Using your Phone in Italy
Our phones today are basically an extension of ourselves. It’s hard to think you won’t be able access your phone at any time during your trip: “You mean I won’t be able to post those Instagram stories in real time?!”
Non ti preoccupare! Don’t stress! Today it is easier than ever to remain connected and you have different options when it comes to keeping in touch via mobile phone when you’re traveling in Italy, such as enabling an International Plan or using a SIM Card from Italy/Europe. Below are some more details including things to consider when you’re planning to use your mobile phone in Italy.
Get a Local SIM Card for Your Phone
Getting a local SIM card for your phone is the most cost-effective option out there to date. To do so you have two alternatives: Purchase one while you are in Italy or purchase one before you leave.
Get a European SIM Card Before you Leave
The best option, in our opinion, is to purchase a prepaid SIM card online before your trip. My wife and I always choose this option when going back to Europe. The great thing about it is that as soon as you land you can pop the SIM in your phone and you’re connected! No need to visit a shop and hope the personnel speaks English!
Using this option will allow you to stay connected like a local and for a fraction of the price it would cost under an International Plan with your current carrier. The only drawback is that you will need to change your phone SIM card manually and you will have a different phone number during your trip; but maybe the latter is not so bad if you don’t want people to bother you while you are traveling!
Having a local number can be very useful if you want to call and make restaurant reservations, or if you need to get in touch with your tour guide in case you are running late! On top of that, you will have plenty of data to access Google Maps, post content on Social Media and even use your device as a hotspot for your laptop or tablet.
Depending on how long our trip is, there are different prepaid SIM cards options you can purchase online and on Amazon.
Get an Italian SIM Card in Italy
If you’d rather purchase a SIM card in Italy instead, you can do so by going to one of Italy’s mobile stores with your passport. We recommend using either Tim, Vodafone, Wind or 3 as they are the most reputable and popular providers in Italy. Once there, ask for a prepaid (prepagata) card, not a subscription (abbonamento). Each carrier usually has various prepaid packages you can choose from depending on how much data or minutes you need. These vary over time and special offers are offered throughout the year. Basic packages with Data, Texts and Minutes usually start at 15€. Avoid getting plain credit in your SIM as it will run out rather quickly. We recommend the following Tourist Plans:
- Tim Tourist – 200 minutes, Free Chat, 15GB 4G, for 30 days only – 20€ (SIM not included + 10€ )
- Vodafone Holiday – 300 minutes, 300 texts, 2GB 4G, renewable – 30€
- Wind Tourist Pass – 100 minutes, 100 texts, 20GB 4.5G, for 30 days only – 24.99€
- Tre Play Tourist – 500 min IT + 100 min World, 100 texts, 20GB 4G, for 30 days only – 24.99€
Note that the above plans require add ons at an additional cost for data if you are planning on using them in Europe. If your plan is to travel around Europe, we recommend purchasing a SIM card before departing as we suggested above or to use a normal Italian Plan since if you happen to run out of your minutes/data allowance you can simply add more credit (ricarica) to your card either online, at the store or at any Tabacchi shop.
Enable an International Plan
The most convenient but least cost-effective option is to enable an International Plan on your current mobile phone contract. This option will allow you to maintain your original phone number and won’t require any other changes other than activating the plan with your carrier. Keep in mind, however, that these plans do not come in cheap and could cost around $10/day.
If paying extra for this option is not a problem, then all you need to do is contact your carrier to find out what their international plan options and rates are. This way you will know if your particular phone model will work in Italy. Note that every carrier has different plans for international use and rates differ depending on where you’re traveling. So if you’re planning to visit other countries on your trip, these rates might vary. Also, make sure you understand the costs for calls or text made vs. calls or texts received, as these are sometimes different.
Use Hotel and Free Wifi Hotspots
If you are not planning on using a lot of data and you do not need to rely on your device for navigation or communication, the cheapest way to use your phone Italy is to connect to your hotel or accommodation Wifi. It might not be the most reliable and fastest internet you have experienced in your life, but it will do the job.
Another option is to connect to free hotspots around Italy, but note that they are not as common as in the US, for example. Nowadays, most cafes or restaurants in touristy places offer Wifi, but they are not always advertised. Italians prefer to be present and talk to each other during their meals, so it’s not always given that wifi is offered for all patrons.
Useful Apps to Consider
The great benefit of having lots of data at your disposal is that you can overcome limitations on Calls & Texts of your plan. The most effective way to communicate with family and friends at home is by using Wifi-based apps like WhatsApp, Messenger, FaceTime or Skype. All you need to do is make sure everyone is connected before you depart.
Italians, and Europeans in general, love to communicate with WhatsApp. We highly recommend downloading it, as it might come in very handy when communicating with your AirBnB host, contacting your tour guide or with new friends you have made while traveling. WhatsApp is free to use and it will not impact your Text&Minutes allowance, only your data.