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  1. #1
    dlg
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    Phones in London

    A couple family friends will be visiting London in a few months, and as I'm their go-to for tech support I've been asked to figure out how to get them cell phones while they're there.

    So instead of betraying my ignorance I'm counting on the TB forums to bail me out <grin>. For two weeks in London, what's the best way to get cell phones with not-too-many minutes on them? I think they're planning on being apart for a couple days mid-trip, and will probably use them to coordinate their reunion. They're both on Verizon in the US, so their phones aren't transferrable - they'll need new phones, sim cards, the whole lot. Is rental a good idea? Or are pay-as-you-go phones cheap and plentiful enough that an outright purchase is the better option?

    Thanks!

  2. #2
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    What they need to get in London are SIM cards which can be purchased in a variety of places. E. g., Best prepaid SIM card for travelling to the UK: Tesco Mobile - Flights | hotels | frequent flyer | business class - Australian Business Traveller

    However, of course they will need GSM phones (while Verizon are CDMA phones). They can search on Amazon for "unlocked cell phone gsm" (without quotation marks) and choose the phones right here before they go to Europe. I'd suggest staying away from cheap smartphones and anything that is cheap AND has a touchscreen—and instead going for a no-frills dumbphone, e. g. like this - Amazon.com: LG A275 Black Unlocked GSM Dual SIM QuadBand Cell Phone: Cell Phones & Accessories

    A US colleague of mine uses an LG dumbphone while here in Ukraine, and the voice quality is very good. On that note, cheap Samsungs often have bad voice quality (comes over dampened).

    Of course, they can choose whatever they want, however, they need to pay attention that the phone is GSM, and that it is either quadband or 1800/900 MHz (GSM operators in the US use the 1900/850 MHz range, while European networks are 1800/900).

    They can then use these phones on subsequent trips to Europe. They will then need to take care of the batteries if the break between two trips is too long. Batteries are best kept at about half charge (or slightly over half, but NOT fully-charged), and they need to be taken out of the phone if it's not to be used for more than a couple of months, or they run the risk of becoming completely drained and unusable.

    P. S. If their Verizon phones are newer Android phones or an (unlocked) iPhone 4S or 5, they might also have a slot for a SIM-card, have the required GSM frequencies, and thus be usable in the UK. They can check if their models are listed on GSMArena.com - GSM phone reviews, news, opinions, votes, manuals and more... which provides at least the specs for most cell phones, even the Verizon ones, and the information on frequencies is available in every spec sheet right at the beginning under "General".

    P. P. S. Here is also a good thread on Tripadvisor - http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowTop...n_England.html
    Last edited by myroslava; 05-20-2013 at 08:36 AM.

  3. #3
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    1) Some Verizon phones are quad band and can accept a GSM sim card. If their's are, all they have to do is go into a cell shop anywhere in London and get an pay-as-you go sim card. You buy one with a few minutes and can always add more.

    2) If this is not the case, they could buy phones but this only makes sense if they plan to travel internationally on a regular basis.

    3) There are firms that rent phones which you can do here or there.

    4) Since they're on Verizon, why not look into Verizon's Global Travel program where they, in a sense, borrow a world band phone from Verizon, keep their regular phone number, and see the extra charges on their regular Verizon bill.

    Global Travel Program - Verizon Wireless
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  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Frank II View Post
    2) ...they could buy phones but this only makes sense if they plan to travel internationally on a regular basis.
    ...
    4) Since they're on Verizon, why not look into Verizon's Global Travel program where they, in a sense, borrow a world band phone from Verizon, keep their regular phone number, and see the extra charges on their regular Verizon bill.
    Those extra charges might be as high as to make this option make much less sense than buying phones in the absence of plans to travel regularly. (Can't find the link right now, but there was another thread on TripAdvisor re Verizon's Global Travel program.)

    But I do agree (as I wrote above) that their phones might already be GSM-capable quadbands. Then all that is needed is a SIM-card, which might be available even right there at the airport.

  5. #5
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    Yes, the Verizon Global Program might be slightly more expensive but if the users are not tech savvy, it may be the most convenient. And they don't have to remember new phone numbers.

    If their phones are GMS compatible, there are plenty of shops at Heathrow selling sim cards. The shops will install them for the customer and make sure they're working before they go out the door. (Just make sure that they keep the sim card that is already in the phone if there is one. )

    If their phones are not GSM compatible, they have three choices:

    1) Rent a phone. This can be done before they leave for the UK. Rates vary by company but are about $2-3/day plus calls. (Incoming calls are usually free and outgoing under 50 cents/minute)

    2) Buy a used GSM unlocked phone off Ebay or Craigslist. They must make sure it is unlocked. Then they can either get a sim card before they leave or at the airport once landed. Prices at Heathrow are similar to what they'll find in London.

    3) Arrange for a Pay as You Go Phone with a UK cell company--Vodaphone, Virgin Mobile, Orange are three examples. Compare costs of buying phones through PAYG including sim card versus buying a phone here and getting a sim card there. (Sims are pretty cheap.) I'm not sure if you get a PAYG phone whether you are locked into that carrier or not. With an unlocked phone, you can use any carrier.

    As I've stated, all of this can be done prior to them leaving if they feel more confident having you do everything for them. Then, the phones should work in the UK by just turning them on. It will cost a little more to do everything here but they might prefer the peace of mind.


    There is one other option that would cost nothing. If both of their phones are wifi capable, or they are each taking wifi capable devices, they could just email back and forth and set a specific time to be online at the same time to use Skype to call each other. This is a little more complicated but it would save them some money.
    Last edited by Frank II; 05-20-2013 at 11:00 AM.
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