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Going to Europe and need telephone advice

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Howdy Folks,
My Girlfriend and I are coming across the pond with our 83 Aspencade and tiny mite trailer. We will be in Europe for about 9 months and we will need some sort of communication device. I am hoping that someone here can give us some pointers on cell phones and cell phone suppliers for use across western Europe. We will be touring Ireland, Scotland, England, France, Belgium, Holland, Norway, Switzerland, Spain and Italy and possibly more :) Any advice will be greatly appreciated :)

aka Big Brown
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We have sales reps that travel all over Europe. We use iPhones with Verizon Services. Also sending an email to the is much cheaper than sending a text message and just as fast.
Hi Ron,
you should be able to bring a phone from Canada that will work around the whole of Europe including the UK and Ireland, providing it is suitable for use here, I think it needs to be triband. Iphones and the like will definitely work here, because we have had friends come over and they can use them just fine.

The important thing to make sure is that you are on a plan or tariff that will not be costing you a fortune. I am sure you can talk to your provider to see what the best plan is.

Alternatively you could just come and buy a cheap pay as you go phone which you should be able to top up as you go along, using a credit or debit card or cash. Shops sell cards for all the main providers over here. Or you can just phone and top it up.

One important thing is to have a card that will work here, in Europe we use chip and pin system credit and debit cards and you would find that without that on a card it won't be possible to just use it to pay for goods and services. You would have to go to a bank to withdraw cash if your card is not chip and pin. make sure you come armed with more than one credit card that is useable, in case of anything going wrong like if you lost a card or one got cloned and you needed to shut it down. Cloning is very rare here thanks to the chip and pin system being in place. it has more or less eliminated the possibility of your card being scammed by anyone else.

You also should check the length of time you can ride your Canadian registered bike here in the UK and in Europe, only I think I have heard that 6 months is now as long as a bike or car can be driven here without it being registered as imported. That would not be something you would want to be getting involved in, that is for sure, lots of red tape and the bike off the road in the mean time. I may be wrong on that and it may be a year still, that you would be able to ride the bike for.

Have a word with Wexy, he has a great knowledge of the laws relating to shipping bikes to Ireland and the UK.

Of course you may have researched all the additional info that I mentioned there and already have that covered. if so, ignore me and I will go away eventually!! Lol
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We're planning a similar trip in August/Sept, though slightly further east. I've heard that for the cell phones you need a SIM card that is different for each country. Can that be true? Perhaps iPhones are different since I don't think they have a SIM? Anyone with experience traveling with their phone through different European countries should know. I just can't imagine that I need to buy a new chip when I go from country to country. Fortunately my LG phone can make calls over wifi so that might help the situation a little. We're planning on using a mapping app on the phone for directions, one that will let us customize our route. Seems that as long as you get the route planned while still on wifi, the GPS then takes over and you don't use any data. The app is Copilot GPS. You can download the maps you need to use. The first area is free. The app is free but there are some nice bells and whistles (like saving routes you have planned) that require you to pay for the app.
No you will not need to buy a new sim card for each country, your phone will automatically connect to the network of the particular country you are travelling in. What you do need to watch out for is the roaming charges that you may run up, they can be very expensive, without even making a call. When you move to a new network your phone will receive a text notification that you are on xyz network now, and that text will cost you not the phone company.
Recently laws were introduced to limit the amount that phone companies can charge for Roaming and so it is a little better now than it used to be.
I don't use my phone when we travel abroad, but my partner Helen does and she has had bills as high as £50 without even making a call back to England, just where the phone companies charge for the texts they send you.
I had a friend who went to India a few years back for a few weeks and when he got home he received a phone bill for £900 and he only phoned England a couple of times while he was away!! He argued it and they reduced the bill but it was still silly money.

The answer is to check with your provider back home what the rates will be and make sure you are on a cheapest tariff.

As regards WiFi, whilst free connection is available in such places as McDonalds, the coverage can be a bit spasmodic and don't be expecting free WiFi in hotels, most hotels in Europe charge for the privilege of using their WiFi. The charges can vary so check at reception how much it is going to be.
Don't expect to find free WiFi signals available in shopping centres and around towns like in America and presumably Canada, we are much less geared up for this so far. Most cities have Internet cafes where you can pay a small fee and use their Internet on their computers. Actually I am rather guessing that it is a small fee, as I have never used one myself. They are usually full of foreigners so it can't cost that much for them to contact their homeland in those cafes or they wouldn't be using them.
Of course you can use your Iphone or other Android phone to connect via the Internet but watch out, that gets expensive I believe.

Some folks who come here load some time onto their Phones via Skype, this is a cheap way of making phone calls quite often.

Hope this helps anyone coming over. If you are passing my house, you can come in and I will let you use our Internet system at no charge!!! Lol
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floggingmolly...... Copilpilot is absolutely brilliant and you can use it for the whole of Europe. The mapping and voice commands are truly excellent and it is the way to go!!! Just remember to bring a 12 volt charger with you only the App does cane the battery on any phone. Other than that you will be well pleased with it. My partner uses it and many friends now do and love it. Our friend SBinSC came over last month to ride and he loaded Copilot and for only $10 more he could add the whole of the USA when he got home. He brought his Ipod bike mount and we set him up to be able to listen to the voice commands through the headsets in the helmets he uses here.

You are right by the way, it does not use your data, it is just like having a normal GPS, only better!!!
Silverfox and Quinn,
Thanks for the advice, I think that what we will probably do is purchase a pay as you go in Europe and go with that. Also, your advice on the CC's is well taken thanks !!
Any advice on insurance brokers for bike insurance while in Europe?

aka Big Brown
You should start by contacting your own insurance broker in Canada, since you are bringing your own bike. Our insurance companies are not inclined to want to insure riders from overseas. They usually require that a rider they are insuring, has a full UK driving licence. It is one of the questions that they ask on the forms when we apply for insurance ourselves and some even want photocopied evidence of our licences. Anyone coming to live in the UK from outside the European community, must eventually take a UK driving test, in the same way as we have to and for a few months visit, you really wouldn't want to go down that route, it takes time and money and you have to wait for a test date that can take weeks if not months to come through. There are theory and practical tests to be taken and it usually requires a good few expensive lessons to get to the stage of being able to pass.

Within the EU we can move about freely with our UK insurances and Europeans are covered to ride in the UK, but other foreign nationals from overseas are regarded differently. It is all very different and complicated compared to the American/ Canadian way of insuring vehicles and riders/ drivers.

Your own insurance company may do cover for overseas travel and should be approached first, before thinking of other options.
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Big Brown we did Munich, Salzburg, Vienna, Bratislava, Jesolo ( just above Venice on the coast), Zurich, Karlsruhe and Frankfurt two years ago. I found that you really have to research which SIM cards work where and I would suggest you do that research before you go. In reality it is really data that you want so that you can use VoIP and your maps ( in our case Google maps on an iPhone 3GS) to plan your routes. We did our whole trip this way with some time on free hotel lobby computers ( I got sick of the tiny screen every once in awhile) in the early hours of the morning when there was no queue. The only thing we had booked was the hire car waiting at Munich airport for 11 days to be dropped off in Frankfurt. Starbucks and Macdonalds were our friends for fee wifi so we sought them out everywhere. In Zurich we spent about $10 for a cup of coffee to get access to the Internet. I found that I could bookmark the maps for the next day with the wifi and then I could retrieve them without the Internet and use them like a paper map but with a GPS dot showing where you are. I was able to navigate the streets of Venice and stay away from all the other tourist traffic by using this feature and never getting lost. We bought a cheap Fonic SIM card in Munich which worked in Austria as well but not Italy without data roaming ( cost prohibitive to use). I found that some places that had free wifi would work only if you had a local SIM card, where my daughters iPhone with an Aussie sim could not get access to the free wifi. I did need a local address for the Fonic SIM card, luckily I could use the address of my daughters friend in Munich. I would also advise you to look into travel insurance as well as your bike insurance. Sounds like it will be a great trip.:thumbsup:
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I can see the problems that might arise from using a SIM card phone as described by Ansimp, so the best bet would be to bring an I phone or other make of Android and make use of the Internet wherever possible, plus you will be able to use the Co Pilot program mentioned in earlier posts.

One thing we haven't asked is what you might need to use the phone for, will you be needing to be in constant contact with work or other? Or is the need for a phone purely for emergency calls in and out?

We do of course have "real phones" still in Europe and many will accept credit cards in payment for calls, so that may cover you in an emergency and a lot of us have land lines with tariffs that allow us cheap calls to overseas, so if you end up with members of this fine forum, they will probably allow use of their house phones.
If you have an Ipad or similar, it is common for folks to use that to make Skype calls to home, which can of course give picture as well as sound. Again, phones can be loaded with Skype time before you come so that cheap calls can be made to home. Tablets are common place to see around the place now and every tom Dick and Harry seems to have one. ( I am Pete so I don't have one!!!:ROFL:)

How much you can keep in touch with home may depend on how remote you are. In towns and Cities it will be easier than out in the middle of nowhere.
As Ansimp mentioned, travel insurance is important and make sure it will cover you for the duration of your relatively long trip, some only cover for something like 30 days travel, or at least ours do.

Breakdown cover is something else to consider, most UK insurance companies offer European breakdown as part of our vehicle cover, but separate cover can be bought from organizations like the AA or RAC or GEM all of whom do European cover, but usually for limited time periods, so you may need to take one specifically for the duration of your tour. Without cover you may be stranded by the side of the road in case of break down or accident and with no one to help. Using someone local may cost a smalll fortune.

Just to fill up your list of things to think about, here are a list of quirky laws that apply in some European countries......
In most countries it is law to ride with headlights on on bikes.
In most European countries it is law to carry Hi Viz jackets to be worn if broken down, on motorbikes.
In France, they have recently introduced a law that says that motorcyclists must have regulation specific hi viz stickers of a certain size on their helmets. These must be of a permanent sort that cannot be removed without damage to the helmet. Allegedly the police are not going to prosecute if riders don't have them, but I wouldn't trust the French police further than I could throw them!!! ( worth doing a google search on that one!!)
In Spain, if you normally wear glasses for riding, you must be carrying a second pair with you.
In some European countries it is a legal requirement to carry a first aid kit.
In most European countries, there is a thing called the "Samaritan Law" requiring anyone witnessing an accident to stop and provide whatever assistance they can.
DOT approved helmets are not technically legal in Europe, they must carry the relevant European standard markings.
In nearly all European countries you must carry a spare bulb kit for your motor vehicle, including motorcycles.
In most European countries you must carry your vehicle documents with you, including driving licence, when you are driving/ riding. This for us requires us to carry, registration document for the vehicle, a valid MOT certificate and tax disc on the bike.
In case anyone is in any doubt, helmets are a legal requirement to be worn in all European countries now.

This covers most of the European countries and to be honest if you complied with the above, I doubt you would get into any trouble, but if you travel outside the EU then you would need to check with that countries laws pertaining to motorcycles.
Technically in France you are also supposed to carry a breathalyzer kit, but they have decided not to prosecute if drivers are found not to have one now, because of the complexity of their own law. You may consider it prudent to still buy a cheap one or two of them, if travelling through France.
Many countries apply instant fines for some offence and you will be expected to pay in cash by the road side. They do not generally accept card payment and may escort you to a bank to get the cash out.
In some countries you must obtain a permit before entering and using their road systems, Austria and Switzerland if memory serves me right. I believe you can order in advance or otherwise purchase at a border crossing.
Driving in some countries with alcohol in your blood will get you banned from riding and likely as not your vehicle confiscated and for those that permit a small level of alcohol, it is low. In the UK we have a low level that is tolerated, but if you are found to be over you will be banned from driving for a year as a minimum and sometimes more. I can't tell you the exact levels permitted because I don't drink and drive so have no need to know. It is definitely no more than a couple of pints of beer or a couple of glasses of wine. :?

I don't want to worry you, but I may think of more things later, but for now that should be more than enough to chew on!!! :shock::ROFL:
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When we crossed into Austria I had to buy a high vis vest as that was required to be worn if you had to change a tire on the freeway. It would of been in an Austrian hire car but as we hired in Germany it didn't have one. Mates of mine road around for 2 weeks in June and they wore high vis vests on the bikes the whole time so as not to have issues with different countries requirements. Our iPhone 3GS had a mini SIM card where the iphone 4&5 have micro sims. I have been using a European VoIP company called Voipbuster for 8 years ( back in the dial up days) and that are fantastic. You buy a block of credit for $10 euros and it lasts me for at least 6months. For the first 90 days all calls are free to a lot of countries and they have apps that use my phone and ipad with their contacts. The feature I really like is call back where for a nominal fee a land line number you are at can be made to ring and then it connects you to your long distance call at no cost to the land line owner. Also you can ring any number using Voipbuster. My wife rang her mother every day that we were away (30 days) using the mobile on wifi and it was during the 90 day free period. The call quality is excellent and if not just ring again and it will be.
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Again, thanks for all this good advice :) I will continue doing my homework here on the internet as our departure date is fast approaching :)

aka Big Brown
Thanks to all for your advice !! We will use it wisely.

aka Big Brown
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