Overseas cell phone use

Off topic, but I know some of you can advise me…

My daughter is going to France for 4 weeks. I haven’t been out of the country since well before cell phones came into common use, and I don’t know anything about international cell phone use or what are appropriate guidelines to give my daughter so as not to waste money. Verizon has a plan that will charge $10/day each day the phone is used but will not charge if the phone is not used. This sounds good for emergencies. Is anyone aware of a better option? I apologize for my ignorance, but do you know if using a phone as a camera would trigger charges on such a plan? I can give her an actual camera to use.

Yup. She should buy a cheap phone and SIM card in France. Assuming she’s in Paris or at least will pass through, there are kiosks all over the place. Absolutely no reason for her to use her US number in Europe.

@skieurope , how cheap is a cheap phone likely to be? Are such phones readily available, even in small towns? She won’t be in or near Paris.

She can use her smartphone camera and internet functions without any charge. Just put it in “airplane mode”. My kids usually travel abroad without phone service relying on social media and services like skype and whattsup to keep in touch.

But as skieurope mentions, cheap throwaways are readibly available, even in small cities, and much more affordable than the USA.

Just use Whatsapp. As long as there is wifi she can call or text for free. Just be sure cellular data is off.

Also if you both have iPhones then iMessage is free

Thanks, all! I’m not so much concerned about her staying in touch with us as with her being able to stay in contact with her host family or get help while there. I would also like her to be able to call home in the direst emergency. I assume pay phones have vanished there as they have here. I may be overestimating her need, of course; as I recall, when I spent one college year in England, I used a phone exactly once, to call a cab on my last day there.

Verizon has a cheaper international plan than the one you mention at $10/day. We travel internationally pretty frequently and use the $40/month plan (which would work in France). 100 minutes talk, 100 outgoing texts, Unlimited incoming texts and 100 MB data plan (use for emergencies only, such as maps app if lost - Wi-Fi is widely available in France). They will prorate the $40 for the amount of time you need, you don’t have to purchase the entire month.


If she’s not likely to use the phone and data much, that plan sounds good for emergencies. As others mentioned there are plenty of wifi options to avoid usage. However, if you think she’ll be using data while out and about it could get expensive.

My D was in Europe and while she didn’t have much need for making a phone call (though there are a few occasions) she did need data. (We have Sprint which has a free international plan that worked great for her and for us when we visited, never needed to buy a cheap phone locally)

The cheap (~$20) phones are everywhere.

You assume correctly. There’s still a few here and there, but very rare.

Thank you, oh wise ones!! The plan: I will tell her to get a cheapo phone for use there. She can keep her US phone in airplane mode and take pictures…and, in case of the greatest emergency where she must call home, we can pay per minute. I know this must seem very basic, but my experience is limited to the Dark Ages of traveler’s checks and pay phones with strange sounds.

I am surprised that Verizon has such a draconian plan.
My niece has a T-mobile Simple Choice plan with unlimited talk and text in North America and 2 Giga data for $50/mo. She used it while studying in Canada and visiting Mexico with no issues. She is in Europe with free data roaming. If she calls, it will be 20cents per minute. (much cheaper than calls from Chicago to New York in my times.)
She finds the data roaming quite useful for using google maps and sends texts over data.

Alas, T-mobile has very little coverage in rural Boarding school areas, so DS is stuck with Verizon.

  • Not a T-mobile employee, just happy customer.

I travel a lot overseas, and here is what I recommend:

  1. Calls to the US: Get a Google Voice account or Skype and add some money to it ($5 - $10) should be enough. Download the app to her smartphone. When she is near a wifi connection, she can use the skype/voice account to make calls directly to the US for very cheap.

  2. Calls within France: if she already has an unlocked cell phone then bring it with her. She will need one that can work on the European networks (GSM). Some of the US phones are CDMA only. If you don’t have an unlocked cell phone, you can buy them for about $40 on craigslist or ebay. Or else just buy one when she lands. Then goto a telecom store in France. The big ones are Vodafone, and Deutsche Telekom. But most any carrier will do. Just go into the store and have her sign up for a prepaid SIM. They can even set it up for her.

I’m not. :slight_smile: One of the reasons I switched carriers.

^They also appear to have monthly plans, so it’s not as bad as it sounds…But I gotta hand it to Sprint for having a free plan. The Sprint plan worked great for us and cost us nothing extra (phone calls would have been a per minute charge, but we had no need to make them)

I second the T-Mobile comments. Switched DS over earlier this year - he relied on campus wifi for his main phone usage, but had service when needed. And as a bonus, it works internationally in most countries with no additional charges for data and texting, and reasonable rates for calling.

No techie advice to share…just want to say how cool!!! I hope that DS will take advantage of one of the travel programs next year. I hope she has a great experience!!

Thank you, @hellomaisy!

At the last minute, I found the $40/month plan (not sure why I only saw the $10/day at first…maybe it was the teeny-tiny type for “other” on the Verizon page). I even got a discount through my employer, bringing it down to $31. And my daughter is now in France, feeling scared because of her limited command of the language after only 2 years of study and what she perceives as her general awkwardness. I wonder how she will feel 4 weeks from now…