I will be traveling around Europe and want to get my phone situation squared before I leave! I will be spending most of my time traveling around Germany, and possibly the Netherlands, France, and the U.K.
At home in the States, I use AT&T, but when I went to Europe last year, I went on their international plan and it was very expensive, so I'm hoping to find a more economical and localized plan with a SIM card that will work in the above countries.
I considered going on the T-Mobile month-to-month plan, but I know that their data is super slow. I know about Orange for France, but they don't operate in Germany, where I'll first land. One other one that I just learned and heard good things about is Lebara.
Any advice and specific details about these or any other mobile service providers? And anything else I should know about smartphones, SIM cards, and mobile plans in Europe?
Vodafone is probably your best bet. They have pay as you go or monthly depending on what you are looking for. They are known as Vodafone in Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK. For France, they are known through their partner company which is called SFR. Here's their website so you can check out prices and stuff.
The cheapest way to get a sim card that'll let you make calls and get internet is to buy a sim card in each country. True, there are ones that allow you to roam, but these will still be multiple times more expensive than getting a country specific sim card.
I've listed the major mobile operators for each of the countries you've listed, sorted the ones that have the widest coverage first:
Germany: tmobile, vodafone, o2
Netherlands: kpn, vodafone, tmobile
France: orange, sfr, bouygues telecom
U.K.: EE, o2, Vodafone,Three
If you've already gone on your trip, please let us know what worked best for you!
I always get a Skype Fixed-Line Number and buy a local SIM Card in each country I go to. To receive calls I forward my original phone number to my skype fixed line number and then I forward this number to my current mobile phone number. That way you safe roaming fees if your friends or parents call you and you make it pretty easy for them because its always your original number. Once done its pretty easy!
In Germany the best option currently for you is probably to get a SIM Card from a Discounter such as Aldi or LIDL Supermarket. They are as far as I know the cheapest options....good luck!
the problem is if you travel in europe in diffrent countries, you will have also roaming charges, depens where you get your SIM. Lets say you get it in Germany, you will get charged roaming fees in netherlands, uk and so on.
Europe already lowered the roaming charges accross europe itself and the plan is to ban roaming charges at all accross europe, but that will still take a couple years until we reach that (the marker for that is currently 2016). As you know providers like to squeeze the money out of you ;)
As you said T-Mobile offers free data in a lot of countries, I dont know what speeds they offer accross, but you wont have very good LTE (4G) coverage accross europe. It really depends where you go in the diffrent countries. more big cities or countryside...
cheapest way would be probably getting prepaid sims in every country or another way, which is maybe also helpful.
Get a little wifi hotspot where you put the sim in. That lets you allow to keep your number, which all your friends and family members know, and they can calll you. You dont have to accept their call, but you see who it is and can call back on skype or other VOIP services. I can loan you mine, dont use it right now.
Thats what I did in Panama. Downside is if you want to call the local pizza place or make reservation in the country itself, you have to use either your expensive minutes, call from your hotel or find a phone booth somewhere.
I know some about the situation in germany. If you buy a prepaid sim card, they are most likely a flatrate. means you have unlimited data but some of them get restricted in speed after a certain amount of data used and other are restricted in speed right from the beginning. 4G (LTE) is overprized anyway in germany, I dont know if it has changed since march, when i last checked.
T-Mobile (USA) wouldn't be a to bad solution at all maybe. I dont know there speed accross in europe. But T-Mobile has the best net and coverage in germany (thats where it is based from) and is also probably pretty good in all the other countries you mentioned.
May I ask, what part of germany you are visiting and when you will fly out? We might be on the same plane. I am going to germany this friday. If you want let me know or shot me an email and I can help you if you need anything in germany or i can show you some spots. But depends where you will travel in germany. Hope I could help...
I usually use GO-SIM for most of my international data/phone needs. GO-SIM publishes their data rates on their website so you can easily compare their rates to the rates of a country-specific sim card.
I rarely make a phone call while traveling, but I am a heavy data user so I purchase their largest "Heavy Data Bundle" before I leave home and sometimes top up with another one along the way. I believe their largest "Heavy Data Bundles" are cost-effective, at least for me and my needs.
I have found GO-SIM to be reliable but you really do need to read their website carefully. There are a few pitfalls to be aware of (i.e. each data bundle has a lifetime of only 30 days after which any unused data disappears; you need to maintain an account minimum balance (I think it's $5) to be able to use data; there has to be account activity (even sending a single SMS counts as activity) every few months to maintain your number and account, etc.
If you choose the GO-SIM service, they provide you two sim cards -- one is a U.K. (+44) number and the other is a U.S. (+1) number. I've maintained my same U.K. account and number for several years, which is handy if family or friends want to reach me while I'm traveling. I always let my U.S. number expire, but when I do travel to the U.S., GO-SIM issues me a new number at no charge so it's just usage, if any, on that new number I am charged for.
Check out their website -- it will take you an hour to read and digest all their info and nuances. Call their customer service number if you have questions their website doesn't answer to your satisfaction -- I've always found them to be friendly and helpful.
There are also many companies similar to GO-SIM offering similar services to travelers. A google search will return lots of grist for the mill.
In the end, ENJOY EUROPE!
Go Orange! Everbody I know who as used it was very satisfied. There are lots of Orange boutique in France. It is the best price so far.
I have a blog post that touches on this. A company called HolidayPhone is working with me to test/review one of its pre-paid SIM cards. Have a look!
I say Lycamobile as they cover pretty much everything. Have a look at their website.
I use a mobile app called Viber. With this app I can call and send text messages for free wherever I am. The other part must have it to though.
When I were in Italy I phoned home to Sweden and a call to a friend in Australia. For free. What can be better? =)