From my room on the Seventeenth floor, I can see Hyde Park off to the north… but not much else recognizable. First order of business… touching base with Home. Now if you’ve been to Europe, you’ll know cell phones are so prolific – everyone is on their phone, so calling home would seem to be a simple task, right? But take a look around the internet… there is a lot of information for Americans out there on how to get this done in a cost efficient manner. Let me tell you how I did it, I’m sure it wasn’t the cheapest method, but it worked and worked well. I brought along Two phones, my Iphone & an older GSM- tri band Razor phone (unlocked).
My goal was to use the Iphone as a wifi device – a way to check emails and look things up, since I decided not to bring along a laptop. This is a wise decision considering how lite I was traveling. I read numerous tales of Americans who returned home to thousand dollar phone bills because of the Roaming schemes overseas. So I had the cellular turned off and data roaming turned off, I was paranoid about this. It seems there is a lost opportunity here for AT&T to make a deal and capitalize on this market. In fairness AT&T does have an option for Americans to turn on International roaming… but it is a monthly option and the rates are not really that competitive. As far as using the Wifi, I found it challenging, I was able to find plenty of hotspots – but most of them required a user account or password to connect to the Internet. When I did manage to find an open hotspot, I could connect to the access point, but it would not connect to the Internet. It was only on my second to last day that I talked to a guy, who used to work for Apple, and he told me how to set it up. It took popping out the sim card and that did the trick.
So in the meantime, plan B – finding a local cell phone dealer where I could buy a prepaid sim card with good international rates back to the States. So I headed out into the Streets of London, I decided to just check out the area around the hotel that might have such a business. I quickly found a little shop and asked the shop keeper what he had, and he said he Had O2 cards, but there was a 5 £ charge just for the sim card, and then I would have to topup, instead he offered another option for about 30 £’s (about $45) where the sim card was free with 30 £’s of credit on it, and only 5 pence per minute back to the States. In the Past I have used O2 in Ireland, and I knew it was reliable option, but I was buggered by the 5 lb charge. In the End I know I paid too much – since I ended up only using about 5-10 £’s of the 30. I’m sure his commission was higher for this card as well. But it didn’t matter because it worked – and it worked well. I was able to pop the card in, activate it, and call home and talk to the wife and kids right there in the store. The only issue I had was all my phone numbers for my buddies in Europe where stored away in my Iphone or Email… Technology, isn’t it amazing?