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

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

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

Old Jan 22, 19, 5:37 pm
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2010
Location: KSUX
Posts: 826
SIM for multi-country Europe trip and options for calling home

Apologies for yet another "what SIM?" thread but I haven't seen one that quite fits what I'm looking for. Please merge if need be.


In late March and early April I'll be taking my first trip to Europe spending 19 days spread between London, Lisbon, and Paris with a trip up to Normandy and I'd like to avoid having to go buy a SIM in every country I'll be in. I read in another thread that Three is a popular choice for prepaid SIM in the UK and see they have roaming partners in both Portugal and France. After researching options on their website their £27.50 30 day plan looks perfect for my trip. Am I missing something obvious (or maybe not so) that this wouldn't be an option for me? I'll be using my iPhone 7+ which is on Verizon and is according to them unlocked.

Also I'm wondering what would be the easiest and cheapest way to call home to the US a couple times where there? For friends and family with iPhones I could use face time audio but for others with Android phones I'm not sure what'd be my best option. In the past when I've traveled to Mexico I just used a T-Mobile prepaid SIM which offered calling between the US, Canada and Mexico but obviously something like that doesn't exist for my Europe trip; at least that I know of.

Any advice is appreciated!
LtKernelPanic is offline  
Old Jan 22, 19, 6:19 pm
  #2  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Jan 2014
Location: San Diego, CA
Programs: GE, Marriott Gold
Posts: 14,582
If you have Google Voice you can use the Hangouts app to place VoIP calls to the US for free.

There's also Wi-Fi Calling from hotel rooms and such with the Verizon SIM card that should allow free calls to the US (though I don't have Verizon so someone will need to confirm that this won't result in fees). This should be a simple matter of enabling it from within the iPhone's settings. Of course, unless you have the newest iPhone, you'll have to swap SIM cards every time you want to do this.
tmiw is offline  
Old Jan 22, 19, 8:06 pm
  #3  
 
Join Date: Aug 2018
Location: NC
Programs: AA, Marriott/SPG, AMEX
Posts: 272
Originally Posted by LtKernelPanic View Post
Apologies for yet another "what SIM?" thread but I haven't seen one that quite fits what I'm looking for. Please merge if need be.


In late March and early April I'll be taking my first trip to Europe spending 19 days spread between London, Lisbon, and Paris with a trip up to Normandy and I'd like to avoid having to go buy a SIM in every country I'll be in. I read in another thread that Three is a popular choice for prepaid SIM in the UK and see they have roaming partners in both Portugal and France. After researching options on their website their £27.50 30 day plan looks perfect for my trip. Am I missing something obvious (or maybe not so) that this wouldn't be an option for me? I'll be using my iPhone 7+ which is on Verizon and is according to them unlocked.

Also I'm wondering what would be the easiest and cheapest way to call home to the US a couple times where there? For friends and family with iPhones I could use face time audio but for others with Android phones I'm not sure what'd be my best option. In the past when I've traveled to Mexico I just used a T-Mobile prepaid SIM which offered calling between the US, Canada and Mexico but obviously something like that doesn't exist for my Europe trip; at least that I know of.

Any advice is appreciated!
Google Duo and Hangouts work. Of course, both android and iphone need the apps. My husband is a sheep iPhone user and I'm android They both work very well but you should test before your trip.

Verizon has Travelpass but at $10 per day a lot more expensive (but super convenient and good to have activated if you need a backup plan).

Another option is Google Fi. I'll be testing it on my upcoming Europe trip, if it works well there and at home I may be giving up our 20+ year relationship with Verizon/GTE. I believe your phone is compatible.

I hope you find something that works well for you. Have fun!
hipquest is offline  
Old Jan 22, 19, 8:11 pm
  #4  
Moderator: Travel Safety/Security, Travel Tools, California, Los Angeles; FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: VNY | BUR | LAX
Programs: AAdvantage | MileagePlus
Posts: 14,513
Originally Posted by tmiw View Post
There's also Wi-Fi Calling from hotel rooms and such with the Verizon SIM card that should allow free calls to the US (though I don't have Verizon so someone will need to confirm that this won't result in fees).
I've never been charged for WiFi calls to the US and it is the stated Verizon policy:
How much does Wi-Fi Calling cost?

The Wi-Fi Calling feature is available at no additional charge, and is included in your existing monthly voice plan. Your Wi-Fi calls to US numbers, regardless of where you are located, are also free of charge (except for 411 and other premium calls). Wi-Fi calls to international numbers are billed as "International Calling While in the US" (also known as International Long Distance). If an international rate plan exists on your account, international calls are billed at those rates. A Wi-Fi Calling icon will appear on your screen during the call to confirm that it is using Wi-Fi to connect it. If the call is using the Verizon or a roaming network, standard voice charges apply.
All that being said, I like to be able receive calls at my regular US number while traveling abroad, so I use Verizon TravelPass.
TWA884 is offline  
Old Jan 23, 19, 7:27 am
  #5  
 
Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: Belgium
Posts: 865
Three is a solid option assuming you're starting in the UK. I'd go with a cheaper plan vs. the £27.50, though--36GB is a lot of data, and you'll only get 15GB outside the UK anyway. Go Roam | Roaming free of charge in 71 destinations | Three

For calling back to the US, I second the option of getting a Google Voice number for free and using Hangouts.
der_saeufer is offline  
Old Jan 23, 19, 8:11 am
  #6  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,228
Just to add that if you are using Hangouts with Google Voice Account, you will also need to install Hangouts Dialer app to actually get the Dial pad on Hangouts app.
Need is offline  
Old Jan 23, 19, 9:35 am
  #7  
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: BWI,IAD,DCA
Programs: UA gold, Hyatt Plat Marriott silver,Hilton Gold, PC Plat., SPG Gold.,Hertz Gold, Global Entry
Posts: 621
I use Three and it works all over Europe. To call home I use WhatsApp. Of course, the person has to download the app. You can text, call and video call from the app. I bought mine off of eBay and topped it up. You do have to use a top-up provider as Three will not accept American credit cards. Look at PrePaidGSM.net. look in the Europe section then a subsection UK and you will find a thread on Three. In that thread, they have a couple of companies that you can use to top-up your sim card.
Stgermainparis likes this.
powerlifter is offline  
Old Jan 23, 19, 11:36 am
  #8  
 
Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: ORF
Programs: Amex Plat, AA, BA Silver, WN, Marriott, Choice Diamond, HHonors Gold, IHG Spire, Club Carlson Gold
Posts: 3,474
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.
lwildernorva is offline  
Old Jan 23, 19, 11:49 pm
  #9  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2010
Location: KSUX
Posts: 826
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.
LtKernelPanic is offline  
Old Jan 24, 19, 7:10 am
  #10  
 
Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: Belgium
Posts: 865
Originally Posted by LtKernelPanic View Post
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 bought a Three SIM in a Three shop last year and while I had to show ID, I wasn't even asked for an address. If you're in Europe for less than a month, you don't have to top up--you'll buy the first month in the shop and toss the SIM before the month is up. I wouldn't mess around with buying one on eBay, trying to top up, etc. when it's so easy to walk into the shop, pay your 10-20 pounds, and be on your way with a working SIM.

Also, the Hangouts Dialer app only exists on Android. On iOS, the main Hangouts app already includes the voice call function.
der_saeufer is offline  
Old Jan 24, 19, 8:21 am
  #11  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,228
Originally Posted by der_saeufer View Post
Also, the Hangouts Dialer app only exists on Android. On iOS, the main Hangouts app already includes the voice call function.
Wow I did not know that! Why did Google make it so difficult to use their own app on an Android device? I always thought it was stupid that I have to install 2 apps but only interfaced thru 1. It is kind of like that Facebook app and Facebook Messenger app. Ever since Facebook separated out the Messenger to a different app that I have to install, I stopped using it and did not install it.

And for OP, when you pick a GV number, you could do a search to find a number that closely matches your Verizon number. That way it would be easy for you to remember. I was able to get a GV number is 1 digit different than my actual mobile number. Basically the exact same number with different area code (at the other coast) that matches 2 of the 3 digits.
Need is offline  
Old Jan 24, 19, 3:31 pm
  #12  
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: PDX
Posts: 907
Originally Posted by LtKernelPanic View Post
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.
Three or EE sim + Google Voice should work out for your quite well. I personally ordered an EE sim on eBay before my trip, and then after activating it, I selected a £15 for 5Gb/500min plan for 30 days. As soon as I landed in Germany, the sim started to roam (free EU roaming) right away. I used my UK number for my colleagues in EU and my Google Voice number for family in the US. It worked great, and I did not face any problems with coverage. Contrary to some other opinions on this board, I would suggest getting a UK sim card and activating it while you are in the US, as it may save you a few hours after you land in London.
König is offline  
Old Jan 24, 19, 3:45 pm
  #13  
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: PDX
Posts: 907
Originally Posted by der_saeufer View Post
I wouldn't mess around with buying one on eBay, trying to top up, etc. when it's so easy to walk into the shop, pay your 10-20 pounds, and be on your way with a working SIM.
There is really no messing around with buying a UK sim card before the trip. I bought my EE sim off of eBay for $2.54 and then after I popped it into my phone and made sure it could register on the partner network (T-mo or AT&T), I went online and purchased a desired 30-day plan. This way, even if it hadn't worked out, I would've only wasted a few bucks. The EE website says that EE sim can only be activated while in the UK, but it's not true -- mine activated a few minutes after inserting it into my Moto Z2 play, and shortly afterwards, I received an SMS from EE saying "Welcome to the USA. Your roaming rates are ...". So, it was obvious that it was activated and ready to be used once I had enough credit on it. In summary -- I was able to take advantage of EE's domestic £15/5Gb/500min/unlimited sms plan on my trip to Europe without ever stepping foot in the UK. If it can save me even 30 mins of my time (a trip to the store + activation time) after a long flight, why not?
Stgermainparis likes this.
König is offline  
Old Jan 25, 19, 3:39 am
  #14  
 
Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: Belgium
Posts: 865
Originally Posted by König View Post
There is really no messing around with buying a UK sim card before the trip. I bought my EE sim off of eBay for $2.54 and then after I popped it into my phone and made sure it could register on the partner network (T-mo or AT&T), I went online and purchased a desired 30-day plan. This way, even if it hadn't worked out, I would've only wasted a few bucks. The EE website says that EE sim can only be activated while in the UK, but it's not true -- mine activated a few minutes after inserting it into my Moto Z2 play, and shortly afterwards, I received an SMS from EE saying "Welcome to the USA. Your roaming rates are ...". So, it was obvious that it was activated and ready to be used once I had enough credit on it. In summary -- I was able to take advantage of EE's domestic £15/5Gb/500min/unlimited sms plan on my trip to Europe without ever stepping foot in the UK. If it can save me even 30 mins of my time (a trip to the store + activation time) after a long flight, why not?
Does EE let you top up directly via a non-UK credit card? That's what makes it a pain with Three--in order to top up without either being in the UK or having UK-issued plastic, you have to go through somewhat sketchy resellers.

Three's roaming used to be unique, but everyone does it now (for Europe at least) so they may no longer actually be the best option.
der_saeufer is offline  
Old Jan 25, 19, 1:12 pm
  #15  
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: PDX
Posts: 907
Originally Posted by der_saeufer View Post
Does EE let you top up directly via a non-UK credit card?
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?
König is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Search Engine: