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Calling all experts on Italy and France- Cheapest Cell Phone alternatives available?

Calling all experts on Italy and France- Cheapest Cell Phone alternatives available?

Nov 10th, 2005, 12:01 PM
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Join Date: Apr 2003
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Calling all experts on Italy and France- Cheapest Cell Phone alternatives available?

I have been reading and posting in anticipation of my trip to Italy and Paris in less than a month! Itinerary is set, rental car is booked and even a few restaurant reservations have been made. Now to the nitty-gritty.
I (unfortunately) have to be available by phone to the office (hence laptop and cell phone required) I have a T-Mobile and have had my SIM card "unlocked" (or at least that's what they said they did when I called them) What is the cheapest way to proceed? Can I buy a phone card in Rome (where I land)(if so,where???) and use it to dial to the US (as well as within Italy) and then do the same upon arrival in Paris? Do anyone know what the local charges will be for outgoing and incoming and if the vary whether calling to a landphone or a cell or which company's network is the best in Italy? Maitai Tom told me how to rent an international phone but said it would cost $1.49 a minute (ouch)(If I need to talk it will be due to problems at work and the calls will be lengthy). I know my phone will work on the European networks because I did something like this in Spain a few years back. However, I am challenged and then I had help from Jeremy, who runs a wonderful service (On Spanish Time- highly recommended) where he comes to the hotel and does all that "magic" and voila you have a working cell with a European number.
sharkmom is offline  
Nov 10th, 2005, 01:14 PM
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I don't know if this will be helpful or not, but I have an unlocked Nokia phone (European model) and used it in Venice a couple of weeks ago.

I simply went to a TIM store and purchased a TIM card with an Italian phone number. It was quite easy and I was so pleased that it worked so that friends and family could reach us when they wanted. The personnel at the store were very helpful in setting everything up for me and even set up my menu in English once I requested it.
Statia is offline  
Nov 10th, 2005, 01:48 PM
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It is not clear whether you simply registered with T mobile for international roaming (which is what I think happened) or had the phone unlocked for use on other networks so here are some info and suggestions which, unlike others who post here, is correct.

1. T mobile international roaming will probably work assuming your phone is a tri band with at least one or preferably two European frequencies. From your post it sounds like the phone does have the frequencies but I am not clear if when you were in Spain you were able to use a Spanish prepaid plan or were using T mobile international roaming.

Having said that, T mobile international roaming charges $.99/minute rounded up to the next minute to both receive and make a call which will quickly add up to mucho money. The good thing about that is you will retain your US mobile number and it will work in Italy and France.

Now you could get separate sim cards for Italy and France but then you have the problem of letting everybody know your numbers. With local prepaid sims in the country of origin, you do not pay to receive calls but the caller pays a surcharge on international rates to call you.

But here's my suggestion of specifically what to do...

1. Make sure your phone is unlocked. If you bought it from T mobile they will provide an unlocking code and you will have to enter it. If you were not given a code then the phone is probably locked. Call Tmobile and get it unlocked.

2. Go to ebay and search for "riiing sim card." Riiing is a relatively new international mobile provider. They will send you a sim card which you insert in your phone when you arrive in Italy and replace the T mobile one (keeping it safe to re-insert when you get home).

2. Riiing will give you a Liechtenstein number with a 423 country code. You will know the number when you receive the sim card so you can give it to your business associates.

3. With riiing, both in France and in Italy (as a matter of fact throughout Western Europe) you will be able to make calls as I will describe below for 12 to 14 US cents/minute timed in 6 second intervals. You will also be able to receive calls for free and again I will describe how this will only cost you 12 cents/minute timed to 6 second intervals.

4. After you receive your riiing card and know your Liechtenstein number, go to www.enlinea.com and open up a call back account with them. There is no charge for this. They will give you a US number which you dial using riiing. Now dialing a number with riiing is a trifle tricky, you have to dial the number and hang up and wait for the phone to ring. When the phone rings, you will hear a busy signal and you hang up again. You then get a 2nd callback and when you answer it a voice will say please enter the number you wish to call including country code followed by the pound (#) sign now. You do so and the call goes through and the rate to the US (remember to include the 1) is 12¢/minute timed in 6 second intervals..talk for 61 seconds and pay 13¢...sure as hell beats $1.98 T mobile will charge. Since receiving calls is free, the original triggering call is not answered so you don't pay and the call back from enlinea is free as you are receiving...you simply pay enlinea's rate for a call fronm Liechtenstein to the US (even though you are in France or Italy) which as noted is 12¢/minute.

Now enlinea will also provide you with a US 800 number which will ring to your riiing (no pun intended) phone. You will know this number before you leave so you can give it to your business associates and when they ring the 800 number in the US they, of course, don't pay as it is an 800 number and you pay enlinea's rate US to Liechtenstein (12¢ per minute)...and the very very nice thing about enlinea there is no charge to sign up for service and no recurring monthly charge, you pay only for the calls.

I know it might sound complicated but if you take it one step at a time it works beautifully. I have worked with several people on this both on this web site and others and they were all skeptical at first but it works and works beautifully. No more searching for public phones, no more worries about hotel surcharges, no more worries about finding local ld cards which might be a tad cheaper but you sure as hell have to look hard to beat 12¢/minute timed in 6 second intervals!

I hope it is clear...if not you can go to www.riiing.com to read up about riiing.

So to summarize:

1. The phone has to be unlocked (not the sim card the phone)

2. You have to purchase a riing sim card (runs about €40 on ebay). Don't use telestial in the US, they rip you off and charge you twice as much.

3. Open up an account with enlinea once you get the Liechtenstein number knowing your Liechtenstein phone number (011 423 66 3xx xx xx) and sign up for both their callback and 800 service and voila.

BTW you can also use callbackworld.com for the same basic service as enlinea. Callback world's charges are much higher, 14¢/minute timed in 6 second intervals, and their 800 number requires a pin but you can get both in case one isn't working as neither charges to set up the accounts or have recurring charges.

Hope this helps.
xyz123 is offline  
Nov 10th, 2005, 02:02 PM
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There is one major dawback with callbackworld/enlinea used with riiing. Sound quality can reach from fair to extremely! poor, up to the point that at certain times only a "simplex" connecion is possible. You sometimes end up by ending eyery scentence with "over". After trying 3 to 4 times you usually get a better line, but not always. i.e. a few weeks ago in Italy a had a number of extremely poor connections.

Under no circumstances would I use them for making "important" calls any more.
logos999 is offline  
Nov 10th, 2005, 02:08 PM
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I don't know if you've used them recently...there were lots of problems this past summer but recently sound quality has been fine and the services have been working pretty well.

Just for the record, as an alterntive you can use riiing's naitive outgoing service which is €0,39/minute with a €0,25 set up fee which still far surpasses T mo's roaming rates.

French local sim rates to the US run about €0,80/minute which is hardly better than t mo roaming rates so the cbw/enlinea combination is certainly, at least to me, a viable alternative.
xyz123 is offline  
Nov 10th, 2005, 02:18 PM
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Have used it from 20.10.05 in Florece the last time. 60 to 70% off all cbworld conections were unusable. I didn't make a difference weather I used TIM, Wind or Vfone. I didn't experience such a bad quality on T-Mobile or Vodafone in Germany up to now, but it's far from being at par with "other" carriers. I believe thery're using havily compressed Voip for some time now. It's extremely poor at times.
logos999 is offline  
Nov 11th, 2005, 08:26 AM
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Thank you for all the suggestions. I had checked on T-Mobile's Roaming Charges when I went to Spain several years ago and found them to be outrageous, so you are correct xyz123 that using the Roaming option is not a good bet and that all I've done so far is get T-Mobile to unlock the SIM card.

I understand your suggestion but am sligtly worried about the quality/ reliablitly of the connection using enlinea. What was logos999 saying about the bad quality? I'm not a very patient person and the idea of having to keep calling in order to get a decent connection is not appealing. Please elaborate. Thanks soooo much.
sharkmom is offline  
Nov 11th, 2005, 08:31 AM
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logos, As you can see I am challenged technically but I do understand your very important point about quality. Are you saying you wouldn't use the riing SIM card? What would you do to get decent connections and not pay the arm and leg prices charged by T-Mobile for roaming?
sharkmom is offline  
Nov 11th, 2005, 08:57 AM
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I wouldn't use cbworld/enlinea any more from Italy to call a client or my boss. For friends and family it can be o.k.

I am actually still using riiing abroad, they are part of Mobilkom/Austria. Riiing is NOT connected to enl/cbworld in any way. If you use only riiing to make your calls quality has alway been o.k., although it costs 39ct/min + 25ct "flagfall". Maybe there is another callback provider you could try?

It was very anoying to have to dial several times just to get a lousy connection with cbworld. I didn't complain to then to get my money back, it's not worth the hassle. The next morning it was working better, but the same sh.. in th evening.

You could also try to get a www.vox.lu, www.tango.lu or oskar.cz prepay card.

Tango can be used in the US/Canada too at about 25ct/34ct min incoming with roaming. Vox has free roaming during the summer months worlwide (incl. free incoming in the US.) You'll get a Luxemburg number. Best thing would be buying it directly in Lux.

I would still recommend riiing!
logos999 is offline  
Nov 11th, 2005, 09:09 AM
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Logos has had more recent experience than me. I found both enlinea and callback world adequate...yes I agree there were times when calls did not go through and sometimes, not all the time, call quality was not great as is true with most internet providers..nothing beats AT&T quality.

Speaking of AT&T for receiving calls on riiing, their rate to Liechtenstein on their $1/month international plan is 10¢/minute with a 1¢/minute surcharge to a Liechtenstein mobile for a total of 11¢/minute and quality was excellent. But as logos points out if you get caught in a situation where enlinea or cbw are not working, you can call using riiing's service which as pointed out is €0,39/minute to the US with a set up fee of €0,25/minute so you really have nothing to lose going in this direction.

You can also get a local Italian sim and then a local French sim and deal with the different numbers.

As logos said at the end, he or she would still recommend riiing and it might well meet all your needs.....
xyz123 is offline  
Nov 11th, 2005, 05:01 PM
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For us, the cheapest, easiest way to call from any country in Europe to the US is using an AT&T Prepaid Phone Card . We use the AT&T pre-paid phone cards sold at Sam’s or Wal-Mart. They are easily rechargeable through the phone. We have been using them for the past four years and they work great.

We use the AT&T card with a pre-paid cellular phone we bought four years ago in Italy. We just dial the local AT&T number (some are like our 800 numbers) to connect directly to AT&T in the US. Then just follow the card’s instructions. There are no long distance charges to the cellular phone because you are dialing a local number. To get the local number for the country you are traveling to just download the wallet card (http://www.usa.att.com/traveler/tools/wallet.jsp).

The cost of the calls using the AT&T card varies from country to country. This spring the cost from Spain to the US was around thirty cents a minute. Call the US number on the card to find call costs to different countries or access: http://www.consumer.att.com/prepaidcard/fy/rf_int.html
The only drawback to using the card is that you do have to dial a lot of numbers.

We have used our pre-paid Italian phone extensively not only in Italy but also in France and Spain by just changing the SIM card. The SIM cards are readily available in all cellular phone shops and in places like Carrefour in France and El Corte Ingles in Madrid. They are fairly inexpensive and usually include some minutes with the card. Your new SIM card has an assigned number which is valid for six months after you buy it or after you recharge it. Our phone right now has a Spanish Movistar SIM card which we bought on our trip to Spain in March. The phone number will be valid until March ’06 because we loaned it to a friend who went to Spain in September and he recharged it. Besides Movistar in Spain, we have used the TIM card in Italy and the Orange Card in France. Of course there are other companies to choose from. The quality of the connection has always been excelent.

Our GSM Nokias from Cingular work in Europe. We didn’t have the GSM technology at home when we bought our pre-paid in Italy and that is why we bought it. Now we usually carry one phone each and use them as walkie-talkies. Call your cellular company and ask them if your phone can be used in Europe. If it can be used, just buy an Italian SIM card while in Italy and a French SIM card while in France.

As for letting people know my phone number, I call my two sons and give them the number. If anybody else wants to call us, they know they can get the phone number from one of our sons.

Have a very nice trip!
Luhimari is offline  
Nov 12th, 2005, 03:32 AM
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I've done this twice only.
Took my Nokia to Paris(unlocked, sim card removed and left in a safe place at home), went to SFR on Champs Elysees and bought a new sim-card package deal with pre-paid airtime.
Phoned home and gave them my number.
Sorry don't know about Italy but I bet it's not that easy?
tod is offline  
Nov 12th, 2005, 08:12 AM
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Luhimari -

"They are fairly inexpensive and usually include some minutes with the card."

When it comes to phones, what is the approximate cost? We are still debating whether to rent or purchase and will need to reserve rentals if we don't plan on purchasing when we get there. The other nice thing would be if Verizon would upgrade their systems by April, and we could get new phones.
viaggio_sempre is offline  
Nov 12th, 2005, 08:37 AM
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If you look on ebay, you can find decent dual band nokias (900/1800) for around $60 to $70 plus there are many web site selling dual band phones for around that price. Since verizon is your US carrier, you don't need a tri band. Verizon will not go over to GSM that's for sure and while there are some phones available that work on both CDMA and GSM systems, they are very very expensive.

The advantage of buying on various web sites and on ebay before leaving is the phones will not be locked. Buying in Italy, unless they are the new phones, generally the GSM phones come unlocked; the Italians don't have the paranoia the Germans have when it comes to things like that (as do the Finns)....actually if going to Italy it won't be too big a difference.
xyz123 is offline  
Nov 12th, 2005, 08:47 AM
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viaggio_sempre is offline  
Nov 12th, 2005, 12:25 PM
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“When it comes to phones, what is the approximate cost?”

Our Italian Nokia is high-end and cost over a hundred dollars in Rome almost four years ago when the Euro was somewhere near ninety cents. There were many less expensive models and brands available at that time. I’m sure you could get one now for 60–70 euros.


I found this page from Telecom Italia Mobile which has a brief outline of their TIM card.


It is in English and I think you will find it interesting and informative.

France Telecom has the following web page for their Orange Card. It also has a lot of information but it is in French:



“Sorry don't know about Italy but I bet it's not that easy?”

Yes, it is that easy, in Spain too.
Luhimari is offline  
Nov 13th, 2005, 10:10 PM
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Sharkmom - I asked you a question on an old thread of yours:


about espresso machines. Thanks
viaggio_sempre is offline  
Nov 17th, 2005, 09:30 AM
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Thank you all for the most helpful information. I am trying to digest it all and select the best option. I'll post when I have made up my mind. It's overwhelming, although I guess it shouldn't be.
sharkmom is offline  

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