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Ask BR: Best Prepaid SIM Card For Traveling Europe? (Switzerland Specifically)

swiss_alps I am going to Switzerland on vacation at the end of the month with my wife for our anniversary. When I traveled in Europe as a student I could not afford a cellphone so this is my first time looking for such a solution. Since Europe is standardized on GSM I thought it would be pretty easy to just find a Swiss or other European SIM card on eBay or at some other shop and take it with me. Turns out things are not as simple as I imagined.

The 5 carriers that I have found in Switzerland (&Phone, Orange, Sunrise, Swisscom, & Tele2) all run on GSM 900MHz or 1800MHz but I cannot find SIM cards available online except for Orange. The whole situation gets even more confusing since I have been reading online that it may be difficult to purchase a pay as you go SIM card in Switzerland as a tourist due to terrorist & drug trafficking fears.

From what I understand most SIM cards from other European countries will work in Switzerland but I will not be able to recharge them while in Switzerland. I also hear that they will cost me more to make calls than a Swiss SIM card.

So I am wondering. Any experts on traveling Europe with a unlocked US quad-band GSM BlackBerry? I don’t need data services since data roaming is relatively cheap but voice roaming at $2 a pop is insanity!

I will be bringing along a [email protected] compatible BlackBerry to test out if I can use it to make calls using my hotel’s Wi-Fi… Be interesting to see how it plays out.

The best guide I have found to prepaid especially in Switzerland is at

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8 total comments on this postSubmit your comment!
  1. As I travel 200k miles a year (Switzerland included), I am sure I have commanded the whole worldwide calling thing, but, in reality, I’ve probably spent more money “beating” the system, than money saved :-)

    Your best bet would be

    A) Buy a Linksys portable router, such as “Linksys WTR54GS.” If you subscribe to wired internet at a hotel, you can use this to create a WiFi zone in your room, and then are able to use UMA ([email protected]). It’s hard to find open Wifi in hotels – as well, you would have to pay twice for your Blackberry and Laptop, as they would be 2 IP addresses without the Linksys. So, it’s actually better to use wired internet, and the Linksys. FYI, the Apple airport express has issues with connecting to UMA.

    B) Buy a global roaming SIM card, the best I’ve seen at the moment, is either (with US and UK numbers), or is actually good as well. The end result will be, that people calling your US number (via implementing unconditional call forward on the cell), you will pay about 25c a minute incoming, and, about 50c a minute to call the US

    C) There’s also a little “cheat,” available as well, by slipping your Blackberry SIM (you need BES) into a USB data card, and then using a Cradlepoint PHS300 router, for creating a portable WiFi zone, anywhere, using Euro 3g which your UMA can connect to, and all would be free 😉

    Those are the easiest options. Have a good trip!

  2. PS – The advantage for me is, I’m grandfathered in on the old Omnipoint roaming rate (now T-Mobile US), which is 30c a minute incoming for most countries, and was stopped in 2001, so, I don’t really have to forward anything :-)

  3. Ronen, here’s my 2cents: I used my T-Mo 8320 in Portugal and where I found open wifi (bar, restaurant) I was able to make free calls back to the US. I also brought a T-Mo router with me to use in my hotel room, but there were not LAN lines in the room, just in the business center. What I have figured out since then, is that T-Mo offers a $20/month unlimited BB roaming e-mail plan, so you can still e-mail like normal, and receive attachments like voice-notes, without any extra roaming charges. I use this with my wife whenever we travel. We just e-mail voice-notes back and forth. With YouMail I receive my voicemail as e-mail MP3s too so I can still check voicemail. If you use a local sim card, then you won’t be able to do all of this.

  4. As well, if you have the T-Mobile BES add on (and have a corporate BES, or subscribe to a BES service, such as for $10 a month) you can use data worldwide on your Blackberry, as much as you want, and never pay a penny extra.

  5. Since I am currently living in Switzerland (and have for a couple of years) I figured I might be able to shed some light on this question.

    The first point is concerning Swiss law regarding prepaid cards, which was introduced to cut down on their use for criminal purposes. In practice, all this means is that you need to show a valid passport when purchasing the card, you can buy them without a problem as a foreigner, you just can’t do so anonemously.

    Secondly, all the big Swiss carriers (Swisscom, Orange and Sunrise) offer prepaid cards in their stores, even if you cannot buy them online. Out of these 3, Sunrise would probably be cheapest, but has the worst coverage (its still good). Swisscom has the best coverage.

    A popular alternative to the major carriers is the M-Budget prepaid card, sold by the Migros chain of grocery stores. They are the cheapest cards available (I believe), the only downside being that they can only be recharged at Migros stores. Cards from the major carriers can be recharged at any kiosk.

    In general, just be aware that Switzerland has the most expensive mobile system I’ve ever experiencen but then I guess that really applies to everything over here. Don’t be surprised if you burn through your prepaid amount quicker than you’d anticipate.


  6. hi ronen
    i know a guy in switzerland who sells all kinds of SWISS prepaid cards.

    He might be able to help you.

    There is also a possibility of purchasing an international SIM card with free incoming calls in over 50 countries, and relatively cheap outgoing calling rates.
    See rose-communication who is offering such a SIM card.

    have a save trip, enjoy switzerland.

    If you have any questions about Switzerland, kosher food (there is a kosher list available online) or whatever, just email me.


    • Can you tell me how to find rose-communication? I Googled it and came up with several companies but none who deal in SIM cards. I also have the same question as ronen. I need a SIM card for Switzerland. Thanks.

  7. I’ve been using, i travel to western Europe a fair bit and it works great. Basically they sell the Sim Card and then bill you on usage at the end of each month (so it’s actually post paid) – however there are some advantages to postpaid anyway (only pay for what you use, no need to worry about recharging your account mid trip etc…)

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