Staying in touch with family and work is important when we travel. For travelers to Italy, there are a number of options available.
First, the cell phone basics:
- Approximately half of American cell phones will work in Italy. Check with your carrier or search the specs for your phone online to make sure your phone has the correct 900/1800 bands to be used internationally.
- If your cell phone will work in Italy, you can either choose to pay roaming charges with your current provider (which can be expensive), or you can rent or purchase an Italy SIM card and put it into your UNLOCKED cell phone.
- To unlock your cell phone, contact your provider. In virtually all cases, US carriers will provide you with the unlock code as long as you have been a customer for at least 60 days. For more on unlocking your AT&T iPhone, click here.
Italian SIM Cards
There are two Italian SIM cards currently being sold in the US and Canadian markets – TIM and Uno Mobile (Vodafone). Here are the main differences between the two:
- The Uno Mobile SIM card is already registered (no passport information required), has English prompts and customer service. The rates are as follows; free incoming, $0.12 per minute for calls within Italy and for calls to the US and Canada.
- The TIM service offers free incoming calls, 0.55 to call to North America and local calls vary depending on the “profile” you get. Furthermore, you need to scan your passport in order to activate your SIM card.
As the Uno Mobile SIM card was created for the English-speaking traveler to Italy, it much more convenient than other services and less expensive to use. It is available online through CellularAbroad.
Renting/Buying an Italian Cell Phone
If you travel to Italy frequently or if you plan to be in Italy for more than 30 days, purchasing an Italian cell phone from CellularAbroad bundled with a prepaid SIM card is an economical option for staying in touch locally and internationally.
- Cell phone instructions, prompts, and live customer service are all in English.
- Incoming calls and voicemail are free.
- Minutes can be added to the phone four different ways: prior to departure from the U.S.; by contacting CellularAbroad from Italy; by texting a code on the phone; or at various storefront locations in Italy.
Whether you decide to purchase or rent a phone, you can receive it via UPS prior to departure and it will be ready for immediate use upon arrival in Italy; the cost of the purchase/rental includes one initial call credit voucher worth 28 international minutes or 112 local minutes.
NEW Services and Add-Ons for 2014
The following new services and add-ons for SIM/phone package purchases, phone renters, and SIM-card-only purchases are available through CellularAbroad:
- Get a US number (or keep your own by forwarding it): $19 gives you 6 hours of incoming calls.
- “Call Italy” add-on gives you 240 minutes of calls within Italy.
- Add on 1 GB for $49.
Note on 2014 rates: As of April, it’s $0.12/minute to call the US/Canada or to place calls within Italy.
NEW Data SIM cards: As of summer 2014, CellularAbroad now offers a 1 GB SIM card for travelers to Europe. The SIM card is plug and play: Simply insert it into your device (usually a tablet or a mobile WiFi hotspot like the MiFi (see below for more information), and you’re ready to go. At the end of your trip, simply throw the card away. The data SIM is $109 for Europe. You can also rent a mobile hotspot (MiFi) to use together with the data SIM, thereby giving you access to multiple devices.
Another great new option for staying connected while traveling is renting an Italy MiFi device through CellularAbroad. This device provides mobile WiFi access nearly everywhere you go in Italy and unlimited data. If you’re an iPhone user and wish to use your phone in Italy, Italy MiFi will save you money in excess data charges! The device can be used with up to five devices–ideal if you’re renting a villa with friends and family. The MiFi is slightly smaller than a cell phone and has a rechargeable battery life of approximately 4 hours.
- The MiFi allows you to use your iPhone for surfing, roaming, and posting unlimited photos.
- Avoid paying for wireless anywhere you’re staying, or having to coordinate with the hotel front desk to set up access.