have Cell Phone coverage?
and it should be quite good. According to the CIA's Factbook,
the country's population is 3.6 million, and there are over 2.1 million
cell phones in use in the country. Also, the major hotels all seem to
advertise Wi-Fi internet connection. Lithuania is pretty high tech!
Will my cell phone work in Lithuania?
some checking to see which cell phone companies might have international
roaming in Lithuania. There was some conflicting information, but this
is what I THINK that I have learned so far.
3 major carriers in Lithuania. All use GSM technology. These
The above is important, because most
Tri-Band US phones do not have 900mhz, so you are stuck to Tele2, and
not all areas are covered by 1800 mhz. Your coverage will be very
What we found...
Just to close this topic, here is what
we discovered after we arrived. First, if you really want good coverage,
you really need a QUAD band cell phone, or at least a phone with both
the 900 and 1800 frequencies. With just one of the frequencies as most
tri-band US phones have, coverage will be spotty.
Second, you CAN use Cingular or
T-Mobil roaming. But, it will be expensive, and coverage may not be the
The VERY simple and relatively
inexpensive solution is to just get a local SIM card for a quad band
phone. Motorola sells several models with this. Calls are under
20cents per minute, incoming calls are FREE, and calls to the US are
less than 50 cents per minute. (at least here in Lithuania) Just pop
in a card (about $1, and buy minutes as you need them. You buy a card
at any local store cash register, scratch the numbers on the back, and
call a number on the phone to reload minutes using the card number and
security number. Simple!
When you dial, just dial +1000 000 00000. The "+" is
usually just holding the 0 key down.
If you get an inexpensive calling card
before you leave, you can call TO the cell phone with no charge for
incoming calls, and cost as low as 14 cents a minute using the calling
Below is a map of
typical cell phone coverage for Lithuania. Check with your carrier to
be sure that they have agreements with the local carriers and that you
have the correct equipment for their market.
Typical SIM card locations in phones -
under the battery.
Note: not all cell phones use SIM
Using a U.S. Carrier, what
does this mean?
First, you will need to have a GSM phone. In
use GSM for most of their phones, but not all are on the correct
frequency. (see below)
is not GSM, but they do have two somewhat expensive "global"
phones, or they can rent you a phone just for your trip. (The local
office just said "NO", but I did find the global info on their web
site. NexTel is
not GSM, but they will also rent you a GSM phone to use while you are
out of the country. Between the rental fees and the per-minute fees,
a rental phone can get a bit pricy.
Second, your phone has to be on the frequencies
used in the country. Most US GSM phones work on the 850 and 1900mhz
is on 900 and 1800mhz. But, many of the GSM phones are Tri-Band
and cover just the 1800mhz frequency. Some are quad band and have
both the 900 and 1800mhz frequencies. From what I have been told,
if you have both the 900 and 1800 frequencies AND go to an international
plan while you travel (see below), you are covered, but
if you only have one of the frequencies as on a
tri-band phone, service may be less reliable.
If you find that you have a GSM phone that operates on
the 900 and/or 1800 frequencies, you're almost there. You need to go
to your carrier and sign up for their international plans.
According to Cingular, you pay about $6.00 / month while you travel, and
you can make calls to the US for as low as $.99 / minute. (but, they do
not have an agreement in Lithuania so it is still $1.99/min.) Nextel and
T-Mobil also have international coverage plans. Check with your carrier
and they will set you up. Note, some may have other requirements, so be
sure to check with your carrier soon. In the end, to go to activate
basic international calling on Cingular was free, and since we didn't
get any discounts on their higher end plan it didn't make any sense to
pay for that.
Most Important, before you decide,
double check with your carrier. I did get some conflicting information
and all cell phone carriers are different. It seems that even the
carriers weren't sure.
To make a call in
the Cingular phone, dial +1 area code and phone number. To get a +,
hold the "0" key until a "+" appears. Very convenient this way.
Using a Lithuania or Third Party carrier
Pre-Paid SIM Cards
for GSM SIM-card phones
An alternative to International Roaming
through your US carrier is to purchase a pre-paid SIM card from the
local carrier when you arrive. The SIM card is a little card about the
size of a postage stamp that tells your phone what your phone number is,
what company provides service, and if you are on a pre-pay plan or on a
monthly subscription. IF you have a GSM phone, and if it is
"unlocked" (see below) you can simply purchase a pre-paid card from the
local carrier in Lithuania when you arrive or an international company
in the US before you go and pop it in your SIM-card equipped GSM phone.
Pre-paid SIM cards should be easily available in Litnuania, much
like we purchase pre-paid long distance cards here. Telestial in San
Diego sells them here.
Unlocking your GSM
phone to use another SIM card
BUT, your Cell phone provider in the US
doesn't want you buy air time from someone else, they want to be sure
that only SIM cards they sell you can be used in your phone. So,
they lock the phone so that it can only use their SIM card. You will
need to have a phone that is unlocked, or have yours unlocked before you
leave. TechniCom in Santa Ana will unlock
your phone for $30.00 so you can use any SIM card. If
nothing else, this will give you an option of using service from any GSM
company at any time. Check with them to see if there are any "side
effects" You, of course, must have an appropriate phone. Call them at
714-444-3663. They are at MacArthur and Harbor behind Carls Jr. Also,
when you purchase the international sim card, you also purchase a new
Why use a Pre-Paid
SIM card? Cost
According to Telestial.com, the cost to call the US from Europe is less
than $0.20 cents per minute! Compared to $0.99 / minute for the
Verizon international plan!! And - according to Telestial, all
incoming calls are free. But, remember that the SIM card will have it's
own phone number, which may be an advantage since it will prevent middle
of the night calls from those in the US that don't know you are out of
the country. 2) Service. When you
purchase a SIM card locally, you are putting your cell phone on their
system. If you rely on a SIM card from your US carrier, you are
assuming that their roaming agreement with the foreign carrier will work
Cell Phone Rental
We can also assume that some local international
carriers will offer phones and plans at the airport. It would be a lot
more convenient if you could just use the same phone number as we use
Should you keep your
US phone service and number?
1. Others can call you by just calling
your regular cell number. This might make it easier for family, but
others may not know you are traveling. Nice that they just call your
local number, but then all your calls may or may not be roaming, and the
best plans are still a bit pricy.
2. "Local" calls in Lithuania will be
Should you get a local
SIM card and local number?
1. Calling plans back home seem to be
MUCH less expensive. But, those calling from the US will have to know
your Lithuania number and their calls will all be long distance.
2. Your local calls in Lithuania will
now be local to you, just like picking up the phone here and calling
a web site with some great f.a.q. information at:
They sell multi-band phones, and will configure a phone for use
overseas. (Kind of expensive to buy a new phone just for the trip
though.) If you have a SIM-card GSM phone, they will sell you a
pre-paid SIM card to use while you are overseas. (See below on SIM
cards and unlocking phones. But they are probably just buying and
re-selling the SIM cards at a mark up, so it should be less expensive to
All of the info here
is what I THINK that I have learned from talking to some of the cell
phone providers and some web sites. I am sure that I have missed some
items and I may be wrong about some, so please check with your carrier
before you sign-up for any specific service. PLEASE let me know if you
find any other info!!
Don't forget, you'll
need an charger or adapter for the different power in Lithuania!!
I guess that the summary is that there
are a number of ways you can get international coverage. Prices can
vary A LOT though. I saw per minute rates from under 20 cents to over
$2.00!! In some cases you can use your existing phone, in some you
must rent a GSM compatible phone. Be sure to check around before you
commit! So, here are the options I found:
1. Use your own multi-band GSM phone
or rent one through your carrier if they will provide one. You may
or may not be able to keep your current phone number which me be good or
bad, and roaming prices can be high.
2. Use your carrier's international
calling plan if they offer one. Prices are a lot lower and you get
to use your existing phone number. Just make sure that you turn off
your phone at night, because you may get a call from the U.S.!!
3. If you have a GSM phone on the
correct frequency and if you can get it unlocked to use other SIM cards,
you can get a pre-paid card before you leave or after you arrive.
You will get a DIFFERENT phone number, which may be good or bad.