> Hi, I'm planning on traveling to the US and Europe in the near future
> so I'd appreciate some recommendations on which providers I should use
> for cell service and phone/calling cards.
> For the US, I'd like to have service in Hawaii, California, New York,
> and the New England states. I'll pretty much be sticking to major
> cities and the more touristed parts of these states.
In the US, you have to get the phone from whoever sells the prepaid
service. You'd think you could just buy a SIM if you have a GSM
phone, but you can't.
The best known is Tracphone which sells its phones at stores like
K-Mart and Walmart, but they're kind of pricey. I see that Cingular,
one of the big two carriers will sell you a prepaid phone for $30 and
either charge you 25 cents/min or $1/day and 10 cents/min. They have
a very large coverage area these rates should apply. Verizon also has
a prepaid plan called Inpulse with decent rates but all the phones are
expensive. Another possibility is Virgin Wireless which resells
prepaid Sprint service. In the U.S. you pay for incoming as well as
outgoing calls, since unlike in oz the caller doesn't pay extra to
call a mobile.
For a calling card, poke around on the net and look for one with
prices you like. The cards you buy on the net are almost without
exception virtual, i.e., rather than sending you a plastic card, they
just give you the access 800 number and your account number, so you
can buy one before you go. Most cell phones include the whole country
in their local calling area, so you only need the calling card for
international calls, or if you happen to be near a regular phone and
the calling card rate is cheaper. But don't forget the per-call
surcharge of about 50 cents that they all charge if you call from a
> For Europe, I'm planning on visiting the continent mainly to EU
Oh, that's much easier, since Europe is all GSM 900/1800 just like
Australia. Buy yourself an unlocked phone before you go and bring it
along. (I got mine on eBay.) When you get to Europe, just buy a
prepaid SIM. Any SIM you buy in any European country will work all
over Europe, but the rates are higher if you roam into other
countries. A typical prepaid SIM costs E40 and comes with E15 of
credit, so when you go to another country you'll have to figure out
whether it's worth paying the cost for a new SIM to get in-country
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