Cell Phones in Ireland

There are many things to plan for when doing international travel, and smartphones are one of them. If you aren’t on wifi, you’ll need to either have a local number with a local data plan, use a hotspot, or get an international plan with data usage. Roaming charges can be expensive, so here are some travel tips to avoid hassles or confusing phone plans for your next trip to Dublin or Galway.

The Right Type of Phone

To use an American cell phone in Ireland you need to have the right type of phone, as Ireland uses a different type of cell phone network than most carriers in the United States. Cell phones, called "mobiles" in Ireland, are extremely popular and coverage is good throughout most of the country. In fact, RTE News, the main Irish news network, states the cell phone use in Ireland is at 100 percent. That means that there is at least one cell phone for every person living in Ireland. But don’t look for carriers like AT&T or Verizon when you’re across the pond – according to RTE, the largest mobile phone provider in Ireland is Vodafone, followed by O2.

Check to see if you have a GSM, quad-band phone. In Ireland, the cell phone network is GSM, short for Global System for Mobile Communications. GSM is not the main network used in the United States. AT&T and T-Mobile provide GSM phones.

Contact Your Provider

Contact your cell phone provider. In order for your American cell phone to work in Ireland, you will need to set up international roaming. Also, ask your provider about an international calling plan that you can activate while you are in Ireland. Making and receiving phone calls with your U.S. cell phone while in Ireland is very expensive, unless you are doing wifi calling or using Whatsapp. Having the correct plan in place before you travel reduces the costs, but they are still pricey. For example, as of 2010, AT&T states that the standard roaming rate for Ireland is $1.29 a minute. However, if you sign up for the World Traveler package or international day passes, calls cost .99 a minute. Depending on your travel plans and itinerary, you can see what works best for you.

Unlocking Your Phone

Get your cell phone unlocked. If you have a quad-band GSM phone, the best option for using your cell phone in Ireland is to get it unlocked and to purchase an Irish SIM card. To unlock your cell phone you will need a unique code from your provider. This can be gotten by contacting your provider's customer service department. Unfortunately, it is not possible to unlock an iPhone. There is usually a fee for unlocking a cell phone, but due to the costs of international roaming this method still works out to be much cheaper. When your phone is unlocked, purchase an Irish Prepay SIM card. These cost around 5 to 10 euros and can be bought at any mobile phone shop in Ireland. As of 2010, Vodafone charges .15 euros per minute to call a U.S. cell phone or landline, much cheaper than the prices your U.S. provider will charge. O2 is also cheaper but is more expensive than Vodafone. As of 2010, O2's rates for calling an American cell phone or landline are .35 a minute. The rates for text messages and data roaming can differ.

Getting Credit

Add credit to your prepay Irish SIM card. When you get an Irish SIM card, you can insert it into your American cell phone. To use the phone you will need to buy credit, which is sold in amounts as low as 5 euros. Phone credit can be bought at mobile phone shops or in an Irish newsagent. In Ireland, a newsagent is a small shop that sells newspapers and snacks. They are very common and easy to find.

Let Your Friends Know!

Inform your contacts of your Irish number. Once you have an Irish SIM card, you will temporarily have a “new phone” with an Irish cell phone number. Anyone wishing to call you while you are in Ireland will have to dial the Irish number, not your American number. To call your Irish phone, your family and friends will have to dial 011 or "+" followed by the country code or area code for Ireland (353) and your Irish cell phone number. The first zero of the Irish number needs to be dropped if it is being dialed from outside Ireland. For example, if your Irish number is 087-111-2222, friends in the U.S. need to dial +353-87-111-2222. U.S. callers will be charged the international rate set by their phone provider, but you will not have to pay to receive the call.