Staying Connected When Cycling In France

We’re spoiled by how easy and affordable it is to communicate, text and tweet to family and friends, post to Facebook, get the latest news and restaurant recommendations and get directions when we get lost.  Until we go overseas.  Unless you have a European phone or SIM card, communication overseas can be difficult and very expensive.  A Google search of anything having to do with saving money communicating overseas yields pages and pages of articles and advice.  Regardless of how many of these you read, there really isn’t a simple solution. For phone calls, you can use one of several internet apps like Skype.  But for me, the problem has always been data.  If ever there was a time you needed data it’s traveling overseas.

So next month when I travel to Northern France I am going to try out Mobal’s new Europe Data SIM card.  I’m excited to give this product a try even though I have no idea how well it will work.  First some details about the Data SIM:

  • With Mobal’s European Data SIM, you can send and receive e-mails, post on your Facebook page, tweet, check news and use phone map tools for as little as $0.39/MB,  substantially less than typical roaming charges on your personal cell or tablet
  • There are no monthly fees, no minimum usage and no long-term contract
  • There are SIM cards for iPhone, iPad, Android and Windows Mobile Tablets
  • The data-only SIM works in over 30 countries, plus the US so you can test it before you leave home
  • You pay for data only when you use it
  • There is a monthly data cap of $100 and when data usage reaches this cap, the SIM stops working
  • At $0.39/MB which is the data charge for France, that equates to about 256 MB of data transfer
  • You can cancel the SIM at any time
  • You can use it while traveling, then put it away and not use it until you travel again
  • There is a 60 day full money-back guarantee
  • The cost of the SIM card is only $9 and shipping is free

So if you are like me, you’re reading and you are saying something like, “OK, where’s the hitch?”  I know, me too.  I have searched the company website and internet chat groups looking for some bad news on this company and its products and I can’t find anything negative.  That’s the reason why I am going to give this product a try!

Mobal was founded in the UK and has been providing travelers with communication solutions since the mid-1980’s.  Their international phones and satellite phones are recommended by publications like Inc.  Another amazing thing is that Mobal donates 90% of its profits to Africa–seriously!  In 2006, the company formed its own charity and it now donates 90% of profits to help transform communities in Africa through the charity.  You can read more about the company and the mission of its amazing founder here.

There are a number of things I am curious about, like how long $100 worth of data will last me on my trip and how well this product will really work. Regarding how long it will last, according to Macworld, the average smartphone owner uses about 500 MB of data/month.  I will be traveling for 13 days, so I could estimate that I might use half that amount.  That will depend on how much I use data roaming for map access and sending tweets during the day, and whether I will actually be able to pick up signals when I want to use it. But the bottom line is the best way to answer these questions is to try it out!

According to the Frequently Asked Questions on Using the data SIM, setting up your device with the data SIM seems pretty easy and should take about 5 minutes or less.  You can try it out before you leave, which is great, and there is a 24/7 help line should you encounter any problems.

Seems to good to be true to me, but who knows, this just may work!  So stay tuned for my recap on this product when I return home in September!

Posted by Maggie LACoste

I love the adventure and unpredictability of experiencing France by bike. Cycling in France is the ultimate slow travel adventure, an opportunity to see it through the back door in a way few tourists experience. One week on a bike in France and life takes on a different meaning! I created Experience France By Bike to inspire recreational cyclists to visit France the slow way....by bike, and to be the best source of information for planning the perfect bicycling adventure. I encourage readers to embrace the uncertainty of the road ahead and to take the path less traveled, exploring roads, towns and villages that you would never experience traveling by car.

  1. Very very helpful post, Maggie, and not just for cyclists!

    1. Hi Again!

      I am really hopeful that this may be a very easy alternative for travelers. While I understand that there are several other alternatives, they are so complicated that you need to be a technologically advanced person to figure out how to make a solution work. I want something that is affordable and quick and easy to use. I hope that this will fit that bill. Stay tuned for more details upon my return!

      Maggie LaCoste

  2. Thanks for this great post! Like you, we are getting ready to embark on a great adventure in France – Brittany and the Loire. We want to book accommodations as we travel and keep our blog and other communications up to date. So we’ll check this out and would love to hear of other people’s experience with this service. This will be our second long bike tour of Europe, but the first that will be mostly in France. We have greatly appreciated your help with the planning.

    1. Dear Maggie,

      Thanks so much for taking the time to write this note, particularly since I know that you are up to your eyeballs in last minute details getting ready for your trip! Hope that you are pretty much organized. In the event that you use this data SIM, I hope it works for you. I’ve got mine ordered, so will definitely give it a try. Good luck, safe travels and let me know how it’s going!

      Maggie LaCoste

  3. […] We’re spoiled by how easy and affordable it is to communicate, text and tweet to family and friends, post to Facebook, get the latest news and restaurant recommendations and get directions when we get lost.  Until we go overseas.  Unless you have a European phone or SIM card, communication overseas can be difficult and very expensive.  A Google search of anything having to do with saving money communicating overseas yields pages and pages of articles and advice.  Regardless of how many of these you read, there really isn’t a simple solution. For phone calls, you can use one of several internet apps like Skype.  But for me, the problem has always been data.  If ever there was a time you needed data it’s traveling overseas. Read more […]

  4. Maggie, very interesting article thank you. I have just started the GIS (great internet search!) for a solution to the communication problem. I am cycling the atlantic route next summer, then on down through Spain. I am currently living in California so moving back to the UK first. Please let us know how the SIM card works out. I plan to bring my iphone from the US and try and get a UK plan to start with.
    Many thanks,
    Sarah

    1. Hi Sarah!

      The people at Mobal are great and their data SIM card is a great value and should be effortless to use. My mistake is that I did not experiment with the SIM card before I left to make sure my equipment was in order. In the days before I left, there was just never enough time so I waiting until I arrived in France to install. I had just purchased a new i-phone and was told by both Apple and AT&T that my phone was “unlocked”. If you are not familiar with this, google “locked i-phone” and you will learn how, up until recently, all i-phones have been locked by their service carrier. Supposedly, AT&T has stopped this and that is why I was told repeatedly that I would have no problem adding the Mobal chip to my phone. Not so. As soon as I tried to switch out the SIM card on the phone with the Mobal one, I got a message telling me that my phone was locked and I would have to have it “unlocked” to use the Mobal card.

      Needless to say, the Apple store and AT&T have both said this is impossible, so I went into the store with the data card, and guess what the message was. So right now, I am waiting for someone to tell me why I keep getting messages saying that my phone is locked, when both Apple and AT&T tell me that it is not!

      So you are very smart to start figuring out your mode of communication this much in advance. It may take you that long to find the best alternative, or better yet, alternatives. My biggest need when I am bicycling is data. There are some really great new apps and programs that would be great to try to use, and I would love to use Google Maps, but this is impossible to do unless you can access cheap data. The Mobal plan does this, so I am hoping to give it a go again next year. Hope this information helps. I will be doing a communicating overseas update early in 2015, so watch for that in case you are still looking for ideas!

      Maggie LaCoste
      Experience France By Bike