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How Do I call the US from Italy?

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I'm leaving next week for 2 weeks in Italy. I'm told by Verizon that my iPhone 4s will not work in Italy. Alternatively, I was hoping that the Samsung cell through Straight Talk would work. Apparently not. So! What are my options?

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    You dealt with a typical clueless sale rep.

    Verizon iPhone 4 = CDMA only, does not work in Italy
    Verizon iPhone 4s = CDMA and GSM. Works in Italy
    Verizon iPhone 5 = CDMA and GSM. Works in Italy

    Look at their own documentation!!! It says GSM.
    See the "Network" section: http://www.verizonwireless.com/b2c/device/smartphone/iphone-4s-white

    Also in "Ask and Answer" under "Is this phone CDMA or GSM?"
    http://www.verizonwireless.com/prepaid/smartphone-plans/apple-iphone-4s-16gb-in-white-cpo+prepaid/

    Which plan?
    1. Easiest, but not the cheapest, is just use your phone for voice and text as is AFTER YOU DISABLED DATA ROAMING! If you accidentally leave the data roaming enabled, you might be greeted with a breathtaking phone bill due to expensive international data usage.

    2. Cheaper, but requiring an additional package from Verizon are international package http://www.verizonwireless.com/wcms/global/plans-and-pricing.html . If you use data, the Verizon data plan is ok if you know how to ration your usage. YOU STILL NEED TO KNOW HOW TO TURN OFF THE DATA ROAMING.

    3. More involved is to get an Italian SIM. But you have to take many steps.
    a. Have your phone unlocked by Verizon to accept a non Verizon SIM card.
    b. Buy an Italian SIM with data in Italy.
    c. Replace your Verizon SIM by an Italian SIM card.
    You get an Italian telephone number.

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    The cheapest way to call the US is either through Skype or with an international calling card. You can open a Skype account with as little as $10, and the credit never expires. With this you can call any number in the US, or land lines in most other countries, for about 3 cents a minute, assuming of course that you have a phone, computer, or tablet with Skype installed, and access to wifi.

    The international calling cards have about the same rates; they can be bought at newsstands, tobacco shops, or bars. You can use them from your hotel phone, calling a toll-free number shown on the card, then entering your PIN and finally the number you wish to call. There are cards specialized for calls to the US, giving you the best rates. The number of minutes you get depends on the type of phone you use to initiate the call. The best rates are from land-line phones, and the worst rates are from pay phones.

    If you would like to be able to call from anywhere, not just from your hotel romm, it shouldn't be a big deal to get Verizon to unlock your phone; you can do it over the phone. If you do that, you can get a plan with TIM (Italy's major provider) that should meet all your needs. TIM has a new plan called TIM Welcome, designed especially for tourists and short-term visitors. It gives you 200 minutes to call any number in Italy as well as any number in Europe or the US, or many other countries, listed on this page:

    http://www.international.tim.it/en/tim-welcome

    TIM Welcome costs 20 euros for one month, and also gives you 2 gb of data services. You have to activate it on a new SIM card, which will cost you another 10 euros, but will include 5 euros of credit for other uses, such as sending text messages.

    This plan expires automatically after 30 days and cannot be renewed. The 2 gb of data services are for use within Italy only, and the calls are to be placed from Italy.

    If you don't need to use data services, this plan may be too much for you, and you could get just a normal SIM card (€10, including €5 initial credit), activating the TIM International New plan, which is a free option available only to non-Italians. You have to show proof of a non-Italian taxpayer number, so you would want to bring along your Social Security card. With this option, a call to the US would be 20 euro cents a minute, with a 16-cent connection charge. (Calls to other countries may be even cheaper; see the list of countries on the page I've provided.) Since this option is free, I would suggest that foreigners always activate it, even if they're getting the TIM Welcome Plan. It would be your fall-back option if you use up your 200 minutes. If this will be your only plan, you might want to add some more credit when you buy the SIM card, because 5 euros will only get you four five-minute calls to the US. You can always top up later, though, at a bar, tobacco shop, or newsstand.

    http://www.international.tim.it/en/offers/tim-international

    For those who will be traveling in other European countries after Italy, TIM has two options that will greatly reduce roaming costs, and may be more cost-effective than buying a new SIM card in each country. For those who will use data services very rarely or not at all, I advise the TIM in Viaggio (calls only) or TIM in Viaggio Full (calls plus data). Both of these are free to activate. Within Europe and the USA, both plans allow you to call any other country in Europe or the USA for 16 cents a minute, plus a 16-cent connection charge. The TIM in Viaggio Full option also allows you to pay for internet by the day when you're outside of Italy at the rate of €3 per day for 25 mb (only charged on days you actually connect to data services). You can activate these when you buy the SIM card, as they won't cost you anything unless you use them. You can also activate them later by sending an SMS to the toll-free number 40916 with the message TIMINVIAGGIO ON (or TIMINVIAGGIOFULL ON). Or you can call the TIM service number (see below).

    For those who will be traveling in other countries, and who would like to be able to use data services everywhere without outrageous roaming charges, the TIM in Viaggio Pass plan makes more sense. This costs €10 per week and gives you 250 minutes of talk time, and 250 text messages, to any of the countries covered by the plan, plus 500 mb of data services, which should be enough for anything except streaming video or frequent uploading of large files. The €10 is charged the first time you use the phone outside of Italy. It automatically expires after 1 week, but you can renew it by sending an SMS to the number 40916 with the message TIMINVIAGGIOPASS ON , or by calling TIM services. You would have to have at least €10 of credit on your SIM card to reactivate the service.

    TIM also has changed some of their policies to make things easier for foreigners and tourists. First of all, you can now top up your credit online using Paypal. (Before, you needed to have an Italian credit card.) Second, they now have a toll-free service number available in languages other than Italian. The number is 409169. The languages available are English, Rumanian, Albanian, Arab, Chinese, Russian, Spanish, French.

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