Using your mobile phone abroad

Travelling abroad and telephoning is always a puzzle. However, it is essential to be able to use your mobile phone when you travel abroad, and wifi is usually unavailable at the most crucial moments (when you need to order an uber, call your airbnb contact, download your hotel address, consult google map, check the currency conversion rate, call your relatives…).

In short, to do without your mobile abroad is still possible (how did we do it before?) but not comfortable for many travelers. As soon as you want to use your smartphone in a different country from the one of your operator, we talk about “roaming” which means “roaming”. Here’s everything you need to know about it, my advice to avoid unpleasant surprises abroad and to be well prepared to call and connect to the internet at a lower cost anywhere in the world.

So, how can you keep the ability to make calls, stay connected to your mobile applications, social networks and surf the internet without it turning into a nightmare? Here are my guidelines to simplify your task and make the right choices.

Local SIM cards in the country you are visiting

You can choose to purchase a local SIM card like those available at simoptions.com/ for instance,  to make phone calls like the residents of the country you are visiting and to benefit from local internet access at a lower cost. But beware: this SIM card will only be used for your local calls and will not allow you to call outside the country at low rates (to your family and friends).

However, it implies local procedures, a change of phone number, a little energy to devote to it and especially the change of prepaid SIM card each time you change Country! It is therefore an excellent solution if you go abroad for several weeks, but it is quite cumbersome if you frequently go abroad in different countries, for short periods of time and you want to use your phone to call and be called from Europe.

In summary, the local country map is the best solution if you live in a country for a long time and you don’t want to call outside the country with this prepaid SIM card. Because you obviously still have the possibility to call with wifi through an application like Whatsapp to make your calls to France for example and the rest of the World. But in case of an emergency call without Wifi outside the country, it will cost you a lot of money!

What is “roaming”?

Roaming means using your mobile phone to make calls, send and receive messages or connect to the Internet from abroad, via a different operator than the one you are subscribed to.

For example, if I am travelling in Croatia and I have an Orange subscription in France, my phone will no longer show “Orange F” on the mobile network but “T-Mobile” which will be the local network.

In order to make roaming possible, the main French operators (Orange, SFR, Free mobile and Bouygues telecom) have signed agreements with international operators, so that their users can use their mobile phone regardless of the country they are in.

No roaming charges in Europe

The good news is that you won’t have any problems using your phone in Europe. Indeed, since 2017, roaming charges in Europe and French overseas departments no longer exist! Therefore, a traveller who uses his mobile phone (to make calls, send SMS/MMS messages or even surf the Internet) from a European Union country to the European Union (including DOMs) will see no change in the billing of his services.

The 28 countries of the European Union are concerned. It is therefore possible to use your French rate plan free of charge from Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. No fees will also be applied from Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein, even though these three non-EU countries have signed an agreement.

For calls from Europe to the rest of the world, as when you are in your country of residence, you will need to find out about international rates and the countries included in your bundle. Some packages include international destinations (such as Free Mobile) or offer package extensions to allow you to call anywhere in the World or in a zone of your choice.

Make sure you check with your operator and read about the exceptions – are they the most expensive!

But… beware of long journeys in Europe!

It is not intended to be used for permanent roaming. As long as you use your mobile phone more in your own country than in other European countries, you can roam at national rates whenever you travel in the EU. This is called ‘reasonable use of roaming services’.

If you use your mobile phone abroad permanently, your mobile operator will charge you roaming fees! However, these charges are capped to avoid overcharging.

If you are therefore on a long journey across Europe, you will have to opt for a prepaid travel SIM card in the same way as a traveller who is outside Europe (see section IV “Frequent international travellers : Equip yourself with a prepaid SIM card suitable for your travels”).

 

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