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Photo by Igor Djokovic, camping above San Juan river, Arizona USA

I haven't been everywhere...
but it's on my list!


Photo by Igor Djokovic,
camping above San Juan river,
Arizona USA



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  • 1 Post By Your Mileage May Vary
  • 2 Post By PanEuropean

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  #1  
Old 25 Apr 2023
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Phone sims in the US

I’m in the US at present with my U.K. iPhone. The charges for using it here are crazy - I was £10 down before I even got off the plane - so I’m looking for a local payg sim that’ll cover me for a couple of weeks. I had no trouble getting one in Hong Kong a few weeks ago and passport control was giving them out with the stamp in your passport in Dubai recently. But in the US - no one’s heard of them. I tried something from Walmart but it doesn’t work. Any advice on how to get a temporary sim. I know AT&T don’t do them as I’m just back from their store.
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Old 26 Apr 2023
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Quote:
Originally Posted by backofbeyond View Post
I’m in the US at present with my U.K. iPhone. The charges for using it here are crazy - I was £10 down before I even got off the plane - so I’m looking for a local payg sim that’ll cover me for a couple of weeks. I had no trouble getting one in Hong Kong a few weeks ago and passport control was giving them out with the stamp in your passport in Dubai recently. But in the US - no one’s heard of them. I tried something from Walmart but it doesn’t work. Any advice on how to get a temporary sim. I know AT&T don’t do them as I’m just back from their store.
AT&T, Verizon, and every other major cell service in the US, offer Prepaid SIM card kits. Look for them in the electronics section at Wallmart or Target and other big box stores.

In my experience, your phone will need to be unlocked and recognizable for the network you choose and you'll need a credit card to activate. Info should be on the packaging.

It's DIY, off-the-shelf easy, and if all goes well you'll have a number within 30 minutes.

Prices will range depending on how much data you need. In North America, prepaid plans are generally not inexpensive if you plan to use much cell service data (maps, directions, etc) as you'll reach the data limits very quickly, however they are good if you want or need a US based phone number to make and receive calls.

In the past I've used them often when travelling from Canada into the US. Mobile phone plans in Canada are some of the most expensive in the world, and simply having them turned on would cost a fortune. It was cheaper for me to pickup a sim card in the US.
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  #3  
Old 26 Apr 2023
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Originally Posted by Your Mileage May Vary View Post
In my experience, your phone will need to be unlocked and recognizable for the network you choose and you'll need a credit card to activate. Info should be on the packaging.
.
I'm guessing this is your problem. US cell networks operate on a variety of different frequencies and standards, and not necessarily the same ones you use in the UK. I don't understand the technical aspects myself, but you'll be needing a SIM card for a cell network which your phone can access. Get the wrong kind of SIM--sold by the wrong kind of cell network--and your phone won't work. For example, my phone is a T-mobile iPhone; it won't work if I put a Verizon SIM in it. Do a bit of Googling on the subject....but make sure you're on wifi first.

The question of whether your phone is unlocked is presumably answered by the fact that (AFAIK) European and UK phones are never locked.

And if your phone is too expensive, turn off data. At the very least, look at all your apps and figure out which ones are constantly scanning the (expensive) airwaves for updates, location data, and Nigerian princes. Do whatever needs doing to prevent that.

Hope that's helpful.

Mark
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Old 26 Apr 2023
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Good answers from the other forum members above.

You can generally get prepaid SIM cards pretty much anywhere in the USA, they are very common. I think even 7-11 (a convenience store chain) sells them. If you were able to use a Hong Kong prepaid SIM in the same phone before, that suggests that the phone is unlocked.

What I do suggest you do first, though, is carry out some internet search investigation to find out what the price of the various prepaid SIMs are, and what balance of voice - text - data access they offer. You probably need data much more than you need voice (at least, that's how it is for me when I am in Europe using a prepaid SIM).

Do some Googling, find out who offers the best value for the services you need, then go there. Pay attention to the fine print - some of the cheaper prepaid SIM cards only offer 3G data speeds.

In the meantime, turn off "cellular roaming" on your phone to avoid incurring more roaming charges. Until you get your SIM card, you can find free Wi-Fi just about everywhere - McDonalds, most shopping malls, etc. If you don't already have Skype on your phone, download that app and deposit $10 in your Skype app, then use Skype (via either a data connection or a Wi-Fi connection) to make phone calls to outside the USA.

There are some minor differences in GSM (Global System for Mobile) frequencies between the USA and Europe, but if your phone is less than 2 or 3 years old you should be able to get cell service in most parts of the USA.

Michael
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Old 26 Apr 2023
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Test SIM

Quote:
Originally Posted by backofbeyond View Post
I tried something from Walmart but it doesn’t work. Any advice on how to get a temporary sim. I know AT&T don’t do them as I’m just back from their store.
IDK what's with my phone but I bought a SIM at a department store and it didn't work. The staff there wasn't able to help much.

Went to a T-Mobile store. The staff took a SIM out of a demo phone and put it in mine as a test. It worked. Made it easy to buy their SIM with confidence. No contact so I can cancel at any time. Good price and more data than I usually use.

I'll have to buy a few more SIM cards soon and I'll really want to try before I buy when I that's possible. I hope I can always find a network store instead of buying at convenience stores.

I'd never been to a T-Mobile store before last week but I'm very happy with their service.
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Old 26 Apr 2023
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I guess this is an upvote for TMobile - I worked in the states last year and ordered one of these before flying. Worked like a dream. Not sure if you can buy the equivalent when on the ground in the US but would assume so;

https://www.amazon.co.uk/T-Mobile-Un...2518104&sr=8-4

Not the cheapest but cheaper than roaming!
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  #7  
Old 26 Apr 2023
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Originally Posted by DaveGetsLost View Post
I'll have to buy a few more SIM cards soon and I'll really want to try before I buy when I that's possible. I hope I can always find a network store instead of buying at convenience stores.

I'd never been to a T-Mobile store before last week but I'm very happy with their service.
As a longtime user of US T-Mobile, I can promise that as long as you think ahead a bit there will be T-Mobile stores scattered wherever you happen to be. In my town, population ~80,000, there at least 5.

But I can also predict that not all your experiences will be as pleasant as you describe--sometimes there are long wait times, sometimes inept (although generally well-intentioned) sales help. Try to temper expectations and don't schedule too tightly.
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Old 27 Apr 2023
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveGetsLost View Post
...I bought a SIM at a department store and it didn't work.
Here is my (very well educated) guess about why the SIM you bought at a department store didn't work.

There are two broad categories of SIM cards in the world.

First are SIM cards that are branded and sold by an organization that actually operates a cell phone network. Think of Swisscom in Switzerland, Orange in France, EE in the UK, AT&T and T-Mobile in the USA, and Rogers & Bell in Canada. A SIM card sold by a network operator will always work as long as you are nearby a cell tower belonging to that operator, something that you can take for granted if you are buying the SIM card from the network operator's retail store.

The other category of SIM cards are those sold by Mobile Virtual Network Operators. These companies don't possess any network infrastructure (cell towers, switching equipment, etc.). They work by negotiating agreements with actual network operators to buy connectivity in bulk from those operators who actually own & operate a network. But, the big problem with MVNOs is that they might only have an agreement with one actual network operator, and if you are not in range of a tower of that operator, you are out of luck. Furthermore, the contract that the MVNO has with their actual network operator(s) might limit their access to only 3G service on a network that is actually 4G or 5G, or it might throttle data speed.

You can generally identify a MVNO by the branding on the SIM card. If the SIM card is branded "7-11" (a large convenience store operator in the USA), or branded by an organization that you have never heard of as a cell phone network, chances are it is a MVNO SIM card.

For travellers, it's generally best if we stay away from MVNOs and only use SIMs from actual network operators. This is because we are moving around all the time.

MVNOs are great for people who stay in one town all the time and thus know that there are cell towers in their town operated by a partner of their MVNO. They are also great for light users who don't need high speed data, something that we travellers generally want and need.

Hope this sheds a bit of light on things.

Michael
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Old 27 Apr 2023
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Phone SIM in the US

It's been a while, but in 2019 I bought a card from Lyca Mobile for a German smartphone. 30€ for 30 days in the 4G LTE network with unlimited intern./nat. Calls and texts and 5 GB of data. I bought the card from Amazon back then.
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