Monday, November 6, 2023

Wi-Fi for International Travel


I recently returned from a trip to Europe. Since my phone does not automatically roam outside North America, my usual way to communicate is by buying a foreign SIM. SIM's can be easily found in or near large airports, but this time we found the rules were different. The only way to find a SIM in this smaller city in Greece was to show up at a cellular store with your passport in hand and preferably cash as well. It also needs to be a weekday, or maybe early in the day. Greeks are known for taking off a couple hours each day for a leisurely afternoon dinner.

This combination of factors kept me offline, or so I thought. Of course we could log in to the hotel's Wi-Fi and the occasional restaurant, but I really wanted my SIM. We hopped on the local bus to see if we could find a SIM shop open on the weekend and found that every city bus also has Free Wi-Fi which worked quite well. My wife's phone plan includes Wi-Fi Calling so she was not only online almost everywhere, she could make calls and texts as well as she does at home. Without Wi-Fi Calling, I normally use my Google Voice app to make calls and texts. I found a shop on a Saturday with a lady with limited English skills, but, oops, forgot my passport.

This experience with so much widespread foreign Wi-Fi, took the pressure off finding a SIM, although I finally scored one Monday morning. The experience reminded me that many of the rules in Europe have changed and it's no small deal that almost any cellular service in Europe roams freely anywhere else in Europe. Had I remembered this I would have spent more time finding a SIM during my layover in Germany knowing that a German SIM would work equally well in Greece, or Spain, or most of Europe. 

This one of the reasons why we give extra credit for US carriers that offer Wi-Fi Calling that works universally, both on our Prepaid Reviews and our Roaming Zone pages.  There are also now several Prepaid carriers that readily roaming in most of the developed world with few or no roaming charges.

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