Using phone abroad (Europe) - best way?

B0bbyEwing
B0bbyEwing Posts: 1,177
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We're looking at going [somewhere abroad] next December. Haven't decided where yet other than somewhere in Europe. Looking to start getting the homework done early & one of the things is mobile phone use & specifically data.

I don't imagine we'll make any actual phone calls but we almost certainly will be relying on Google Maps as well as using a browser. 

We've just had a break in Chester & found o2 to be a bit of a nightmare at times, surprisingly. Zero or 1 bar coverage when we'd have expected there to have been decent coverage - so I'm not sure if it's worth getting a different provider SIM (we're currently both on o2) so that if one of us gets 'hit' the other still has a chance for signal. 

I'm not even sure if these days your own provider is as good as anything else perhaps. I'm just going off yonks ago when people I knew who went abroad got specific different SIMs for it but then times change. 

If it makes a difference then at the moment Germany is the country being put forward although this is subject to change as we look further in to where we'd maybe like to go & even if it stays as Germany we don't yet know where abouts within Germany we'd go.

Anything else required, just ask but for now it's over to you the experts.
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  • mebu60
    mebu60 Posts: 819
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    Possibly a good plan to be on different networks in the UK for the same reason as having >1 bank account. Just be sure to choose one that has no additional charges for roaming in the EU. Some have 'fair use' data caps too.
    Choice of network is academic for signal abroad, your handset will find the best signal where-ever you are. 
    Also check-out credit card that is fee free when used abroad if you don't currently have one. Germany still uses cash quite a bit too fyi. 
  • savergrant
    savergrant Posts: 1,051
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    How long are you planning to be away?  There are limits to roaming and if you are away for more than 90 days the network will normally suspend roaming, and a number of networks will only allow you to use your previous level of data, so you will need to have used it before you go.
  • I always get one of the Lebara, Lyca, TalkHome cards - whichever is the cheapest - and use it abroad - free roaming and can cost 99p a month. 

    Been to few European countries and never had a reception issue.
  • Neil49
    Neil49 Posts: 3,030
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    I'm with O2 and agree that UK coverage is mediocre to say the least but I make good use of free WiFi when out and about. I find the situation abroad to be totally different as O2 seem to have network agreements with some very good providers.

    So far this year we have been to Tenerife, mainland Spain and on a couple of river cruises through Germany, Austria, Hungary, Holland and France. In every instance the mobile network service was excellent.

    You could try changing one of your providers to someone like Lebara (Vodafone network) as they offer EU roaming as part of their service and have some very good deals. 
  • eDicky
    eDicky Posts: 6,527
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    Your unsatisfactory experience of O2 signal in UK is no indication of EU roaming reliability, where many networks will be available and your handset automatically finds the best ones.
    O2 still gives inclusive EU roaming, although in a years' time this may have ended. The other main networks have done so already, whereas many MVNOs still maintain it.
    Small phone shops in Germany and elsewhere can sell you a suitable PAYG SIM if needed. A dual-SIM handset is useful if you're considering a new phone.
    Evolution, not revolution
  • B0bbyEwing
    B0bbyEwing Posts: 1,177
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    How long are you planning to be away?  There are limits to roaming and if you are away for more than 90 days the network will normally suspend roaming, and a number of networks will only allow you to use your previous level of data, so you will need to have used it before you go.
    Certainly not for longer than 90 days!! I'm looking at a break, not living abroad :D 
    No more than a week. My wife is saying about 2-3 days at the moment but, activities and COST depending, I'd say we'd be looking at 5 days TOPS, probably more 3-4 days.

    I always get one of the Lebara, Lyca, TalkHome cards - whichever is the cheapest - and use it abroad - free roaming and can cost 99p a month. 

    Been to few European countries and never had a reception issue.
    Sounds like a good deal. Thanks

    Neil49 said:
    I'm with O2 and agree that UK coverage is mediocre to say the least but I make good use of free WiFi when out and about. I find the situation abroad to be totally different as O2 seem to have network agreements with some very good providers.

    So far this year we have been to Tenerife, mainland Spain and on a couple of river cruises through Germany, Austria, Hungary, Holland and France. In every instance the mobile network service was excellent.

    You could try changing one of your providers to someone like Lebara (Vodafone network) as they offer EU roaming as part of their service and have some very good deals. 
    TBH my own day-to-day experience of o2 is good. I generally don't get about so at work, at home & in to town my o2 signal is perfect. Full bars. I expected it to be good in Chester as it wasn't like I was in the nether regions of Scotland but then there were a lot of tall buildings about & I'm not sure how much this impacted the signal. 

    My wife made the switch from EE because whatever deal she had with EE was coming to an end and it was going to start working out dearer than what o2 were charging for practically the same. 

    eDicky said:
    Your unsatisfactory experience of O2 signal in UK is no indication of EU roaming reliability, where many networks will be available and your handset automatically finds the best ones.
    O2 still gives inclusive EU roaming, although in a years' time this may have ended. The other main networks have done so already, whereas many MVNOs still maintain it.
    Small phone shops in Germany and elsewhere can sell you a suitable PAYG SIM if needed. A dual-SIM handset is useful if you're considering a new phone.
    I threw the poor signal in the post as a point to make - to say it's something I'd need to look at before going so that we don't wind up in the same kind of situation we've just had. 

    I'll go ahead and sound dumb here but what is "inclusive roaming"? Sounds to me like you can use your phone abroad at no extra cost?

    Would need to check out my handset for dial SIM compatibility. Mine is currently a Galaxy S20 5G whereas my wife has the iPhone 13 (not pro). She says hers doesn't have dual SIM.
  • Many, but not all uk providers allow you to “roam” in most of Europe for free (data & calls)
    You need to start by finding out what your current provider offering is, because if they offer it it is the best option for you (& as replied above, your phone when abroad will use local networks anyway)
    TBH this is one area where you *can* plan too far ahead as rules, pricing, and offerings can & will change over the course of a year.  All I can guarantee is that for Germany there will be some very cheap options… and very expensive ones too!
  • eDicky
    eDicky Posts: 6,527
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    B0bbyEwing said:

    I'll go ahead and sound dumb here but what is "inclusive roaming"? Sounds to me like you can use your phone abroad at no extra cost?

    Would need to check out my handset for dial SIM compatibility. Mine is currently a Galaxy S20 5G whereas my wife has the iPhone 13 (not pro). She says hers doesn't have dual SIM.

    Roaming costs within EU were reduced to zero by the 'Roam like at Home' regulations, whereby roaming in any EU state can cost no more than within the home country, which all UK networks had to comply with until Brexit.
    For just a few days' trip your O2 may well be just fine, even if they introduce EU roaming costs it would only be something like £2 per day. In addition to Google maps you'll find German people in general friendly, helpful and with good English to give directions.
    Evolution, not revolution
  • zagfles
    zagfles Posts: 20,220
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    edited 16 December 2023 at 10:20AM
    How long are you planning to be away?  There are limits to roaming and if you are away for more than 90 days the network will normally suspend roaming, and a number of networks will only allow you to use your previous level of data, so you will need to have used it before you go.
    Certainly not for longer than 90 days!! I'm looking at a break, not living abroad :D 
    No more than a week. My wife is saying about 2-3 days at the moment but, activities and COST depending, I'd say we'd be looking at 5 days TOPS, probably more 3-4 days.

    I always get one of the Lebara, Lyca, TalkHome cards - whichever is the cheapest - and use it abroad - free roaming and can cost 99p a month. 

    Been to few European countries and never had a reception issue.
    Sounds like a good deal. Thanks

    Neil49 said:
    I'm with O2 and agree that UK coverage is mediocre to say the least but I make good use of free WiFi when out and about. I find the situation abroad to be totally different as O2 seem to have network agreements with some very good providers.

    So far this year we have been to Tenerife, mainland Spain and on a couple of river cruises through Germany, Austria, Hungary, Holland and France. In every instance the mobile network service was excellent.

    You could try changing one of your providers to someone like Lebara (Vodafone network) as they offer EU roaming as part of their service and have some very good deals. 
    TBH my own day-to-day experience of o2 is good. I generally don't get about so at work, at home & in to town my o2 signal is perfect. Full bars. I expected it to be good in Chester as it wasn't like I was in the nether regions of Scotland but then there were a lot of tall buildings about & I'm not sure how much this impacted the signal. 

    My wife made the switch from EE because whatever deal she had with EE was coming to an end and it was going to start working out dearer than what o2 were charging for practically the same. 

    eDicky said:
    Your unsatisfactory experience of O2 signal in UK is no indication of EU roaming reliability, where many networks will be available and your handset automatically finds the best ones.
    O2 still gives inclusive EU roaming, although in a years' time this may have ended. The other main networks have done so already, whereas many MVNOs still maintain it.
    Small phone shops in Germany and elsewhere can sell you a suitable PAYG SIM if needed. A dual-SIM handset is useful if you're considering a new phone.
    I threw the poor signal in the post as a point to make - to say it's something I'd need to look at before going so that we don't wind up in the same kind of situation we've just had. 

    I'll go ahead and sound dumb here but what is "inclusive roaming"? Sounds to me like you can use your phone abroad at no extra cost?

    Would need to check out my handset for dial SIM compatibility. Mine is currently a Galaxy S20 5G whereas my wife has the iPhone 13 (not pro). She says hers doesn't have dual SIM.
    "Inclusive roaming" isn't a dumb question. It usually means you can use your phone with no extra charges when abroad for stuff like data, calls to the UK, but usually you get a better deal when abroad compared to home. For instance calls to other countries are often cheaper. But sometimes there's a data cap if you use a massive amount of data.
    A couple of things to watch out for, if you go by ferry don't try roaming when at sea, and best switch mobile data off, the maritime networks are not included in EU roaming and they are very expensive. Same if you're close to the border of a country not included in the free roaming zone, for instance in Greece and close to Albania or Turkey.
    On google maps, download the map for the area you're going to before you leave, and then it doesn't use that much data. I've just been somewhere with expensive roaming and had to be careful about data usage, but in a week google maps only used about 100MB even though I had to go online quite a lot, as some stuff doesn't work offline eg walking directions.
  • B0bbyEwing
    B0bbyEwing Posts: 1,177
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    zagfles said:
    On google maps, download the map for the area you're going to before you leave, and then it doesn't use that much data. I've just been somewhere with expensive roaming and had to be careful about data usage, but in a week google maps only used about 100MB even though I had to go online quite a lot, as some stuff doesn't work offline eg walking directions.

    Thanks for your post.

    More on the Google Maps though - when you say walking directions don't work offline do you mean the whole thing or just when it's updating you on the fly?

    To explain - if I tap in current location for "from" and then set a destination for "to" it will dot me out a route. 

    What I then did while we were away this week was NOT tap "go" or whatever it is, I'd just look & be like ok it's a straight line & I can see I need to take a right at <shop> so that's what I'll do - and then the phone goes back in the pocket.
    What I didn't do was hit go, it zooms in to the map & directs me like a sat nav.

    The way I was using it - is that available offline or do you have to be online for that also?
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