> SlowTrav > Europe Trip Planning

Roaming with Cell Phones in Europe

Pauline Kenny with additional information provided by Roz (Slow Travel Talk message board moderator)

International roaming with a cell phone (mobile phone) in Europe. This information is for Americans and Canadians traveling to Europe. Europeans traveling within Europe do not have these same concerns; they can use their cell phone easily in other European countries (but they pay roaming fees).

Read about the basics of cell phones in Europe - what type of phone you need, how to choose.

Sponsors

Talk Abroad Europe Cell Phone National Geographic Travel Phone as well as country specific SIM cards and international cell phone rentals.
Cell phones in Europe Telestial: Cell phones and SIM cards for Europe and worldwide. Code "SLOWTRAV" for 10% discount all purchases.

If you are traveling to more than one European country on a trip, your best option for a cell phone is to get one that works in all of Europe - a cell phone that allows you to "roam" through Europe with the same cell phone rates. You can use a cell phone and SIM card for one European country (e.g. Italy) in other countries (e.g. France), but you may pay for incoming calls and you will pay higher rates for outgoing calls when roaming. (See below for new EU caps on roaming rates.)

If you are traveling to one country in Europe, the answer to the cell phone question is simple - get a phone and SIM card for that country.

If you are traveling to more than one country, the question is a bit more complicated because you need a SIM card that works well between the countries. These are some of the options available.

Buy a GSM World Phone and a SIM Card for one Country

If you have a GSM World Phone and a SIM card for a European country, you can use it when roaming in other European countries.

EuroTariff - New EU Regulations to Cap Cell Phone Roaming Costs

As of August 2007, there is a cap on roaming rates within the European Union: a maximum 0.49 Euro for making a call and 0.24 Euro for receiving one, plus tax. The plan is called "EuroTariff" and must be offered by all cell phone providers in the EU. Read more on Europe's Information Society Portal.

This option allows you to use your country-specific SIM card when traveling in other European countries. For example, you can use your Italy TIM SIM card if traveling in France. Check the rates for your plan and be sure you are getting the new EuroTariff rates.

  • Advantages: You can buy a SIM card with great rates for the country you are spending the most time in and then use it, at higher rates, in other countries.
  • Disadvantages: You pay for incoming calls when roaming. Outgoing calls are expensive (but cheaper than using your US phone). If you do not travel to Europe every year, your phone number (on the SIM card) may expire.

Use Your US GSM World Phone

Some US cell providers let you use your plan in Europe but you pay for both incoming and outgoing calls. This is a good option if you do not plan to use the phone often. Read more on our Cell Phones in Europe page. Note that people in Europe calling you have to dial a US number.

Buy a GSM World Phone and an EU SIM Card

Many companies offer inexpensive GSM phones and SIM cards to use when traveling to more than one European country. Most offer free incoming calls, but outgoing calls are more expensive than with the country-specific SIM cards.

  • Advantages: For all of these options described below you have your cell phone and phone number before you leave. You can have one phone number and voice mailbox for your entire trip no matter where you go. You will pay the same basic rate to make calls to or from any EU country. (For example, no matter where you are in Europe, you can call Italy, France, or the UK for the same rate.)

Cellular Abroad, Talk Abroad International SIM Card

Cellular Abroad has partnered with National Geographic to offer the Talk Abroad Travel Phone. Rent the phone and SIM card for $15 a week, purchase for $199, or purchase just the SIM card for $79 to use with your unlocked World Phone.

The price includes 30 minutes of outgoing calls, gives you a UK phone number and voicemail, and is valid for 12 months each time the SIM is recharged (talk time is added). It offers free incoming calls, $0.90/minute outgoing calls in most EU countries ($1.15/min to call cell phones), no connect fee.

  • Advantages: You do not pay for incoming calls, so your friends in the US can call you in Europe using an inexpensive calling plan (they pay the costs for the long distance call - you pay nothing).
  • Disadvantages: Outgoing calls are expensive (not much different from using your US phone, or a SIM card from another country). People calling you from the US have to dial a European number. If you do not travel to Europe every year, your phone number (on the SIM card) may expire.

Read more - Cellular Abroad and National Geographic Talk Abroad Travel Phone

Talk Abroad cell phone

Talk Abroad cell phone

Telestial Passport

Telestial offers the Telestial Passport SIM card to use with your unlocked World Phone. The cost is $49 (includes $10 airtime). You get a UK phone number and voicemail. It offers free incoming calls and outgoing calls from most EU countries are $0.49/min with a $0.25 connection fee ($0.74/min first minute, $0.49 remaining minutes).

  • Advantages: You do not pay for incoming calls, so your friends in the US can call you in Europe using an inexpensive calling plan (they pay the costs for the long distance call - you pay nothing).
  • Disadvantages: People calling you from the US have to dial a European number. If you do not travel to Europe every year, your phone number (on the SIM card) may expire.

Read more - Telestial Pack More cell phone and Passport SIM

Mobal World Phone and SIM Card

Mobal provides an inexpensive option for purchasing a GSM phone with the Mobal World SIM card, if you are not going to make many calls (if you want the phone for occasional short calls and possible emergency use). You can purchase a phone with SIM card for $49 or $99. Incoming calls are not free (they are $1.25/minute) and outgoing calls are expensive ($1.25/min national, $1.50/min to the US/Canada). But, you do not pre-purchase minutes; calls are charged to your credit card.

  • Advantages: You pay only for the calls you make or receive and there are no other fees or service charges. Your cell phone number does not expire; there is no minimum usage requirement.
  • Disadvantages: Outgoing calls are expensive. Except in the UK you pay for incoming calls (not normally the case in Europe). The phone has a UK number, so if you are traveling in another country, it can be expensive for local people there to call your phone.

Read more - www.mobalrental.com

Callback World

Callback World is not a cell phone service, but can be a useful adjunct to any phone plan that does not charge you for incoming calls. With Callback World you register a phone number (it can be a cell phone or landline) and are able to make calls to the US relatively inexpensively. Calls from cell phones are more expensive than landlines. Rates vary by country and can be seen on their website. At this writing, for example, a typical Callback World rate from a European cell phone to the US is between 24 and 56 US cents a minute. From a landline it is generally under 10 cents a minute. There is no signup fee and no service charge.

As the name implies, this is a callback service. In order to use it, you call the special access number (from your previously registered phone number) and hang up before a connection is made. The service recognizes your number and calls you back. Then you follow the prompts to enter the number you want to reach. To your phone this appears as a free incoming call. You pay only what Callback World bills you, on your credit card.

Although there may be cheaper ways to call home from Europe, one special feature of Callback World is that it can provide callers back in the US an easy way to reach you while you are traveling. When you register your phone number with Callback World, they will give you a unique PIN number. To reach your European phone, the US caller dials the Callback 800 number and enters your PIN at the prompt. This will ring your phone in Europe, and the US caller will pay nothing. The call is billed to your credit card. We have found this a useful way of being able to stay in touch with an elderly relative back home.

Read more - callbackworld.com

Use SKYPE on Your Computer to Make and Receive calls

This is a great solution, but only works if you have a broadband internet connection. Plus it is not a cell phone - you have to be at the computer to make and receive calls.

Sponsors

Talk Abroad Europe Cell Phone

Cellular Abroad: Cell phones and SIM cards for Europe and worldwide. Talk Abroad cell phone and SIM card to roam through Europe. Promo code "SLOWTRAV" for $10 off.

Cell phones in Europe Telestial: Cell phones and SIM cards for Europe and worldwide. Code "SLOWTRAV" for 10% discount all purchases.

Back to Top

Car Rental Hotel Booking Flight Booking Train Tickets Books, Maps, Events
Europe Cell Phones Long Distance Cards Luggage, etc. Travel Insurance Classifieds

* Advertise on Slow Travel | Post your travel questions on the Slow Travel Forums

Copyright © 2000 - 2014 SlowTrav.com, unless noted otherwise. Slow Travel® is a registered trademark. Contact Slow Travel

RSS Feeds - Link to Us - Terms of Use - Privacy Policy - Currency Converter - Colophon - Sponsors - Become a Member
Home | Forums | Slow Travel? | Europe Trip Planning | Photos | Trip Reports | Search | About Us | Classifieds