Cell phone advice · A hotel in Meersburg on the Bodensee (Lake Constance)
Cell Phone Advice
I would like to advise you that VoiceStream Wireless offers an international cell phone service that is usable in 65 countries, including virtually every one in Europe (VoiceStream is in the process of being acquired by Deutsche Telekom). I have their service and use a dual-mode Motorola phone that works just fine in the USA, Germany, and France.
I'm waiting for my first bill on calls from Europe to the USA, but calls to Europe cost $.29/minute. I am highly satisfied with Voice- Stream's service in the USA, and have 500 minutes/month for $39/month (no other charges on calls anywhere within the USA). I've only found one place where the service was unavailable, and that was in rural Minnesota, where the locals told me that no other cell service is available, either.
More on Cell Phones
The problem with using U.S. cell phones in Europe is not finding a phone that will work there, it's the cost of service, specifically, the cost of "roaming" that results from using one phone that works in both the U.S. and Europe, of which there are several now available. The economics of having two phones (they're called "Handys" in Europe) are far more favorable. For instance, I bought a Nokia 6150 phone in Germany for about $50, with a 2-year contract that costs about $12 per month, including voicemail and text message service. This phone has exactly the same user interface as the Nokia 6160 that I use in the US, so it's not necessary to memorize two sets of key functions. In addition, I got a 100 DM ($47) rebate on the monthly charge, so the first few months were free.
My contract is with Talkline, which is a reseller of D2 (Vodaphone) service in Europe. D2 has by far the best network and service in Germany. It is a "D-netz" (900Mhz.) network, so the coverage is better than the "E-netz" services which run on 1800Mhz. Several big advantages of having a GSM (European) phone are that it can receive Email from a PC and short messages (called SMS) from another Handy. These messages are limited to about 160 characters.
These are a very cheap and easy way to communicate with someone who may not be available to talk at all hours of the day or night. Some American service providers are just starting to introduce such services, but they are embryonic compared to what is available in Europe. Also, it is possible to leave a voicemail for a D2 German subscriber without disturbing the recipient by ringing the "Handy." The GSM standard in Europe makes roaming automatic and "seamless" in all the European countries, and switching from D-netz to E-netz service, depending on coverage, is also automatic.
The last time I checked, the cost of a call in Europe for a US AT&T subscriber was $1.99 per minute, and the cost of a call in the U.S. for a D2 subscriber was 2 DM (95 cents) per minute. With my service plan, I pay 39 pfennigs (less than 20 cents) per minute. Both cases necessitate the use of a tri-mode phone, which costs anywhere from $300 to $600. So, it's very clear that the cost of two phones is immaterial.
My monthly bills are charged directly to my U.S. credit card, so there are no payment inconveniences. I used my cousin's German address to open the account, so I'm not sure if a U.S. address would cause any problems. I hope this information is helpful to some of your readers who are frequent travelers to Europe.
I feel compelled to tell you about a discovery of mine. I take a small group to Europe each year and this past September stopped for a couple of nights in the village of Meersburg, Germany, on the northern shore of the Bodensee (Lake Constance). Everyone agreed it was the most enjoyable stop of the trip.
The town is very quaint and historical. It has Germany's oldest castle and is divided between upper and lower, the lower town being on the lake, with many nice shops.
We stayed at the Hotel Zum Bären (Marktplatz 11, tel. +49/07532/43220, fax 432244, rooms $40 to $88), which has been in the same family for five generations, and the present owner is also the chef. What great food and ambiance. The Zum Bären is of such historical importance that it is pictured on the German 20 DM note. Boat excursions can be taken to Constance across the lake if you so desire.
Notes for Readers
* Foreign currency prices are converted to U.S. dollars at the exchange rate in effect at the time of publication.
* Hotel prices listed are for one night. Discounts are often available for longer stays.
* All hotel prices include breakfast unless otherwise noted.
* Local European telephone area codes carry the "0" required for in-country dialing. To phone establishments from outside the country, such as from the USA, do not dial the first "0".