Mobile carriers in Europe for US traveller

primesuspectprimesuspect Beepin n' BoopinDetroit, MI Icrontian
edited September 2013 in Science & Tech
So I'm going to be Euro-ing it up next month (why?) and I'm gonna try to do what I did in Taiwan; I have a globally unlocked phone and I would like to purchase pre-paid SIM cards for the Eurozone.

Probably a dumb question, but is there such a thing as a carrier that will take me to more than one Euro country? I'll be in the UK, France, Italy, Belgium, and Switzerland.

I'll be spending the bulk of my time in France and Italy, so those are the two most important countries for us. Belgium and Switzerland we'll only be in for a day, so whatever, but even if I have to buy a month of time in Italy/France I'm okay with that.

I have an HTC One S. Will this phone work in those countries? Nicole has a Samsung Galaxy S3. Both from T-Mobile. They are GSM.

If it will technically work, can anyone recommend a pre-paid SIM provider? Should I stop at an airport kiosk? I know how to do this in Taiwan but I'm lost when it comes to Europa :D


  • SnarkasmSnarkasm Madison, WI Icrontian
    Generally speaking, there isn't a Eurozone-wide carrier like there are US-wide carriers, but the carriers do operate similarly and interchangeably across countries. Vodafone operates across most of the EU and has partnerships with carriers in France, so they might be a decent bet. Other typical carriers are O2, Orange, HiTel, KPN, T-Mobile, etc.

    What most people say is get a UK sim, and it'll work throughout the EU. You can also just do something like this, which is, I suppose, pretty much exactly what you're looking for, though perhaps the rates might be a little higher.
  • JokkeJokke Bergen, Norway Icrontian
    Also remember: wifi is your friend. Calling across borders is okay, but those megabytes can really hurt your wallet.
  • SnarkasmSnarkasm Madison, WI Icrontian
    Yep! And use whatsapp (or similar) over wifi whenever possible to avoid texting as well.
  • JokkeJokke Bergen, Norway Icrontian
    Also also: read the terms thouroughly. Some countries with frequent contact (Sweden/Norway for instance) have the same rates even across borders. I've also noticed when travelling in EU that my phone changes carrier even within the same geographical area. Something to look out for as rates may vary.
  • Eurozone SIM cards are a thing and you can get them in vending machines at the airport after customs. Or save money by going to a mobile store when you get to your first city. You may even be able to order one online now and have it shipped to you before you go. I don't have much experience though, when I've gone I just shut my phone off the entire time.
  • primesuspectprimesuspect Beepin n' Boopin Detroit, MI Icrontian
    Get outta here with that! I have kids, man. Need contact.
  • primesuspectprimesuspect Beepin n' Boopin Detroit, MI Icrontian
    Thanks for the input so far; does anybody know if our phones are compatible with the bands used in Europe?
  • SnarkasmSnarkasm Madison, WI Icrontian
    Thrax will correct me on this, but if you have GSM, there's at least one guaranteed voice channel available for you. Data will/may be a different story.
  • RyderRyder Kalamazoo, Mi Icrontian
    Paging @Thrax for exact explanation, but if the frequencies match, then I think they will.

    I found this article. I watch this guy on public television, some good tips in here probably:
  • BuddyJBuddyJ Dept. of Propaganda OKC Icrontian
    At least when I was in Rome, free wifi was totally easy to come by. We did our trip using wifi only and it was great. Skyping with the boys might be a great option that'll also save you some cash.
  • TushonTushon I'm scared, Coach Alexandria, VA Icrontian
    edited September 2013 yields
    2G Network GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
    3G Network HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100 yields
    2G Network GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
    3G Network HSDPA 850 / 900 / 2100

    From the link that @Ryder provided (
    France: 900,1800, 3G 900/2100, 4G LTE SFR, 4G LTE Orange; DC HSPA+ (H+)
    Italy: 900, 1800, 3G 2100, 4G LTE Vodafone, TIM, 3 Italia

    So: your phones are both supported for 2G and 3G in most (if not all) EU countries and as others have stated, you're best bet will be to contact someone in your first country to get advice. Vodaphone offers something that appears to work across the EU.
  • JBoogalooJBoogaloo This too shall pass... Alexandria, VA Icrontian
    The wife buys sims (cheaply) when she goes home to Slovenia multiple times a year. She has done a great deal of traveling to Switzerland, Italy, Croatia, etc... and we're still able to talk (but text mostly) on the cheapy. I'll see what she gets and pass on that info to ya.
  • primesuspectprimesuspect Beepin n' Boopin Detroit, MI Icrontian
    Mostly looking for data. Talk/text is low priority. Thanks!
  • JBoogalooJBoogaloo This too shall pass... Alexandria, VA Icrontian ya!
  • ThraxThrax 🐌 Austin, TX Icrontian
    Just be aware that 2100Mhz Europe is not the same as 2100MHz US. Most phones can cover both halves of that band, but some can't, and you won't know until you get there.

    When in doubt: have 900MHz HSPA.
  • midgamidga "There's so much hot dog in Rome" ~digi (> ^.(> O_o)> Icrontian
    Thrax said:

    Just be aware that 2100Mhz Europe is not the same as 2100MHz US.

    Cause metric seconds.
  • ThraxThrax 🐌 Austin, TX Icrontian
    To clarify vs. sarcasm: the US and Europe use different segments of the 2100-2200MHz block.
  • GHoosdumGHoosdum Icrontian
    edited October 2013
    Looks like you left a month too soon!

    //edit: I just noticed that @mertesn beat me to it in the OHHHH MANNNN thread. Oops!
  • primesuspectprimesuspect Beepin n' Boopin Detroit, MI Icrontian
    And I beat you both to it on Facebook by a full day.

    Wouldn't have mattered much for me, though. It's for talk and text. I still would have bought local SIMs for data. I was on Vodafone in the UK, Belgium had free WiFi everywhere, and I'm on Lebara in France. Not sure what to use for Italy yet, but if I can figure out internet in France, I can figure it out anywhere.
  • ThraxThrax 🐌 Austin, TX Icrontian
    edited October 2013

    It's also for data, but limited to 128Kbps. Better than nothing.
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