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Treo Trip

Thu Oct 20, 2005 - 4:39 PM EDT - By James Hromadka


When I started planning a three-week trip to Europe, I decided to forgo taking along my PowerBook and rely on my Treo 650 as much as possible. I had originally planned to post periodic articles during the trip but decided instead to post this article after I returned with some tips for international travelers and also some instances where the Treo came in handy. The Worldwide GSM forum should also have some good information.

Which Treo?

An unlocked GSM Treo is a must for international travelers. The Sprint and Verizon Treos will not work outside the US. If you have an unlocked Treo and will be staying in one country for an extended period then you can buy a pay-as-you-go SIM card. You will then be using a local phone number and avoid hefty roaming charges. However, if you then go to another country, your balance can get eaten up quickly. I was painfully reminded of this fact when my O2 UK balance hit zero while talking to my brother for a few minutes in Ireland. I was even using O2 Ireland!

Speaking of O2, I noticed the Treo had a lot of resets when sending text messages. I think that O2 caused this because I would get a balance notification as a network alert every time I sent a message. It was pretty frustrating after the fifth or sixth time. I never had this problem when roaming with my US T-Mobile, which I used for the remainder of my trip after leaving The UK.

Power Adapter

Europe uses a higher voltage and different power plugs than the US. Great Britain and Ireland use a different plug than Continental Europe, so I suggest getting a travel adaptor that works with multiple plug styles. Just make sure that your AC power supply is dual voltage like the one that comes with the Treo and most laptops. I took along the Enfora WiFi Sled since it came with international plugs and had a dual-voltage AC adapter. I never did find an open network to use.

Data Usage

Don't count on MMS picture messages working while abroad. I couldn't send or receive pictures until I got back to the US. I got failure notices at random times from a friend sending me some construction photos. She thought I was ignoring her but I just wasn't getting the messages.

I had better luck with web browsing, which worked for me in Prague and Paris but not in Amsterdam. Just be careful if you are roaming, as many Europe cellular carriers charge per megabyte.

Some Travel Observations

While in Europe, the Houston Astros were vieing for the MLB playoffs. Most of my communication with family was text messages on how they were doing. I was able to catch a few games on TV while in Europe. If you are ever in a similar predicament in London, look for a chain of sportsbars called Belushi's. Elsewhere, look for Aussie bars. In Amsterdam, that place was Coco's. These places had the games showing on NASN.

I could only watch day games because of the time difference. The World Clock app is excellent for travelers. I wish my family would have used it—I usually kept my phone off at night so I wouldn't be awakened by a text at 4 am. I got back to Houston yesterday in time to watch them clinch the NL pennant for the first time in team history!

Twice Blazer was a killer app for me. When I left Houston, the city was in the midst of an evacuation because of a hurricane. Cell service in Houston was overwhelmed, but SMS was at least working consistently. While standing at the security check for two hours, I looked up my gate number since I didn't know which gate to go to because I had checked in online. I was fortunate enough to make my flight, but there were a lot of unfortunate souls at Continental Customer Service.

The other time that Blazer came through for me was in Paris. I collect Starbucks mugs for the places I have been, so I went to the company's website and found the nearest one. Turns out that I was at Notre Dame and within walking distance of one. Now I'm returning home with three new mugs for my collection: Scotland, England, and Paris.

The best advice I can offer is to be prepared. I wish I had downloaded some train and roadmaps on my Treo so I wouldn't stand out as a tourist when looking at a paper map. Some good games and ebooks make those long plane and train rides a little easier as well.

Bon voyage!

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