Cell Phone in Amsterdam

Hi, Teeming Millions-

I am an American college student about to spend a semester abroad in Amsterdam. I have been researching cell phone rental and purchase options, and I’m having trouble finding a decently priced cell phone. I need to use it to call the U.S. and Canada, and to make calls and send text messages within the Netherlands. The cheapest option I have seen so far is this service, which costs nearly 50 cents a minute to make calls within the Netherlands (though its US rates are quite reasonable).

I’m sure I can do better, though, which is why I’m turning to you: are there any Dutch dopers or frequent travelers that can advise me on the best and cheapest service?



50 cents per minute within the Netherlands is ridiculous. It should be about 10 or 15 at most (calling cell to cell) with a pre-paid phone which you can buy (renting makes no sense; do ask whether you’ll be able to use it back in the US) for as little as 20 or 30 euros in any number of shops (t for telecom, phonehouse - any Dutch shopping street has them in spades). I am not sure, though, how much calling abroad would be but I imagine that it would be expensive. IN fact, I cannot imagine anyway in which it would not be incredibly expensive, and that’s why I strongly recommend not using a prepaid Dutch mobile phone for calling the US, but getting a skype account and using that to make calls. It is possible that skype will be installed (or is installable) on the university’s computers as well. If you do decide to use a Dutch cell to call the US, find out about plans you can buy which involve you dialing a number in Holland, then entering the phone number in the US and being connected to that number for a very limited rate. People at those phone stores will presumably know.

As a final note, there’s nothing special about Amsterdam in this story (I just thought I’d point this out since the thread title asks about cell phones in Amsterdam). This means that two things are slightly different (for obvious reasons):

  1. when calling a land line from a cell in the Netherlands, you’ll always be paying the same, whether it’s right next to you or in another city. You’ll always have to dial the area code of a city even if you are in that city.
  2. cell phones have no area code that you will be able to identify its owner’s location by - all cell numbers start with 06. Again, when calling a cell phone, it does not matter where in the Netherlands that phone is.

One other thing: you will not have to ask whether you’ll have to pay for incoming calls, or for caller ID, or for voice mail service. That’s all going to be free, because it will encourage you to use the phone more.

Good luck in Amsterdam! PM me if you need to know more

I used to live in Amsterdam, dont worry about any of those bundles sold from overseas, just sort a local simcard out on arrival. The Netherlands has a very competitive market and some of the cheapest call rates of any EU country.

You can get a local sim card within a few hours, shop around for the best local deals.

I agree with the suggestion of waiting till you get to the Netherlands, and buy a pre-pay phone / simcard.

In pretty much all of Europe, and I’m sure the Netherlands are no exception, you have 3G access and a data bundle included with a lot of plans, including pre-pay plans. It should be easy to get a phone that has Skype installed on the handset itself, and use that for calling North America.

If you have an iPhone, I understand it is Euro-ready if you just buy a SIM card? (and unlock it).
Or if your phone is 4-band GSM. (800, 850, 1800, 1900? IIRC…)

I’ll go with the previous posters advice of Waiting till you get there to sort this out. Taking a plan from the US or roaming is not a very good or economical solution.

  • In the Netherlands (Heck most of Europe) the Cell market is very competitive, and the Prepaid Deals are great and quiet cheap. Local calls with that will be much cheaper, and Many providers also provide quiet competitive international calling plans which whiel more expensive then using Skype or a calling card are not bad.

If you don’t have a unlocked GSM phone, don’t worry as you will either be able to buy a subsided (But often locked phone) from the provider you choose or get a reasonably priced New or Second Hand one from any number of Phone Shops.

  • If you have net access use VOIP services like Skype, Truphone, Gizmo, etc to make calls back to the US. Rates usually start at around $0.015 a minute and you can usually get unlimited Calls to the US for Around $3-5. If you Want you can even get a US number which your friends and family can Dial which will be forwarded to your skype ID if they don’t / can’t use skype.

  • If its important that you be contactable on a us number at all times, they you could look at setting up a google voice number and forwarding it to your local Netherlands Mobile Number. While it will cost you (Think its $0.02 to Netherlands Landlines and $0.23 to Mobiles) It will mean that your US friends and family can contact you at any time on a local US number which you can receive at any time, anywhere.

  • Look for calling cards on sale there. You will often find them at Ethnic shops with a local access number, with Super cheap rates to many countries, including the US. Do note that its usually better to call those access numbers from a landlines, as freephone numbers are often chargeable on cell phone in Europe.

Hope this helps, and best of luck with your semester there.

Just to reiterate: if you have an unlocked phone that supports GSM, you can just get a SIM card without a phone and use it in the Netherlands (and most of Europe). G3 type coverage is allright but varies. GSM is everywhere and doesn’t deplete your phone’s batteries as fast.

Any major city in the Netherlands (and Amsterdam especially) has plenty of cheap-looking phone shops in the town center that sell second hand basic GSM phones for 10 to 25 euros, and they’ll probably also be able to unlock your phone - for a fee. I got my old but reliable Nokia for 18 euros after my fancy expensive Samsung died. Depending on how long you’re staying, it may be cheaper to buy one of these rather than get a subscription/prepaid deal that includes a new phone.

Also depending on how long you’re staying: subscriptions may be cheaper then pre-paid but you’ll probably be stuck with them for at least a year.

ETA: and 0.5 euro a minute is rediculous

Just a warning. We had a GSM phone we bought in New Zealand. When coming back from Europe, obviously we didn’t need it so we turned it off and packed it in the suitcase - checked luggage. In the USA, our friendly TSA broke the suitcase open to look at the phone - logical, in hindsight, since cellphones are used to trigger bombs. I assume they saw it in an Xray. They could have cut the lock. Yeah, the literature says leave the suitcase unlocked so it’s easier for the line workers to pilfer, but we locked it. They broke the zipper instead, making the suitcase unusable, because they could be dicks and there’s nothing we can do about it.

We paid full retail for the cell in NZ years ago - $100. We were goingt o get a SIM card in europe, but never got around to it, did not badly need the phone. Lots of deals - probably even more now. IIRC, that orange whatever company had a sim for E35 or so. Another good deal was a Luxembour based prepay company where you called them on a 1-800 number, entered the number you wanted to call, and their computer called back you and the other end - no cell charges for incoming calls.

As able to tell my carrier (Verizon) that I was going to Europe for a couple of weeks and wanted their international calling plan. Once I returned I had it removed for no extra charge.

Google voice numbers can’t be forwarded to international numbers mobile or not.

My Bad. I’ve not used Google voice much, and rember seeing acouple of posts about people doing it so I figured it worked.

A Little further research showed that It’s possible, but you need to put a third Party service in the middle, kind of removing the simplicity out of it.

Still the other suggestions still apply, and can be used in combination with Google voice to call redirect to a local access number.