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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 Jul 11, 2019, 11:44 pm
  #61  
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Or just wait until you get into the city, walk a few feet and find dozens of telecom shops all over.
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Old Jul 11, 2019, 11:51 pm
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Originally Posted by wco81
Or just wait until you get into the city, walk a few feet and find dozens of telecom shops all over.
Whike that works for many, Ive heard reports of phones being temporarily bricked once a foreign sim is inserted. To work normally, the phone then needs to return to the home country and locate a motherland cell tower before it can return to normal functioning. For that reason, Im hoping that activation before traveling avoids that potential downfall.
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Old Jul 12, 2019, 12:05 am
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Originally Posted by 747FC


Whike that works for many, Ive heard reports of phones being temporarily bricked once a foreign sim is inserted. To work normally, the phone then needs to return to the home country and locate a motherland cell tower before it can return to normal functioning. For that reason, Im hoping that activation before traveling avoids that potential downfall.

Huh?

You go to London, there are probably shops selling UK sims which will roam in Europe at full speed.

They will actually activate the data plan for you.

Then when you go to the EU with it, it should just work. Now I've never taken a UK SIM to the EU. But I've taken SIMs from one EU country to another and they roamed as they're suppose to. I'm going to Austria in September and I see that their SIMs no longer roam outside of EU. So plan accordingly, though I would guess there must be an MVNO who offers free roaming SIMs even there.
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Old Jul 12, 2019, 12:39 am
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Originally Posted by 747FC


Whike that works for many, Ive heard reports of phones being temporarily bricked once a foreign sim is inserted. To work normally, the phone then needs to return to the home country and locate a motherland cell tower before it can return to normal functioning. For that reason, Im hoping that activation before traveling avoids that potential downfall.
This is what happens to sim locked phones. When you first buy a phone, it is locked to your mobile phone company so any sim from that company will work.

This happened to me with my new Huawei when I tried using my local SA sim card in SA. I had forgotten to ask/find out if it was sim locked. Soon as I returned to UK, put my UK sim card in... No problem.
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Old Jul 12, 2019, 2:48 am
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The Three SIM that Stgermainparis bought off US Amazon is probably the best option for trips to Europe under a month; there's a EE SIM (also on US Amazon) whose data lasts for 6 months that can potentially be a better option for longer trips.

For 98% of use cases, those sketchy "roaming SIMs" are not worth it. The prices are generally not competitive and customer support varies from poor to nonexistent.

If you want to have the SIM in hand before leaving the US, buy one of the UK SIMs off US Amazon. Otherwise, just buy a prepaid SIM at a shop wherever you land in Europe. Whether that's a better value than pre-ordering the UK SIM varies by country and by your needs.

And if you're roaming in a bunch of non-EEA countries that Three doesn't cover, that's potentially a good use case for Google Fi.

Originally Posted by Nayef
Seems like the one being used by @Stgermainparis is the better choice. I hope they're able to use tethering with it because that's what we might need to rely on. I have an unlocked iPhone X with ATT and my girlfriend has an iPhone 8 with Verizon (and no sim-card slot!).
If it didn't have a SIM slot, it wouldn't work on Verizon either; all Verizon LTE-capable phones have SIMs. It's on there, and Verizon phones sold prior to about a month ago are always unlocked, so she's good to go with a foreign SIM.

As for tethering, I've used Three UK on and off over the past couple years and have never had any issues tethering--but I've always been on Android phones. They certainly don't make any effort to block it.

Originally Posted by wco81
Then when you go to the EU with it, it should just work. Now I've never taken a UK SIM to the EU. But I've taken SIMs from one EU country to another and they roamed as they're suppose to. I'm going to Austria in September and I see that their SIMs no longer roam outside of EU. So plan accordingly, though I would guess there must be an MVNO who offers free roaming SIMs even there.
Contrary to [something I'd post in bad OMNI], the UK is still an EU member, so the roaming directive still applies to UK carriers and UK SIMs will work in the other 29 EEA countries.

Three's roaming predates the EU roaming directive by several years and includes lots of countries like the U.S. that aren't part of it. Since they did it of their own volition long before required to do so, I can't see Three suddenly dropping EEA roaming from their plans post-Brexit. I could see them going back to free roaming only on plans over 20, though.
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Last edited by der_saeufer; Jul 12, 2019 at 3:55 am
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Old Jul 12, 2019, 5:04 am
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Originally Posted by Nayef
I'm just wary of using the one used by @stgermaineparis because some of the one-star reviews claimed they messed up by activating it in the US.
I personally think those are user error. Folks who dont understand what an unlocked phone means or who think their phone is unlocked when its not. The country list for the one I bought includes USA as well as Europe.
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Old Jul 12, 2019, 9:31 am
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I have had a Three sim for years. I never had any trouble in the EU when I travel. I used it in Switzerland, Austria. and France. I do not use the 30-day plan. I have a pre-paid plan and topup when I need.
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Old Jul 12, 2019, 1:39 pm
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Originally Posted by der_saeufer
If it didn't have a SIM slot, it wouldn't work on Verizon either; all Verizon LTE-capable phones have SIMs. It's on there, and Verizon phones sold prior to about a month ago are always unlocked, so she's good to go with a foreign SIM.
Just to clarify, Verizon prepaid phones have been locked for several years and the packaging indicates the amount and/or service time before the phone will be unlocked. Verizon prepaid phones will not work with a Verizon post paid SIM. In June the FCC did grant Verizon a waiver to lock post paid LTE phones after Verizon alleged thefts were occurring.

I have an AT&T postpaid account and I have used AT&T prepaid iPhones which can be unlocked after 6 months of continuous service.

Verizon hasn't updated their website for the FCC waiver

https://www.verizon.com/about/consum...locking-policy

Postpay Device Unlocking Policy

  • We do not lock most phones or tablets that are activated with our postpay service either during or after the term of your service contract or Device Payment Plan installment sales agreement.
  • We do not lock our 4G LTE devices, and no code is needed to program them for use with another carrier.
  • We do not lock our 3G devices, other than our non-iPhone 3G World Devices. The simple code to program such 3G devices for use with another carrier is either 000000 or 123456. If the user guide for your device does not provide instructions to access the programming menu, you can dial *611 from your Verizon Wireless phone or call 800.922.0204 for assistance.
  • The SIM cards used in our non-iPhone 3G World Devices are locked. We will unlock those SIM cards at your request
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Old Jul 14, 2019, 2:29 am
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Oops, I forgot about Verizon prepaid phones. Thanks for pointing that out.

You don't see too many of those in the wild, though, and other than the iPhone, most of Verizon's prepaid phones are missing a ton of LTE bands compared to the regular (i.e. non-Verizon) model so they're nearly useless overseas anyway.
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Old Jul 16, 2019, 10:42 pm
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Originally Posted by der_saeufer
... most of Verizon's prepaid phones are missing a ton of LTE bands compared to the regular (i.e. non-Verizon) model so they're nearly useless overseas anyway.
Yep, you're absolutely right. I actually don't understand why people still get the "handicapped" phones and then pay 2X-3X more for monthly service.
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Old Jul 17, 2019, 3:42 am
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Originally Posted by Knig
Yep, you're absolutely right. I actually don't understand why people still get the "handicapped" phones and then pay 2X-3X more for monthly service.
If you truly need Verizon's network, going directly through Verizon prepaid is cheaper than postpaid and only slightly more expensive than one of Carlos Slim's throttled MVNOs. If you never plan to change carriers, the Verizon phone-in-a-box is subsidized, so why not?

That's a tiny, tiny segment of the population, though--for most people, T-Mo or AT&T MVNOs are cheaper. I was a Verizon prepaid user for a while because no other carrier's prepaid covered both the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and southwestern Wisconsin. But I brought my own phone. When I'm back in the middle of nowhere later this year, I'll probably dig out a Verizon prepaid SIM from my stash for a month. It's nearly three times the price of Mint, but it's better than being on the "Emergency Calls Only" network (or dealing with Fi's unreliable roaming) the second I step past the city limits of Sault Ste Marie or off I-75.

Back to the topic at hand, if you have a prepaid Verizon phone, it's unlikely to work in Europe whether it's locked or not. If you have an unlocked phone that supports LTE 3, 7, and 20, the Three UK SIMs available for 15-20 in shops or ~$25 on Amazon US are usually the way to go for a European vacation
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Old Jul 17, 2019, 11:20 am
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Originally Posted by der_saeufer
If you truly need Verizon's network, going directly through Verizon prepaid is cheaper than postpaid and only slightly more expensive than one of Carlos Slim's throttled MVNOs. If you never plan to change carriers, the Verizon phone-in-a-box is subsidized, so why not?

That's a tiny, tiny segment of the population, though--for most people, T-Mo or AT&T MVNOs are cheaper. I was a Verizon prepaid user for a while because no other carrier's prepaid covered both the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and southwestern Wisconsin. But I brought my own phone. When I'm back in the middle of nowhere later this year, I'll probably dig out a Verizon prepaid SIM from my stash for a month. It's nearly three times the price of Mint, but it's better than being on the "Emergency Calls Only" network (or dealing with Fi's unreliable roaming) the second I step past the city limits of Sault Ste Marie or off I-75.

Back to the topic at hand, if you have a prepaid Verizon phone, it's unlikely to work in Europe whether it's locked or not. If you have an unlocked phone that supports LTE 3, 7, and 20, the Three UK SIMs available for 15-20 in shops or ~$25 on Amazon US are usually the way to go for a European vacation
T-mobile and AT&Ts networks in the the north woods and central parts of Wisconsin and in the UP seem to have been getting considerably stronger than used to be the case a year or two ago. I cant speak to the SE MN and SW WI areas, but it seems like T-Mobile and/or ATT have upgraded their reach in the mentioned states.
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Old Jul 17, 2019, 2:04 pm
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Originally Posted by der_saeufer
Back to the topic at hand, if you have a prepaid Verizon phone, it's unlikely to work in Europe whether it's locked or not. If you have an unlocked phone that supports LTE 3, 7, and 20, the Three UK SIMs available for 15-20 in shops or ~$25 on Amazon US are usually the way to go for a European vacation
Verizon prepaid iPhones are the same as the Verizon post paid iPhones. The Verizon Moto E5 once unlocked works fine in Europe which is the phone I used with a local SIM. There are lots of low end Verizon prepaid phones but not all phones are missing bands for Europe.
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Old Jul 27, 2019, 8:22 am
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Thought Id circle back and say total success with the sub $20 Three 12GB SIM cards. Activated in US before leaving (takes 24 hours for activation so do it ahead of time...you get a confirmation via email). Started in Switzerland, then France, then Italy. No problems whatsoever. When we arrived in new country, we got texts from their provider. I went through about 10GB in 17 days but for at least a week, the sim was my only internet access. It also worked in US when we returned.

The cell number was UK. I could call EU numbers without charge. I used Google Hangout and Skype to call US without charge. It may be a concern for some using SMS texts that you can only send them to other EU numbers. I could not send or receive SMS from US numbers. But we communicated via iMessage and WhatsApp. Im sure some friends tried to text me at my US number though and couldnt. Oh and I never got around to tethering so cant report on that.

Happy to answer any questions.
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Old Jul 27, 2019, 9:23 am
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Originally Posted by Stgermainparis
Thought Id circle back and say total success with the sub $20 Three 12GB SIM cards. Activated in US before leaving (takes 24 hours for activation so do it ahead of time...you get a confirmation via email). Started in Switzerland, then France, then Italy. No problems whatsoever. When we arrived in new country, we got texts from their provider. I went through about 10GB in 17 days but for at least a week, the sim was my only internet access. It also worked in US when we returned.

The cell number was UK. I could call EU numbers without charge. I used Google Hangout and Skype to call US without charge. It may be a concern for some using SMS texts that you can only send them to other EU numbers. I could not send or receive SMS from US numbers. But we communicated via iMessage and WhatsApp. Im sure some friends tried to text me at my US number though and couldnt. Oh and I never got around to tethering so cant report on that.

Happy to answer any questions.
Is there an app or a number or anything that can show data usage for that SIM card?
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