Help us strategize our phone situation in Europe!
May 30, 2016 11:37 AM   Subscribe

Two American couples, in Europe for about a month, wondering how to optimize our cell phone coverage for the trip. What should we do in general, calling and datawise? And what is the best way for at least one person from each couple to have the best wikipedia/yelp/etc. access while we're out and about during the trip?

Couple #1 has two locked iPhones on AT&T and will be traveling mostly in England.

Couple #2 has one unlocked newer Nexus 5 on Ting, and one aging Moto X from Republic Wireless (with proprietary technology/software that can only be used on Republic's networks, but can make calls via wi-fi for free, anywhere.). Couple #2 will be spending time in England, Scotland, Germany, and France.

(Please note that the aging Moto X belongs to the heaviest data user, who is short on funds but would consider switching to Ting and purchasing a new Moto G if it would help on the trip. )
posted by redsparkler to Technology (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
WIFI is everywhere and free. Speaking as a heavy traveler, the secret is to load up ten bucks on Skype so that you always have call access anywhere (you will get home with about 5 bucks credit left).

Skype will give everyone access including SMS messaging without the need for an additional SIM etc. And let´s face it, if you are staying in places that don´t offer free Wifi in the UK and across Europe at this point - then you are off the grid and should enjoy that part of your holiday :)
posted by Funmonkey1 at 12:13 PM on May 30, 2016

Verizon has a great TravelPass option for $10/day. I use it regularly overseas.
posted by lecorbeau at 1:23 PM on May 30, 2016

Wifi is not everywhere in the UK. There's usually somewhere running a public network nearby if you're in a city, but if you're trying to get to Google Maps because you're lost somewhere or in a car—no.

For the unlocked phone while you're in the UK, get hold of a PAYG (Pay As You Go) SIM on the network 3. (Yes, it's called 3. Best of luck googling it.) With one £20 add-on you'll get 12gb of data, 300 minutes of calls and up to 3000 texts, valid for a month. The SIM is free. There's no contract. And it'll work in France as well. More here.
posted by Hogshead at 2:07 PM on May 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

$10/day is preposterous. Pick up a SIM from the many phone stores once you're in Europe.

AT&T will unlock your phone if you are outside of the original contract. It's an easy process done via email.
posted by humboldt32 at 3:43 PM on May 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Have you thought about tmobile?

Their simple choice plan (postpaid, no contact, no early termination) has free texts and 3G (slow, but okay for email, maps and yelp) through lots of Europe.

I've had to travel back and forth between Europe and the US a fair amount and it works well for my work email and maps. You won't be streaming Netflix or Spotify, but you also won't be paying crazy time money for mobile broadband.

If you already have unlocked GSM phones you could get service for just your Europe trip and then cancel when you're back. Heck the four of you could (again if you have unlocked phones) get the four line family service (BYOD) and have access in the UK for 25$ +
posted by cheez-it at 5:38 PM on May 30, 2016

AT&T has global data that is not that expensive. If you can keep your phone in Airplane mode 99 percent of the time and use wi-fi at every hotel, you should be fine. The overage charge on the $60 add on is the same rate per MB that the plan costs, so even going over isn't going to break the bank. But if you are anywhere close to the end of the contract on those phones, they may be willing to unlock them.

I used T-Mobile 2 years ago in 3 different countries for data only and it worked well and seamlessly. It cost me about $80 for a month of service.

I used Tesco Mobile this year and the data part worked great for me in Ireland and the UK. I bought a SIM card and loaded 20 Euro on it, so the card was free. I bought 5GB for Ireland with 10 of the Euro and then had to pay by the MB in the UK. Irish texts worked but UK and American ones did not (but I didn't try too hard). There are Tesco stores in the UK and they will sell their SIM cards as well as ones for other companies.
posted by soelo at 11:06 AM on May 31, 2016

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