Making phone calls in Europe
June 1, 2011 7:32 AM   Subscribe

Traveling to Europe. Any advice for making phone calls within Europe and US?

I'm traveling to Poland to visit family for about two weeks and would like the ability to make phone calls within the country as well as my girlfriend in the United States.

I currently have a Verizon cellphone and it doesn't use SIM cards so I was thinking about buying one of those pre-paid cheap cellphones and buying a new SIM card when I get there.

Does anyone have any good advice for making phone calls when traveling to Poland or other countries in Europe? If I go with the pre-paid phone do I have to worry about the manufacture? Should I buy a pre-paid SIM card now or wait until I get to Poland?

Really looking for the most cost-effective and painless approach that doesn't involve a calling card.
posted by deeman to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You can't use a pre-paid phone with a different carrier's SIM. You would need a cheap unlocked GSM phone (they exist), and then you can put any SIM you want into it. You will be able to purchase a no-contract SIM almost anywhere in Poland. These will usually come with 5 euros of credit on them, and you can add more online or by going to certain shops. Do not purchase a SIM in the USA before you go.

If you're going to be in Poland and want to call the USA, you're going to suck up your credit very quickly. It makes a lot more sense to use a locally-purchased Polish international calling card for that purpose.
posted by 1adam12 at 7:45 AM on June 1, 2011

I agree with 1adam12 and would like to add more info.
Will there be wifi available where you are staying? Is your smartphone wifi capable or are you bringing a laptop that can use the internet? You can use Skype to call the US (free if the person you are calling also has Skype). That would significantly cut the cost of calling and you can get away with much cheaper bills on the prepaid cellphone.
posted by jillithd at 7:48 AM on June 1, 2011

Ask at the Verizon store about renting an international phone. I don't remember what it costs (less than I expected it to), but my American friends did this when traveling Europe.

To call within Poland, you probably want a cheap pay-as-you-go that you buy there and can top up with minutes as needed, skipping the SIM purchase altogether. (That's assuming Poland is like Netherlands in availability.)

To call your girlfriend, either use your Verizon rental if it's cost-effective, or just call her from your computer via Google Voice, which is free if you're calling American numbers even when the person initiating the call is not in US. Granted, this requires Internet access...
posted by knile at 8:04 AM on June 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Definitely use a calling card. They are super cheap and have tons of minutes depending on what time of the day you use them, and where you are at.
I stayed in touch with family and friends for two weeks for only about 10 euro
posted by handbanana at 8:20 AM on June 1, 2011

I live in Poland and agree that for in-country calls you should get an unlocked GSM phone and a Polish SIM card. Orange is a nice choice because there's a web -> SMS interface that family and friends back home can use to send you text messages for free.

I also agree that, if you can get internet access, Skype etc. is a great choice, but that an international calling card (Telegrosik is the best known, though I don't know if it's the best value for the US) is the way to go for calling home. You can use it with the local mobile phone to avoid tying up your relatives' land line. How much do you not want to use a calling card?

What is your route once you arrive in Poland? (MeFiMail me if you'd rather not put it up in public.) I know quite a few Polish airports and train stations - I might be able to tell you exactly where to buy a SIM card and a phone. Having said that, if you're visiting family, why not ask them to buy you a cheap phone and a SIM card before you arrive? Actually, there's a decent chance that one of them will have upgraded to a new phone and have an old Nokia in a drawer somewhere that they can lend you.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 2:35 PM on June 1, 2011

Don't get the Verizon rental. Just buy a 50 zloty handset and cheap PAYG SIM when you are there. And use Skype for calling home.
posted by turkeyphant at 3:44 PM on June 1, 2011

Response by poster: many thanks for all of your advice!!! ill most likely wait until I arrive to purchase a PAYG phone.
posted by deeman at 4:11 PM on June 1, 2011

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