Cell Phone While Traveling to Europe – In today’s connected world, it’s more important than ever before to be able to access our network at any time.
Fortunately, these days we have plenty of different options.
You can still use your cell phone while traveling to Europe if you plan properly and use all of the tools at your disposal.
One word of advice: Don’t just use your plan without speaking with your provider.
You could rack up hundreds, or even thousands of dollars in roaming fees.
Avoid sticker shock with your next phone bill by being smart and planning in advance.
A lot of travelers prefer to use their own cell phone while traveling to Europe, and some even like to bring their other mobile devices for email, communications, watching videos, browsing the Web and so on.
The good news is, it isn’t that difficult to use your smartphone in Europe (or Traveling to Asia) to access the Internet, make calls or text.
The following explains everything you need to do. Tips for Traveling Internationally
Table of Contents
Using my cell phone while traveling to Europe Talk To Your Current Provider
Your current provider probably has some kind of international plan that will allow you to use your cell phone while traveling to Europe.
People go on vacations all of the time, so it is not outside of the realm of possibility that they have some sort of package that would work best for you.
Your Smartphone cell plan provider in advance and speak with them about your options.
Make sure that you cancel your international plan when you return home!
How to Use Your Smartphone in Europe
If you are from the US or another country, traveling with your smartphone in Europe means additional fees, be it for calls, text or other types of data access.
If you are going to use your own phone, decide first how you intend to use it (for calls only, for text, the web etc.).
You can use your regular plan for calls, text and web browsing, but it will be more expensive.
There are international service plans you can sign up for a lower cost, i.e. flat fee or limiting you to a specific number of megabytes.
Before doing any of these, make sure first that your phone does work in Europe (you can check with your carrier), and then check the international rates.
Before you go to Europe, activate your phone’s international service or call your carrier and ask them to turn on international roaming for data, voice, text or whatever service you plan to use.
Once your phone has been set up, you can access Wi-Fi in Wi-Fi hotspots, which are pretty common in the continent.
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What type of phone do I have
The easiest way to find what type of phone you have and what phone model, is to check the settings in your phone.
Go to the Settings or Options menu, scroll to the bottom, and click on ‘About phone’.
The name and model number of your Smartphone will be listed.
Cell Phone While Traveling to Europe and Smartphone Data Plans and Texting
If you want to use smartphone data plans and texting in Europe, keep the following things in mind.
First, Europe uses the GSM (“Global System for Mobiles”) system.
All American carriers use GSM except Verizon and Sprint that use CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access).
But this should not be an issue since most smartphones today can connect to both network systems.
The easiest way to use data plans and text services in Europe is to use international roaming as suggested above.
If you find it too expensive, you can sign up for an international data plan which is something your carrier and other services will offer.
The cost will depend on how you plan to use your mobile device, and it’s certainly going to be more expensive if you’re going to watch movies or YouTube videos.
Plan ahead for e-Learning success as well, including a language while you are on holiday.
Get A Local SIM Card
Depending on where you’re traveling, it might make a lot of sense to get a local SIM card.
In order to install your SIM card, you will need to unlock your phone.
Many carriers will allow you to do this as long as the phone is paid for.
If your carrier pushes back on unlocking your phone, you can always have it unlocked once you arrive in Europe.
There is no real standard of excellence for having your phone unlocked by a local shop, so make sure that you check around and get solid references before you go this route.
Once your phone is unlocked you can use your local SIM card with ease!
Make sure that you keep your American SIM in a safe spot because you’ll need it when you return home.
Using a European SIM Card
The simplest and most practical option is to use a European SIM card, and you can get these from various European mobile carriers.
In most cases you’re going to have to unlock your phone so it can use the SIM card from other carriers.
The majority of US smartphones are locked, and you may want to get in touch with your mobile company for assistance on unlocking it.
If you’d rather unlock your smartphone yourself, download software that unlocks smartphones and use their codes to unlock your device.
There are several services like these available online and the process is fairly straightforward: pay the fee, provide some info about the phone on the website, and the service will email you the code to unlock your mobile.
Once your phone is unlocked, you can look for a SIM card in mobile phone stores, electronics counters and in some cases, vending machines.
These SIM cards cost anywhere from 4 to 8 euros, and they don’t come with any commitment or contract.
If you want a SIM card with data access good for a month, expect to pay around 13 to 25 euros for the card.
Before you buy, take a look at your smartphone and make sure that the card is compatible.
Some mobile devices like the iPhone use a different type of nano-SIM card, so make certain the card fits your phone.
Talk to the clerk and check the rates for calls and to and from the European countries you will be visiting.
Use the same approach for texting.
Once you’ve got a SIM card that works with your smartphone, ask the store personnel to install it and do a test call.
Turn your mobile on, enter the PIN and if necessary switch the language to English.
Don’t forget to record the PIN number and ask how to check the credit balance.
In some European countries your SIM card may have to be registered along with your passport for security reasons.
Follow the instructions and after an hour or two you’ll be able to use it.
If you run out of SIM, you can get one in any mobile phone store and tell the salesperson how much credit you want.
The clerk is either going to give you the credit over the phone or you will be given a voucher with instructions.
Charging Your Cell Phone in Europe
One of the most common mistakes people make is thinking that you’ll need a costly voltage converter to charge your mobile.
In fact, the majority of mobile devices, tablets and laptops have battery chargers that can work on 220 volts used in Europe and countries in the world, as well as 110 volts (the US).
Cell phone chargers can work with different frequencies from 50 Hertz to 60 Hertz.
Unless your mobile device specifically says to use a converter, don’t use it because it could actually damage your mobile because it already has a converter.
If you want to know if your cell phone has dual voltage capabilities, read the words on the charger.
If your cell phone has dual voltage you will see something like “Input 100 – 240V, 50 – 60 Hz.”
If your mobile phone is dual voltage you still need to use a plug adapter, but not a voltage converter.
Before going on a trip, you have to keep in mind that all countries have their own electrical system, and that will determine what type of plug adapters you have to use.
In Italy for instance, the majority of outlets are compatible with two round prongs, but bathrooms have three-pronged grounded outlets.
If necessary you should purchase a multi-country plug adapter if you’re not sure which type of adapter to use.
Better yet, you should research the plug adapters that are used in the countries you’re going to visit.
Thanks to the Internet, this should be easy, and if you’re not really sure you can always send an email to the website and get clarification.
If you’re only going to bring a cell phone a single adapter will do, but if you’re bringing a laptop, tablet and other devices, it’s best to have several adapters as your hotel room might only have a few electrical outlets available.
In some cases you also have to plug an adapter into another before you can use it.
For instance you can put plug a two-pronged adapter onto a three-prong European adapter to make it work.
No matter how many plug adapters you buy, make sure the plug fits in properly.
Prepaid Cell Phones in Europe
There’s no lacking of prepaid cell phones here, but when you buy a GSM prepaid wireless and/or a SIM card, make certain call time is included.
If you’re in Germany you can get a Handy for less than 60 euros which includes a refillable SIM card with prepaid minutes.
The set up is usually pay per minute but the cost varies per country.
Almost always, however, it’s cheaper compared to international roaming.
Another option is to buy a GSM phone before leaving for Europe, but if you decide to do this, check the various services online to make sure you get your money’s worth.
Once you’ve got your cell phone you can take advantage of the free Wi-Fi available throughout the continent.
Set Up A Mobile Hotspot
If you don’t need to make phone calls, you can always invest in a mobile hotspot.
A hotspot will enable you to log into the internet without using local WiFi.
If you want to browse the internet safely and rapidly, a mobile hotspot is really the best way to go.
Many accommodations offer Wi-Fi for free, but in hotels there is usually a fee.
The Wi-Fi signal also varies, as in some places it’s great and in others it is less than ideal, which is the reason why many prefer to get a data plan.
Generally speaking, the speed is almost always good enough to send email and browse the web, but it’s not as reliable for watching HD films or video.
If you have a dedicated data plan however this won’t be a problem.
All these prepaid cell phones can take advantage of Wi-Fi wherever they’re available, and in most cases your best bet will be a café, and Starbucks and McDonald’s also have Wi-Fi.
You can also get Internet access in popular tourist destinations as well as city squares, some public transit hubs and even trains and buses. In some cases you will need to register and get the network password to gain access.
As you can see you can use your cell phone while traveling to Europe in many ways.
With a good data roaming plan plus free Wi-Fi in certain locations, you should have no problem keeping in touch with those around you anywhere they are.
And if you have a prepaid cell phone and need more minutes, you can easily buy more airtime from companies like Recharge.com.
There was a time when using your mobile device and cell phone while traveling to Europe was expensive, but with all the options now available you can save money without compromising signal quality.
TEP Wireless vs Skyroam VS Keepgo When Traveling to Europe
One of the first things that you need to consider before embarking on your next whirlwind vacation to Europe is how you will stay connected.
There are plenty of providers out there, but TEP Wireless, Skyroam, and Keepgo are the top three choices.
Let’s explore TEP Wireless vs Skyroam VS Keepgo when traveling to Europe.
Keepgo is a fan favorite these days and it’s easy to see why.
It offers 4G service that can be used on any corner of the planet, and you can access Keepgo through a variety of different devices.
Get Keepgo SIM cards for your existing smartphone or smartwatch, or use one of their hotspot devices.
The data is a little bit on the expensive side, but it is always reliable and you can access it from almost anywhere in the world, making Keepgo a great option for business travelers.
If you need less connectivity and are worried about your pocketbook, the prices might be a little too steep for you!
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In the battle of the hotspots, Skyroam clocks in at more affordable but less speedy than Keepgo.
It’s a great option for those who want to make sure that they have the internet at their fingers, but don’t necessarily need top speeds.
With coverage spanning the world, Skyroam will relieve you from the hassle of having to tap into unreliable or insecure WiFi when you want to hop online.
It’s a legacy player for a reason, and has amassed something of a cult following since it first came onto the scene!
The only real downside is that you won’t be able to get the speeds that you would with a company like Keepgo.
If you need service for business purposes, you might be better off looking elsewhere.
TEP Wireless has hotspot devices that work with your smartphone or watch.
You can also buy or rent a Teppy device, which acts as its own mobile hotspot and lets you get internet anywhere.
One of the beautiful things about TEP Wireless is the sheer volume of different options that you have!
When it comes to fast internet, TEP Wireless is a great option, up to a point.
They do start to throttle your speed after a certain amount of internet usage, which could become a problem for those who want to use it for business purposes.
As with Skyroam, TEP Wireless can’t compete with Keepgo for the speediest coverage.
Alternately, it is a cost-effective option, and TEP Wireless has been around for a long time, so you know that they are a solid company to work with.
So, who wins the battle of TEP Wireless vs Skyroam VS Keepgo when traveling to Europe?
It all depends on exactly what you’re looking for from a wireless service provider!
Each option has different strengths and weaknesses, but all of them cover the vast majority of the planet and will work in a pinch if you need wireless service right away.
Find WiFi and Use Chatting Apps
You can also rely on local WiFi for your internet usage.
Use caution when selecting which WiFi options you will tap into.
Try not to put in too much personal information, especially passport numbers, and don’t access banking data or other sensitive websites when you’re tapped into public WiFi.
Assume that everyone can see what you’re doing because that is probably the case!
There are plenty of chatting apps that allow you to communicate with loved ones back home.
Skype, WhatsApp, and Messenger are just a few options!
Public WiFi could be a good option for people on shorter trips who just need a little bit of internet!
FREE iPad iPhone Travel Apps for your Cell Phone While Traveling to Europe
FREE iPad / iPhone Travel Apps – I’ve had my iPod Touch for about two months now, and I’m falling helplessly in love with it more and more every day.
It’s my personal assistant, I use it for just about everything.
From reading books, storing recipes and workout exercises to converting currencies, booking hostels and checking the bus/train timetables.
I suppose you could call me an ‘iPad NERD’ – if there is such a thing…
Yeah, I admit I have also found some awesome applications which ONLY work for the iPhone, so I won’t lie and say I never wish I had one of those as well – but then again I like my cellphone, it’s pink!
Anyways, today I am going to share with you the best FREE Travel Apps out there right now!
An application that finds you the best deals by searching through every hostel website, all over the world.
You have Hostelbookers, Hostelworld etc. all in one place.
From here you can book your stay from anywhere.
I love it, very easy and simple.
If you are an avid HostelWorld fan and just want to book through them, they have their very own application for you to book your stays.
With this on your iPod you’ll never have to carry another of those brick-like-heavy books in your backpack ever again!
You can download hundreds (probably more) of books for FREE on your iPod (yes, in all genres).
Finds many outdoor activities (walking, mountain-biking, skiing etc) for you to do, anywhere in the world
Shows countless types of knots and how to make them step by step, a skill that can be crucial to know when hiking through the jungle etc… trust me – you never know when you’ll need it!
Skype (only for iPhone):
Now there really is a cheap way for you to call to other countries.
Translates whole sentences into heaps of different languages.
The good thing about this one is that it doesn’t only translate to or from English but from all kinds of languages: Hebrew to Korean, or Hindi to Galician, it’s your choice 😉
Keeps track of your spending and income, how much you spend per day/week/month/year, and what you spend it on (food, clothes, Beer etc).
Really good to keep you from asking ”What happened?
Where did all the money go??”
A complete currency converter, what more do I need to say?
This way you know exactly how much your paying anywhere in the world.
Now you can search for flights and hotels with the best online travel search aggregates right from your iPod!
Ok, so the application is free, and you get a Phrase book and one Guide for free.
But the rest you’ll have to buy.
But if you plan to bring a Lonely Planet guide, I highly recommend you to bring it in your iPod.
It sucks having all that extra weight when you could have it all in your hand 😉
I love looking at the earth globe – it really gets me into a happy state.
I get so excited seeing all these places I want to visit, all cultures I want to see.
So what is better than Google Earth?
This way you don’t have to run around all streets and corners desperately looking for a Wi-Fi connection, the JiWire application does the job for you.
If you know of anymore apps which I might find useful on my travels, please link me below in the comments! 🙂
Using my SmartPhone While Traveling to Europe FAQ
What should I do with my phone when traveling to Europe?
Your options for being able to use your phone while traveling Europe, including how to see if you can get an international plan, how stay connected to 3G by getting a local SIM card, and why a pocket wifi device might be a good option.
Europe EU recently ended cell phone roaming and roaming charges.
Stay connected while on your Europe trip.
Do I need an international phone plan for Europe?
Unless you travel to Europe frequently and your stays are longer than a vacation, it is simpler, more cost effective and easier to set up your own cell phone with international calling and international data plan through your existing cell phone service provider.
Do US cell phones work in Europe?
If you have an iPhone 4s or newer, then yes.
But you still need an international roaming plan from your SmartPhone cell plan provider
If you have an older phone or a non-iPhone, it depends on the phone and your carrier.
Europe uses a cell phone system called GSM (Global System for Mobiles) but Verizon and Sprint use CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access).
All the other major US carriers use GSM, so if you use a mobile service provider other than Verizon and Sprint, you should be able.
How do you use your phone when traveling internationally?
- Make sure your phone is unlocked
- Use a provider other than Verizon or Sprint
- Check with your current Smartphone cell plan provider for international roaming packages and options
- Turn off and DO NOT use cellular data. Only use Wi-Fi instead
- Use an app likes WhatsApp, Skype or Google Voice