is swapping sims really simple?


Okay, in preparation for the trip to Greece I started looking at cell phone options. The idiots at Cingular won't let me use international roaming until I've had my phone for a year (what bozo thought up that policy??), so that won't work--and would be prohibitive expensive, anyhow.

Via Matt Barrett's incomparable Athens travel guide I found information about Greece Travel-Phones, which rents cell phones and will deliver them to your hotel--but I wasn't sure I'd be able to get one with a cameraphone and MMS messaging, which I'd really like (mostly so I can post camphone photos from Flickr while we tour).

A little more online poking around led me to think that the best option is to purchase a pre-paid SIM card in Greece and use it in my Motorola v400 quad-band GSM phone. I checked with Best Buy (where I purchased it), and they told me it's unlocked--which is backed up by most of what I've seen on the online phone forums. I couldn't find anyone with a SIM I could test it with, so I'll have to take their word for it.

I sent email to the address provided for Greece Travel-Phones and got an immediate reply from the owner, who was extremely helpful. They do sell prepaid SIMS, and can deliver it directly to our hotel. He provided me with rates and options, and I was able to pay with PayPal. Yay! We'll be able to receive calls on the phone for free (011-30-693-970-0752, if you want to chat while we're there!), and outgoing calls, SMS, and MMS are reasonably priced. I bought it with €20 worth of credit, which I suspect will be plenty for what we need.

So...for those of you who travel internationally more than I do--is this likely to be a fairly simple process? Do I really just put the new SIM in and instantly have a Greek phone number? Are there any pitfalls I should know about? Any suggestions would be welcome, particularly if they're sent before I leave at lunchtime tomorrow!


It really is that simple...
You'll just get a sim-card, a matching pin-code, and a phone number.

Pre-paid cards are widely used in Europe, probably even by most people (at least in Belgium).


hey Liz, it really is that simple. Put the sim in and you're set. One potential issue is where you store your contacts - if it's on the US sim chip then you won't have access to them with the other sim in obviously, unless you dial everyone's number from memory... If they're on your phone's memory then you'll be fine - there probably is a function to copy them back and forth if you need to...

Enjoy Greece!

The only other gotcha here is if your handset is sim-locked.

In the UK, some of the operators 'lock' your handset so it can only be used on their network and charge a fee to remove this lock.

It may be worth verifying that this isnt the case with yours.

All tri & quad band phones from Cingular are SIM unlocked. I have the V600, my girlfriend has the V400, and my Fido SIM for Canada works in both. And if one has a locked phone, most GSM carriers in the US will unlock it for free after you've been a customer for a specific period of time.

Only thing to be careful with when buying prepaid airtime is the expiration date of the airtime cards, especially if you're buying from an (unknown) Internet seller. Plus there's usually a decent upcharge that US companies place on international SIMs and airtime. I've always found it best to wait till you get to the country and buy the SIM and airtime there, as you'll actually pay the 'real' price for it.

And yes, this is definitely the best way to go. Cingular's (and all carriers for that matter) international roaming rates are ridiculous, as is renting a phone abroad. Yet another reason why GSM is where it's at.

The reason for the 1 year restriction on international roaming with Cingular is that they had tons of problems in the past of people signing up and immediately running up a huge bill of international calls, and then complaining that it cost too much, and weren't paying their bills. Cingular still has to pay their roaming partners for the airtime, so they now wait a year to make sure that a customer is credit-worthy and doesn't have any 'negative points' on their account in an attempt not to get screwed. The only exception to this is for Canada (and maybe Mexico & PR--cant remember), as they will turn on the int. roaming for those countries only at any time.

Liz - The following may not be an issue with Cingular but it was with AT&T: My brother's phone wouldn't work for the first few days and he finally talked to his rep back in the US and they had forgotten to tell the computer that it was okay for his phone to connect overseas. Once they told the computer he was okay, he got right on. Have a great trip! Kelly in Kansas

There have been a lot of problems with mms messages between european countries and I believe even worse between european countries and usa. This might cause some problems if you intend to post images to your flickr account through a us mms gateway.

Thanks for the help, folks!

Pete, my contacts are stored on my phone, so that's all good.

Adam, I'm pretty sure my phone is unlocked.

MJP, the place I'm buying the SIM card from is a local Athens business, not an international vendor. The price seems reasonable--US$40 for the card with �Ǩ10 prepaid already on it. (I added another �Ǩ10 to it...)

Kaspper, since it's a Greek SIM card, I shouldn't have problems with the MMS--I won't be going between gateways.

I have to say I'm pretty impressed with the level of communication I've gotten back from the owner of Greece Travel-Phones...he's been extremely helpful. Will report back on how the whole thing works out.

It really is that simple... The one thing I always trip myself up on (because this usually happens in some advanced stage of jet-lag) is switching bandwidths, which I forget I have to do, and then for ten minutes or so I sit there in a panic wondering why my phone gets no signal until I remember that the bandwidths change with the continent. I have an older motorola though and it may be that the newer ones do this automatically.

Oh and T-Mobile (my provider) has the same thing as what Kelly in Kansas wrote above - don't know if it applies to Cingular but it may be worth a phone call.

You have to switch bandwidths? Doesn't that happen automatically?

I have the opposite situation: a tri-band European phone that works fine in the US but is hugely expensive on roaming. Buying a prepaid US SIM's probably sensible - but which should I choose? I'm in the States every month or two for a week or so at a time.

> what bozo thought up that policy??

The bozo who has had to deal with the person who comes into the office, sets up a cell plan with international roaming, takes a three week vacation in Europe... using it everywhere, and (a) never returns to the U.S., (b) returns to the U.S. but reports the phone was stolen in Europe, (c) returns to the U.S. but moves and leaves the bill unpaid.

This isn't about SIM or anything, it's about being an American in Greece. I hate to have to say this, but be careful! The anti-American sentiments are at an all time high and I have a friend who just visited and wasn't allowed in taxi's, for one example, because she was American.

I hope you can speak Greek. I wish you well, I really do, but the climate is BAD!!!!

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This page contains a single entry by Liz Lawley published on November 17, 2004 4:33 PM.

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