Thursday, 26 January 2012

ITTP TEFL Prague: Keeping in touch - How to purchase a mobile phone and which phone company to choose in Prague/Czech Republic.

Questions on how to purchase a mobile phone and SIM card have to be up there rated high as one of the most frequently asked questions for arrivals to Prague. Mobile phones are an obligatory fashion accessory/communication tool in the Czech Republic and without one your social life will feel the effects. Also, it is essential that you have a local Czech number when applying for jobs locally because having a Czech Republic telephone number sends out the message to employers that you are solidly based here for the time being and you should make sure to add your number to your CV. It is also important to have a number when you are teaching English so students can quickly get in contact with you in case a class needs to be canceled or postponed, or if your school has new Clients and they want to quickly contact you to see if you can take more classes.

Firstly, if your phone will work in Europe then we suggest that you bring it - having your own phone which you are familiar with does have its advantages (plus you save money on a new one). For your phone to work here it needs to operate on either tri-band or quad-band - this phone will then work well for you at home or abroad and should you opt to travel for example to Thailand to teach then your phone will also work there too. However, this only applies to unlocked phones. An unlocked phone means that you can replace the original SIM card with one from a different company, meaning that you are not chained to one particular mobile phone service provider. Don't worry though if your phone is locked because it is relatively simple nowadays to unlock phones. Of course you can always contact your home mobile phone service provider and ask them for a roaming package abroad so you don't have to change your SIM card but you would be absolutely crazy to do this as your telephone bill will rocket. If you are from the USA and thinking of doing this then pls be advised that Verizon and Sprint networks use the CDMA system, which is incompatible with Europe's GSM network. As an additional note, if your Phone is locked you can usually use a SIM from the same mobile provider in a different country e.g. if your phone is locked to T-Mobile in the UK/US you can use a Czech T-Mobile SIM.

Assuming that you have decided that you need to buy a phone then here are the options for buying one in Prague. Please feel free to skip the text a bit if you are just wanting the SIM card. Thank you.

Where can I buy a mobile phone in Prague?

With such a high amount of mobile phone usage in the Czech Republic it is no wonder then that there are multiple options for buying a mobile phone. The main 3 options for buying a phone are:

1. Going to a service provider store and purchasing a locked phone.
This is the most expensive option for buying a phone and really only recommended if the store is offering the phone combined with an exceptional call or sms credit package. The advantage of this option though is that you can be 100% certain that the phone guarantee will be honored and that your full consumer rights will be respected.
30/1/12 UPDATE:
One of our February Clients this morning purchased a mobile phone at Vodafone for just (approx) US$15, plus 200 CZK phone credit. In light of this information I also recommend looking at the phones at Vodafone stores to see what they currently have to offer as this is an excellent deal.

2. Buying a new (unlocked) phone at a phone store.
There are quite a few of these stores dotted around the city and it is here that you will find a selection of both new and used phones. The new phones in these shops are either locally marketed Czech phones or new phones imported from other countries where it can only be assumed mobile phone retail is more affordable. These are independent shops and while I have never had any issues with any phone which I have bought from one of these shops I have also never had to take up the promise of the guarantee and I imagine that honoring the guarantee will vary between shops and whether the shop is still in business if and when you do need to take your phone back. My tip here is the phone shop located at Narodni Trida - this store has been here for years and they employ some bilingual staff. They often have new phones from either Poland or France which come brand spanking new and for a fraction of the price which you would pay if you went direct to a mobile service provider. The store's address is:
Mobil Pohotovost GSM s.r.o.
(Mobil Foto)
Spalena 101/37
110 00 Praha 1
This is also the place to come if you want to unlock your phone and the charge is around 500 CZK for this service.

3. Buying a second hand phone.
I would only recommend this option if your funds are extremely limited and in this case I would go retro and buy a 'brick' so you can be pretty sure that the phone hasn't been stolen and resold.

ok, so you have your phone and now you are looking to get a SIM card. You might be asking yourself what the hell is a SIM card? Your SIM card is a portable memory chip which stores your phone number and all phone data. It is about the size of a thumb nail and gets inserted into your phone. When you have a SIM card you get a telephone number and if you switch phones and keep the same SIM card then you will have the same telephone number and you should also have the same contacts and sms/call history in your phone.

There are a number of mobile phone service providers in Prague and you might have your preferences or you might not really have a clue which one to choose from. I think they all offer pretty much the same services but my personal preference is Vodafone (previously Oskar). The main reason probably is because I was an Oskar customer and when Vodafone took over it was easier to simply stay with the same provider, but I also have very good experience with Vodafone's customer service - they have very helpful English-speaking staff - and their fees seem reasonable for their basic services (now that skype has filled the gap for the majority of business-related communication). Vodafone are definitely newbie-friendly and you can expect to be able to walk in to pretty much any of their stores, pick up a waiting number, and in a short time be speaking in English to a very helpful and knowledgeable member of staff who can get you set up with a number within minutes. It is surprisingly easy to get set up with a new telephone number and I can recommend the following Vodafone stores from personal experience:

Narodni 21 (Prague 1)
Open: Mon-Fri 9:00am - 8:00pm, Saturday 9:00am - 6:00pm, Sunday 10:00am - 6:00pm.

Dejvicka 35/575 (Prague 6)
Open: Mon-Fri 9:00am - 7:00pm, Saturday 10:00am - 1:00pm (closed Sundays).

The only negative with Vodafone, and this applies to all mobile providers in the Czech Republic, is that they provide a puzzling amount of mobile plan options and it's easy to become confused about which one is really best for you. In the past at ITTP we did have a specific plan with Vodafone but we found that what with all the additional account fees it was more affordable to have a simple pay as you go plan and this is really the easiest and most convenient option for any newbie who just needs a phone for text/sms (Short Message Service) and calls.

To get started I recommend visiting your local Vodafone store and purchasing a pay as you go SIM card for 200 CZK. This comes with 200 CZK of free credit so technically the SIM is free. All you need to do now is to make a record of your number and pop the SIM into your phone. To activate the SIM card turn your phone on and type in your PIN: 1234 - you are now part of the Czech Republic mobile world. We do recommend changing your PIN and this can be done on your phone. If you have any Vodafone support questions then call *077 and you will be directed to an English-speaking (helpful) operator.

What are the call and sms fees?

With the pay as you go option the current Vodafone fees for Calls is 3.50 CZK/min and 1.50 CZK for 1 sms.

Please remember also that incoming calls, as long as you are within the Czech Republic, are free. So if your number was 777 555 444 then your family or friends can call you from abroad (00420 777 555 444) and you won't be charged for the call.

What if I need to buy credit. How can I top up my phone?

You can buy new credits either at any Vodafone store, or at one of the thousands of Trafikas (tobbaconists/magazine stands) located around the city and where you see the Vodafone sign or flag. For a newbie I would suggest visiting a Vodafone store each time you need your credits topped up - the minimum credit amount which can be bought is 500 CZK. This comes in the form of a scratch card with a code which when entered into your phone automatically tops up your credit to the amount which you purchased. These can also be bought at Trafika stands.

You can also buy credits electronically at Trafikas too by completing a form at the Trafika (most Trafikas provide this service). The form lists a line of digits from 0 to 9 and the idea is that you go down the list checking off the 9 numbers which correspond to your phone number. At the bottom you can then add the amount which you want to pay. You hand this paper to the cashier with your payment and this then gets entered into a terminal - a few minutes later you will receive a credit update sms from Vodafone. The minimum amount of credit which you can buy in this form is 200 CZK.

For newbies though the first option is definitely the easiest.

Vodafone internet services.

It's also possible to arrange internet options through Vodafone, for example a SIM which you place in your ipad and which allows you immediate access to their 3G internet network so you can surf the net practically anywhere in the country. I will be writing more about this and other internet options in a later post.

Hope it helps!

Hezky den!/Lovely day!

Neville :-)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent article!