is mostly 4G everywhere in EU.
Thanks to you both. Im debating this need for a UK number now. I would only need to call in an emergency, like if we are running late for B&B check in after normal hours, and I suppose I could use GV if absolutely necessary. Can anyone provide a link for a prepaid / preloaded data and voice EE sim with UK # that I wouldnt need to reload? Ive got to buy sims for 4 people, so Im thinking I could do one of them with calling capacity.
Stgermainparis is offline  
Old Apr 8, 2019, 9:01 am
  #34  
 
Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: DEL
Posts: 1,049
Originally Posted by Stgermainparis
Thanks to you both. I’m debating this need for a UK number now. I would only need to call in an emergency, like if we are running late for B&B check in after normal hours, and I suppose I could use GV if absolutely necessary. Can anyone provide a link for a prepaid / preloaded data and voice EE sim with UK # that I wouldn’t need to reload? I’ve got to buy sims for 4 people, so I’m thinking I could do one of them with calling capacity.
If you don't need EE specifically, Three SIMs can be bought off Amazon for roughly what they cost in the UK:
12GB (9 out of UK) for $24 12GB (9 out of UK) for $24
or
5GB for $19 5GB for $19
Note that the SIMs with voice are nearly all 30-day plans vs. data SIMs that sometimes last longer.

That said, Google Voice calls only cost a few cents a minute to Europe, so if you'd only be making calls to let a B&B know about late check-in, it's not that big an issue.
der_saeufer is offline  
Old Apr 8, 2019, 2:43 pm
  #35  
 
Join Date: May 2013
Posts: 916
I would be more worried about my hotel or local contact wanting to call me and not happy to have to call a USA phone number , either my home sim number or a Google voice number.
you are spending $1000s on this vacation , spend an extra $10-20 and get voice and text on your sim.
Knig likes this.
LAXlocal is offline  
Old Apr 8, 2019, 2:51 pm
  #36  
Suspended
 
Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: Bay Area
Programs: DL SM, UA MP.
Posts: 12,729
Originally Posted by LAXlocal
I would be more worried about my hotel or local contact wanting to call me and not happy to have to call a USA phone number , either my home sim number or a Google voice number.
you are spending $1000s on this vacation , spend an extra $10-20 and get voice and text on your sim.

That's why I don't really bother giving out my US number, though they will ask often.

And I haven't used local SIMs in my phone but rather on my iPad, mostly for data.


I will ask if they use Skype or WhatsApp, so I can communicate with them that way, but even though a lot of these tourism people have private WhatsApp numbers, the businesses often do not have them.

It's easy and cheap enough to call them on their local numbers, if that is their preferred method for being contacted, but I try to see if they will communicate by email, chat or SMS instead, since those are much cheaper than international calls to mobile numbers, either my calling them or them calling me.

Besides, these days, voice calls are often the least efficient means.
wco81 is offline  
Old Apr 9, 2019, 8:23 am
  #37  
 
Join Date: Feb 2013
Programs: Hyatt Globalist, MLife Gold, Marriott Gold, HHonors Gold, Caesars Diamond, Amex Plat
Posts: 5,813
Originally Posted by der_saeufer
If you don't need EE specifically, Three SIMs can be bought off Amazon for roughly what they cost in the UK: 12GB (9 out of UK) for $24 or 5GB for $19
Note that the SIMs with voice are nearly all 30-day plans vs. data SIMs that sometimes last longer.

That said, Google Voice calls only cost a few cents a minute to Europe, so if you'd only be making calls to let a B&B know about late check-in, it's not that big an issue.
Brilliant! Thanks for links. Those are perfect.

I will say in decades of travel Ive never had a problem with hotel or otherwise angry that they had to call a US number. They are in the tourist business and are used to that. In most cases they communicate with me via email so its a moot point anyway.
Stgermainparis is offline  
Old Apr 9, 2019, 7:34 pm
  #38  
 
Join Date: May 2013
Posts: 916
We all travel different ways , but I often need to call people I am visiting and am lost or late , or shops to order things or find out what time they close etc.

Just like home !
Knig likes this.
LAXlocal is offline  
Old Apr 22, 2019, 3:23 pm
  #39  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2010
Location: KSUX
Posts: 903
Just a follow up to my original posting about a SIM for my trip. I ended up ordering a pre-paid SIM for the UK carrier Three from Amazon that cost me $26 USD. It came with unlimited talk and text and 20 in credit which gave me 12GB of data. Three also lets you use up to 15GB of data outside the UK with their Go Roam plans.

With the exchange rates at the time it cost me less than $1USD to buy it from Amazon in the US than to buy it in the UK. I also decided to order it ahead of time since my flight to London wasn't due to arrive at LHR until 10:30 pm and I figured finding a SIM at that hour may not have been the easiest. Registering the SIM was easy only requiring me to power cycle my phone and waiting a couple minutes for things to process after inserting the SIM. Below are my experiences in the UK, Portugal and France. Unfortunately I forget who the names of the roaming partners in Portugal and France.


In the UK:

I had pretty much flawless service 99.5% of the time as I'd expect. A couple times coming out of a tube station it just refused to reconnect to the network. A power cycle fixed it. The one oddity I had was only getting 4G service instead of LTE. I assume it was because my US (Verizon) iPhone 7+ lacked the band Three uses for LTE. Whatever the reason the 4G service was more than good enough for Google maps, email, quick looking up something on the web, etc. Anything requiring a lot of bandwidth was done back at the hotel regardless which country I was in.


In Portugal:

As expected I only had 3G service which was still good enough for my needs. I did notice that when I powered on my phone after arriving in the Lisbon airport it showed one carrier (with edge data, ick!) and after a minute or two it switched to another with 3G service. Overall the service was pretty rock solid except for one instance while at the Pena Palace in Sintra. For whatever reason even though my phone showed I had full service I could receive text messages but my replies would not go through. I could hear people who called me they just got garbled noise and couldn't hear me. This was a huge problem because one of the staff at the Palace gave me wrong directions how to get back to the main entrance which caused me to almost be left behind as the rest of my group had to leave within a few minutes. Thankfully I barely made it back in time. I was glad we had an awesome local guide who was very understanding.

In France:

Oh boy. When it worked, which honestly was probably 98+% of the time, it was great but I lost track of how many times I had to reboot my phone to force it to reconnect. Sometimes like in London it would be after exiting a Metro station and other times I'd be walking down a street and would lose service and not reconnect. As in Portugal I was limited to 3G speeds which was again fine for my needs. Overall it worked well but more than once I had connectivity issues at less than ideal times. The one time I made a voice call it worked fine unlike my experience in Sintra.


For calling back to the US Google Voice worked great. TI did have to fiddle with a couple settings before leaving to have incoming calls ring to the Hangouts app instead of forwarding to my Verizon number. Most of my calls back to the US were made them from the hotel so I could use their wifi and save my data. The couple calls I made over cellular data worked fine too.

Even with the relatively minor, but irritating at the time, issues I had for what I paid for the service I can't really complain. The only other minor annoyance was I couldn't download the Three app to check my data usage since it was only on the UK store. I've since found out that I could have switched the region setting on my phone to access the UK store. Oh well live and learn. Would I use Three again on future trips? Maybe but I think on my next trip to the UK I'll probably try EE or O2 and see how their service compares provided they're not too much more expensive. Of course depending how Brexit turns out things could change before my next trip.
LtKernelPanic is offline  
Old Apr 22, 2019, 3:47 pm
  #40  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Jan 2014
Location: San Diego, CA
Programs: GE, Marriott Platinum
Posts: 15,437
Originally Posted by LtKernelPanic
I had pretty much flawless service 99.5% of the time as I'd expect. A couple times coming out of a tube station it just refused to reconnect to the network. A power cycle fixed it. The one oddity I had was only getting 4G service instead of LTE. I assume it was because my US (Verizon) iPhone 7+ lacked the band Three uses for LTE. Whatever the reason the 4G service was more than good enough for Google maps, email, quick looking up something on the web, etc. Anything requiring a lot of bandwidth was done back at the hotel regardless which country I was in.
LTE service is generally shown as "4G" on phones in other countries. Carriers in the US show LTE because of our previous history with naming (which AT&T seems to be trying to repeat with the 5GE thing).
tmiw is offline  
Old Apr 22, 2019, 3:51 pm
  #41  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2010
Location: KSUX
Posts: 903
Ah good to know. Now that you mention it I remember people calling it "3.5G" when it rolled out in the US.
LtKernelPanic is offline  
Old Apr 22, 2019, 6:25 pm
  #42  
 
Join Date: Feb 2013
Programs: Hyatt Globalist, MLife Gold, Marriott Gold, HHonors Gold, Caesars Diamond, Amex Plat
Posts: 5,813
Originally Posted by LtKernelPanic
Just a follow up to my original posting about a SIM for my trip. I ended up ordering a pre-paid SIM for the UK carrier Three from Amazon that cost me $26 USD. It came with unlimited talk and text and 20 in credit which gave me 12GB of data. Three also lets you use up to 15GB of data outside the UK with their Go Roam plans.

With the exchange rates at the time it cost me less than $1USD to buy it from Amazon in the US than to buy it in the UK. I also decided to order it ahead of time since my flight to London wasn't due to arrive at LHR until 10:30 pm and I figured finding a SIM at that hour may not have been the easiest. Registering the SIM was easy only requiring me to power cycle my phone and waiting a couple minutes for things to process after inserting the SIM.
Did you activate SIM before arriving in UK or after you landed?
Stgermainparis is offline  
Old Apr 22, 2019, 7:37 pm
  #43  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2010
Location: KSUX
Posts: 903
Originally Posted by Stgermainparis


Did you activate SIM before arriving in UK or after you landed?
After landing and clearing passport control and customs. According to the time stamps on the text messages it took 5 minutes for the sim to be registered on the network even though it said it could take up to 30 minutes.
Stgermainparis likes this.
LtKernelPanic is offline  
Old Apr 22, 2019, 8:52 pm
  #44  
Suspended
 
Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: Bay Area
Programs: DL SM, UA MP.
Posts: 12,729
Yeah sometimes there could be quite a queue at the phone stores. And some countries they have to copy your passport and go through a lot of paperwork.

I would imagine some of the other carriers have better roaming than others in neighboring countries.

I tried 3 once, a bit cheaper than EE and other UK carriers. But that was before EU RLAH rules so there may be more competitive offerings now as far as roaming.
wco81 is offline  
Old Apr 22, 2019, 10:19 pm
  #45  
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: PDX
Posts: 908
Originally Posted by LtKernelPanic
Even with the relatively minor, but irritating at the time, issues I had for what I paid for the service I can't really complain. ... Maybe but I think on my next trip to the UK I'll probably try EE or O2 and see how their service compares provided they're not too much more expensive.
Thanks for sharing your experience with 3 in EU. Based on my own experience with EE, I can say it seems to better (even if only marginally) than 3 when roaming outside of UK.

What was really interesting is that my whole trip the phone showed R instead of 4G or LTE, but based on the download speed, it was definitely LTE (30Mbps).
Knig is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Manage Preferences - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Terms of Service -

This site is owned, operated, and maintained by MH Sub I, LLC dba Internet Brands. Copyright © 2024 MH Sub I, LLC dba Internet Brands. All rights reserved. Designated trademarks are the property of their respective owners.