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Buying a cheap cell phone and SIM card for use in Italy

Buying a cheap cell phone and SIM card for use in Italy

Old Jan 11th, 2011, 10:28 AM
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Buying a cheap cell phone and SIM card for use in Italy

We'll be in Italy for 10 days in June, and I'm looking into the best option for buying a no-frills cell phone and a SIM card with an Italian phone number. I could wait until I get to Italy, but it would be better to have it before we leave the States. (We are traveling to a villa in Tuscany with a group of family and friends in different cars, and it would be good to have communication from the get-go.)

I've noticed some rental options, but the total cost of renting seems to be more than for buying a cheap phone that is Europe-compatible and has an Italian SIM card.

Anyone done this? If so, here are some questions: Where did you buy the phone and what kind did you get? Same with the SIM chip. What was your total cost, and how were the per-minute rates? How did it all work out?

A half-hour of web searching has fried my brain with information overload, and it would be great if I could get some no-hype input.
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Old Jan 11th, 2011, 11:00 AM
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I just bought a Mobal phone (www.mobal.com) for use when I will be in England next May. I haven't used the phone yet and I don't know if it will meet all of your requirements, but you might want to check out their website.
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Old Jan 11th, 2011, 11:24 AM
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Thanks Jeanne! The only downsides are a UK phone number rather than Italian (not sure how much of a difference that actually makes) and a rather high per-minute rate. We will be a group of 20 travelers (half of them 20-something sons, nieces, and nephews), and I suspect there will be a lot of local-call phone-usage among us when we're out on day-trips.
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Old Jan 11th, 2011, 11:30 AM
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All you need to know is quad band GSM unlocked, then choose a phone you like and consider affordable.
As for the SIM card, you might pay slightly more by buying it in advance, but that might make it easier--and it will certainly be cheaper than any kind of intl plan.
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Old Jan 11th, 2011, 11:36 AM
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We bought a basic phone for 29E in Naples. Then we bought a SIM card for 10E, including 5E worth of talk time. It's easy to refill with more minutes at tobacco shops.
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Old Jan 11th, 2011, 12:03 PM
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Thanks, folks! I checked out eBay for "quad band GSM unlocked phone", and there's a good selection, starting at $30. Looks like a good way to go!
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Old Jan 11th, 2011, 12:08 PM
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I was going to post a similar question. When arriving in Australia a year ago, I was able to buy a cheap phone with a prepaid SIM card and ample minutes (including text messaging)in the Sydney airport. I used it daily and didn't even use half of the minutes during our one-month stay.

Are these sold at airports in Italy? We'll be flying into Venice, so I'm wondering if we can buy it at Marco Polo Airport. Or do we need to look for a tobacco shop as Marija indicated?
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Old Jan 11th, 2011, 12:12 PM
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You can buy a TIM card when you get to Italy.
http://www.tim.it/consumer/c102951/i...lo2standard.do
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Old Jan 11th, 2011, 01:26 PM
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Thanks, kybourbon. The website is in italian, though. How to translate?
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Old Jan 11th, 2011, 03:11 PM
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Several trips ago, I went to the TIM (my Italian is virtually non-existent, but that roughly translates as Mobil Italian Telephone) store in Florence and bought a cheap flip phone for about 70 euros, which included about 20 euros of "talk time." I have used the phone on every trip since then and simply go back to the store in Florence (or another store, as TIM is well positioned throughout Italy) and refilled my SIM card. This past September, I had to buy a new SIM card, as it had somehow "expired" but the new card also included minutes.

I too considered the Mobal solution, but I liked the convenience of an Italian number as it made calling restaurants, hotels and taxis much easier.

Hope this helps!
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Old Jan 11th, 2011, 03:42 PM
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Yes, many Italian websites are in Italian. LOL! You can use google translator. TIM stores are all over Italy (don't think there is one in Venice airport although FCO has one). If you have an unlocked quad band phone, just buy a TIM card for 5-10€. You will need your passport to buy as they are supposed to register the card to you.
http://www.google.com/language_tools?hl=en

Other phone stores you will see - Vodaphone, Wind. Just ask at the info booth at the airport where the closest place to get a phone card or nearest TIM.
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Old Jan 11th, 2011, 04:53 PM
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Thanks for the info! I'm a techno-klutz - do you think the Vodaphone I bought at the airport in Australia would work if I bought a SIM (or TIM) card in Italy?
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Old Jan 12th, 2011, 03:05 AM
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Kybourbon -

So in Italy you can buy a SIM from TIM (chuckling as I typed that) for 5-10€? Buying an an Italy-specific SIM here in the States seems to be considerably more expensive (e.g. $39, with a 5€ airtime credit, on this site: http://www.telestial.com/view_produc...T_ID=LSIM-IT01 )

When you buy a SIM chip in Italy, will you be up and running immediately? I was reading somewhere that it can take as long as 3 days delay to be able to make calls. (Sounds dubious, but who knows!)
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Old Jan 12th, 2011, 04:14 AM
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elnap29. The Vodaphone phone should work in Italy as long as it is UNLOCKED. That is not locked into a certain Australian network.
I only say this because once my brother gave me a phone he had bought in Australia and it would only work on the network from Australia. But once I had it unlocked it worked in Europe...all over.
That is not to say that your phone is the same.
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Old Jan 12th, 2011, 04:25 AM
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We were "up and running" with our SIM card in Naples within an hour of purchase.
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Old Jan 12th, 2011, 04:37 AM
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Old Jan 12th, 2011, 06:19 AM
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Telestial is not TIM. Telestial is based in the US and sells various sim cards. They are a middle man. If you want to pay a middle man $20-30 over the cost of the product it's up to you.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telestial

I would check to see if your Vodaphone is actually unlocked and not locked to Vodaphone only. Borrow someone's AT&T chip and put in it and see if it works (anyone that has an AT&T cell phone). You also need to know that the phone is GSM quad band. I assume it is since Vodaphone has service in Europe. What phone did you buy?

The last TIM card (it's Telecom Italia) I bought (in Italy) was 10€. Usually, you are up and running right away, but in Italy they are required to get your passport number and register it which is supposed to take 24 hours or so. It would be the same rules even if you bought a Vodaphone or Wind sim card.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telecom_Italia
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Old Jan 12th, 2011, 07:10 AM
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We did the Telestial thing, and calls home to Australia were not cheap.

But local calls were OK.

Tobacco (aka "Tabac") shops are where you buy things like phone cards, ferry tickets, bus tickets, mobile phone top-up cards, stamps, postcards. They are the universal corner store in Italy.
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Old Jan 12th, 2011, 07:16 AM
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I went ahead and bought an LG quad-band unlocked phone on eBay from a seller that seems to have a ton of them (and lots of good buyer-feedback). It was $30 with free delivery. A good start, I think.

It might be worth some extra money to have the SIM card delivered here in the States prior to our trip, with the registration process already done, so we can go directly from customs at the Pisa airport to the rental car and be on the road to our villa rental in Chianti. (The villa is way in the boonies, so it would be good to have a working phone in case we get lost along the way. Plus various other members of our group are coming from different airports.)

Telestial sells SIM cards on the TIM network which seems reliable, with ease of purchasing more minutes. Some of the U.S.-based sellers use the UnoMobile network, and I've read that there are issues with adding minutes in Italy.
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Old Jan 16th, 2011, 11:36 AM
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I just saw a mention of mobal sim up in the thread. I think I should mention that this is one of the most expensive international sim out there. It's definitely not a good option for the UK, where they are pretty much giving away sim cards, you just need to topup. And most of the UK carriers have rates to the us of about 5 - 10 p/min.
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