Prepaid Mobile Phone roaming through the UK, France and Belgium recommendations...
July 5, 2006 5:57 AM   Subscribe

Prepaid Mobile Phone roaming through the UK, France and Belgium recommendations...

Heading to the UK (England, Scotland), France and Belgium in August and my girlfriend and I want to get prepaid mobile phone sim cards for the month that we're there.

Is there a mobile phone provider that will work in all of those 3 countries that will also provide an affordable roaming service on prepaid? Mainly I'll be using text messaging.. but it'd be nice to not have to pay a fortune to use the service.

Is there a way to find out coverage maps? Mainly I'm concerned about Belgium as we'll be out of the major cities..

How hard is it to get a prepaid sim card and how much does it cost to start one up?

Any help is greatly appreciated!!
posted by snarkle to Travel & Transportation (5 answers total)
Prepaid SIMs will be easy and fairly cheap to obtain in any of the three countries: but getting roaming enabled on them may be trickier. It used to be that (UK) operators requred an upfront deposit payment before enabling prepaid roaming, as it was impossible to monitor all international usage in real time. There’s something called ‘Camel Roaming’ which is supposed to facilitate this, but I don’t know the specifics of which networks provide it, though there is a list here. Unless you’re planning to go way into the woods in Belgium, I’d be surprised if any of the national operators there didn’t offer 99%+ coverage. Here’s a page with some coverage maps for Belgium.
posted by misteraitch at 6:54 AM on July 5, 2006

Forget about roaming: it's going to be stupidly, insanely expensive. Get a different SIM card for each country you're in. The savings will be massive.

Going by the UK, you can pick up a SIM card at a corner shop for £10, and fill it for the same. Then you're set.
posted by bonaldi at 7:08 AM on July 5, 2006

What do you want to use the phones for? Do you want to call home when abroad? Do you want to be called? Do you want to call each other?

If you want to call home, the cheapest way is still to use payphones. In Belgium at least you can buy prepaid phone cards in most magazine shops (certainly in trainstations and airports), which you can use to call home at discount rates by dialing in to a freephone number and entering the code of the card.

If you want to be called, or call each other the best bet is, as misteraitch and bonaldi have said, to buy separate sim cards in each country. You can use Belgian sim cards abroad, even when they're prepaid, but this is insanely expensive.

When in Belgium you can buy sim cards and charge cards in some supermarkets, magazine shops, at post offices and of course in telecom shops. There are 3 networks operating in Belgium, Proximus, Mobistar and Base. Their prepaid plans are called 'Pay&Go', 'Tempo' and 'Prepaid' respectively. If you want to call eachother, Base will probably be the cheapest. If you want to call abroad/be called the're probably on par.

Coverage in cities is usually flawless, and unless you go into the hills and forrests of the Ardennes, it'll be hard to find a spot where you don't have coverage. (My personal phone is on Base, my work phone is on Proximus and I also have got an old Mobistar sim somewhere - aside from some rural villages near the border and some forrests in the Ardennes none of the three networks have ever failed me.)
posted by lodev at 7:45 AM on July 5, 2006

In the UK go into an orange shop and buy a sim card for £1. If you put £10 on it they will give you 1,000 txts (or 3,000 sometimes). Better still, if you have a friend in the UK get them to do it before you come then you will know the number. If they are an orange customer get them to ask for a free sim, the assistant will usally give it up. The offer changes all the time, so just stick your head in any branded network shop (O2, Orange, Vodaphone are the most popular) and ask for a free- sim card. If you go into a phone shop (Carphone Warehouse, Phones4U) the sim cards are dearer. Dont leave much credit on the phone thinking you will use it next time as the credit usually expires after, say, 90 days of no-use.
posted by priorpark17 at 10:26 AM on July 5, 2006

The best option for you might be to take advantage of the O2 (UK network) "My Europe Pay and Go" offer, which covers the time you're in Europe.

As has been said, UK sim cards range from £0 to £10. I usually collect a few when they're free and hand them out to visitors, so if you have a contact address in the UK, email me (address in profile) and I'll put an O2 PAYG simcard in the post for you.
posted by quiet at 6:46 AM on July 6, 2006

« Older Quick way to test an iPod Nano?   |   How can I receive a one-time fax if I have no fax... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.