Not all American phones get service in Europe and not all mobile providers offer plans that stretch beyond the Atlantic. The ones that do work are a bit pricey but can be effective.
The standard phone network in Europe is called GSM, or Global System for Mobile Communications. Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, and Sony Ericsson all produce GSM-enabled phones. Make sure your phone is “GSM-enabled.” If not, and you’re thinking of buying a new mobile phone that you can use in Europe, look for anything labeled “tri-band” or “quad-band” to get the “world phone” option. Dual-band doesn’t always work. My personal opinion is that Blackberry offers the best international communication hardware.
Once you have the right phone, next you need to purchase the right international calling plan. T-Mobile offers a very affordable option, if used sparingly ($1 to $2 a minute). What is especially good about this particular plan are no additional fees.
Lastly, before you go on your trip, stop in at your provider’s store and ask one of the customer service employees if your phone is cleared for use in Europe. Some phones you need to manually change the network while others do it automatically.
Just so you know it works; as you cross each border you’ll usually get a text message welcoming you to the new country’s network. Good luck and have a safe trip!