Travelling to the UK ... bring the iPhone or leave it at home?
January 18, 2012 8:52 AM   Subscribe

I'll be traveling in Scotland and England for a couple of weeks in February, mostly by bus. I'm an inveterate iPhone user, always tweeting, checking-in, posting photos and so on ... but I know that route will lead to financial madness. So what's best to do? I know I can jailbreak, unlock my iPhone, perhaps use another SIM card while traveling, but is the effort worth doing? Is it better to leave the iPhone at home in the US and grab a pay-go smartphone upon arrival in Edinburgh (and if so, how best)? Or do I bring the iPhone and use it via wifi only, hoping I don't slip and fall into a welcoming bit of 3G along the way?
posted by grabbingsand to Travel & Transportation around Edinburgh, Scotland (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'm guessing you have AT&T (as the Verizon iPhone won't work over there). My wife would call up AT&T, set up an International Plan(I think that's what it's called), which they would prorate for whatever was left in the month, then when she got back she'd cancel it and they'd just charge her for the days she was officially on the International Plan. MUCH cheaper than just racking up those charges willy-nilly.
posted by Grither at 8:57 AM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, and this was the recommended way to do it from an AT&T rep, so I think it's entirely legit.
posted by Grither at 8:58 AM on January 18, 2012

Do you have an iPhone 4s on Verizon? If you're a customer in "good standing", they should be willing to unlock the SIM slot for international use - IIRC the 4s should have support for European GSM bands, but that's something you should check.

If that's the case, then you can use a prepaid SIM when you get there (see this thread).
posted by hot soup at 9:01 AM on January 18, 2012

No financial madness necessary! I did this a year and a half ago, though with an Android phone instead of an iPhone.
As hot soup said, if you get your SIM slot unlocked, you can buy a prepaid SIM while there and use your phone no problem. Any newsstand will sell you one, usually for around 5 pounds, sometimes with some credit on them.
I went with T Mobile and, once I got the SIM card installed, sent a text to get the "Pay as you go internet booster" of internet for one month. It cost 5 pounds and made life so much better while traveling.
It really is that easy. Nearly any shop that has "top-up" signs in the window will also have SIMs to sell you. I actually tried a T Mobile shop first but they were out of them, so I went to the newsstand in the train station and had my pick.
posted by katemonster at 11:38 AM on January 18, 2012

It was with a Blackberry, but I did exactly what Grither did a few years back. For something like an additional $40/month, I used my Blackberry all over Australia and New Zealand, for email, maps, everything.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:49 AM on January 18, 2012

I just picked up an Orange PAYG SIM when I got to London. It was easy to set up, and easy to recharge. Although my Android phone was completely unlocked, so I can''t comment in regards to AT&T Iphone funkiness.
posted by Diag at 1:02 PM on January 18, 2012

Like Grither, I used the AT&T international data plan option when I spent a week abroad - it's pricey but safe and very convenient (you can set it up online, no alternate phones to mess with, etc.).

AT&T does not officially unlock the SIM card slot for any iPhone. The jailbreaking-and-unofficial-unlocking option may not actually be possible for your iPhone - for an iPhone 3G or 3GS on recent versions of iOS, unofficial unlocking is possible but comes with permanent downsides, and unofficial unlocking is not possible on an iPhone 4 with recent versions of iOS. Here's a guide I maintain with details about unofficial unlocking. (My work is jailbreaking help, but unlocking questions come with the territory!)
posted by dreamyshade at 2:32 PM on January 18, 2012

Okay. So in light of the unlikelihood that my iPhone will be unlocked before departure (my baseband is too late), could I simply pick up an unlocked and plan-less Android (or otherwise) smartphone (GSM compliant), bring it over, then pick up an Orange PAYG SIM upon arrival?
posted by grabbingsand at 8:43 AM on January 19, 2012

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