It is critical to understand and pre-plan how you will handle communications and electronics while you are abroad. Start by understanding what your challenges will be. Then develop your own plan and gather together what you need.
Europe Operates Only on GSM Networks
Basically, there are two types of mobile phone networks — GSM and CDMA. Europe uses the GSM network and much of North America primarily uses the CDMA network. If your service provider uses CDMA, your phone won’t work in Europe—unless your particular device is one that can work on both networks. A few US cell providers use the GSM network (including T-Mobile and AT&T), so those phones should work fine in Europe. But watch out…your phone bill when you get home can be higher than your airfare!! As an example, Verizon charges $1.79 per minute for incoming and outgoing calls and $2.05 per minute for texts if you use your domestic phone plan. But they do offer a TravelPass for $10 per device per day that will allow you use of your phone abroad without extra roaming charges. Most providers offer something similar to temporarily transform your phone into an International phone while using your existing service.
Europe Operates on 900MHz and 1800MHz frequencies
Even if your US service provider operates on a GSM network, and you have set up temporary global services so you can use your phone in Europe without breaking the bank, your current phone will not be able to receive phone signals there UNLESS it is able to receive 900MHz and 1800MHz frequencies. Most of Europe is on 1800MHz, but for best coverage you.ll need a phone that can receive both 900MHz and 1800MHz. Basically, you will need a phone that’s labeled a “World Phone.”
If your phone can access the GSM network, it uses a SIM card. A SIM card is a small removable microchip that contains the phone’s number and account information. You can remove the SIM card from one device and insert it in a different device while keeping the same phone number. Also, you can swap out your current SIM card for one that has been issued by a European service provider.
Once you are in Europe, you will be able to purchase SIM cards in virtually any phone store as well as some supermarkets, convenience stores and newsstands. Or you can purchase a SIM card that works throughout Europe before you leave on your trip (scroll down for one option). Note that SIM cards are cheap and generally come pre-loaded with prepaid credit.
The SIM card replacement option will only work if your phone is “unlocked.” Many mobile phones are “locked” and can only be used with your own provider until the cost of the phone has been absorbed by your contract. Most phones can be “unlocked” once this repayment period has ended. Just request that your provider do so. One unlocked, you will be free to swap out SIM cards whenever you travel abroad.
One option to purchase in advance that fits all the requirements is shown below. Also, there are mobile phone shops available all over Europe, starting in the airport. Just hop in and ask for a low-cost, pre-paid smartphone (or just a basic phone if you prefer).
Pay As You Go and Topping Up: Most Europeans use “pay as you go” mobile phone service. Basically, you buy your mobile credit in 10€-30€ blocks and then buy more once you run out. All you have to do is buy a refill or “top up” card (make sure it is the same brand as your SIM card) at a shop/grocery store/vending machine/newsstand and then enter the printed code info into your phone.
From most accommodations, as well as cafes, WI-FI will be free. Plan to use it whenever you can. The Skype app is one way to make cheap calls across a WI-FI connection.
Check with your own provider to learn about options for adding International Service temporarily:
But DO NOT simply plan to use your phone as is during your trip and hope for the best. The sticker shock will bowl you over!!
Each day as you set out, carry along a fully charged back-up charger so you don’t end up without power at the worst time possible.
You will be carrying along many tiny but essential items that can and will get lost in your luggage and thereby create stress during your trip. Don”t trust to luck. Have a system for your wires, cords, devices, Memory Cards and SIM cards.
Your photos from your trip will be Incredibly important to you, especially after you get home. If you decide not to take a digital camera in favor of using your iPhone for photography, at least give yourself the gift of this Udemy crash course in iPhone photography so you will be ready to take professional photos on your iPhone.
What you’ll learn in this 1½ hour course includes:
Zoom will be one of your most important functions when taking pictures on your trip. If you have decided to use your iPhone for photographs, consider picking up a set of clip-on camera lenses that includes a zoom lens. This set includes 5 high-quality lenses:
Universal aluminum-alloy attachment clip. Protective zippered storage case with carabiner clip to keep in a pocket or attach to a belt. Camera will auto-focus through the lens. Compatible with virtually all smartphones.