If You Are Using A European SIM Card When Traveling Use These Tips From Rick Steves

One of the greatest conveniences of modern-day travel is that you can stay connected just by stepping foot into a café, a library, or virtually any public space. Wi-Fi has become so omnipresent that it's becoming increasingly available on public transportation, too. But if you want a consistent connection without relying on publicly available internet, your best bet (apart from paying your local carrier obscene amounts of money for international roaming) is to get a SIM card. These tiny chips allow your phone to work overseas just as it does at home, albeit with a different number.

Travel expert Rick Steves recommends getting yourself a SIM card if you're planning an extended stay in Europe — or any place for that matter. Wi-Fi can be finicky in some places on the continent, particularly areas dating back hundreds or thousands of years. With a SIM card, you can enjoy access to a faster, stable connection anywhere and make and take calls at any time.

Conveniently available at department stores, newsstands, and airports (keep your eye out for vending machines offering them), getting a SIM card is hassle-free. If you need assistance setting one up, Steves says you can simply visit a mobile phone store where a clerk can help you with installation and answer any questions you may have. The best part? SIM cards are considerably cheaper than U.S. roaming rates, and you even get to have control over how much to spend.

Your choice of phone matters

Buying a SIM card is the easy part; figuring out its compatibility with your existing phone can be slightly trickier. According to Rick Steves, the first thing you need to do is determine whether your device is "locked" or "unlocked," which you can do by simply contacting your carrier. If it's the latter, you're in the clear — you won't encounter problems using any SIM card and connecting to various networks. If it's the former, it means that your phone is tied to your carrier and cannot accommodate a different SIM card. You're better off buying an unlocked phone, which starts at around $40 for the basic options.

On his website, Steves recommends purchasing a SIM card with data already bundled, typically priced around $15 to $30 for a month's worth of usage. If you anticipate making and receiving a lot of calls, be sure to double-check the rates, as they vary depending on the country you're in. Generally, receiving texts and calls domestically is free, while sending texts costs roughly 5 to 15 cents a pop. Steves advises getting a new SIM card each time you find yourself in a new country to secure the most affordable rates. Just keep in mind, however, that European SIM cards typically expire when they remain dormant for too long. If they're unused for three months or longer, they'll likely expire, along with whatever credit is left. Be sure to use it all up before you leave, or just pass the SIM to a fellow traveler.