cell phone for Italy travel

Old Mar 23rd, 2008, 07:58 PM
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cell phone for Italy travel

I would like to carry a cell phone for emergency use while in Italy next month. This would allow my family to reach me without waiting for me to sign on to the house computer at my hotels. I would like to know how others have handled this. Some options are - take an active but unused Motorola Razr, have T-mobile unlock it, and buy a Telestial SIM card for it. This gives me an Italian or an international phone number (depending on the card), and calls cost $.50 per minute outgoing, free in coming. OR - buy a $49 Telestial package that includes a Siemens A55 phone and a starter SIM card, with outgoing calls at $.99 per minute. This is apparently an American company, and their products can only bought on-line or on the phone, from home. If I take the Razr, can I buy an Italian SIM card once I reach Italy? Would the rates be better or worse? I guess another option would be to have T mobile unlock the phone and just use it with its existing local phone number as an international phone. I don't have the rates on that option yet. And finally - can a USA cell phone dial an Italian number?

If anyone has tried any of these options, or has better suggestions, please let me know.
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Old Mar 23rd, 2008, 09:07 PM
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Better suggestion and cheaper one. Just go to any tabac shop when you get to Italy and buy a phone card preferably the EUROPA one. Its 5 euros for 200-300 minutes;very easy to use and can be used from ANY phone including your hotel without an extra charge.I have been using this card for the past 5 years of going back and forth to Italy and have never had problems as I am there several times a month for work. I use it anytime of day and it works great!
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Old Mar 23rd, 2008, 10:25 PM
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Without meaning to be nasty, I always love those on these boards who suggest the use of phone cards in lieu of a cell phone...and I will be the first to admit they are far cheaper...but how does that help somebody who might be out and about and hears about this great restaurant and wishes to call to make a reservation....throughout the world as more and more every 10 year old kid walks around with a mobile phone, public phones are quickly disappearing. Even more importantly, how does having a phone card help you to be able to be contacted 24/7 in case of an emergency...isn't it easier to give out 1 number than the numbers of all one's hotels???

As far as the OP's question, he did a lot of the research but to give an answer, one has to know how much the mobile phone will be used...is it just for emergencies to be reachable just in case or does one expect to receive lots of calls and/or make lots of calls with it? The telestial packages that involve free reception of calls will serve you well along with the cheap phones that come with it..(another question which I don't know the answer for is whether these phones are locked or unlocked for future use under different circumstances)...

Now the easiest solution, and I assume from reading the OP is American and a contract customer of T Mobile USA, if the phone is just for emergencies, is to activate world class roaming on T Mobile USA which is free to activate..this is provided the phone has the 1800 mhz band (the OP noted he or she has a spare Motorola phone but the main phone might also have that band)...but bear in mind calls are expensive...receiving or making a call while in Italy will run you 99/minute to make and receive calls...again if you are going to only receive a couple of calls easy and worth it but not really conducive to wide use of the mobile phone. With this solution you retain your US number and calling you is as simple as dialing the US number...

As far as the final question is concerned, calling an Italian mobile phone is no different than calling any foreign cell or landline. Bear in mind, however, that under the premise of caller pays, when you call a mobile number from the USA (or anywhere else) tomost European mobiles, you pay a supplement on the advertised price...with T Mobile world class roaming, you do have the ability to call foreign phones..when last I checked, calls to all European phones, mobile or landline, runs you 34/minute...or you can use a calling card, dial the local number and then call the foreign number.

The only thing you have to be careful about with some of the world sim cards offered by telestial is that some come with an Estonian number and many of the ld carriers charge very high fees to call Estonia as opposed to the rest of Western Europe..some of the other world sim cards come with a British (but not UK) number and for the most part are cheaper to call than Estonia.
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Old Mar 24th, 2008, 07:14 AM
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Dutyfree - it is my intention to get a Europa phone card so that I can make planned calls from my hotel to the home front. But as xyz123 says, that doesn't serve the purpose of the cell phone, which would be exclusively in case there is an urgent home matter to handle (from my 81 year old mom, or my 20 year old college student daughter who will be in the middle of finals and the panic that entails). If it never got use, that would be fine with me. The phone available to me is my son's - a phone he still maintains a contract for but uses infrequently since he primarily uses his business blackberry. My Verizon phone is useless overseas. The Telestial rep. offered me a UK number after I initially asked for an Italian SIM card, saying it would be better - I didn't realize that calls might be cheaper.

At this point, I'm thinking I'll take the Razr, have them unlock it, and either use it the way it is, or just buy a SIM card when I get to Italy, sending the family the number by email. Does that sound reasonable?
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Old Mar 24th, 2008, 07:21 AM
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Buying a sim when you get to Italy sounds reasonable. Another possibility is to buy an international sim, say
United Mobile or the Telestial Passport card. They both have English numbers, the call rates aren't that bad, and you can keep the numbers alive indefinitely by making a call every nine months.
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Old Mar 25th, 2008, 12:33 AM
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i am debating this as well. am having a hard time deciding what to do for this trip.

a couple of years ago, i had a long and pleasant conversation with someone at my cellphone company. i think he was bored. he told me that i should definitely keep my phone turned off when in europe. he said that, when it is turned on and a call is not picked up by me (but answered by my voicemail) i am charged for the call. something about it being relayed from us to italy and back to us... i'm maybe charged twice?? he said that if i keep it tuned completely off, and just turn it on to check messages or to call out, the charges will be much less. anyone out there experience this??
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Old Mar 25th, 2008, 01:52 AM
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This is one of T Mobile USA (and AT&T) and others rip off of the century...it is very true....

Their claim, a lie of course, is that if the phone is on which means you are roaming on a foreign network when the call comes in and isn't answered, the way it is set, the failure to answer trips a call forwarding (one completed call) back to your voice mail (a second completed call)...hence you are charged for 2 calls and then the additional time for the other person to leave a message...this could easily be fixed, of course, but it is a lucrative source of income both for T Mobile (and the other telcoms that pull this scam) and the roaming partner...

The bad thing is that if the phone has been on and has registered on a foreign network, when you turn the phone off, it is not instantaneously dropped from the foreign netwoork and a call coming in an hour later might trigger this rip off fee too.

Solution is to try to deactivate voice mail...not easy to do...or, since in my case, the only reason I turn my US cell phone on and "roam" in Europe is to be able to use the camera and send back multi media messages to friends, I set call forwarding to my home landline...in that way the call never reaches Europe..it is immediately diverted to my home landline (where my home voicemail can pick up the call) and I don't get charged with that rip off double whammy.
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Old Mar 25th, 2008, 09:44 AM
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But the time that is charged to the phone for incoming voice mails - is that just regular time off your allotted monthly minutes, or is there some kind of added charge for the fact that the phone is roaming in Europe? If they are adding international charges to INCOMING calls, then it might make more sense to buy an Italian SIM card - but then, it will be the caller who is incurring the international charge. AARGH! No decision is simple!
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Old Mar 26th, 2008, 10:00 AM
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To answer my own question - I just spoke to the T-Mobile rep. According to her - once the phone is turned on and registers with a local (in this case Italian) cell phone tower, that is where it stays registered, even if the phone is turned off and stays off for hours or days. So any incoming calls will trigger a one minute international incoming call charge - but she did say it would be only a one minute charge. She also said that forwarding the calls to a U.S. number would not help if the phone has been turned on at all in Italy -that would only help if you never turn your phone on.

So - if you know you are not going to receive unnecessary calls, then turning the international roaming on with T mobile makes sense - but if you are one of those people whose phone is constantly ringing, then removing the T Mobile Sim card and putting in a European card is the way to go. Then - be a nice person and buy an international calling card for the people at home so they can call your European number without it costing them a fortune.

Now my decision is - do I buy a SIM card on-line from Telestial, or do I wait and do it in Italy. I think it makes more sense to do the whole thing here, since the T Mobile rep. said that activating the new Sim card and unlocking the phone is somehow an intertwined process. I remember someone posting that they had trouble getting their phone with international SIM card to work when they arrived in Europe - don't recall the whole story though.
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Old Mar 31st, 2008, 09:44 AM
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I asked T Mobile to send an unlocking code, and they complied without asking me why I wanted it unlocked.
Their only requirement is that you've been a T Mobile customer for three months. I was unsure about how to use the code, so I took it and the phone to a local T Mobile outlet to have it unlocked. After it was unlocked I bought an international sim - from United Mobile, but competitors are listed at

http://www.prepaidgsm.net/en/international.html

- and used the sim with the unlocked phone in Europe.
The reasons I did it this way were a) I wanted to send the phone number to family members before leaving, and b) I wanted to test the sim here rather than in Europe.
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Old May 8th, 2008, 10:33 AM
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Faster and easiest way is to buy an Italian SIM card on eBay. No hassle and you'll know your phone number before you leave and can use it right away upon arrival. Just search for "Italy or Italian SIM card" The major cell operator in Italy is TIM. So, I would suggest you get a TIM SIM card.

Usually, it just costs a a few $ more than buying it there. But, the convenience is worth i
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Old Jul 24th, 2008, 01:02 AM
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Better suggestion and cheaper one. Buy a $48 CallinEurope kit that includes a Motorola C123 phone and a starter SIM card, with outgoing calls at $.69 per minute. The phone is already unlocked, you can call whenever you want and you may also to keep your current phone number and everyone will be able to continue to call you on your local telephone and will reach you wherever you are without paying more. It won't cost you much to add this feature.

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Old Jul 24th, 2008, 03:30 PM
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Thank you for asking this question butnotrmpt.

Assuming that one has an unlocked mobile/cellphone or smartphone, it would be great to get a listing of the lowest cost European Telco sim card providers. I am looking, so if I find some I will post here.

In my case, I would also like to find one that has a low cost data plan that I can use for my smartphone's GPS mapping in Europe. The software available from Google, Blackberry and others truly amazes me, in that you can find the physical location of anything you want in relation to where you are standing at the time - great in emergencies and for all travel requirements.
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Old Jul 24th, 2008, 06:43 PM
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I purchased a Motorola unlocked razr phone several years ago and use it each year for travel outside of the US. In Italy I used the Italy SIM card (LSIM-IT01) purchased from Telestial (have also used SIM card for France). Telestial will send you (1) Instructions on Making International Calls; (2) an Italy Service - User Guide which tells you how to activate your service in Italy - please note that the directions to change the voice prompts to English on my User Guide were wrong. After listening to the message about 12 times I understood enough of the Italian to realize that you press 6 for language options and not whatever number is typed on the instruction sheet; and, (3) A notice to Italy subscribers that you must register yourt passport at least two weeks prior to departing for Italy in order for your cell phone service to be activated when you land in Italy. Instructions on how to do this will also be included. P.S. I notified Telestial that their User Guide information was wrong and was told that the information is supplied by the TIM company in Italy. Perhaps the directions have been corrected by now. Hope this helps in your decision making.
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Old Jul 24th, 2008, 09:25 PM
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OK, one thing to keep in mind if you want to buy an Italian prepaid SIM.

You will need a codice fiscale before they activate your phone. The store selling and activating the SIM will need it.

Best place to ask about these and other matters is prepaidgsm.net. They have forums and people in country who try many of these SIMs, including for data use.

There is also a way to get a codice fiscale generated online. Otherwise, you have to find something like a Notary and pay them to process it for you.
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Old Jul 25th, 2008, 03:25 AM
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We just returned from Italy. We added the international plan to our AT&T cell plan for $4.95 per month. Then we used our phone in Italy. The cost was I think .99 per minute.
When we returned we cancelled the international cell plan. I am confused as to why others don't do this.
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Old Jul 25th, 2008, 04:19 AM
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Cindywho...

The reason more people don't use the international roaming capabilities of the USA gsm carriers (T Mobile USA and AT&T) is that the prices they charge are an absolute rip off.

Now if the phone is just for emergencies..you know for a way for the dog sitter to reach you in case of an emergency and you make only a couple of calls, it's fine.

But I use my cell phone constantly...people call me all the time...I might spend an hour or two on the cell phone while travelling for a week...that would be $60 to $120 to receive calls let alone for the calls I might make...using international roaming would be prohibitively expensive.

There are lots of solutions whichwill allow me to pay a fraction of that ranging down to nothing as on many plans, youj don't pay to receive calls on a cell phone in Europe with either a local plan or an international plan.
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Old Jul 25th, 2008, 06:32 AM
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I'm agreeing with Cindywho -- the OP did say that he/she wanted the phone only for emergencies. Yes, it's a bad deal if you're going to call to chit-chat, but that wasn't the premise of the post.

We do the $4.99-month/99 cents plan, and it works fine for us, and doesn't require the hassle of another phone, locking/unolocking, phone cards, etc.. If we want to converse with family members, we do so by e-mail at hotels and kiosks.
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Old Jul 29th, 2008, 04:05 PM
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Hi - it's been months since I originally started this thread, but I thought I would chime in since it has been reactivaed. For Cindywho - unfortunately, Verizon cell phones won't work in Europe, so the option you had for your AT&T phone was not available to us. For my Italy trip I took my son's Razr, had it unlocked by t-mobile, bought a UK sim card from telestial.com, and used it for maybe $15 worth of calls. For me, that worked well.
But I ran into another issue when my husband, my daughter and I went to Switzerland this month. We wanted to have phones for each of us, since we expected to be separated on and off during the trip. And again, we have Verizon phones which won't work in Europe. I borrowed another Razr, this time a Cingular (now AT&T again) one, but was unable to get it unlocked because the phone was not activated on an account, and because I am not an AT&T wireless customer. So I ended up renting 3 international phones from Vodaphone, through Verizon. The first one was free, but the others were $4 per day, plus a ridiculous $1.29 per minute incoming or outgoing. Text messages were cheaper, and were free to receive. In the end I think this is a stupid way to go unless you have no plans to ever travel to Europe again. But if you do plan to return, then buying the cheap phones through Telestial or another company would make sense.
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