What I Wish the Internet Had Told Me About Cell Phones in Europe

Despite my research before I came to Europe, I still had to figure out how to use cell phones the hard way once I got here.  I am by no means an expert on cell phones, but let me share with you what learned after spending hours and hours getting it wrong.

I guess the first thing you need to ask yourself is why do you want a cell phone in Europe.  Do you want to be able to call home in America?  Do you want to be able to call other people you are traveling with?  Do you want to be able to call other people in Europe?  The answer to that question will determine which cell phone company is the best one to use.

Calling home in America.

If you want to be able to call home in America, I suggest you get a Lebara sim card.  They are available at most grocery stores and you can buy recharge cards at the grocery stores too.  They have a plan that is 10 Euro which gives you 4 hours of call time to North America and Europe, plus data and unlimited texting. Other plans are available too, but I liked that one.

Note: I really like their customer service.  You call them using your sim card.  My person spoke great English and there was no background noise.

Calling others in your travel group.

If you want to be able to call other people with whom you are travelling, Lycamobile is the best way to go.  They don't charge if you call other Lycamobile phones.  The challenge with them is that it is very difficult to find places that sell the sim card.  My recommendation is to find an Internet cafe.  They seem to be the most likely to have them.  I have found that any place that sells lotto tickets, will let you recharge your card.  You pay the cashier some money, and they print out a code that you type into your phone to recharge it.

Notes: Lycamobile has a horrible call center.  This is by far the most inferior of the three, but the cheapest too.

Calling others in Europe.

If you will be doing lots of calling in Europe, then you'll want to go with Orange.  Orange allows you to buy a phone for about 20 Euro and then you can make unlimited calls for around 30 Euro a month.  This would be a great option if you plan to stay an extended period of time in Europe.  Orange stores are everywhere.  I found them in all the malls and is other shopping districts.  This is definitely the high end of cell phone service.  (Lycamobile would be the low end.)

Hopefully this gives you a little more insight as to how to use a cell phone in Europe.  If you decide to use a sim card, make sure your phone is unlocked so that it will work in Europe.  Check with your provider if you aren't sure.