Leave walkie-talkies at home

This item appears on page 58 of the July 2009 issue.

Regarding using walkie-talkies while traveling (May ’09, pg. 20), please be advised that it is often illegal in Europe to use walkie-talkies with US frequencies without a license. Fines, confiscation and other penalties could be the result of unlicensed use of preassigned frequencies.

Most European Union countries post the frequencies available for unlicensed public use. Contact the consulates, most of which will say you will need a license and must register that you will be using certain frequencies.

I am an entertainment engineer and have had to get special walkie-talkies and wireless microphones with approved public use frequencies for use on projects in Europe. The government-published documents listing available radio frequencies are difficult even for an engineer to go through.

The way I got the available frequencies we used for our wireless microphones in a theater I designed in Scotland was to go to the manufacturer and request that they provide channels that were available for use in the UK. We did have to apply for a license to operate the wireless mikes.

In the USA, FRS walkie-talkies do not require any sort of license. However, if you operate a GMRS walkie-talkie on channels 1-7 or 15-22 you MUST apply for an FCC license; contact the FCC (888/225-5322) or visit www.fcc.gov and request form 605. The license applicants cannot be foreign individuals or businesses, leading me to wonder if noncitizens can get licensed overseas.

To be absolutely safe, rather than use walkie-talkies, I strongly recommend renting local cell phones or getting your multiband US cell phone “unlocked” so you can use a prepaid SIM card that will give you low-cost service in the country or countries in which you will be traveling.


Newbury Park, CA