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Using an American iPhone in Europe… without going broke

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Is that in Airplane Mode? Photo by Jorge Quinteros.
Is that in Airplane Mode? Photo by Jorge Quinteros.

Note: This article was updated in February 2013 with new rates and information.

If you’re an American iPhone user getting ready to take a trip to Europe, you’ve likely been warned about using your iPhone abroad. After all, AT&T and Verizon’s rates for international data use can be confusing, and misunderstanding your usage or iPhone setup could be a very costly mistake.

I recently returned from two weeks in Europe, one spent in Paris and one in Venice. This was a work trip, during which I visited about 90 hotels for EuroCheapo. I brought along my laptop, but what to do with my iPhone? Was there an economical way to use it in France and Italy? Should I pay for one of the international data packages offered by AT&T (my carrier)? Should I just leave the thing in New York?

Connecting with friends and travel companions is obviously aided by sending text messages. Those, however, don’t always work with American cell phones and, if they do, require international roaming. And if you turn on roaming, you could receive phone calls from home — which will cost you. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

I realized that my iPhone could be handy. But how could I use it without going broke?

After hours of hair pulling and squinting at fine print (and some phone time with Verizon and AT&T employees), we have compiled a list of pointers for American travelers hoping to use their iPhones in Europe.

Our Guide to using an American iPhone in Europe

Click below to get started:

Tips for AT&T Customers

Tips for Verizon Customers

Tips for Windows, Android and Blackberry Customers

Setting up your phone to avoid a billing “surprise”

AT&T vs Verizon: A comparison of international plans

How to Keep Your Smartphone Safe in Paris… and What to Do if It Gets Stolen

About the author

Tom Meyers

About the author: Tom Meyers created and launched EuroCheapo from his Berlin apartment in 2001. He returned to New York in 2002, set up office, and has led the EuroCheapo team from the Big Apple ever since. He travels to Europe several times a year to update EuroCheapo's hotel reviews. Tom is also a co-host of the New York City history podcast, The Bowery Boys. Email Tom. [Find Tom on Google Plus]

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196 Responses to “Using an American iPhone in Europe… without going broke”

Pete Meyers Pete Meyers says:

During my trip to London last November I opted for the 20 MB data plan plus international usage rates…kind of a mistake.

I found myself obsessively checking the data usage number and upon returning back home had a final “mystery” 3 MB text message that was added to my bill for $60. AT&T was nice enough to delete this juggernut from my bill, which was a nice gesture, although I still don’t even know why it was added in the first place…

J says:

Never, ever am i going to opt for roaming. The charges are just too much! The best solution is to buy a local SIM card from any operator that sells them (give them any address if they ask and tell them you’re in the country for a few months, they won’t check that anyway :-).

If you want to receive calls, I’d suggest using a Skype number (but you’ll have to tell it to everyone or use it long before you travel). It’s much cheaper this way, plus you can call for very cheap using Wi-Fi hotspots.

Julie says:

My husband and I traveled to Ireland last summer with our two iPhones. After talking with AT&T, and having basically the same information given to us as was given to you, we opted for the Airplane Mode choice. We really didn’t need the phones or text messaging and we could check email via wifi at the hotels. And we had no nasty surprises on our next statement.

All good advice–and you can still make phone calls with an iPhone thats been “iTouched” by turning off data roaming and 3G (a.k.a. turning on airplane mode and WiFi). Just download the Skype app and use it via WiFi–as detailed at http://www.reidsitaly.com/planning/comm/cellphones.html

Yes, you can then only make calls when connected to a WiFI hotspot , but it works great for me–though via some quirk, which I am not sure is universal or just unique to my phone, the main ear speaker doesn’t work while using Skype, so I have to plug in earphone to hear the other end of the conversation. An odd, but not insurmountable, problem.

Thanks for the comments.

J — I would love to buy a local SIM card and pop it in (allowing me to easily send text messages and make calls), but my understanding was that your phone needed to be “unlocked” in order for this to work (which you could pay someone to do to your iPhone, but I think it would then invalidate the warranty). I suppose you could buy a cheap phone and use it as your “travel” phone. Is this what you’ve done?

Julie and Reid, I’m glad to know I wasn’t the only one flying solo on “airplane mode.” Only one of the hotels I stayed in (of the four) had free Wifi — which meant I had to hunt down free Wi-Fi elsewhere. (I’ll be posting separately on this, but let’s just say that the “Golden Arches” came in handy.)

Reid, yes, the Skype application is a beautiful thing! That’s a great tip. I called other Skype users for free, and I bought €10 in Skype credit and called cell phones for almost nothing. (After two weeks and plenty of calls, I still had €5 in Skype credit.)

Fabian says:

The best bet is to buy an “unlocked” iPhone if you travel quite often (although they cost a lot; 3 versions based on GB), but you won’t have to worry about 2 year contracts and can switch to any carrier should you decide to. As mentioned all you’ll need to do is buy a local SIM card at the country you’re in and you’re set. I did that recently and worked perfectly.

Mike says:

I researched this extensively before I went abroad and it was difficult for me to wrap my head around. There’s a lot of different information out there and if you go to the AT&T website they’ll try to upsell you to buy an international package. That’s not worth it unless you need to make calls for business and it’s not coming out of your pocket. I don’t know why a regular backpacker would need to pay for this expense.

1.) Download the Skype Application.
2.) Turn Airplane mode on. Never switch it off.
3.) Find WiFi spots at your hotel or hostel, coffee shop, etc.

I made Skype calls to the States sitting in a coffee shop in Paris and hanging out in my hostel in Berlin for absolutely no cost. It’s amazing. The person on the other end will have to talk to you through their computer, but for conversations with loved ones every few days while you’re traveling it is the way to go.

Tom – You carefully dissect one of the most pressing (and frustrating) issues in international relations today. My “calls” to AT&T on this subject have been equally bewildering. And believe me, their unremarkable data “package” will get you a few stock quotes from Bloomberg before exceeding the data limit. Basically, my rule is either use your iPhone for texting only with very limited phone calls, and NO data usage unless through a local Wifi provider or buy a cheap SIM card for an old phone and use it while you are there (the problem in this case though is that you may go to a variety of EU countries in a given visit, and who wants countless “found SIM objects” in your wallet). Mon dieu!

Paul says:

Just yesterday, I spent two hours at a local ATT store with an ATT rep and an Apple iPhone rep the ATT rep called in to try and explain the huge discrepancy between what the iPhone shows as network usage and what ATT is metering. The ATT rep didn’t understand the problem and the Apple rep could not explain it. All should be forewarned not to depend on the usage figures the iPhone shows. As noted by others, ATT’s $.99 / minute calling and receiving package is less than a bargain, not to mention the separate $.50 charge for texts out. The bottom line for us is that our son’s 4-month semester in Germany will likely be with a cheap, simple cellphone (called a “handy” there) purchased upon arrival, rather than his ATT iPhone (anything but “handy” in this case). A real shame.

Lenore says:

My significant other used your advice on his trip to Europe and were happy to note there were NO unpleasant surprises on our bill (we use family plan). Thanks

Dave says:

I’ve got an unlocked iPhone which I have used in Germany for the last 3 yrs. First time I bought a T-Mobile sim, loaded it with € and replaced the ATT&T sim. It can always be loaded up with T-Mobile cards of varying amounts which can be bought just about anywhere now. Just dial the tel. nbr on the card and type in the reference nbr on the card. Since I am usually there for approx. 3-4 mos every year, I make sure there is still some € on it when I return to the US. Next trip: ATT&T sim out – T-Mobile sim in and I’m good to go as soon as I land. I seldom make calls to the US but wife always calls me from the US: no charge off my sim!! I’ve used the phone in Germany, Luxembourg, France and Italy; all with good results. iPhone works just fine here in the US. Just make sure you find a reputable company to unlock it. I used ‘Cell Phone Repair’. They have offices all over the US. Hope this helps.

Travelogged says:

When I leave the country, I make sure that data roaming is off. I can still receive texts though — they cost just 50 cents and it’s a great way to stay in touch with loved ones. Calls get really expensive quickly (have never bought that $5.99 package — seems like it would only save pennies) so I try to keep them really short. When I get into a Wifi area, that’s a great chance to read/reply to email and play with my apps like facebook. When I had a blackberry, that wasn’t an option for me.

AstroNee says:

The “Airplane Mode only” option won’t work for my trip to the UK & France. I want to be able to use the internet apps (currency, subway, GPS, aroundMe-type info) that I bought the phone for in the first place. I also need to make local calls there. (I can use Skype on my laptop for calls back home, but more on that later). I also have a big problem in that there’s no internet access in the flat I’m using in the UK. So I want to tether my iPhone to the laptop to use the 3G network. I’ll be there for more than a month, so sitting in a Starbucks or McDonalds at 2:00am to call home is not a pleasant thought. (Who wants to be in a McDonalds in London, or a Starbucks in Paris, land of excellent cafes? The idea that ATT&T is causing me to go to an American-based chain store when I’m in Europe is really galling. I avoid them here; why should I have to use them there?)

So my current choices look something like this:

1) Leave my expensive, cool iPhone at home and use paper maps, locals’ directions, and buy a cheap local phone to call about trains and planes–basically go back 10 years. Skype from the laptop (if I can find a dongle that will let me use the 3G network for internet access.)

2) Bring my iPhone, but don’t use any of its cool apps, unless I find a WIFI spot. (Last time I was in London and Paris, it cost at least $10 per shot to use WIFI, even if that was spent on a coffee to sit in a chain cafe. Maybe there are more free spots now.) Get a local SIM card for calls, and get a separate dongle for data on the laptop.

3) Leave my iPhone home, and buy a used one in London, find a pay-as-you-go phone & data plan, and sync all my data to it from the laptop. Still not sure if I’ll be able to tether it to the laptop, and may still have to get a separate dongle.

I’ve been researching this for weeks, and there just doesn’t seem to be a way to connect with both my iPhone and my laptop in any easy, reasonably-priced way. This seems crazy to me. The technology is all there, I’m willing to pay a *decent* amount to use it, but am forced to jailbreak, unlock, void warranties and learn new apps, worry about having to restore and reinstall the phone’s OS when I return, etc, etc, etc.

My needs do not involve watching movies or TV on my phone, or reading newspapers online while at the airport, but even if they did, I should be able to do that without having to pay through the roof when locals have a much better deal.

So if I’m missing the one piece of the puzzle that will give me both UK & France local phone and data usage that will support iPhone app usage and photo blogging, for a reasonable price, someone please let me know.

Rob says:

So I’ve been researching this as well, since I will be in Europe traveling for 3 months. I didn’t want to deal with unlocking my phone and juggling sim cards. I also didn’t want to deal with AT&T. I think I have found a solution that will minimize cost and maximize my ability to stay in touch and navigate foreign cities.

I’m planning on airplane moding it as many have mentioned previously. To make the most of that I downloaded a free app called JiWire hotspot locator. It allows you to download a database of 300,000 hotspots for use offline. It also allows you to search for spots nearby. I noticed that it does not allow you to view locations on a map if you are offline. My solution was to find a wifi spot and then map out spots you will be traveling to. I mapped each wifi POI and snapshotted the map of each individually (by holding down both iphone buttons simultaneously). That way I had a map of each hotspot in my photos so that I can find them easily later.

I also have the skype application on my iphone. I am looking into getting the ‘Unlimited World’ plan for $12.95/month (see http://www.skype.com/allfeatures/subscriptions/uscanadaworld/). From my understanding this will allow me to make landline calls throughout Europe for booking hotels and restaurant reservations. It will also allow me to make nearly unlimited calls to US landlines and cell phones. So this will be my solution for staying in touch with friends and family back home. Its also nice having that peace of mind knowing I can call landlines throughout Europe should the need arise.

Its not foolproof, and we’ll see just how accurate the wifi database is as well as how reliably I can get skype to make the international calls. It all sounds pretty good on paper though and is much cheaper than any international calling/data plans I have found.

If anyone has experience with this please let me know if I’m missing anything.

Thanks

Tim says:

I going to Ireland in May. I was reading on some other sites (and the o2 site) that you can buy prepaid sim cards for the Iphone. They didn’t say any thing about unlocking it. Does this still have to be done before I pull my AT&T sim out? I also was wondering how to charge the thing. Do i need a power converter as well or will just using an adapter and pluging it in be ok?

kevin says:

We are traveling to prague and Bdapest in June with our I phones. Has anyone tried the ‘penny talk’ app? They claim you can use the Iphone on the cellular network for 20c a call.
Appreciate your thoughts
Kevin

Barbara says:

Hello, if any of you are coming to Tuscany, I recommend this augmented reality app for iPhone 3GS called “Tuscany+”. It’s so cool (it’s true you pay roaming unless you find a free wifi…). There is a video and a text that explains it here:
http://www.turismo.intoscana.it/allthingstuscany/aroundtuscany/tuscany-the-first-augmented-reality-tourism-application/

There is also another one for who is going to the uffizi: it’s a complete guide that you download at home and don’t need internet in Tuscany to use it. Read here:
http://www.turismo.intoscana.it/allthingstuscany/aroundtuscany/uffizi-gallery-app-for-iphone/

Hope you like these tips (let me know what you think).

Ciao ciao

Barbara

Tom — thanks for the article. I go to Prague soon and am checking my options. Airplane mode for me — anyone know how common free Wi-Fi is in Prague?

Re Skype — I’ve downloaded the App, but now what? Do I need to purchase a number, credit? Anyone want to share some beginner 101?

Safe travels all.

Paul says:

We just returned from two weeks in Austria, Germany and the Czech Republic, using an iPhone. We found a 20 Mb data plan was more than enough to take care of our needs for infrequent mapping and daily email.
In most places, Internet / WiFi in Europe is still pay for what you use by way of hourly or daily charges, if it’s even available. Very few places have free WiFi, McDonald’s and Starbucks being the major exceptions, but we did not travel to Europe to frequent them.
The important thing is to develop the discipline to turn WiFi and data roaming on and off as you use them. Then, check the usage statistics in the iPhone after each use and you won’t be surprised.
If you are going to be calling frequently, buy a cheap cellphone there and feed it minutes from the tobacco stands and train stations. Otherwise, buy ATT’s $5.99 plan to reduce your rate to $1 / minute and watch the length of your calls. Remember that texts are $.50 each on each end.
Skype is fine in theory, but you must find a WiFi connection and have sufficient bandwidth if you want to use the video features. Audio is not a problem, but once again, you must find a connection that is free or that you are willing to pay. Also, Europeans seem not to be as openly conversational on their cellphones as Americans.
Our general observation is that it’s not much of a “world phone” if you have to worry about re-mortgaging to use it abroad.
Finally, WiFi hosts may well NOT allow email out, some may not allow email in and most are wary of downloads. Become familiar with your webmail application before you leave for Europe, as you may use it almost exclusively while there.

Helga says:

I will visit Berlin in June for 2 weeks and stay with friends. I will therefore not use my iphone for long distance calls. I still have from years ago an older handy for which I could by a simcard and make my local calls for little money.

However I need the luxury of my iphone for my apps (Fahrinfo, Muxeumsfuehrer, GPS etc) wandering though the city. Internet surfing is important too. I have planned to open my emails at my friends house and can block receiving them on my iphone- therefore no high costs for loaded emails. Finding always a Wi-fi place can be a pain or let’s say when I was in Germany ( not in Berlin) 4 years ago
Would the AT & T package the right way to go ? I am hesitant to unlock my phone.
What it comes down to is basically apps, webbrowsing . What is the most suitable way to go ?
Any comments ?

Sophie says:

Thanks so much to all who have contributed to this thread.

I am planning on studying abroad in France for a year, starting in September. I have spent some time in other countries before and plan on getting a cheap prepaid phone for calls within France and just using skype for calls back to the States. Likewise, I can check my email and the internet on my computer.

Really, to echo some others who have posted, I just want my iphone primarily for the GPS and perhaps some helpful apps for navigating cities and traveling.

Do you guys think the 20mb data plan will be enough? and/or worth it?

Pete Meyers Pete Meyers says:

@ Sophie – 20 mb goes pretty quickly, especially if it’s being used for apps.

And if you’ll be abroad for an entire year, maintaining an iPhone account only for app use (rather than to make phone calls) seems like it could be more expensive than helpful.

Thanks again for this post. I used Airplane Mode during trip to Prague, along with the iPhone Skype app and a $10 Skype credit. Was able to check emails regularly, free Wi-Fi was all over the city including my hotel. And when I needed to make or receive a call it was less than 3 cents a minute. No SMS was the only downside but I can deal with that to avoid a huge billing surprise from AT&T.

Mindy says:

It’s my first time going to Europe as an iPhone owner so I’m curious. However, after going to Panama recently, I did exactly what you did. Airplane Mode! Easy, safe, cheap and just use WiFi when possible! Friends are going to have to cut back on the texts and stick to Facebook messaging or emails instead!

Also Chris Parente makes a good point, we can use our skype app on WiFi to make phone calls! Completely forgot about this option.

Thanks for the clear explanations… this helpful article confirmed and answered my curiosities!

Ro Rex says:

Aloha, Got a iPhone with Skype Credit & headed for Paris. Also have an “old” iPhone I could unlock if there is a good reason and a local landline in our apartment. Any reason I should spend the $49 to unlock & $x to buy a local sim?

Would like to send/receieve US calls,check emails & web and if practical $ use some of the iPhone travel apps. Suggestions & experiences

Bill Balena says:

I just returned from a 2 week trip to Europe. Northern Italy and Southern Germany. Before I left i spoke with the AT&T Wireless International customer service rep. What a confusing mess. He “checked my normal monthly usage and said I use 19 MB in a normal month. What a F’up. He took the number from my bill and converted KB into MB. It was already in MB. Recommended the lowest tier data plan which I activated. This was far too little, and it was his mistake.

In Italy I received an email that I was 90MB over the 20MB allowed. Still don’t understand why they didn’t tell me sooner, or why the way they told me required me to burn more data to get the message.

Called customer service, they retroactively activated the 200MB data package. I learned on this trip that the iPhone does nothing without transferring data.

My bill for this month is $453.00. This my normal billing plus $199 for the data plan and $134 for call charges in Europe. A bit more than expected, but not outrageous. Next time I will get a prepaid phone in Europe, or a global phone, and I will take my laptop for email. Airplane mode with Skype is a great idea if you can find WIFI.

Main problem was that WIFI was spotty even in the best hotels. Need to turn on data roaming for email to download. Sometimes I would forget to turn it off when done. I got the iPhone mainly so I could use it in Europe. It is really expensive to do. Friends told me that AAA has prepaid global phones for travelers for about $100. A better deal.

I was just about to call ATT about this very issue. I am leaving for Spain on Tuesday and planned to take my Iphone. I’ll have my laptop, so I guess I’ll just skip taking my Iphone…Thanks!

martin golder says:

A great string. I just returned from UK, Greece, Used my Iphone with roaming off and 3g off. got 24 minutes of phone for $48 when I returned and $78 data for the few times I switched on roaming to use maps. I talked with my provider and if I had bought a plan I would have saved about $20 and had a few unused Mbps in hand. I will DEFINITELY jailbreak next trip. I will use the Rock your Phone free jailbreak- takes about 5 minutes.
Europe has recently brought a cap on roaming charges of $60 without prior client approval. The industry was out of control on this so the EU government acted. +

martin golder says:

I really like the airplane mode op[tion. I didn’t realize that the wifi still worked. Kind of defeats the purpose of the airplane mode. We never found a shortage of Wifi. Practically every restaurant had it.

amygoingtocroatia says:

This is all great info i can use on my upcoming trip to Croatia. I’m meeting a friend who has been traveling the world with her iphone since December. She says the main way locals connect with you when you are visiting is by text, and that it will be imperative for me to have text capability on my iphone. i already have skype that is a no brainer, but i will absolutely need texting capabilities – so it sounds like i need some sort of AT&T plan for the 2 weeks i’m there?

Also, has anyone who has bought a cheap local phone and paid by minute abroad bought one used off of a traveler who is leaving the country (i.e. going back to US) or know of a website where people coming and going can find or sell used ones – which will be even cheaper than buying a new one there? Or, are they really so cheap that it isn’t worth trying to find a used one?
Thanks!
Amy

Anthony says:

Bypass the outrageous fees charged by AT&T and get the full iPhone experience while paying a reasonable local fee for service while abroad. Just research data/phone providers before you depart…maybe even order the SIM and have it shipped to you before your trip (if possible). A week or two before you depart (or now), jailbreak and unlock your iPhone for FREE. Do NOT ship your expensive iPhone to a complete stranger and pay them to do something that you can do for free…and in less time than it takes to go to the post office. See 5 reasons not to pay someone to jailbreak/unlock your iPhone below.

Afraid of voiding your warranty? Neither the act of jailbreaking nor unlocking affect your hardware directly…they only modify the software that controls your hardware. If something goes wrong, simply put your phone in DFU recovery mode and restore it using iTunes. Apple won’t know your phone is/was jailbroken…unless you take your phone to the Apple store and hand it to them WITHOUT using iTunes/recovery mode to restore the phone to an unjailbroken/locked status. If your phone has hardware issues and you can’t access it (even DFU recovery mode doesn’t work), then Apple won’t be able to access your phone either. They replace your phone (under warranty) and refurbish the faulty one (disassemble, reformat harddrive, replace faulty hardware, etc). If/when you choose to jailbreak/unlock your iPhone, make sure you change the default SSH password (google it) and use Cydia to backup your SHSH (allows you to maintain jailbreak/unlock ability should you ever need to restore your phone). Probably the most important advice: Do NOT update your phone’s OS or modem firmware (disable automatic updates in iTunes) until a jailbreak program and an unlock program has been completed for the newest updates. If you update as soon it is released by Apple, there may be no going back…especially for unlocking your phone because the modem firmware update can’t be undone.

5 reasons NOT to pay someone to jailbreak/unlock your iPhone:

1) They are likely using FREE software that someone else wrote and made available for everyone to use: Spirit (iOS4 jailbreak – will be released soon) and Ultrasn0w (iOS4 unlock – ready as soon as jailbreak completed)
2) What if they drop it? Are they going to buy you a new one? Doubt it!
3) Are they knowledgeable? Do they know to change the default SSH password (default is alpine)? Do they know to backup your phone OS’s SHSH for FREE using Cydia so that you can always restore to your current version of the OS? If they don’t change the password, anyone can gain access to the files on your phone! If they don’t backup the OS SHSH, and you end up having to restore your phone using iTunes, you will be forces (by iTunes) to install the LATEST version of the OS…which might make it impossible to jailbreak/unlock for some time. With the SHSH backed up, you can ALWAYS go back to the previous version of the OS…meaning that you can use the same jailbreak/unlock method that you used initially.
4) Are they trustworthy? What if this person likes to install spyware/malware on the phones? Heck, you probably won’t know the difference since you obviously don’t care enough to learn how to jailbreak in the first place. If you’re not knowledgable, you won’t know the difference. Want someone seeing your pictures, videos, etc? Or they could even track your iPhone’s location for free. Stalker anyone?! Got a phone full of clients’ phone numbers? Corporate espionage anyone?! You get the idea…don’t let strangers use your phone, just like you wouldn’t let them use your computer.
5) If something goes wrong, you don’t have time to get it fixed. Living without your iPhone for more than 5 minutes is unbearable, right?! If you pay someone else to do it, you won’t have any clue how to fix it. Do it yourself so you can always fix it in the future.

Anthony says:

Forgot to mention, you’re really only jailbreaking your phone so that you can unlock it (you can’t unlock until it is jailbroken). However, there are some perks to jailbreaking, other than being able to unlock your phone for use with different carriers/SIM cards, such as: data tethering (PDANet), supporting more than 1 exchange server (AddExchange), free iPhone tracking (Cerebro), a much brighter version of Apple’s flashlight app, a Google Voice app (GV Mobile), bluetooth file sharing/etc, TV out options, save PDF and/or Office files on your phone and be able to access them, etc. The list goes on and on. Those are just a few that I like. Obviously if you use features like data tethering (using your phone to provide Internet access to your computer), you should be considerate to the community…cellular data systems weren’t designed to provide everyone with high-speed Internet service on their computers. But in a pinch, it’s nice to have the option…especially if you need to use a website that uses Adobe Flash. GRRRRRRR!

GizmoTX says:

I took my iPhone to China last year & left it in Airplane Mode the entire time. Free WiFi was available everywhere we went.

We’re going to Italy in a week & plan to bring a laptop & iPhone for business use. There’s no Internet where we are staying, just a few hotspots around town & none of them are free. So we will be trying out a new service from Xcom Global that rents a MiFi unit that lets us create our own secure hotspot for up to 5 devices. It’s $17 per day, but data is unlimited & we won’t have to search or worry about using an unsecured cybercafe.

I’ll be trying out Skype for phone calls.

Anthony says:

Gizmo, if you jailbreak it and purchase PDANet (like $5 I think), and purchase a data plan (I read that Orange charges $11/month for unlimited data), you can use your iPhone as a secure hotspot for your laptop. I’ve used it before (just not overseas)…and it works beautifully. And it’s a HECK of a lot cheaper than MiFi! To be fair though, I don’t know about the data rate…we could be comparing apples to oranges. If you’re just using the computer for casual browsing though (not downloading HD movies, etc), the PDANet app will be plenty fast enough (assuming your provider has coverage in that location of course)…it’ll probably be on par with a low-to-average DSL connection speed.

Judy says:

Great info!!!
We are going to Spain for a month and planning to take iPhone. I thought we could use PingChat or WhatsUp apps to text our friends in Spain and US. If I do the airplane mode and connect to a WiFi will I be able to use these apps?? Does anybody know??

AstroNee says:

Back from Europe, here’s what happened:

1) tried to jailbreak and unlock my old 3G, got nearly all the way through the process and it wouldn’t work. Guy gave me my $$ back but for all I know, it still shows up as having been done.

2) bought the AT&T international plan for ~$70/month as I knew I’d need the phone functions at least part of the time.

3) when I got to London, I found a dongle that worked great. It was 3.com, it worked fine with my MacBook Pro, so I didn’t need to worry about tethering.

4) Kept the phone on airplane mode most of the time. Only once or twice used a data app (which was too bad, because I had one that would tell me which Underground lines weren’t working, but I couldn’t use it).

5) The phone automatically switched to Orange in London, and occasionally another carrier when I traveled outside the city. I didn’t need to do anything to pick up the proper service.

6) The phone picked up Orange in Paris, but once I traveled to the Eastern part of France, it stopped working entirely. No service, no WiFi, etc, up in the mountains where I was.

7) AT&T charged me a little over $200 each month for my use of the phone. If you remove the $70 for the international plan, that was $130 for the very few calls I made. Not happiness, but not the over $1000 it could have been.

All in all, I was disappointed not to have my slick iPhone apps. I could’ve bought a cheap smartphone with a European SIM for much less. I bought the iPhone because of its cool apps, but couldn’t use them in Europe. However, I’m traveling within the US now, and it’s great to have my GPS, my Where-type apps, and other cool features.

Anthony says:

AstroNee, were you paying someone to jailbreak and unlock your phone? Once your phone is restored using DFU mode, it’s like reformatting a harddrive on your computer…the jailbreak and unlock is undone (if you’re worried about warranty issues). My guess is that whoever attempted to jailbreak your phone didn’t use the proper software based on your OS version (and the proper unlock software based on your baseband version). I’m sorry he didn’t know what he was doing! $200/month is insane and would’ve been completely avoided if the jailbreak/unlock had been done properly.

Nomadic Matt says:

I simply unlocked my phone, took out the ATT sim card, and put in a European one. I got all the data i need and I could make phone calls. When I went back to the states, I relocked the phone and put the ATT sim card back in.

Scott says:

Being a Flight Attendant, I am VERY careful with my iPhone. My rule? Keep it simple.

I leave my iPhone in Airplane Mode, but have WIFI on. I also have Truphone, an internet based phone service similar to Skype, probably very compareable, but Turphone is what I’ve used most.

I do this in every country, always. Because I travel so extensively, everyone knows to leave a voicemail, which I can retrieve by calling through my Truphone.

I find WIFI is not always easy to find, but many hotels have free WIFI in their lobbies. Try surfing the web to find one before you leave home. Be respectful and remember: You don’t have to be a hotel guest to visit their lobby. You can also find a coffee joint with WIFI. Don’t forget that many public libraries, especially in Cananda and Europe, have free WIFI.

In Hong Kong, I buy an internet access card for $20HKD (about $2USD). WIFI seems to be everywhere!

starman1695 says:

Anyone who pays for incoming calls in Europe is being ripped-off big time. Get an unlocked phone, buy a local SIM card and pay considerably less than your American carrier will charge.

Sarah says:

My husband and I traveled to the Philippines in June/July for a two week trip with our 2 year old and my in-laws. There were 10 Americans in our traveling party, including my husband’s parents, 2 siblings (plus a spouse and kids). We were not all staying together, instead the 10 of us were split among 3 local families.

We knew we would need to use our iPhones while traveling. I expected to want to check some email, use some of the apps we had (to find local things, read news, etc.), send a few texts either to those in our traveling party or the people we were visiting, as well as a few to my family in the states. Hubby and I both investigated how to do this without racking up a $1K bill in the weeks before our trip and got surprisingly different answers from At&T reps on the phone and online.

I ended up adding the following to our phones:
1. global text 50 packages to both phones: allowed us to each send/receive 50 texts for 5.99/mo. We each sent a lot of texts
2. I added the cheapest international calling plan (to get a slightly discounted rate) to my husband’s phone.
3. Planned to turn off data roaming, put phone on airplane mode and use our host’s in house wifi.

The plan was perfect. But it didn’t work. First, our family just did not plan our activities well enough in advance and we ended up making and receiving a ton of calls. Our other family members didn’t have access to their cell phones so we ended up making a ton of calls to local family trying to get through to them. It was a big waste and the total bill for the calls while roaming internationally was $193 for two weeks.

Second, my husband did NOT turn off his data roaming as he was supposed to, and instead was using it all the time. AT&T alerted us in the middle of the trip when our charges got crazy excessive and allowed us to add the $24.99 2MG data package to his phone and back date the start so it swallowed up that crazy expense, but I was still annoyed and I didn’t even know about the calls yet!

In the end we paid for the global text 50 package for both phones, and used it well and got our $12 worth from it. We also paid $3 or so for the international discount plan for calls and spent way too much making and recieving calls. We also paid $24.99 for the data plan and I’m not sure how much my husband used but we didn’t go over it. As for using wifi, it was hard to come by and not reliable even when it was offered. If we had to rely on it exclusivley we would have been very out of touch for most of the two weeks.

Next time we are buying and using locally purchased take and toss phones and skipping the iPhones for communicating at all, which is a huge bummer since they are such a great tool.

Danni says:

Not quite sure why everyone’s so afraid of Airplane Mode; I love it. I took my phone to Mexico with me and left it on Airplane mode the whole time.

Want to make calls? Find some wifi and use the handy (and free) Skype App. You can even buy credit with Skype and call land lines for significantly cheaper than making a call with your phone.

Plus, with Facebook (at least with my age range 18-25) it’s pretty easy to get messages to people without calling or using text messages. Skype also has instant messaging for free to other SKype users and you can use your credit to send text messages to cell phones internationally, once again, for much cheaper than AT&T.

The only problem with this situation is you need to find a Wifi base of operations, but if your hotel or a cafe nearby has internet, it’s easy to send messages to friends you’re meeting or to get information.

Anthony says:

Or you could jailbreak/unlock it and purchase a SIM card locally in whatever country you visit…and not be ripped off by AT&T AND get to use your iPhone in its full glory (assuming there’s a 3g network there). Just saying!

Scott says:

If you jailbreak your iPhone, aren’t you then unable to update the iPhone?

Ellsass says:

I think turning on airplane mode the whole time makes the whole point of an iPhone meaningless. Just leave it at home if you’re going to do that.

Since I’ve done a bit of research and used my iPhone overseas a bit, I wrote up all the options (and my opinions) here: http://patik.com/blog/how-to-use-your-iphone-overseas/

Anthony says:

Scott,

If you jailbreak your iPhone, you do have to wait to update your iPhone until they release the new jailbreak. However, with that being said, you will have so many features (and more) via the jailbreak that not even the latest update from Apple will provide. I had the ability to use multiple apps a year ago…and I’m not limited by Apple in terms of which apps I keep open or even how many I open. Obviously though, the more you open, the bigger the drain on the battery. I’m still running iOS 3.1.2. I didn’t update to 3.1.3 because they didn’t really change anything. As far as iOS4 goes, I’m not really worried about my phone showing a more “accurate” number of bars for reception…and I already have all of the other features that I want. Eventually I’ll update to iOS4, but I’m in no hurry.

Sometimes those updates can provide new “features,” but at a cost. Apparently iOS4 (or iPhone4) allows official data tethering…which is like $20/month from what I’ve read. Or you can jailbreak your iPhone and get unofficial data tethering and not get double-billed for your data. Hmmm….hard decision. Obviously everyone needs to make their own decision based on their needs. But jailbreaking is so easy, and you can undo it when you get back to the US if you’re worried about warranty stuff. Also, there is a way (you’d have to research it) to back up your SHSH blobs from your iPhone in case you decide you might want to jailbreak your phone. It does NOTHING to your phone…just saves some data from it that will allow it to be jailbroken in the future.

However, if you update before saving those SHSH blobs, you will lose the opportunity to jailbreak until a new jailbreak is released for that update. If you back up the SHSH blobs and then update, you can go back to the pre-update iOS and jailbreak it. Kinda confusing, I know. But if you know you’re going overseas in the near future, you might as well take a few minutes and back it up so you are at least much more likely to have the option to jailbreak in the future.

Scott says:

Jeez Ellsass… I really enjoy using my iPhone in Airplane mode. Truphone is a great WIFI phone service, and it works perfectly for me.

I’ve used my iPhone in China, Hong Kong, Germany, England, Japan, Brazil, France, The Netherlands, Canada and Mexico.

Using it in Airplane mode has kept my mode of use as simple as possible.

Shouldn’t we be able to use the iPhone as we see fit? If I leave it at home, how am I going to use all the many other functions of the iPhone? The iPod, currency exchange, translator, notes, e-mail, etc?

Dexter says:

Listen to Anthony!!! He knows what he’s talking about and he’s trying to help all of you save some major money and frustration.

Katemhen says:

Hi,
my friend in New York has an old iPhone and is wondering how to use it like an iPod Touch. I told him about using Airplane Mode all the time and it works like a charm.

Thanks,
Katemhen

robert stein says:

next time get a SKYPE account. you can made phone calls to anywhere on WI-FI. Skype OUT calls cost about 2 cents a min to a landline or cell phone anywhere. so for $10.00, you can sit in a coffee shop in Paris or your florence hotel, call your mommy in New York for 500 minutes.

Anthony says:

Aww, another person content with a crippled iPhone (err, I mean iPod Touch). Sad! And thanks Dexter. It amazes me how fearful people are about jailbreaking their phone. lol I’ve had a jailbroken iPhone replaced by Apple under warranty for hardware problems…so it seems the fear is unfounded.

Dmitri says:

Thanks for the suggestions. So do you still get charged a monthly service fee from ATT despite the phone being effectively not in use? In other words, is there a way to travel for a month with the Iphone ‘off’ and not getting one monthly bill from ATT?

steve angel says:

Oh dear,I can’t believe anybody would ask this.
Check out the word ‘contract’.

No wonder Europeans think we are dumb.

Alanna says:

Wow rude

Aaron says:

Rude and not even right. AT&T lets you suspend your service for $10 a month instead of your regular bill.

Elisa says:

To not be billed during this time, call and suspend your service with AT&T. I don’t know how this affects your ‘contract’ (if it counts towards your months), but you won’t be billed during this time.

Jay says:

Anthony – we will be going to France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Prague and Italy soon. I like the sound of your ideas. I assume it will work with 3GS and 4.0 software? Now the silly ? – how do you open the phone to replace the SIM card? Is there a good all Europe card for data? Thanks!

Eileen says:

I am going to be in Prague for the next four months and just got the Iphone 4. Do any European cell phone providers have the micro sim card that fits into the phone so that I can get a plan while I am there?

Chloe says:

You can always trim a regular-sized SIM card to fit the IPhone – search YouTube for a tutorial, it’s easy:)

Mflyer says:

Well for the frequent traveller Travelplan now has an offline flight schedule app so no need to have a connection to find flight or hotels when travelling.

Anthony says:

Jay, there is a small hole the size of a paper clip on the top of your iPhone. Push a paper clip into the hole and the tray that holds the sim card will slide out. Pay attention to the orientation so you don’t put it in backwards…although I don’t think that’s possible because one corner of the card is cut. Anyway, I read that Orange has/had a data plan for like $10/month for unlimited. No clue if that was a special price, or what countries it covered. Maybe someone on here can help you. Here’s the big catch though…I don’t think there’s a jailbreak for the latest version of iOS 4. You’ll have to do some research based on the version that you have installed on your phone. If you don’t have the SHSH blobs backed up in any way, and there isn’t a jailbreak available for your iOS version, then you won’t even be able to jailbreak (until a jailbreak is released for your version of iOS). So long story short, if your phone is completely up to date, you probably won’t be able to jailbreak it. You can send Apple a nice thank you note for helping AT&T to screw you if that’s the case. :)

Dmitri, wishful thinking. You signed a contract to pay every month for 2 or more years. What you can do is drop your calling plan to the lowest possible minutes, etc, for that month…and/or ask AT&T to credit you…but I doubt they will. If you do drop your calling plan to the lowest minutes, realize that you will lose all accumulated rollover minutes except for the amount equal to the anytime minutes of the calling plan that you drop to….something like that. If you get a good deal or credit from AT&T, let us know the details!

Eileen, you will first need to be able to jailbreak/unlock your phone…which you can’t do if your phone is completely up to date, as I don’t believe a jailbreak has been released for the latest version of iOS. If your iOS version is slightly older, you might be able to jailbreak and unlock. I’ll post a link at the bottom of this post that might help point you in the right direction. Finally, if you can’t secure a micro sim card, you can actually cut a normal sim card. Make sure that the metalic contact side looks identical before/after you cut. In other words, don’t cut the metal contacts. There are some tutorials online, or if you look around hard enough, you can probably find one at a cell shop in Europe. I’d think a razor blade, some hand-eye coordination, and some patience would be all you need.

http://www.iphonehacks.com (look around for jailbreakme link on there)

Brenda says:

I too had that misfortunate phone conversation with an ATT rep prior to taking my iphone to Prague this spring. I decided to forgo their expensive options and just kept the airplane mode on. Fortunately, my hotel offered free wifi so I had free access to my email. However, I did need to make a phone call back to the US but was unable to do so even after turning off the airplane mode. Fortunately, I happened upon a pay phone and utilized that instead. When I returned to the states and called ATT to find out why I couldn’t make calls from my iphone in Prague, I was told that I needed to first power off my phone and restart. I thought that a croc because I never had to do that with my LG or Blackberry when I used them in Europe years before.

I have since learned that I should have gotten the Skype app and would have been able to make cheap phone calls from my wifi enabled hotel room. Live and learn.

Chris says:

I went to Canada and had airplane mode enabled, and wifi on. 24 hours into the trip I got an email from AT&T with travel tips for my iPhone. How is it possible they knew I was out of the country? With no data being pinged off of international cell towers (hence airplane mode) was AT&T still seeing my wifi traffic coming from .CA addresses? Was the GPS I used being sent back to AT&T? Even worse, does AT&T sniff non-cellular data and are they able to tell where you are at all times even if the cell part of the phone is “disabled”?

Topsy_Tori says:

Hey Community!! I am headed to Europe next month for 3 months and I spoke to an AT&T rep and was made aware that you CAN pause your service for a max of six months, as long as you have been with AT&T for more than 6 months, but you must pay a $10 fee/month to maintain your phone number and of course, your contract will pick back up upon your arrival.

Check it out! Good luck and happy travels!

P.S. Anthony is right, UNLOCK the phone!

Kristina says:

Anthony,

This sounds like a stupid question, but I haven’t updated my software in about a year, as my computer has an issue with itunes (it’s really strange, but nobody has been able to just remove the old version and add itunes all over again) and have no idea which version I have. How can I tell?

Thanks.

Kristina says:

Nevermind, I found it (version 3.1.3). Can’t you break the phone by trying to take it apart? How do you unlock it easily if you’re not a techie?

Anthony says:

Kristina,

You don’t need to take your phone apart…unless you’re trying to replace/fix hardware (like a broken screen, etc). I’ve never taken one apart. Anyway, to answer your actual question…

All you have to do is download the appropriate jailbreak program (determined by your computer’s operating system (Windows vs. Mac) and your iPhone’s OS (3.1.3). There are several options.

Once you jailbreak your phone, then you will run another piece of software to unlock your phone. The software that you use for this depends on what you used to jailbreak your phone. If you do a little research, you will find a wealth of information. Just make sure to be specific in your searches, such as “windows jailbreak 3.1.3″ or “blackra1n unlock 3.1.3″. (Blackra1n is one example of jailbreak software.)

Once your phone is jailbroken and unlocked, simply obtain a SIM card for phone/data or just data (you can use a VoIP program to get free calling…although it is rather complicated to get free VoIP calling…here are some keywords if you want to persue this: fring (app), google voice (sign up for free acct), gv mobile (app), and sipgate.com (free incoming VoIP calling). Research can get you up and running for free VoIP calling, but it is a pain and I don’t feel like trying to explain it (sorry). Anyway, once you obtain your SIM card, simply use a paperclip to pop the old SIM tray out (top of phone) and replace with the new SIM card. Good luck!

Kristina says:

Anthony,

Thanks for the info. I’m not really that interested in calling overseas, mainly just using the google maps and some apps while I’m abroad. Where would I find a SIM card that has data?

Thanks.

tina says:

Hi Anthony,

I have an older (first-gen, I think) iPhone I no longer use. Could I jailbreak that one and then just get a data sim card in Europe to use while I’m there? Or would I need to activate my older iPhone with a new service plan or something first?

Thanks!!

Anthony says:

Kristina,

You’ll have to do research for data plans in whatever country you’re going to. I’ve read that Orange has a cheap data plan for like $10/month for unlimited data. But I have no idea which countries that will work in, or even if the price is still that low.

Tina,
You should be able to jailbreak/unlock a 2g phone. Just be sure to be specific (mention 2g) when you do a google search for the jailbreak software…and the unlock. I don’t think your phone can handle some of the later iPhone OS versions though. Never had a 2g, so I’m not 100% sure what challenges you’re going to encounter. But there is a bunch of information out there. Like I said, be specific in your searches and make sure the articles you read are referring specifically to 2g iPhones.

Squirrelhenge says:

What an amazingly useful article and comment thread! I’m hoping to go to Austria in 2012 to follow the footsteps of my late father, who worked as a civilian employee of the Allied Occupation, helping administer the Marshall Plan, after leaving his US Army unit at war’s end.

I’d been hoping to find information on whether my iPhone (assuming I still have it in 18 months) would be usable. This is straightforward and clear.

Thanks to all!

Eric

Byrrno says:

I’ve just been to Germany and France with my jailbroken iPhone 4. Mixed experiences! In Germany, I found a pre-paid T-Mobile card (Deutches Telekom) that charged by the minute (used up my pre-paid credit) for calls or for data. My total usage in Europe was 250 MB download and 25 MB upload, and it was mostly on this “T-Mobile Kart”, for which I paid a total of about 90 euros. 7 days in Germany. It was decent. However, I couldn’t recharge it online (I think). I bought recharge cards in sealed envelopes and was told that I could return them to any T-Mobile store in Germany before I left if I didn’t need to use them and still had my receipt.
In France, I went into an Orange Mobile store and quickly (too quickly) bought a pre-paid Orange Mobicart. I advise against this! Whenever your iPhone is on, and not in Airplane mode, it uses minutes! I couldn’t use this at all, though it cost me at least $50 before figuring out that it was outrageous.
I really missed being connected in France. I went to another cell phone store and with my limited French and the clerk’s limited English, I seemed to determine that Orange, SFR, and Bouyige (sp?) all had about the same prices, and that all pre-paid plans were extremely expensive in France.
If you just need to make a few calls, and be available for emergency contact by friends and family in the US, ATT’s plan is the easiest, and not that expensive for a couple minutes here and there. If you need data in Germany, check out the T-Moble Kart. Your phone needs to be unlocked; jailbreaking will do this, and maybe T-Mobile could do it for you (but I don’t know). If you need data in France, God help you! Try to get help from one of your friends who live in France. There is also a company that sells sim chips for roaming all over Europe
On another note, I bought MyWi for my jailbroken phone ($20), and it worked great (but not in France, where data was too expensive) – I used my T-Moble Kart to connect, turned on the MyWi tethering, turning my iPhone into a little wifi hotspot, and then connected my MacBook, my iPad, and the laptops of several friends. Since I was being charged by the minute, not by the GB or MB, it was sweet for all of us.
Skype for iPhone worked great, both in wifi connections and in Germany through the T-Mobile Kart.
I found and then lost a link to a company that sells sim chips that work across Europe; I thought it was too expensive (until I got to France!).

Alex says:

I am preparing to go to Europe for a few weeks. If I were to go into ‘airplane’ mode, could I still access the internet and use apps such as the ‘Skype’ App? This app would allow me to make calls/texts to other people using Skype anywhere in the world for free. In other words, if I need to stay in contact with someone back in the US I can do so for free via Skype. So, if I can still use this App in ‘airplane’ mode my problems would be solved.

Is this possible?

brenda says:

Skype App works over wifi, and wifi can be accessed without turning on airplane mode.

Josh says:

Warning: AT&T’s international data packages might be advertised at $30 to $200 per month, but they will tell you not to cancel it for two months after you return. Here’s what happened when I went to Europe using an overseas data package from AT&T:

They said, don’t cancel the overseas data plan for two months after you get back to the US otherwise the delay in billing will cause you to get billed at overseas roaming rates instead of it being included in the plan that you just paid for.

I asked them, if those extra two months of billing would be refunded when I canceled. Obviously, if it’s required to leave the plan active for two months after you return to get their stated prices then you won’t get billed for those extra two months. The person on the phone clearly said this.

I went to Europe with the phone–a Blackberry. I think I paid about $60 for the month. Like they warned me, I waited two months after I got back to cancel. They then told me that the extra months of billing couldn’t be refunded, and that they had no record that anyone told me that the extra months would be refunded. They also confirmed that if I had canceled the plan right when I got back I would have been charged expensive overseas roaming rates above the $60 I already paid AT&T for the month’s worth of data.

After a long, argument with several of their employees I asked them to put me through to their cancellation department to immediately cancel my entire phone plan. At that point the cancellation department backed off and refunded my $120.

So, expect to pay for 2 months of extra overseas data if you get their overseas data plan. I highly suspect what AT&T is doing is illegal, but good luck fighting it. :)

My advice is: don’t use AT&T, but if you do, turn off the phone service with AT&T while you’re away and just use WiFi for data. T-Mobile doesn’t have overseas data plans and most of Verizon’s phones aren’t GSM so they won’t work in Europe. The future is WiFi.

mj Westover says:

I only want to use Internet like I do in US. I was Lost walking around without my Internet. I use wi-fi and keep airplane mode on always. Don’t need phone.

mkcoleman says:

I will be traveling to Europe soon with my iphone and am wondering:
Can I turn on airplane mode, find a wi-fi spot and use internet and e-mail and incur no extra charges?

mk — yes, that’s what I did in Prague with my iPhone. You can also make calls, if you want to get a Skype account, $10 minimum purchase.

Enjoy!

Byrrno says:

To mkcoleman: yes you can. At first I didn’t realize you could turn on airplane mode, which turns phone and WiFi off, and then separately turn WiFi back on without reactivating phone connections.

gab says:

I just got back from Italy and here’s my advice. Buy the cheapo data package. It’s for times when you can’t access wi-fi and you have to use the web or check your e-mail. As long as you don’t spend all day doing it, you’ll use very little of the 20 MB.

Most hotels in Italy have free or cheap wi-fi, although sometimes you have to be in the lobby or close to the lobby to access it. Just make sure you turn data roaming off and put your phone back into airplane mode when you’re done.

For phone usage, buy a cheap phone in Italy and buy some time. I didn’t have to buy a phone as my cousin had a handful laying around, and the time is cheap. Having said that, I didn’t use it for international calls, so I have no insight on that issue.

Heather says:

I just returned from a one month trip to europe. If you have an iphone or current itouch, if you will be staying in a hotel with wifi, are not needing to be contacted regularly or are willing to wait until you can sit in a cafe with wifi, then the cheapest way is to download the app Truphone. We paid for $15 before we left Canada and called from all over without any problems. I think we used up about 1/2 of that amount at approximately 2 cents a minute. If you need to be contacted, just have work, family or friends send a text then find a place to call from.

Why don’t you just buy one of those disposable phones when you get to Europe?

ClaireD says:

I will be traveling to Paris with four other friends soon. I am very confused based on what I’ve read and AT&T advice. If the five of us are in Paris and are calling each other, do we dial the 011-33-(U.S. area code) ( cell phone number) or do we just dial 1-(US area code) and cell phone number!??

LoriF says:

I will be traveling to Italy with my husband and daughter in January. We have two iPhones, one a 3GS and one a 4. As we will only be there for 2 weeks, I am confused about getting the international data package from ATT. On earlier posts they said I would need to purchase 3 months. Is that correct?

Also, is it allowable for US citizens to buy disposable cell phones in Italy? I was told that they wouldn’t allow it.

Anthony says:

Steve, Europeans think we’re dumb because we think we’re the center of the universe…and the world revolves around us and our needs. We show no interest in learning about other cultures. That aside, we are dumb for allowing AT&T (and other cell companies I’m sure) to rape us with outrageous international data fees and roaming fees. We don’t exactly have a choice to change those fees to something reasonable…otherwise we would. Then, maybe we wouldn’t have to find alternatives to getting screwed over by our cell company. Besides, the purpose of the contract is for the phone company to recoup the money that they spent to reduce the price of the phone for the consumer. Regardless of how we use our phones overseas, the cell company is still collecting their monthly bills for the duration of the contract…and therefore recouping their money. If you are living up to your contract obligations (paying your monthly bill for 2 years or whatever the length of your contract is), you should have the right to use your phone however you want…even if it means purchasing non-AT&T data or cell plans to use while you’re overseas. As far as Europeans are concerned, I’m pretty sure the smart ones also seek affordable alternatives…and still honor their contract while they’re abroad. But hey, you can keep getting gouged if you’d like.

Anthony says:

The above was directed to Steve Angel…not Steve from travellingprofessor.com. Apparently Steven Angel’s comment was removed.

Anthony says:

Ah, crap. They changed the layout of the comments and now allow replies to specific posts…Steve Angel was replying to a previous post and not making a post directed to those seeking alternatives to AT&T’s outrageous fees. Sorry Steve. I received your post via e-mail and thought it was just a general post…not a reply.

steve angel says:

Anthony,

Yes, I agree with all you have said and nobody wants to pay more than one needs, but my comment was directed at Dmitri, who wondered if he can have a ‘holiday’ from his contract while travelling. This is simply not possible as if you have monthly contract fee, your choice of travelling is of no concern to your service provider, (you signed the contract) in fact if you have a contract you have already have had the cost of your phone subsidised by taking a contract in the first place. Which leads us onto the subject of unlocking……..but thats another topic altogether.

Us Americans need to wise up or start reading contracts before signing them, hence my ‘dumb’ comment. Anyways thanks, and I appreciate your reply.

VVayneH says:

I have a question that I don’t think has been raised yet:

If I have my iPhone in Airplane Mode and I have a Skype account and I’m in Italy at a wi-fi hotspot, what rate do I get charged if I call a U.S phone number from Italy using Skype?

Does Skype know where you are if you are connecting over the Internet? I see rates for calling Italy but none for calling from foreign countries back to the U.S. over the Internet.

tj says:

When I use my american skype account to call local paris numbers when im living here in paris.. it charges me local rates.

I am an American using blackberry and living in Paris but traveling worldwide. I used to have iphone and i miss it like crazy. however, with my sfr plan it is very affordable to pay as I go around europe just topping off my account online. I pay probably 20euro/month when I stay in paris and up to 60/month in london or milan. my question is, I want an iphone but will only change when I find an affordable international unlimited calls/receiving and data plan.

do they exist?? …because for now anyways, all my friends have BBM.

hmm, let me know.

Booger says:

I spent a week in Austria and Slovakia on business in Dec. 2010. the hotels had decent wifi. When I left home I placed Iphone in airplane mode. I purchased 10 dollars of credit with skype and had the app on my phone. I was able to make calls to the US for 2.3 cents a minute which was very handy. Do a little work before traveling abroad and make sure your hotel has wifi and find wifi hotspots and you can talk to friends and loved ones as much as you like.

Bill_D says:

As someone has already noted: download the free Skype app, set up an account
that allows you to access the US phone system at ~ 2 cents a minute and call back
to the US. Make sure airplane mode is ON, wifi is ON (because you will be using
voip through the internet to make your calls). Try it before you leave the US –
call your own phone.

I did this in Ireland in 2009 and it worked great. You do need WiFI access, but it
seemed to be easily available.

PS: I did this on my iTouch which is the same as an iPhone with airplane mode ON,
Wifi ON.

scriptat says:

I will be lost without my iPhone in England so I am so glad everyone answered these questions!! I am with Verizon so I am assuming the same carrier charges and issues are pretty relevant to me too. Will just go wifi and airplane mode the whole time, but I’ll miss my texting!

Larry says:

scriptat, if your iPhone is from Verizon, what is being discussed here about using an iPhone in Europe won’t apply to your kind of iPhone. AT&T’s iPhone can be used in Europe, but Verizon’s iPhone (which looks identical) has different network technology inside that won’t allow it to be used there. That is because Europe uses the GSM standard (so does AT&T) which covers about 220 countries, but Verizon uses CDMA cell phone techology which is used in about 40 countries. Check with Verizon.

M_Reilly says:

We are moving to Germany for 2 years, military. So, if you are military you can suspend your service for 2 – 18 month periods – this allows you to keep your phone numbers, allows you to reactive your service when you return to the states for family visits, and they waive fees. When you return to the states you can call 611 and get some sort of service.
My questions are: Am I able to use airplane mode while service is suspended?
If I jailbreak and get a German sim card for the phone what that will do to our suspended contract?
We have an old phone that is no longer under contract with AT&T and I was thinking of making that our german phone number with the new card from t-mobile for local calls and using the 3Gs in the wi-fi places for our skype back to the states.
Does that sound like a logical plan? Does anyone have a suggestion for doing it better?

Anthony says:

You will have to jailbreak and unlock your iPhone(s) to allow them to work with other cell providers’ SIM cards. Unlocking it is really what allows it to work on other networks…the jailbreaking only allows non-approved apps to be installed on the phone. Anyway, you can jailbreak/unlock your phones regardless of if they are out of contract…because whether or not you temporarily suspend your service, you will eventually complete your contract. The purpose of the contract is to ensure AT&T recoups the money it used to subsidize the cost of the phone. If you keep your iPhone updated as far as iOS/firmware goes, you might not be able to unlock your phone. If that’s true, you’re only option is to use airport mode with wifi enabled…then using Skype or a SIP-based app. It’s actually possible to make free calls and receive free calls using SIP, but it is a pain to make outgoing calls. Basically you’d use Google Voice’s website from your phone to make calls…it will then call your SIP number/app (free incoming calls from sipgate – free app: fring) and then connect you to who you’re trying to call. The quality is mediocre, but you get what you pay for. Since one of your phones is out of contract, you might try stopping by a AT&T store one day and see if they will unlock the phone for you.

Bob Francis says:

Can a smart phone be used just to check and send emails, surf the web, etc. in hotels and other places which have Wi-Fi available without having any plan with ATT, Verizon, etc.

Susan McBee says:

This is all great information. My last 2 trips abroad I turned my phone off until I landed back in U.S. But I want to use my iPhone mainly for navigation and checking sites out during driving tour of French countryside in a few months. I am not versed in all the iPhone lingo. What us the recommended way to use phone exclusively for that purpose? Thanks!

tj says:

depends where you’re going too, but I’ve traveled the french countryside with a french contract phone and had poor reception. SFR and virgin offer prepaid but bouygues (which doesn’t offer prepaid) has much better service outside the city.

Ann Graham says:

Susan – If you want to use your iphone for navigation you will need to have an International data plan and I would expect that it would need to be a fairly expensive international data plan in order to use Google Maps and check sites. It has been suggested that you need a three month data plan for one month of travel because the European cell companies take their time billing AT&T. You can ask AT&T how much that will cost and how expensive a data plan you would need. It might be cheaper to buy a GPS to take along with you that has European maps. I bought a Garmin GPS with European and us maps two years ago for about $170 that has been very helpful traveling around Europe and the US.

Ann Graham says:

Bob
Yes. I have an old iphone that my son gave me that I use like an ipod touch. (It has no contract with any phone company.) I can even make telephone calls on it using Fring. Sipgate also has its own app on itunes that allows you to use it as a Voip phone assuming you have a telephone number through sipgate. I have used it both in the US and Europe over Wi-Fi networks.

mkcoleman says:

I used my iphone in Amsterdam and Turkey on wi-fi and kept it on Airplane mode the entire time. Didn’t need to call anybody, but could e-mail, access internet, and did not get charged any extra. Airplane mode is the way to go! Most hotels have wi-fi.

karateche says:

If I put my iphone in airplane mode can I still send/receive texts? If I have a text and turn off airplane mode will the text come through? In other words, will it wait for me?

Hannah says:

I have replaced my Nokia phone with an iphone 4 (AT&T contract). Just now, I turned on my old Nokia phone and it said “smart chip registration failed”
Could I take this Nokia phone to England & France and use it by buying a sim card? How would I get a telephone number? Is there a way to make it a pay as you go phone? I don’t need it to call the U.S.
I will only need to use the Nokia a few times to let people know I have arrived at a bus stop or train station. Would use a pay phone but they are becoming so scarce.
Having read all the helpful info about the iphone abroad, I think I’ll just pass and leave it at home.
Will appreciate any advice.

John says:

My wife is headed to Italy for two weeks with a girlfriend. She will have her iPhone 3gs with her and I’m trying to figure out the best way for her to be able to use it when needed. Having it in airplane mode is fine most of the time but she’ll need to send/receive texts at some point and would like to use her apps that are web based. As of this moment her phone isn’t jailbroken but that is an option I’m strongly considering for her. Does anyone have any suggestions for JB apps or programs that would make using her phone/data reasonable (or free)?

tj says:

Honestly, I came to Paris to work a few years ago and have ended up living here. What I recommend for my friends that come is just bring the phone you have, and go to the Phone House (http://www.phonehouse.fr/) and have them give you a temporary sim card that you will buy prepaid minutes for which you can find at any tabac (look for the sticker on the door that says SFR, ORANGE, BOUYGUES, or even VIRGIN). Of course, that means phone calls and texts only unless you want to pay the premium. and if your phone doesnt accept the sim and they aren’t able to unlock, you can get a really cheap phone that you can throw away at the end of your trip.

now. for BB and IPHONE as far as france goes, the people that I work with that travel internationally but have Paris as a home base and need to use their data services worldwide, they pay 100euros/month minimum for this service, and that’s with a contract- not prepaid.

good luck. xx

Dan says:

I have an iPhone 4 and an iPad2. ATT iPhone 4 hotspot feature has just been implemented (for 4.3 iOS) and I would like to use the iPhone 4 as a hotspot in Germany, Switzerland, and Italy on an upcoming vacation. Has anyone had any experience with jailbreaking an iPhone 4 (with 4.3 iOs) so you can use your phone as a hotspot and connect your iPad to it? Can you get such a sim card that allows you to hotspot connect and pay for data usage (as well as make calls on a per-minute basis I assume), and only have to worry about one sim card for both the devices?

I got totally turned off with speaking with ATT, since data usage with Hotspot causes them to try to gouge you even more, with the explanation that “data” in Europe costs even more than “data” here in the states (and having unlimited data on my iPhone 4 does me no good whatsover). I will not be using ATT overseas at all as a consequence, and would appreciate any help.

Anthony says:

Dan,

My experience is only on an iPhone 3gs, so I’m unaware if there is an app that cracks the hotspot feature so that AT&T cannot track the data. However, my phone has been a “hotspot” for quite a while (although I rarely use it) thanks to a jailbroken app called PdaNet, which creates an ad-hoc network (allows 2 wireless devices to communicate directly with each other) OR is tethered to the computer via USB to act like a modem. Using either option through PdaNet, AT&T does NOT see this as a separate type of data…they just see it as phone data usage. If you use the hotspot feature, the phone keeps tabs on the data usage via hotspot…meaning that a) they know you’re using the feature and b) they can bill you for your usage. Boo! So PdaNet is looking really good, right? Well, there are drawbacks: getting a successful connection between the phone/computer can be difficult at times (via ad-hoc wireless network…haven’t tried the tethered approach), I have no clue if this works on iPhone4 (although I don’t see why it wouldn’t…assuming your phone is jailbroken), and I’m not sure if iPad supports ad-hoc networking. Before your trip, I would jailbreak your iPhone (assuming there is an untethered jailbreak available), install PdaNet (or some other similar app), and test said app with your iPad (with cell service disabled) to ensure that you have Internet service on your iPad from your iPhone. If that is successful, then unlock your iPhone (so that other carrier’s SIM cards can be used with it…and this assuming they even have an unlock available for your specific iPhone model/iOS version). Test the unlock by borrowing a non-AT&T friend’s SIM card and seeing if you can call out and/or use the data service. If successful, you should be ready to rock-and-roll in Europe.

To answer your question about using the same SIM card for both the iPhone and iPad…this would work IF both the iPhone AND iPad were jailbroken AND unlocked and you switched the SIM card back and forth between the 2. So your better option is to try the data tethering first…as it would allow you to use both devices. Let me know what kind of deals your find in Italy as far as voice/data goes, please. I plan on going this summer. I can’t wait!

Dan says:

Anthony, Thanks very much for your input. I was actually hoping that someone has already tried this in Europe with Hotspot on the iPhone 4. I won’t travel until May, so hope to hear from anyone who may have tried this. I didn’t want to use the same sim card in both devices, rather hoping to just jailbreak and unlock my iPhone 4 when I get there, and use one sim card to unlock the hotspot in Europe, and wirelessly tether my iPad 2, so I don’t have to worry about looking for wifi spots along the way. I’ve also heard of good experiences with Boingo in Europe to get reasonable wifi spots at reasonable data rates, in case I decide to turn off my phone entirely (or just to have with me for wifi backup). I may decide to do this, and install Skype for emergency use.

Can you install Skype on your phone while in Europe, or do you have to do it before traveling? And does the jailbreaking done in Europe wipe out your Skype account if done in Europe? I’ve heard that they are very familiar with jailbreaking, and can do it quicker and easier than here, but, since they wouldn’t be re-installing any lost apps or programs, do you lose any such apps or programs once it is jailbreakon there?

tanja says:

Yes, this is quite annoying about the Iphone. I travelled around Europe last year, looking forward to using my iphone as my guide. (In fact I got it for this purpose). Unfortunately there was never any wifi in sight. Only in big cities, big hotels and American coffee shops, all of which things I try to avoid when on holiday. Can’t change the sim card for a local one for the next 2 years. So it’s basically useless abroad. I am from Holland by the way. If anyone’s got an idea, to fix this problem would love to hear about it. Will then dedicate a post on my blog What’s up with Amsterdam about it for sure.

Dan says:

Tanja, Thanks for your comment. To clarify: where did you get your sim card – in the US or in Europe, and why can’t you get it “refilled” to use again while in Europe. I know that you can get a sim card in the US (for jailbroken/unlocked GSM phones) for roughly $45, with call minutes only, but have not found good information on European phone/data sim cards, which I would need in Europe. I looked into Boingo, but only could find one hotspot on my entire trip that was in any of my hotels, so don’t think I’ll do that at all. I really need a sim card that will work in my iPhone 4, and allow hotspotting for data usage, so my iPad2 will work seemlessly, and without having to have a separate sim card for the ipad. Hoping someone will offer this feature soon, so I can use it in May, when I’ll be in Germany/Switzerland, and Italy.

tanja says:

@Dan, I got the phone with a contract in the Netherlands. It cannot be unlocked.
This link: http://www.phone-guide-germany.com/iphone-4-prepaid-micro-sim-germany/3978/ might be helpful to you.

Phyllis says:

How to charge an IPhone in Germany? Is there a converter I should purchase in the U.S.?

Dan says:

You shouldn’t need a converter, because iphones are OK to work on 120 or 240 volt (most of Europe is 240 Volt). You will need a plug in adapter only (I am assuming the hotels will have one for my use, but they can be purchased (Radio Shack, Fry’s, etc) before you go. If you have appliances that can’t work on 240volt, then you may need a converter (look on each appliance and it should tell you – most modern appliances work OK on either voltage).

Byrrno says:

Dan – I used my iPhone 4, iOS 4.0.1, as a hotspot last summer. I jailbroke it in the US (which unlocked it too), and bought a non-apple store app, “MyWi” ($20). This app let me turn my iPhone into a hotspot that at least 5 WiFi devices could connect to when I had my cellular connection working for data. I was using a T-Mobil SIM card, so ATT was not in the picture. I don’t think there is a good jailbreak yet for iOS 4.3, but one seems imminent. The hard part, once your phone is jailbroken, is finding a SIM card in Europe with a data plan that is affordable. My experience with T-Mobile in Germany was pricey but within reason; my experience with Orange Mobile in France was astronomically expensive (it used up my pre-paid minutes whenever the iPhone was turned on!).

Dan says:

Thanks for your comments.

When you said you used it as a hotspot, did you also mean you used the newly implemented hotspot wireless tethering between the iphone2 and an ipad? This is what I’m trying to achieve in Europe for my trip. I know you can install MyWi, but I don’t want to use it in the states, because ATT is monitoring its use, and may cancel my unlimited data plan for ATT, should they decide to intervene. However, were you able to use MyWi in Europe, with a wirelessly tethered ipad?

Also, usually just jailbreaking the phone doesn’t unlock it, so you can remove the micro-sim card and intall another in Europe. What program (s) did you use to jailbreak AND unlock your phone, and did you have any trouble re-installing your ATT micro-sim card once you returned to the states? Others have cautioned that 4.3 or 4.3.1 may not be as easy to get to re-initialize again, and some have encountered problems trying to get it to work correctly again (either jailbroken or not), so I don’t want to take a chance on “bricking” my phone once I return to the states. I am still under Apple warranty, but don’t know whether jailbreaking is really “legal” as far as Apple is concerned (it is supposed to be, but that doesn’t keep Apple from trying to prevent it, as they are constantly trying to do).

I know data plans vs voice minute plans are variable in Europe, but having a “true” hotspot feature that works with a European Sim card would negate the need to get a separate data card (and jailbreak), my ipad2. Data would then flow between devices, and I would only be charged for the total minutes/data, which is certainly reasonable. If I can’t figure out how to do this, I will probably just leave my iphone off while in Europe, and use my ipad with a data card sim by itself (and maybe use Skype for calls?).

Do you have to install Skype on your ipad before going to Europe to make it work, and will it work once you jailbreak it and install a European sim card?

Lots of questions, and hopefully, anyone who has experience can help. Thanks again for your very helpful comments. Dan

WayneH says:

Just got back from Italy, using my iPhone in Airplane mode and picking up wi-fi hotspots. (when you put it in airplane mode, wi-fi is turned off, so you have to turn it back on again).

I went to my Settings, and searched for unlocked wi-fis as I walked through Rome and Venice. When I connected, I was able to check my email and use my Skype app to make calls.

My phone is not jailbroken or unlocked. I used it as it, just in Airplane Mode with wi-fi on.

Dan says:

Wayne, Thanks. That answers my concern about Skype, and lets me know I can get by with Skype, and not have to get a sim card for voice. Still leaves the burning question about getting data sim card while in Europe, and whether the hotspot wireless tethering will work between the iphone and the ipad. Hope to hear from anyone who may have tried.

Wayne Harrison says:

I forgot to mention that while I was in Europe I forward ALL my calls to my Google Voice number which automatically transcribed messages and made them available to listen to on the web. My daughter used this the entire 9 months she was working in Europe. That way, you don’t have to have your phone on at all when people call you. You can just log on to Google Voice and check your messages. It worked great because of the time difference where actual calls would be impracticle.

Byrrno says:

Dan – my iPhone had iOS 4.0.1 when I used “JailBreakMe.com”. This particular jailbreak also unlocked the phone automatically. I used a T-Mobil SIM card, and had no problem running MyWi. My phone could then become a wireless hotspot that my iPad and other computers, Macs and PCs, connected to via WiFi. No problem getting the iPad to connect to my iPhone’s WiFi network. I had no trouble back reinserting my ATT SIM card back in the US. I haven’t installed Skype on my iPad; I would think an iPhone would make a better Skype phone. I installed Skype on my iPhone in the US–any kind of installation will require some data downloading, and it’s much cheaper here. You can test Skype from the US, and if it works over WiFi here, it’ll work there. I’m not sure if the iPhone version of Skype can receive calls if you don’t leave Skype open with the phone on. If you just want to use your iPad, you don’t need to jailbreak it. They’re sold unlocked in the US, aren’t they? So you could use a European SIM card with a data plan in it right out of the box, if you find a non-contract data plan.

Dan says:

Byrrno, Thanks so much for the useful information.

I just jailbroke my iphone 4 (4.3.1) yesterday with the new jailbreak – works just fine. My question is: This is not an unlock, and they haven’t released one yet. When you ONLY jailbreak your iphone (not unlock it) does that mean that using a SIM from overseas won’t work? (ie. does the unlock affect the phone itself, the SIM or both?). I’ve never quite understood this. Someone told me (or I read) that jailbreaking alone will not allow you to use another SIM card successfully, that you need to have an unlock (of the phone itself) in order to use a SIM card from another carrier. Thanks.

Fedder Hanson says:

Has anyone figured out how to use the free wifi all over Rome with their American iphone? Apparently you need an Italian SIM card and then you need to register your phone number with them. iphones are locked so this won’t work.

Dan says:

Depends on the iphone – if you have an older iphone, or a newer one with the appropriate older baseband, you can jailbreak it – AND you can unlock it to use a SIM card. That’s the reason I can’t, because my iphone 4 has the newer software (4.3.1) which can be jailbroken, but CAN’T be unlocked (yet), so I will have to use my iPad2 while there, since all ipads are unlocked, and can take SIM cards from Europe just fine. I’ve decided to use the iPad2, with local carrier SIM cards, and use skype to keep in touch with my office while away. Maybe they will figure out a software way to unlock my iphone before going in May, but I doubt it, and everyone has said to stay away from the “circuit board sandwich” sim cards and unlocking companies who promise to unlock your phone by using your IMEI numbers (which can easily be circumvented by Apple at any time). I’ll wait until a foolproof software unlocking program is developed, or, if not, just use my ipad exclusively while away.

Rebecca says:

Does anyone know if I can forward my cell phone to a skype number and receive and make calls for free on my IPhone 4 while in Europe?

Kristy says:

yes you can use skype or google phones while in Europe on wi-fi without any additional cost from your carrier. Just pre-pay for your calls through there. Very cheap. make sure you aren’t using data roaming and all the other things. Wi-Fi only.

I’ve done it in France, Brussels, Netherlands, and Germany. (And probably India, but I don’t remember now as wi-fi isn’t as available to me when I travel there.)

Sarah says:

Hi, I am travelling to Turkey in less than a week. I’m just verifying-can I use my iphone 4 to use all apps and browse internet while there for free as long as I am connected to a wifi network?

Leti says:

I am going to turkey in mid April. Could you use your iphone or ipad?

Fedder Hanson says:

We have iphone 4′s, but the original ipad. Will ipad #1 take a SIM? If it does, I assume I have to have it installed by a phone store, but I don’t know how you could activate the Roma Wireless card because you need an Italian phone #. (I am only talking about Rome)

Dan says:

Yes the sim should work just fine in the ipad1 (assuming it has a sim card, since I don’t know if the wifi only versions had sim cards). All ipad1′s and ipad2′s are unlocked by Apple, so I’m told.

WayneH says:

I have a 3G iPhone. I couldn’t connect on the Roma Wireless either. What I did was open by Settingsand turned on wi-fi in the Airplane mode. Then, while walking through Rome, I search for unlocked wireless routers and connected that way. Once I connected, I stopped and checked my mail and used Skype. Worked like a charm.

NANCY FELLER says:

So are you saying that if you use Skype on your Iphone3G or new Iphone when you are traveling that there is no international charge? Does you phone have to be on a particular setting to assure there are no charges involved, and I am assuming you must be in a WIFI area. Is this also true of the IPAD?

WayneH says:

I can’t speak to the iPad, as I don’t have one.

I have an AT&T 3G iPhone with the Skype app. It is not jailbroken. I was able to use it in Airplane mode, with wi-fi on and find a free wi-fi signal and call back to the United States. I was billed at the rate of $0.023 a minute, according to my call log. A 6 minute call from Italy cost me 20 cents. I have the Skype plan where I pay $10 as I go and it automatically recharges when it gets low.

I had Airplane mode on, wi-fi on (it defaults to off when you select airplane mode) and data transfer off. I just went to my wi-fi in settings and wandered around a neighborhood in Venice until I picked up an unlocked wi-fi router and made the calls.

JenniferH says:

With an iPhone 3G, would I be better off doing the above (Airplane mode/Wifi on/Skype) in London for 10 days (given the ubiquitous free wifi) OR jailbreaking it and buying a PAYG sim card once I get there? TIA!

Hannah says:

Can anyone please help me unlock my old Nokia 6102i ? I will be in France for two weeks and intend to buy a Sim card for the phone, but I’m told I must first unlock it.

1bad540i says:

I’m doing what Wayne stated. Works well for short term traveling or vacations.

AIRPLANE MODE is turned on to disable the cellular and WiFi radios. Then we only turn on the WiFi (via the settings menu of course) so the iPhone is now displaying an airplane where it used to display AT&T-(BARS) but the WiFi indicator is now on.
Now we see it’s time to travel around in search of open WiFi networks with your iPhone and connect to one. I cannot confirm what WiFI is currently available in europe but in Canada, certain cities have limited city-wide WiFi (within a certain geographical region) for about $7.00 a month. The cheapest AT&T data add on is $24.95 per handset. Are you doing the math?

Cellular Voice and Text Messaging will not work because we are in Airplane Mode…. However and we know if we turn off Airplane Mode the chances of our bill increasing exponentially is huge. Best workaround I found was to download the Skype App. Skype works by placing your voice call over the WiFi radio for almost free. It has a keypad just like the default iPhone keypad.
There are also free Apps from the App Store that allow text messaging over WiFi for free.

I paid approximately $7.00 for a month of WiFi service and $3.99 for a month of Skype last time I traveled abroad with my iPhone.
AT&T add-on data plans are $24.99-$199.99 depending on size.
AT&T International voice roaming is between roughly $.79 and $2.99 per minute depending on what International add-on plan you have selected.
AT&T Text Messaging abroad can be be between $.09 to $1.50 PER TEXT MESSAGE!

AT&T’s way requires you to get out your checkbook.
This way requires you to get to know your phones capabilities but saves you some ching !!!!!!!!!
Good Luck.

Hannah…….As for the Nokia unlock…..I’d call AT&T and ask them first. They’ve been known to give out unlock codes for specific phones if you tell them you’re moving for a few months. Keep asking.
The 6102i can be unlocked….google it. :)

Wow, I am heading to England and Scotland in August and have been trying to figure out a work around for the last month. These tips are super valuable.

Peter says:

I agree with Tom, and I would go as far as saying: Don’t use your Iphone at all.

Bring your laptop and whenever you have free internet connection, make calls on Skype. Either Skype to Skype (free) or Skype Out (just a small charge). Here you can also do your email correspondence and browsing.

Then bring an old cellphone that has been “opened”. It must be a GSM phone, meaning a phone that has worked on the AT&T or T-Mobile system. The GSM system is everywhere in the world, except Japan. You cannot use a phone that has worked on Verizon, Sprint or Nextel.

Then, when you arrive in the country in Europe where you are going to spend the most time, buy a local SIM card and make inexpensive calls within the country you are in, or, at somewhat more expensive rates , country to country. You can also buy a “disposable” phone inexpensively.

Is this too complicated for you? Then pay the high charges from AT&T!!!!!!!!

Kay Casavant says:

I am headed to France for a vacation in a few weeks. I have 2 iphones – my original iphone3 which was configured for use with AT&T service, but now is disabled for cell usage. I still use it a little as an Ipod touch and wi-fi device and children are allowed to play with it :), and my replacement iphone4 which is currently my active cell phone on Verizon service. While in France, I will figure out some other way to make phone calls, I certainly don’t want to incur any roaming charges, and it sounds like my verizon phone won’t work at all anyway. But I would like to take advantage of wi-fi service where I can find it, to check email and so forth – perhaps to download travel maps and do some research, and so forth.

Am I better off to carry around the formerly at&t iphone3? or to carry around the iphone4/verizon in airplane mode with wi-fi enabled? Somehow the iphone3 seems safer since it is no longer associated with a phone number and service.

Are there any caveats? Such as possible scenarios where I could unwittingly rack up a bill that is larger than the cost of the trip?

Or is either of the scenarios unworkable for some reason?

thanks in advance for any feedback on this question.

Anthony says:

Kay Casavant,

It really depends on how “connected” you want to be. If you don’t care if people are able to reach you, you can just take any of your iPhones and put it in airplane mode…then calls can be made/received via Skype (or other similar VoIP service) only when you are connected to a wifi service.

If you want to be reachable via at least some phone number at all times, you should jailbreak and unlock your old iPhone…then purchase a SIM card when you get to France. If your SIM card includes data, then you can always receive calls both with your French number and through Skype (you could have your American phone number forward calls to your Skype number so people can reach you with a local call). If your SIM card does NOT include data, then people will be able to reach you on your French number at any time, and on your Skype number only when you are connected to wifi.

FYI, there are some VoIP services that give you a phone number and allow FREE incoming calls, such as sipgate. Since it’s VoIP, the calls are sent over the Internet…so it doesn’t matter where you are in the world as long as you have an Internet (data) connection. If you sign up for that, you would need a VoIP app on your phone (I use one called fringe in combination with sipgate). Sipgate’s call quality is mediocre, and there is a lag (as there is with most VoIP services). But it’s FREE for incoming calls (and like 1 or 2 cents a minute for outgoing calls to US numbers…even though you’re in France). If you want simplicity though, go with Skype.

Squirrelhenge says:

Thanks, all, for the helpful advice. I’m still looking for a little clarification, though, if someone can oblige me.

The last time I went to Europe, cell phones may have existed but they were probably still big as bricks. This summer I’m headed to Germany for four weeks and would like to take my iPhone 3GS for the convenience of keeping in touch with family and friends via Skype, Facebook, etc. (using Airplane Mode with WiFi on, thanks to your excellent suggestions).

The group I’m going with plans to buy cheap phones and SIM cards when we get to Germany and use those to keep in touch. If I go ahead and get an AT&T international plan for my iPhone… and here’s my dumb question… will they be able to call me without using up all their minutes? It would be a local call for them, effectively, yes? I don’t mind joining the bandwagon and getting the PAYG phone, but it seems silly to have it PLUS the iPhone if a one-month international plan is going to cost me roughly the same.

Please advise, and point out any obvious logical flaws I’m not seeing. Thanks!

Anthony says:

Squirrelhenge,

Why don’t you jailbreak and unlock your 3gs (free) and purchase a SIM card there. If your SIM card doesn’t include data, just disable data in the settings…then you can use data only when you’re connected to a wifi…so they can call you locally, and vice versa. If you’re using Skype, you could have your American phone number forwarded to your Skype number and your friends/family in the States can still reach you (on your phone) as if you were at home by using a local call. This is assuming you’re either connected to a wifi when they call, or data is included in your German SIM card. If you need more specific help with the jailbreak/unlock, post your iOS version and baseband version. And if you haven’t updated your phone recently, do NOT update. If you update, you might not be able to jailbreak and/or unlock (the important one) your phone. Jailbreaking /unlocking is not dangerous. If you run into issues, you simply put it in DFU mode and restore it….very simple. When you return from Germany, you can restore it and nobody will ever know it was jailbroken (including AT&T/Apple…not that it matters, since it’s not illegal to jailbreak). Or you can get an expensive international plan through AT&T.

Robs says:

Anthony,
Which jailbreaking/unlocking method do you suggest for AT&T iPhone 3GS v.4.3.3 (8J2) {don’t know what baseband is?}
I’m touring a number of countries in EU, will I need local SIMS for all of them?
Thanks in advance

kathe says:

We are travelling to France and would like to use the iPhone 3G for occasional calls, but especially would like to use the map app/GPS to supplement paper maps when we’re driving. Do we need an international plan for that? I don’t think ti would work if the phone is on airplane mode. Any ideas? I think renting a GPS is quite pricey. Thanks!

Warren says:

To pay almost nothing for your outgoing calls from Europe to the US, follow the directions about turning off data roaming and fetch and then turn on airplane mode. This will turn off wi-fi but then turn wi-fi back on, leaving the phone in airplane mode. Hot spots are everywhere, including in McDonalds. Use Skype for your voice connection and, Voila, you have very inexpensive outgoing voice calling without fear of other charges.

Renate says:

I am currently visiting in Germany, bought the 20MG package from AT&T, my phone is not working to recive data. Not sure what to do!! Anyone can help?

johnson clan says:

My spendthrift husband bought the AT&T data plan for an upcoming trip to France. Based on posts here I tried out the airplane wi-fi option at home on my iphone3 and it works perfectly for allowing wi-fi internet access but blocking text and data. My hubby will think I’m brilliant and my Facebook dependent teen will be able to keep in touch on the trip too. Thank you!!!!!

k8ee says:

Hi thanks so much for the great ideas. I have an iPhone 3GS and my sister the iPhone 4 we will be in Dublin , Ireland and France for a couple weeks and looking for a solution. I also heard something about google voice being free to use when overseas … Is this true ? Has anyone tried this ?

Candace Hill says:

Thank you so much! You just saved me a lot of $$$ and worry about my teen and her iphone in Germany for three weeks. I think with Skype we have it covered. Bless you!

E says:

Just talked to AT&T. The airplane mode seems great unless you want to receive text, which might be important to you if you have someone in the country you are visiting needing to text you. Skype text will only work if you are in wifi. For $10 you can get 50 outgoing text and incoming text are on your normal plan (so I’m told). But airplane mode won’t work…here’s what ATT told me to do…turn fetch off and only fetch email when in WIFI, call fwd phone to US number…like house phone…skype etc, google voice etc. Turn data roaming off. So you can get text but won’t be hit with international roaming for calls or data. Should work. Any thoughts to the contrary?

Also, I wonder if people in the foreign country could send a text to a google voice number? Again, you won’t see it unless in Wifi so the text international plan seems nice.

torrie says:

Is this for AT&T iPhone 4? Can the iphone4 use uk and eu wifi? I’m so confused! I’ve never been to Europe before and am having a hard time understanding all of this!

Wayne Harrison says:

Yes, Google Voice has text sending and receiving. The nice thing is, it keeps your texts so you can read them at your leisure.

I wonder if the people who post on here about want to be able to get texts in real time realize there’s a big time difference between North America and Europe? It would mean possibly getting texts when you’re sleeping and being woken up. Likewise, the other direction for the person you’re texting.

The last thing I want to do in Europe is having my phone ring or get a text while I’m in a museum or out enjoying the sites.

Sean says:

The suggestions I have read have been very educational. I hope to use my Iphone using the tips suggested above in a few days during my European trip, but I need some help.
My situation doesn’t require that I call the US from Europe often, but be able to call and receive calls from numbers in Europe. We have rented a few apartments during our stay. I need to provide the owners with a contact number, and call them when we arrive.
Do I just buy Skype credit? Can I receive calls or do I need a number?
Do I get an online number with Skype? If so, I have to make it a US number and then am I, and the apartment owners, making long distance calls and wasting both my and their money?
I have read suggestions about getting a prepaid phone once I arrive, but as we are traveling to several different countries, this means changing SIM cards each time and still doesn’t give me a reliable number to be reached at.
Being able to communicate with my group in Europe would be nice, but doesn’t have to be in real time so Skype credit and online resources should work fine. Being able to call back home would be welcome, but i can get a calling card for that if neccessary. Having the ability to call and receive calls from my European hosts is my dilemna. Thank you for any help you can provide.

Paula says:

HI Enjoyed your thoughts on using an iphone in Europe ( I’m planning a trip for spring 2012 ).

A very scary thought that I could incur charges while my phone is ‘fetching’ and ‘pushing’ while I sleep, you offer some good ideas ( airplane ) etc., dumbing the iphone down to an ipod touch works for me as i use skype alot and can survive — I think — with FB and Skype. Did I read somewhere that skype and FB were merging? Maybe Skype credit for those calls would be nice too.

We’ll see. What I do rely on is internet access to get information needed while traveling.
Anyway … no I liked your idea about airplane mode. The trip is costly enough :)

Bart says:

All good suggestions. Wifi is not quite as ubiquitous in Paris as in London. In London St. Pancras RR Station has wifi everywhere and free! In Paris, Starbucks, McDonalds, KFC though they don’t all work seamlessly. Each mairie (town hall) in each arrondissement (district) has free wifi during the day which often works. Some cafes have it as do some large hotel lobbies but very variable. Download a wifi finder app (free) from the App store. They are flat files and do not search real time wifi but most are up to date and worth a try. Once you are on wifi the iphone works very well with Skype. If you have an unlocked older phone (I have a Nokia) you can buy a sim card for about $10 or $20 in Paris (or London but works only in the country you buy it). Beware though that the rates both within France, EU and to the US are not cheap. Better than AT&T but much more than Skype. On the other hand you have a phone and a local number.

Carol says:

Before leaving for Italy, I was informed by an AT&T representative that I would not be charged for incoming calls from the US to Italy because it was a US number calling a US number. I repeated what the person said to me because it sounded unreal. And it was. I came home to a bill of $118.00 of calls because I would call home and tell them to call me back because it was no charge. Just want to put this out there for anyone who so you don’t get mis-informed. I did purchase a text package for outgoing text messages. Incoming text messages were no charge. I think……

SajMom says:

Hi, We are in Germany now, in the Kaiserslautern area and have had no success with finding wi-fi hotspots that we don’t need to pay for just out and about. The hotels have it, but most restaurants don’t provide the free wi-fi here and so we have had no success with the plan of going to lunch connect to internet and check email. Very frustrating as I was hoping to use this method until the 5 came out in Oct. Instead I will be getting the 4 in the next couple of days so I have some sort of internet access.
hope you have better luck in different areas.

Anthony says:

SajMom and Wes Smith, you guys realize that the version of your iPhone will have ZERO impact on free wifi networks available to you in any country, right? The only things that could impact your Internet access (aside from the obvious…free wifi networks being available) is your data plan through your cell provider and their coverage in the area that you are visiting.

And since AT&T is outrageously expensive overseas, it’s probably a much cheaper option to either live off of the free wifi (if you can cope with it) or jailbreak AND unlock your phone so you can purchase a SIM card (with a data plan, of course) for the country you’re visiting.

If you choose the 2nd option, you should research the SIM provider to make sure their coverage is good, etc. If, however, you keep your iPhone’s software up-to-date (most recent iOS and firmware), then there’s a good chance that you will NOT be able to unlock your phone for usage on other cell provider’s networks.

Wes Smith says:

Nice thread. I’ve been all around Asia and it’s not much better.

Maybe they’ll get it right on i5.

Danni says:

I am in the UK right now and I have turned off my data roam, disabled my international roaming/international calls, turned fetch off, and put my phone in airplane mode with wifi enabled; however, under time (I think this is what it is called) it says usage and the number keeps going up even when I have the phone in airplane mode. I reset the data tracker and those numbers are staying at zero (for the data) why is that one usage section under settings /general stating usage time? I dont want to get hit with a hge bill, help!

Dean says:

I will be cycling the French and Swiss alps with a buddy in September. The previous suggestions for inexpensively using my iphone4 are invaluable, and I appreciate the comments that you all have made.

One questions: I am sure I will be able to get by for the 5-week trip using the wifi only method for connectivity. However, once in a while my friend and I get separated and need to make a phone call to locate each other. Of course, the per minute charge for these calls would be high, but only infrequently used. In this situation the wifi-only method cannot be used. What changes should I make in my phone settings on the spot so that I can make the occasional direct phone call to his rented phone without inadvertently downloading emails and phone messages thereby racking up a huge bill?

By the way, any comments from cyclists would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks

Phil says:

I plan on using my iPhone 3GS for SpeechTrans (translation service) in France as well as using the phone of GPS. I will be using Skype for phone calls.

Since both the GPS and the translator require internet access, I assume I have to buy a data plan from AT&T. Any idea of how big a data plan I need to buy for eight days?

Greg Phelps says:

I am going to Spain soon and I called ATT to find out what my best options were….here is what I decided to do:

1. I purchased for $10 the International text plan. This allows me to SEND 50 texts from my phone to any US phone number while abroad. I am able to receive as many texts as my current plan allows (mine is 200/mo) at no additional cost. The only problem with this is that your phone cannot be in airplane mode to send/receive texts and therefore is open for incoming calls which will cost you whether you answer them or not. To avoid this, simply forward your cell phone number to a US based land line, and also do not forget to diable any fetch/push settings on your phone. Also, (unless you are on wifi) avoid opening any apps that require data streams to work such as maps, Google, etc….I would make sure the phone is in airplane mode before opening ANY apps just to be safe. You can always reconnect to wifi once you have put the phone in airplane mode.

2. As for making the few calls I will need to make, there are several options, but all require a wifi connection. Skype is good and offers inexpensive international rates, but I have found an app that actually gives you some limited minutes for free: TextFree with Voice. It’s a free app in the app store and you can load it up with minutes just by trying other apps it recommends. I have 140 minutes banked up with it right now and that will be MORE than enough for my 10 day trip. Again, the only caveat here is that you must be on wifi in order to use it.

If anyone knows of any free wifi spots in Sitges Spain, I’d love to hear about them!

Wayne Harrison says:

Rather than forward your calls to a US based land line, forward your phone to Google Voice. It gives you a new phone number and your calls are recorded and transcribed and accessible via the Internet. Google Voice is free. If you forward to a US land line, you’ll incur charges accessing your voice mail.

As for free wi-fi spots, as I mentioned earlier, just wander around with your internet enabled phone until you find one. Almost all the unsecured ones I found were on private (personal) wireless routers.

Greg Phelps says:

That’s very good advice, but as my home “land” line is actually internet based service, all my voicemails are also accessible online :) Thanks for the tip!

Jacqueline says:

I am traveling to and around Lesser Poland (southern section around Krakow) for a week. I have an iPhone 3GS and will bring my laptop. The two hotels in which I’m staying offer free WiFi. I want to call the US just 3 or 4 times. What’s the best/cheapest route for me? Anyone have experience with Eastern European countries in terms of calls, WiFi, etc.?

If that’s all you need to do, I’d suggest getting the Skype iPhone app, and purchasing a $10 credit (lowest available) in Skype minutes. Make sure you set phone to Airplane mode, WiFi only. Worked perfectly for me in Prague.

Jacqueline says:

Will do, Chris. I’m doing a cooking journey – too bad I can’t send you some mushrooms and dumplings as a way of saying “thanks”!

Ciro Marchetti says:

OK, I get the Airplane ON mode and then using WiFi spots to use Skype scenario. But unless there is some basic point i’m misunderstanding, that will only serve for outgoing calls. Anyone needing to contact you i.e. for an emergency would not be able to reach you, unless by coincidence they were using skype just when you happened to be in a WiFi spot.

Brijack1 says:

That is the danger of putting your phone in airplane mode and leaving it there. People trying to get ahold of you in an emergency will be out of luck. You can purchase a pay as you go phone for dirt cheap on any corner in most cities…why not just get one and give your family and friends the number in case? Also, if you need to make European calls to friends you can do it until the minutes card you purchased runs out.

Wayne Harrison says:

I got a Google Voice number (it’s free). Before you leave, forward your cell to your Google Voice and it will record and transcribe all your calls and they will be available on the Internet for you to retrieve for free any time you are able to access the Internet. There’s no advantage in getting messages from the U.S. in real time because of the time difference.

Beth Dillard says:

I am going to France and Morocco next month..I do have the skype app on my iphone as well as Skype on my Macbook..I know about the airplane mode and turning Wifi on..What I do not know…I have several peps I am meeting that live in Europe that I will need to meet up with /communicate..Is there a way to either check my messages briefly on my iphone so I can call them back on my skype or either get messages from my iphone number forwarded to my skype ?

Brenna says:

i currently speak to my brother who lives in Germany with a free app on my iPhone 4 called Heytell. It’s like a walkie-talkie, records a brief message then uses Internet – so it would only work via wifi if you have data disabled. But if you found wifi for a minute you can “call” them free. Also any messages that they have sent you would be waiting for you when you open the app. Just DONT set it to “push data,” or you’ll be using int. roaming.

Heytell for the wifi win in a quick pinch.

Brenna says:

also I’m going to see him next week in Germany and Switzerland.

The plan: 1- airplane mode 2- buy $10 text and $25 lowest mb data plan = $35 3- use his phone for local german calls (hotels, emergencies etc)

This way I can keep it in airplane/wifi only for most of the time, switch over o regular when I reaaaally need to text or check the internet, and I get the best of both worlds for $35 bucks. Yay.

Thanks for all the posts!

Karen says:

I am going hiking in Nepal for a month. My plan is to purchase an international sim card and use it in my inexpensive phone that has all 4 GSM bands. The sim card will have a US number. I plan to forward my cell number to the new US number so if my family needs to call me, they can dial my regular number and reach me at no charge. It will cost me Incoming calls from the US: $ 1.15 / min. It will cost me: Outgoing to a Landline: $ 1.45 / min. Outgoing to a Cell Phone: $ 1.70 / min. Incoming text messages are free and outgoing are $0.60/message

My question is: If I purchase an Iphone to bring with me and keep it in airplane mode, with wi fi enabled, will I still be able to receive calls on my other phone? I really only want to be able to check my email occasionally and maybe check on what is going on in the world. I am sure there are very few places where I will even be able to access wi fi since I will be mostly hiking the Anapurna Sanctuary Trek.

Any advice, especially from someone that has been to Nepal, would be appreciated. I leave in 2 weeks.

Susan says:

I am going to Ireland in November…I am so confused by reading all of this (senior citizen). I have a 3g iPhone and I get it that I can turn off my email but isn’t there a way to suspend my text, voicemail for 2 weeks? I just want to be able to check in daily with my husband. Thank you as any insight you can give me would be awsome.

Susan — I’m sure all the scenarios do get confusing. Will you have access to Wi-Fi? If yes, then set your phone to Airplane Mode. That cuts it off from cellular networks, and you only can use Wi-Fi.

You’ll have access to email. You can make calls if you get some kind of VOIP calling account, like Skype. Get a $10 credit, download the app to your phone, and you are good to go. Of course, no one will be able to call you unless you happen to be connected.

Be really careful with T-Mobile. They tell you that even if data roaming is turned off, you could still connect and you’ll have to pay. There are TWO data roaming things on my phone that must be disabled – Data roaming and Use packet data. We found that out after our trip to Munich: http://class-factotum.blogspot.com/2011/09/marriage-401-lecture-512-how-terminator.html

Jen says:

This post was EXTREMELY helpful. I’m an iPhone 4 user about to study abroad in Madrid for 4 months and have been endlessly reading the AT&T Int’l Packages on their website — but have only ended up with a headache.

Thanks for this!

Alex says:

Most mobile companies should allow a locked iphone to use an overseas sim if you give them plenty of notice. I’ve heard AT&T & T-Mobile do this now in America, and Australian Telecoms allow this as well.
You can also head down to the nearest tech area of a major city and get the iphone unlocked.
Both scenarios should allow an overseas sim.

Krystina says:

I’m studying abroad from Feb to May in Austria (plus traveling to other countries), and from a friend who studied in England and Greece (two separate semesters) told me that getting Skype credit was a great idea. So, I plan on using my iPhone as a glorified iTouch for Skyping home (both my Mom’s computer and my Nana’s home phone) and getting a local cell so I can call/text my classmates.

I’m not even going to attempt to jailbreak my phone, because I’m terrified I’d mess something up. It’s better than what I did when I was in London for 10 days. I got AT&T’s plan, and only had my Nana and Mom call me, and the bill was $500. Granted, I believe I went over my text limit, but either way, it was ridiculously expensive, and I’m not taking that chance again.

Dizzy says:

Try looking at UK supermarket phones – you can get a basic payg phone for about $15, and/or get a sim for a dollar and a month’s data and UK calls for about $20. Another way, if you can organise it in advance, is to get an Ikea sim – it’s affordable to use all over Europe

Scott says:

Get GoogleVoice and point your US cell phone number to it. It has the capacity to convert voice to text and you will receive an email transcript. With your phone in Airplane mode in Europe, connect to the Internet via WiFi and get your email. Then using Skype, you can return all the calls. VERY useful and easy!! BTW, GoogleVoice is FREE.

MJ says:

I’m hoping someone can help me, as I’m horribly un-technical when it comes to my iPhone. I live in the US and my mobile phone plan is with Verizon, but I’d like to be able to use my phone in Europe to make and receive calls as well as texts whilst on holiday. What’s the most cost effective way of doing this without having to lease some “travel phone” from Verizon?

Mirabelle says:

I’m not American but my experience can still be useful.
When I’m in the US it’s the same principle. The US carrier charges my carrier for roaming and in turn my carrier charges me.

So I switch off my iphone in the US, except for a few minutes per day to get any SMS sent to me when it was switched off. This is free.

I don’t think I’m charged if the phone rings only.

In Rome the best thing to do if you want easy wifi access is to buy a dirt cheap pay as you go phone to have an Italian SIM card. It’s the law there to ask for an Italian sim card so businesses don’t really have a choice.

In France, no problemo at Mac Donald’s (please eat somewhere else though), same thing in Great Britain, forget Mac Donald’s in Germany (you’ll need a German SIM card) but other places may work because the law doesn’t require a German SIM card to identify you. You’ll also be fine in the Netherlands. Ok that’s about all I know for Europe.

You have great cheap prepaid plans within the US I must say. Perfect for travelers. Here in France Iphones have to be unlocked after 3 months by Apple. The request is made through your carrier. So my Iphone is ready for your US carriers. That’s swell.

Glen says:

Mirabelle, you seem to have the type of info I need. My daughter is going to Paris for a month in June. She wants to be able to text and call home. She has an iphone. I’m planning to get a new phone under my plan for her for use here and I’m told I can have Apple “unlock” the older phone and she could use it in France. Is a simcard the best way to go? I see prepaid simcards through Orange etc… She also is familiar with Skype. I am however not. Without a simcard in the old phone could she use skype through free wifi? I saw an entry above that said “calling” through Skype is very cheap. What do you suggest? Thx. Glen

Mirabelle says:

Well, indeed Skype is cheap but she’ll have to rely on wifi and the quality of calls may be bad sometimes. She can use Skype to call you on your landline (or mobile), so you don’t have to know Skype but calls from Skype to Skype are free I believe.
Skype uses wifi so I don’t think she’ll need a SIM card just to activate the phone.
If in doubt remove the SIM card, start the phone and try skype on the iphone at home. If it works in the US, it’ll work here since it’s a hardware issue.

Orange, SFR and Bouygues are the main cellphone providers in France but there are others who use the network of the 3 big ones but are often cheaper.
Pay as you go is pretty expensive in France, compared with some countries.

For instance the French post office has a SIM card with 5€ credit (I don’t know if you can buy it in post offices though).
http://tinyurl.com/7flbtns

Other option: shops offering lots of different SIM cards like Phoneo or The Phone House, not just the big 3 providers but also Virgin Mobile etc.

Be careful that the SIM card can be used for international calls (most of them can) and how much international calls and SMS cost. They should all be compatible with the Iphone if you just need it to make calls and text.

albanianOFusa87 says:

i used my iphone 4G in albania with albanian carrier vodafone and my iphone worked perfectly fine..all i did as soon as i landed in tirana i went to a vodafone store and they changed my sim from the u.s to vodafone sim..and i still kept ky at&t sim in a safe place so when i get back i can reuse my american number again…but it was great…if your going to europe i strongly recommend everyone to use vodafone is the best carrier out there…every other carrier theyre extremely strict,,especially american providers…

Mirabelle says:

Yes but Vodaphone doesn’t exist in all European countries.

Jacqueline says:

Leaving for Turkey in a week and have a 3G on ATT. I’m assuming the Airplane mode and accessing in a free WiFi place works here, too?

Mitchell Earl says:

Another great way to make phone calls free from iPhone to iPhone is to use a free app called Viber. You have to install it on every phone that wants to use it. Viber also goes through your contact list and automatically displays users that already have the app. I was surprised to see about 7 others that already had it.

All you need now is a wifi connection and you can call or text anyone who also has Viber (doesn’t need to be launched on the other phone to be notified of the incoming call). Both of you can be on wifi or you can be on wifi and the other can be using carrier data plan.

One question, though, does anyone know if Paris has free city-wide wifi or public wifi in certain locations? I plan on using both Viber for free mobile to mobile, but also purchasing minutes for Skyping statewide or in case of emergency.

P.S. Going to Viber’s website, I notice that they also have an app for Droid, Windows Mobile, Blackberry, Nokia and Bada (whatever that is).

Jenny Louis says:

Hi,
Your right instead of using Voice calls it’s cheaper to use VOIP calls on Viber or Skype.
In some places WiFi costs money or it’s hard to find places that provide WiFi in Albania (for example)…
So better for you to buy a pre-paid international SIM card from rental SIM cards companies (I familiar with Xcomglobal and iPhoneTrip, but there are many others)…

It’s worth looking into:)

REbekah says:

Great advice! We’re leaving Monday next week for Europe (UK, France & Paris) for 2 weeks. I have AT&T and the hubs has Verizon. We just want the ability to surf the web as we’re walking around and use google maps. We can wait for hotspots to check email but we don’t need the ability to talk on the phone. Should we just upgrade our date plans to the international plan? Will that give us access to the web and google maps as we’re wandering the streets of Florence?

Alexis says:

Do you have any tips for iPhone users on Sprint?

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