Whether you've picked Spain, Portugal or Italy for your self guided cycling tour , chances are you'd like to stay connected with friends or family using email or social media. Another great way of saving money on wireless services while out on the road or between vacation destinations is to buy a prepaid SIM card at a local wireless store within the country. If you really want to take your own phone on vacation but not buy an international SIM card, talk to your cell carrier about international data and roaming plans.
If you'd prefer to leave your own phone at home, renting a cell phone or buying a low cost international phone is a low-cost alternative. We can't stress how important it is to plan ahead when is comes to deciding on an international cell phone plan or SIM card for your travels in Europe. Whether at home or studying abroad, our phones are in our daily lives -- we're constantly on them checking social media, taking selfies, or actually communicating through phone calls and text messages (that's what they're really for, right?).
Of course, things get complicated when you head to Europe to study abroad and suddenly that Verizon signal doesn't have bars anymore. Not to fear -- this guide to cell phone plans for study abroad students in Europe will help you get back on track to your world of telephone technology (but we're hoping you'll use it more to call your new international friends instead!).
These SIMs are pay-by-use, meaning you can put on as much money as you'd like, and each time a text or phone call is made, the rate per minute will be deducted from that amount.
If you have a smartphone and need a plan that includes data, this plan will probably be more appealing and have better rates. In fact, with these plans, you can also allow it to charge your credit card monthly -- and it will be almost exactly like at home with no worries at all! Though most of the world has agreed on the first method of service called GSM (Global System for Mobiles) which relies on a certain frequency to operate, the US and Canada are a bit more confined by mostly using CDMA (or Code Division Multiple Access) on another frequency. Yes, most phones do have plans for abroad, but the roaming fees are ludicrous and you or your parents will not be happy. Amazon sells a huge variety of affordable, unlocked smartphones, like the Android 4.2 ($78 USD) or the Samsung Galaxy S Duos ($130 USD). A SIM card (Subscriber Identity Module) is the microchip I mentioned earlier that slides into the slot on the side (or sometimes under the battery) of your phone. It contains the phone number you will use, and, essentially, is the thing that will connect your phone to the network of your choice.
All international airports will have a kiosk at the arrivals gate -- meaning, you can pick one up as soon as you land, or purchase SIM cards for use while traveling if you go to another country during your study abroad. When you sign up for a cell phone plan in Europe (usually a pay-as-you-go plan), you'll have the option to just buy a SIM card, or to purchase a SIM card and a phone.
Of course, you can simply go with the most popular and what is recommended, but we have found a new-fangled website that may help you out.

Before your departure, check your destination through this app to see what carrier has the best signals in where you're going. Regardless if you have a pre-touch-screen blackberry, a T-9 dinosaur (I swear they aren't that bad), or another iPhone with a Euro SIM card, you'll feel much more comfortable being connected while abroad. Disclaimer: We have paid relationships with some of the companies linked to within this article.
You can easily install the SIM card into your wireless smartphone or tablet and use the card until it expires or until you leave the country. It's essential that cyclists have a cell phone to contact our local guides in case of emergency, but the convenience of people able to load GPS trip maps into your smart phone can't be beat and a data plan will be needed.
Usually, these services will send you a text message after you have made a call or text telling you how much your balance is after the deduction. The English Vodafone site (which is one of the more popular carriers in Europe, the UK in particular) has a good explanation of how you can top up your credit, but generally it's done in a store, on the web, at an ATM, or through text.
Instead of paying as you go, each month, you have a certain fee that will need to be paid to get a package of a certain amount of internet, minutes, and text messages. For example: In Italy, TIM has a package for those under thirty called TIM Young, which is 9 Euros a month and includes unlimited internet and 1,000 text messages a month.
I would recommend this if you're traveling a lot, because nothing is worse than being out of reach and unable to recharge your phone when needed.
Unfortunately, the answer is pretty glum: yes, there are international plans, but they're unreasonably expensive -- especially for long term travel. This means if your phone doesn't have a little slot on the side where you can put a microchip, you more than likely have a CDMA phone which cannot be used abroad.
Do note, if you have an iPhone, unlocking it will void the warranty -- so this isn't our most suggested option (especially if you're only studying abroad for a summer or semester).
Unlocked cell phones are also hugely helpful for post-study abroad travel, since you can use them anywhere you can get a SIM card. If you're looking for a smartphone that's as fast as your normal phone at home, just be willing to pay a bit more. This little chip is responsible for your phone service and can be purchased once you're in Europe from any mobile phone store. If you already have an unlocked phone, getting that SIM card should only cost you a few Euros. Though many companies have popped up claiming to be able to take care of your SIM card for you (and have their websites conveniently in English), most are simply middle-men that can get in the way if you're having issues with your phone while abroad.
In main city centers, most phone companies are used to working with foreigners and many speak English.

Unlike the US, Europe has more than just a few carriers -- and some are specifically for particular countries. And you'll feel great when you can give out those Euro digits to newfound friends - no US country code attached (which, by the way, is +1).
However, how much you pay for wireless or 3G service while away can vary depending on where you are and how much you use. If wireless service is available, you can use your smartphone device, tablet, or laptop to access the internet to contact family and friends by email or Skype, or access social media sites such as Facebook. The SIM card also enables your GPS and other navigation applications in your smartphone or tablet, just in case you get lost or need to find the closest restaurant. It works in 180 countries, plus offers free incoming calls in Spain, France, Italy and the UK. For many travelers, sharing their journey with friends and family via social media is an important part of their vacation. When the month is up, all you have to do is go recharge it with 9 Euros, and you will be set.
In the States, large companies drive costs up with unnecessary carrier fees and other additional charges, making this a terrible option for study abroad students on a budget.
With the help of individuals downloading the app onto their phone, this is an interactive and community project that helps get everyone the best service. Though this is new territory for most going overseas, it is actually preferable once you get the hang of it (and your parents will be perfectly happy with a much smaller phone bill).
Generally, it is quite expensive to use roaming charges or services outside your home country.
Recent Pure Adventures travellers in Spain spent 19 euros for a SIM card for 1 GB of data, which is plenty of data if you're in the country for vacation. You can't load navigation apps as you could on a smart phone, but if you're looking to keep costs down and only need a phone to use in case of emergencies, this is the more affordable option.
By planning ahead, you eliminate the worry of trying to find a wireless service or the risk of expensive data and cell phone bills. However, this limits when you can connect and rules out using your smart phone while out cycling.
And with public phones all but disappearing from Europe, you can't rely on being able to find a phone when you need one.

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